This post on PoliBlog about natural law contains a side observation that I’ve always found baffling:

Indeed, regardless of one’s position on God, the statement that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a direct statement of natural law which really does not require any particular theistic view of the universe to accept: the bottom line is that human beings have rights because of their very existence, not because the state grants them. Now granted, natural law scares the diehard atheist who doesn’t wish to acknowledge the possibility of a higher moral authority than the mind of man. Indeed, this is the man trouble with a wholly secular view of morality: it is simply something that someone thought up. If there are no natural laws, then really there is no morality save what we say it is.

This makes two claims. First, that the possession of rights is a question of substance, not process — i.e. we have rights because of what we are, not where we came from. Second, that this view is a problem for atheists because it requires acknowleging a source of moral authority beyond man himself, and atheists can’t do that.

I think this is an utter non-sequitur. Imagine applying the above to a different area: ‘Whether my table has four legs depends on what the table is, not where it came from. But this is a problem for atheists because it requires acknowleging a source of factual authority beyond man himself.’ The absurdity is apparent. That my table has four legs is a conclusion I draw from observing reality and integrating my observations into conceptual knowledge in a manner consistent both with reality and the cognitive requirements of my mind. That human beings have rights, or that the universe (including human societies) is governed by regular laws, are conclusions drawn in a similar manner.

Yet the position Taylor espouses is a widely believed one. I just don’t understand why.

4 Responses to “God And "Natural Law"”
  1. R.A. Landbeck says:

    A new interpretation of the moral teachings of Christ, spreading on the web, changes the natural law moral paradigm and turns it on its head. I quote:

    it describes and teaches a single moral LAW, a single moral principle offering the promise of its own proof; one in which the reality of God responds to an act of perfect faith with a direct,
    individual intervention into the natural world; correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception, transcending natural evolutionary boundaries.

    If this material demonstrates itself as a new religious fact. All the rules of human existence have been changed? Check the links:

  2. Anne Haight says:

    “New religious fact”? That phrase is inherently illogical. And an interpretation of religious doctrine is merely that: an interpretation. It has no implications whatsoever with regard to reality.

    My reading of the theory Landbeck presents is basically that absolute faith in God causes Him to exist, and that such faith also physically transforms the person and transforms the laws of physics and morality.

    Ridiculous. To accept that morality is malleable is to accept that it is different for each person; that the rules are not universal or absolute. That’s nothing more than moral relativism, regardless of its source, which is already a demonstrably false school of thought.

  3. Ms. Mary Treherne says:

    You obviously haven’t bothered to read any of the material available for download and this is no longer theory but is now incontrovertible fact. A testable proof of God exists. But the test is entered into by faith. That test of faith and heart is described within the teaching known as the Final Freedoms. Chapters three and four. I am able to comment on this because my husband and I have already tested this teaching and have proved it to be true by repeated demonstration and not by fatuous opinion. Any one with the moral courage can test it for themselves.

  4. Anne Haight says:

    Not having heard of this “Final Freedoms” manuscript, I’ve downloaded a copy and I will get back to you. 370 pages is a bit weighty so I may be a while.

    That aside, it is not correct to refer to this as “incontrovertible fact” unless it is knowledge scientifically obtained. The methodology you describe is not scientific, so any results cannot be considered factual in any meaningful sense.

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