JOHN W. LOFTUS SAID:
Have you yet reviewed Erik J. Wielenberg's book, Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe? (Cambridge University Press, 2005). I don't think such simplisms, even if coming from my friend Copan, are worthy of what we in the opposition are actually saying.
Happy to oblige, John.
How does Wielenberg's godless universe manage to contain genuine intrinsic value?...On the positive side, Wielenberg asserts an extremely strong form of ethical realism. Ethical truths are "part of the furniture of the universe". Moreover, they are not only objectively true, but are necessarily true, constituting the "ethical background of every possible universe." (p. 52). Yet it is not at all clear how most of the forms of naturalism currently on offer could support such universal and necessary ethical truths. Wielenberg announces at the start of the book that he is not the brash materialist kind of naturalist who believes that all facts are scientific facts or reducible to the language of physical science. But he goes on nevertheless to endorse a radically materialistic picture of the cosmos, where everything there is arises "through a combination of necessity and chance" (p. 3) from physical and chemical origins. Could such a picture of the universe allow for irreducible necessary truths of morality?
We are told at one point of ethical truths lying "at the very bedrock of reality, created by no-one, under no-one's control, passing judgement on the actions and character of God and man alike" (p. 67). Leaving aside the talk of "passing judgement" (which Wielenberg acknowledges to be "metaphorical"), what we are offered seems to be something like (as McDowell has termed it) 'rampant Platonism'. Yet if this is what Wielenberg's form of 'naturalism' ends up buying into -- a supposedly wholly material cosmos mysteriously conjoined with necessary values inhabiting a Platonic limbo -- one cannot but wonder why such a picture is supposed to have a decisive edge over the traditional theistic picture of a necessary being who is the eternal source of all meaning and goodness.