The Science of Values and the Mythology of Fact
First he affirms the fact -- or is it a value? -- that "It's a false dichotomy to compare religious belief with evidence based thinking."
But then he marshals misogynistic cable TV host Bill Maher to affirm the very opposite principle, that these two realms are "not two sides of the same coin." Rather, "you don’t get to put your unreason up on the same shelf with my reason. Your stuff has to go over there, on the shelf with Zeus and Thor and the Kraken, with the stuff that is not evidence-based, stuff that religious people never change their mind about, no matter what happens."
In other words, fact and value are very much dichotomous and irreconcilable. But is this meta-statement about the world a fact or a value? Clearly, anyone with a modicum of philosophical training would recognize it as a value, because it is plainly not a fact that facts are value-free.
Nevertheless, post-literate, post-religious, and post-metaphysical postmodernists typically regard these as opposites, except when they don't.
As we know, if the leftist believes his made-up facts are on his side, he will appeal to them; if not, he will appeal to a "deeper" principle, i.e., that perception is reality, or that no cultural perspective is superior to any other, or that absolute truth is a myth.
Thus, the moment you defeat the leftist with facts, he will pull various blunt instruments out of his relativistic arsenhole, such as critical race theory, gender studies, queer theory, diversity, etc.
For the vulgar materialist/atheist, the existence of facts is unproblematic, uncontaminated by the nebulous world of values. Conversely, the world of values is a fact-free zone of more or less arbitrary beliefs.
But this was not the perspective of our founders, nor is it consistent with centuries of natural law.
For example, Locke -- who was a major influence on the founding generation -- maintained that morality stands "amongst the sciences capable of demonstration," and that it is grounded in "self-evident propositions" with "necessary consequences as incontestable as those in mathematics."
As such, "measures of right and wrong might be made out to anyone that will apply himself with the same indifferency and attention to the one as he does to the other of these sciences" (in Arkes).
Conversely, in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn demonstrated how scientific facts are only meaningful within a larger paradigm. For example, the Newtonian paradigm not only doesn't recognize quantum indeterminacy as a fact, but cannot recognize it period.
When the founders affirm that all men are created equal, they do not mean it in any relativistic or culture-bound sense. Rather, they are affirming a truth that is timeless and universal. There is no new fact that can come along and contradict it, because it is an axiomatic moral proposition implied by morality itself. It is certainly not a "value," if by value you mean something inherently subjective and personal.
As is true of any scientific fact, morality is not moral unless it is universally applicable and potentially knowable by anyone.
In other words, just as we say that Greek logic doesn't end with the boundaries of Greece, it is equally true that Judeo-Christian morality doesn't only apply to the Jews and Christians who value it. Rather, if it isn't universally true, then it isn't true at all, for universality is one of the minimum requirements of truth. In the words of Arkes,
"Moral statements purport to speak about the things that are universally good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust -- which is to say, good or bad, right or wrong, for others as well as for oneself."
This being the case, we can see that morality is founded upon universal truths that are accessible to reason. Man can know that a law is moral even if it clashes with his immediate self-interest. Just as certain mathematical truths remain true even if no one knows them, there are certain moral truths that apply to persons as persons.
You will have noticed that leftists are forever accusing conservatives of supporting principles that are in their economic self-interest. First of all, this is based upon a peculiar theory of economics that we do not accept.
Secondly, it only highlights the fact that we support principles that are universal, regardless of self-interest. In any other context, leftists would regard this as "noble" -- such as when wealthy liberals supposedly vote against their own economic self-interest by supporting statists and collectivists.
The moment man is capable of recognizing the existence of the good, this is an occasion for reflection. Does it just mean pleasurable, or good for Bob, or good for this or that group? Or does the word "good" imply a more abstract and universal standard accessible to man's reason?
For Arkes, there are certain objective moral propositions that may be drawn as immediate implications of the very idea of morals and of rational being.
Now, man is often -- more often than not -- bad and wrong, but all men -- as men -- are nonetheless equipped with the ability to reason, including within the moral sphere.
The leftist may concede that all human beings reason about morality, but the existence of so many diverse moral systems proves that there is nothing objective or universal about it.
Thus, in affirming relativism, the leftist necessarily embraces either amorality or immorality, the former inevitably redounding to the latter in any event.
To be continued....