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Thursday, July 6, 2017

"Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts"

                  “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
                                           and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

A thought-provoking question we can ask (older) kids who have ostensibly learned the difference between "fact" and "opinion" is this:  

Is this a FACT or OPINION: Hitler was wrong to kill 6 million Jews.

Another one is:
Is it a FACT or OPINION: It's dishonest to cheat on a test.
Is it a FACT or OPINION:  Selling marijuana to children is a bad thing to do.


The answer to all of the above is that those are FACTS.  

Not opinions.  

Just like it's not an opinion to say "Vatican City is in Rome"--that is a geographical FACT,  it's also not an opinion to say "Rape is wrong". That's a moral FACT.  

New York Times blog titled, "Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts" gave this startling statement: philosophy professors note that "the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture."

That is, most of our children entering college would answer that the above are OPINIONS.

The author wrote this article after visiting his son's grade school and seeing a sign in the classroom bulletin board discussing the difference between FACTS and OPINIONS.  After investigating a bit more, he found that the teacher (who represents the prevailing norm apparently in education) had classified all statements that had value judgements (such as "right" "wrong" "good" or "bad") as OPINIONS.

That is, she labeled these as OPINIONS:

-copying homework is wrong

-cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.

-all men are created equal


It's just an opinion that all men are created equal?  Really?  It's not objectively true?

The explanation given was that "each of these claims is a value claim and value claims are not facts."

And, by implication, if there are no moral facts, then there is no moral truth.

However, as Catholics we understand and embrace the idea that there is moral truth.  Objective moral truth exists. 
(Objective = true regardless of one's emotions, personal biases or opinions on the matter).

That is, some* things are wrong, whether someone believes them to be wrong or not.  Not based on how one feels.  Not based on what the prevailing cultural norm dictates.  Not based on what society permits.  

But objectively so.

So even if someone says "I think it's perfectly fine to cheat on a test"....she is wrong about this moral fact.  

We ought to agree with the author of the NYTimes article who asserts:  "Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.

That would be wrong."

*some things are objectively wrong does not translate to "every action what we evaluate is objectively wrong and not subject to how one feels".  Some things can be morally subjective.  For example,  regarding Lila Rose:  good folks can disagree about whether going undercover to Planned Parenthood constitutes a moral means to expose the evils of abortion or whether "lying for Jesus" is NOT a legitimate prolife method.

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