Part 11 Cultural differences are not an argument against universal morality

Now if moral relativism isn’t true then the only option is objective morality is true.  However, relativists have some…

IV. Three Arguments against Objective Morality

1.     Cultures practice different morals

A key reason for being a moral relativist is the fact we observe what seems like different morals for different cultures.  One culture believes a man should only have one wife and another believes a husband should have multiple wives. One culture eats cows and another doesn’t because they are sacred.  And the relativist says; how can there be absolutes with all these differences?  Who are you to say who is right?

The misconception centers on the observation that different societies or cultures practice what appears to be a different set of morals.  People all the time use this as an argument against moral absolutes.  Let me first say this; even if this premise is true, so what?  This observation proves absolutely nothing.

  • Cultural differences are not an argument against absolutes.

How does it follow that because each group thinks its right, therefore no group is correct? Just because views differ on the shape of the earth doesn't mean the earth has no shape.  If many people believe that 2 + 2 = 5 would that mean we cannot have a right answer?

Cultural differences on moral viewpoints don’t mean that objective moral truths are nonexistent.  Does the fact of disagreement concerning racism make racism morally neutral?  Cultural relativism turns out to be a mere observation about cultures, not about morality. It tells us about anthropology, not ethics.  Don’t let someone get away with this.  The observation doesn’t lead to the conclusion there are no objective morals.

  • Differences are usually a problem of facts

Remember even if we see differences its no big deal.  However, most differences are simply a misunderstanding or lack of investigation into the facts.  Once we look at the relevant details the differences fall away. In India, cows are protected because Hindus consider them sacred.  In America we eat cows or should I say beef.  At first glance it may appear we have conflicting values.  In America when Grandma dies, we don’t eat her; we have a funeral and bury her.  In India, Hindus don’t eat cows because they believe the cow may be grandma.  You see they believe in reincarnation; that after death a person takes on another form and grandma may have been reincarnated as a cow.  When it is all said and done we share the same moral truth:  It is wrong to eat grandma or for that matter, it is wrong to kill an innocent human being[1].  Thank goodness for that!  This sort of fact-finding investigation can clear up many so-called conflicts.

Much of the abortion dispute turns out to be a dispute of facts, not values. Both pro-abortionists and pro-lifers believe that taking the life of an innocent human person is wrong (value).  But they disagree whether the unborn child is an innocent human person or not (fact).  Apparent moral differences often represent only a difference in perception of the facts of a circumstance, not a conflict in the values themselves.

I could go on pointing out differences but we must ask ourselves this question; does the fact that we observe differences necessarily make the argument that objective morals don’t exist?  The obvious answer is no.  It is certainly possible for a society’s moral rules to be evil; like Pol Pot commanding the killing of 2 million Cambodians around the time of the Vietnam War.  That injustice was an absolute evil.  If you don’t agree with me, I believe it is time to examine your moral belief system.

The observation cultures practice different morals is simply false.  Parts 12 & 13 I will post the next two arguments.

Go to part 12 here


[1]Koukl, G. & Beckwith, F. “Relativism Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-air.”  Baker Books, 1998

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