In other words, in terms of logic, you say “x implies y” and he says “x implies not-y”. (I’m wondering what “not-x” would imply… )
The concept of evil is more easily defined as the things we don’t want done to us, or others. The worse the indiscretion, the more evil we perceive it to be.
This is his major thesis, and to be quite honest, it stinks. He’s defining evil on a subjective basis; this is where to respond.
It implies that if there’s something that “I don’t want done to me”, it’s evil; but, if you do want that exact same thing done to you, it implies it’s not evil! In other words, his argument is a non-starter from the beginning: if we cannot agree on what is evil, then it cannot be defined as evil! (So, maybe we cannot decide that adultery is evil, since one among us is an adulterer: not evil. Maybe we cannot decide that kidnapping is evil, since one of us suffers from Stockholm Syndrome: so, not evil.)
Then again, maybe he means that it has something to do with society and its collective ‘conscience’? Nope, still not good: Mayans among us would respond “human sacrifice? Not an evil.”
Those ideas can and do exist without God. To say that I need God in order to know that killing, stealing, etc, is bad is to give away your common sense to a man in the sky.
First of all: refute the ‘man in the sky’ reference. He’s using it flippantly, of course, but if his problem with God is that he’s a “man” or that he lives “in the sky” damages his logic beyond hope. If he wants to disprove a God you don’t believe in, then let him have at it – but, if he wants to enter into a logical discussion and confront what people really believe, then it’s time for him to put away his straw men and start being a big boy.
To his argument, though: he’s moved the goal-posts, and it’s easy to see why. He’s reduced morality to an individually-held feeling, and that’s not at all the argument you’re trying to make. In a warped way, he’s right: if morality (and the question of evil) is purely a personally held construct, then allowing a third-party – regardless of who that third-party is (God, the State, your Mom)! – entails a certain surrender of one’s autonomy.
(If you want to really tick him off, remind him that he already has “given away his common sense”! The government, in its laws, enshrines a given morality – a given secular, civil definition of what’s ‘evil’ – and if he lives according to its dictates, he’s already “given away” what he’s afraid of giving away!)
The reason that his argument fails is that morality (and the definition of evil) aren’t personal constructs. If they were, then there would be no definition of evil – its definition would change from era to era, from community to community, from person to person. That presents a particular problem for him, and I don’t know if he realizes it…
We know it’s bad because we can see the effects it has on people everyday.
And here’s his problem: does he realize that he’s just created a chicken-and-egg problem for himself? His definition of evil requires that we recognize something as evil before it becomes evil. Kill somebody? Rob a bank? Not evil – until a third-party recognizes the effects.
Notice that this means that a person does not do evil who commits an act whose effects are unknown. Know what I mean? In the Cain and Abel story, the fratricide is not evil, since we’d never seen murder before; therefore, he gets off scot-free! Moreover, how could we possibly know an act is an evil act, since it had never occurred previously?
(p.s., by his definition, abortion is definitely evil, since many of us recognize the bad effects it has. )
Worse yet – if the definition of evil requires me to see the bad effects, then all I need to do is avoid seeing them, and (by his definition) it’s not evil for me! I can rob all the banks and beat up all the people I want – and, as long as I don’t see the negative effects, I cannot conclude it’s evil!
Now… who’s on the wrong side of logic here?
**To accept that there is a “way things are supposed to be” is incredibly naïve. People shouldn’t hurt each other because people know what it feels like to be hurt. **That’s logic.
Again, chicken-and-egg. If “we don’t know what it feels like to be hurt”, then it’s not evil? Therefore, each kind of evil never exists until each of us feels the hurt of each evil act? Nonsense.
To accept an objective morality isn’t naive, it’s logical: any other construct that requires subjectivity is naive, since it “doesn’t or can’t understand” that subjectivity destroys any notion of ‘morality’ (or, as he’s calling it, ‘a definition of evil’).
He then replied: “You consider your beliefs, of which you have NO proof, more logical than to just believe that conscience, or lack of conscience dictates behavior?”
He’s just moved the goalposts again, hasn’t he?
Maybe not – maybe he just doesn’t realize that he’s conflating individual ‘conscience’ with the notion of ‘the definition of evil’. Maybe he really thinks that they’re all the same thing. This is a good vector on which to challenge him, though. If individual conscience is the same as morality and the definition of evil, then yet again, you can demonstrate that there is (by his definition) no such thing as evil, since there is no necessary agreement between the consciences of individuals (and as a result, no agreement on what is evil).