Monday, September 12, 2016

Norm Geisler and Frank Turek: Legislating Tolerance

Introduction

As a defender of the Christian worldview, I often defend the rightness or wrongness of certain acts, and with that, whether they should be made legal or illegal. I will usually appeal science and logic in these discussions. If the person is a Christian, then I will also appeal to the Bible, if it speaks specifically or general to the topic at hand. When it is clear that all the evidence stands against their view, in a "last-ditch" effort to undermine my arguments the challenger often resorts to appealing to "tolerance." This comes in the form of the person who wants to legalize some particular act saying that by not permitting the act (legalizing it), those in opposition to the legalization (conservatives, usually) are being intolerant and trying to force their morality on the world.

I recently finished reading the book "Legislating Morality: Is It Wise, Is It Legal, Is It Possible" by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. Here is their response to such a challenge:
"When libertarians or liberals seek to give people more freedom (i.e., by passing a law that legalizes a formerly illegal activity), they do exactly what they condemn conservatives for doing. They impose their morals (and thereby the associated effects) on people who do not agree with those morals."

"When libertarians or liberals seek to give people more freedom (i.e., by passing a law that legalizes a formerly illegal activity), they do exactly what they condemn conservatives for doing. They impose their morals (and thereby the associated effects) on people who do not agree with those morals."- Quote from "Legalizing Morality: Is It Wise, Is It Legal, Is It Possible" by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek

Who's Legislating Their Morality, Again?

The problem with any law is that it affirms that something is right and its violation is wrong. Laws often include penalties for violating the right that has been provided by the law. What is right and what is wrong is morality. If we truly want to avoid legalizing morality then no law should ever be created. So, if someone is successful in getting their particular behavior legalized, they have just legalized their morality and have successfully forced it on the masses. This means that the complaint of the person trying to get their act to be made legal has just violated their own moral standard of "tolerance."

Conclusion

The next time that someone complains that you just want to force your morality on them, remind them that they are in the same position- they are, in fact, attempting to force their morality on you. Ask them to explain how their doing so is right and your doing so is wrong. This is not something that can be logically defended without affirming the right of the other to do the same. This results in a "stale-mate" and requires that both sides go back to the evidence. This will (hopefully) keep the discussion focused on actual reasons and not go down the "rabbit hole" is emotive rhetoric.

To Investigate Further, I recommend:




2 comments:

  1. Hi Luke,

    Of course this is a hot topic in our "progressive" times.

    I think that saying law defines right and wrong can be misleading. It is better to say law sets boundaries between permitted and not permitted behavior, and may or may not be based on moral reasoning. Some laws are purely pragmatic social engineering.

    Although I share your concerns for the moral degradation of society and the effects of a liberal agenda, I disagree with this argument.

    It is obvious that imposing a limit on behavior is different than releasing or relaxing a limit.

    The first may be imposing morality, which should be minimal and justified.
    The second is tolerance, which should be maximized to the extent there is no harm done to society.

    But here is the problem - we cannot agree on what will harm society, and social conservatives aren't making a strong enough case.

    They (liberals) say we are intolerant for using laws restricting their behavior. This (conservative) argument says they are intolerant of our intolerance, and so they are. But who can justify their complaint?

    In any case the complaints are not equal, especially given a presumption of liberty with the burden of justification on the ones who would restrict liberty.

    I say this mode of argumentation will not advance our cause.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unknown, thank you for your comment.

      Giesler and Turek do not say that laws *define* morality, rather that they imply morality via their saying what *ought* and *ought not* be. "Ought" is a moral term. An "ought" is much stronger than merely a permission. Thus a law is not merely a permission or restriction, but is articulating an "ought" that will be enforced.

      Also, Geisler and Turek do not leave what will harm society to mere opinion. They provide evidence of their conclusions via scientific studies and statistics. What is "harmful" to society is objective and can be established evidentially. They provide numerous examples of this in the book.

      The burden of justification is not limited to those who wish to restrict liberty; it is extended to those who wish to leave it unrestricted also. Anyone who makes a claim about how (if) liberty *ought* to be restricted is making an objective moral claim that needs to be justified. Geisler and Turek provide justification for their level of restriction of liberty via evidence and argument in the book.

      I highly recommend that you get the book and read it in full. This review is merely a summary that does not go into the detail of the evidence and arguments which, I believe, you need to see and wrestle with directly. Turek even has his own call-in radio show that can be found at CrossExamined.org if you'd like to interact directly with him on any of the content of the book.

      Delete

****Please read my UPDATED post Comments Now Open before posting a comment.****