The Moon is a Que Ball
I love analogies. I use them all the time. And it seems that I'm not the only one. I've heard and read analogies from a number of theists recently, attempting to refute a materialistic and objective worldview. From pool tables, to lunar atmospheres, to ice cream flavors, there have been plenty of analogies thrown around. These analogies have either had their components misapplied, or they have excluded important additional factors in an attempt to make the irrational and immoral choice seem "rational" according to their interpretation of objectivism. In each of these cases, the theist proposing the analogy is attacking a strawman. Some of these strawmen are propped up because of ignorance, and some may have even been propped up because of dishonesty. I am now going to take all of these analogies from the theists who have wielded them, deconstruct them in plain English, and show how each of these analogies is actually an argument in favor of materialism and objectivism.
Before we can deconstruct these analogies, we must ask the question (copied and pasted from www.whatisobjectivism.com): "Does consciousness have primacy over existence (subjective reality) or does existence have primacy over consciousness (objective reality)?" Objectivism states, of course, that existence has primacy over consciousness. In other words, reality will be what it will be regardless of the accuracy of our perception of it. So it is very important to obtain the most accurate perception of reality possible.
The first strawman to catch my attention was the pool table analogy proposed by Matt Slick on episode #47 of the Hellbound Alleee show. In this episode, Franc said, "Morality is the study of action - what is optimal action."
Matt Slick then replied "Whoa whoa whoa whoa. If morality is the study of action, then on a pool table, when you hit one ball against another you see the action that results from that is also the study of morality. The point is, your definition of what morality is, is highly insufficient." Matt Slick continued shortly "...You said morality deals with action. Pool tables deal with action, but watching the balls on a pool table strike one another is not an issue of morality, but of physics. Therefore, your statement...is not sufficient."
In this example, Matt's mistake should be obvious to everyone. Franc stated that morality is the act of evaluating a given situation and identifying the optimal choice or action. On a pool table, that would be equivalent to observing the positions of the balls on the table and determining the best available shot (making the choice). But Matt mistakenly equated it with what comes after the choice is made: the simple actions of the balls hitting each other. He misapplied the analogy. The mistake that Matt made seems almost too obvious to be accidental. According to CARM, Matt graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1991 with a Masters degree in Divinity and has been studying religion and debating people since 1980. That’s over 25 years! So is Matt making a simple one-time mistake, or does he totally misunderstand the concept of "making a choice," or is he doing it deliberately?
In any case, this pool table analogy actually ends up being an argument in favor of objectivism. This is why: On a pool table with a given arrangement of balls, there are only a handful of "optimal" or "moral" shots available, and sometimes only one optimal shot. The optimal shots are objective in that they will remain the same regardless of the shooter's perception. The shooters task is to properly observe the table and the balls, and determine which shot is the optimal one. The "moral choice" is an independent objective reality. It is most definitely not subjective, for the optimal shot on the pool table is not whatever the shooter wants it to be. Existence (the balls on the pool table) has primacy over consciousness (the shooters perception). Aren't analogies fun?
The next analogy is from blog comment poster Mark, where he said "Thus, for instance, the judgment that the moon has no atmosphere may count as an objective judgment, whereas my judgment that vanilla is the best ice cream flavor is subjective." Again, we have confusion over what "objectivity" is. Mark agrees that the moon objectively has no atmosphere (which means that the moon's lack of an atmosphere is true regardless of any conscious observers wish). But Mark makes a mistake in saying that his preference for vanilla ice cream is "subjective," for it most definitely is not. Mark doesn’t choose what his taste senses like the best. In reality, his taste senses tell him what to like by giving him positive and negative feedback. Mark's favorite flavor will be the flavor that gives him the most positive feedback out of all the flavors he's tasted. Mark likes vanilla objectively in that he is choosing the optimal action (favorite flavor) based on objective information (pleasure/displeasure feedback). Mark cannot "choose" to like the flavor of vanilla any more than he can "choose" to like the flavor of dog shit. In addition, Mark cannot "choose" to like vanilla the best any more than he can "choose" for the moon to have an atmosphere.
One important note regarding the moon/ice cream analogy is that Mark insisted that the fact that different people like different flavors makes taste subjective. But on the same token, not all lunar bodies in our solar system lack atmospheres. So atmospheres are subjective to particular moons in the same way that favorite flavors are subjective to particular people. This however, is irrelevant to objectivism's claim that existence has primacy over consciousness. All Mark did was point out that with different subjects (different lunar bodies or different people) there are different objective realities (atmospheres and favorite flavors). This is clearly a misunderstanding on Mark's part, as an objective reality is totally compatible with different lunar bodies having or not having atmospheres, or different people liking different flavors. The point that Mark is missing is that nobody can make reality (flavor or atmosphere) suddenly conform to his or her mere whim.
Subjectivity is a conscious entity's will that forces reality to conform to it (think: God's cartoon universe). In a subjective world, the optimal pool shot is whatever we want it to be, and dog shit would taste delicious on a whim.
Objectivity, by contrast, is a material reality that has primacy and forces conscious entities to conform to it, which as I have explained, is how things really are. Now its time for me to eat some of my favorite flavor ice cream: strawberry.