“I Do Not Like Blue Covers!”
A philosophy student wrote a research paper arguing that morality is subjective – that there are no objective moral values. Judged by its research, scholarship, documentation and argumentation, it was easily an “A” paper. The professor, however, took one look at it, pulled out his red felt pen and wrote ” ‘F’ – I do not like blue covers.” When the student got his paper back he stormed into the professor’s office, “This is not fair! This is not just! I shouldn’t be graded on the color of my cover, but on the content of my paper!”
The professor asked if the student was referring to the paper which argued that there are no objective moral values such as fairness and justice. The student replied, “Yes, yes, that’s the one!” The professor responded, “Well… I do not like blue covers. The grade will remain an ‘F.”‘ Suddenly the student realized that he really did believe in objective moral values like fairness and justice, and he was expecting them to be applied to his situation right then and there.
While it is very easy to say there are no objective moral obligations, it is much more difficult to live as if there are none. One of the more popular arguments for God’s existence these days is the moral argument. There are different ways to present it, but I essentially try to help people see that objective moral values and obligations do exist and then argue that God is the best explanation for their existence.
Most surveys report that between 60% to 85% of people think morality is relative to individual or cultural opinion. However, I think these numbers are soft, and many people are not as ‘morally relativistic’ as they think they are. I find it a very interesting exercise to try and help people see the reality of objective moral values and obligations.
I’ve found that if I bring up examples of obvious moral atrocities, most people recognize the objective moral wrongness of these actions, despite their avowed relativism. People do recognize that the Nazis Holocaust, genocide in Darfur, raping little girls, and torturing toddlers for sport are not just objectively wrong, but are morally reprehensible and that everyone should agree.
For the minority who still resist admitting objective moral truth exists, I just personalize the examples to their lives. “What if the little girl being raped and murdered was your little sister or daughter – has the perpetrator done anything morally wrong?” Very few people can avoid drawing the conclusion that something objectively and horribly wrong as taken place, and not just that it was something they didn’t like, or that our culture frowns upon.The examples do not always have to be so graphic either, as the ‘Blue Folder’ story usually makes clear. This story resonates with current students who immediately identify the injustice of the professor’s actions.Even though I have found that the vast majority of the people with whom I share these examples, acknowledge the objectivity of moral values and obligations, there are still some holdouts. Let me know what you think their concerns or arguments might be?
In the next few blogs I will reveal their concerns and how I respond to them.
 Norman Geisler, “The Collapse of Modem Atheism” in Intellectuals Speak Out About God, edited by Roy Abraham Varghese, (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1984) p.147
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