(1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.His principal defense for premise (2) consists in pointing to our moral experience, where he thinks we apprehend the objectivity of morality. However I will argue that while there may be a semantic sense in which our moral experience does offer evidence for the objectivity of morality, nevertheless Craig has in mind a different, specialized sense of objectivity which involves the existence of a concrete exemplar, and which is unsupported by experience.
(2) Objective moral values and duties do exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists. (Reasonable Faith, p172.)
I take it that in moral experience we do apprehend a realm of objective moral values and duties, just as in sensory experience we apprehend a realm of objectively existing physical objects... Actions like rape, torture, child abuse, and brutality aren't just socially unacceptable behavior---they're moral abominations. By the same token, love, generosity, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good. People who fail to see this are just morally handicapped, and there is no reason to allow their impaired vision to call into question what we see clearly. (Reasonable Faith, pp179,81)On the face of it, this appears quite plausible. It seems ludicrous to deny the objectivity of truths such as that, say, child abuse is morally wrong, or that love is morally good. The skeptic need not deny that we really do apprehend this objectivity of moral semantics. However, when Craig argues for the existence of "objective" moral values, he has something in mind other than the ordinary semantic objectivity we so often take for granted. He writes:
Our concern is with moral ontology, that is to say, the foundation in reality of moral values. Our concern is not with moral semantics, that is to say, the meaning of moral terms. (ReasonableFaith.org Q&A #44, "Euthyphro Dilemma.")So we must carefully distinguish between moral semantics and Craig's notion of moral ontology if we are to evaluate his moral argument. Indeed, Craig seems not to challenge the notion that moral truths can be objective in a semantic sense apart from the existence of God. So for instance, if we have a semantic standard of goodness independent of God, then we can objectively evaluate thoughts, behaviors and so forth as being good or not against that standard. To be sure, this semantic objectivity is a different kind of objectivity than what Craig has in mind. Yet it is important to note that semantic objectivity really does stand independent of the existence of God. Even Craig seems to acknowledge this, as he continues:
The theist is quite ready to say that we have a clear understanding of moral vocabulary like "good," "evil," "right," and so on, without reference to God. Thus, it is informative to learn that "God is essentially good." (ReasonableFaith.org Q&A #44, "Euthyphro Dilemma.")So even if God does not exist, moral language still has meaning, and hence moral statements can be objectively evaluated for truth or falsity against that meaning. So it really is the case, regardless of whether God exists, that sentences like "murder is wrong" and "love is good" can express objectively true statements, so long as we understand wrongness and goodness to be characterized by those semantics which are independent of God.
The only catch is that this notion of objectivity is a semantic one, and Craig wants to talk about a different kind of objectivity. Let's call Craig's concept C-objectivity ("C" for Craig), to distinguish it from the semantic objectivity described above.
So, just what is C-objectivity, then? Craig explains:
To say that something is objective is to say that it is independent of what people think or perceive. By contrast, to say that something is subjective is just to say that it is not objective; that is to say, it is dependent on what human persons think or perceive. So, for example, the distinction between being on Mars and not being on Mars is an objective distinction; a particular rock's being on Mars is in no way dependent upon our beliefs. By contrast, the distinction between "here" and "there" is not objective: whether a particular event at a certain spatial location occurs here or occurs there depends upon a person’s point of view. (Reasonable Faith, p173.)Unfortunately, this is more confusing than helpful. For notice that even though the property of being here is said to be C-nonobjective, nevertheless it is objectively true (perhaps only in a semantic sense) that I am sitting in my living room, and my cat is here too. It really is the case that my cat is here, given what we mean by the term. Such statements are true independent of human values and opinions, yet Craig seems to want to deny that they are C-objectively true.
To get a better handle on what we should take C-objectivity to be, I think the following quotation from Craig is instructive:
Just as a meter was once defined paradigmatically as the length of an iridium bar housed in the Bureau des Poids et des Mesures in Paris, so moral values are determined by the paradigm of God's holy and loving character. (Craig, "The Most Gruesome of Guests," Is Goodness Without God Enough: A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics, pp169-70, as quoted in Wes Morriston, "God and the ontological foundation of morality.")This is also problematic. What exactly does Craig mean by saying that the bar "paradigmatically" embodied the property of being a meter long? After all, I think most folks agree that meter bar project was misguided; we don't need a concrete exemplar of the property of being one meter long in order to have an objective semantic standard for that property. It is quite enough that we understand the ideal of meter length. Similarly, we don't need a concrete exemplar of perfect goodness in order to understand what it means to be good. Even Craig seems to acknowledge that much.
Yet Craig appears resistant to the suggestion that having an abstract ideal counts as C-objectivity. For instance, in opposing the social contract theory offered by atheist philosopher Shelley Kagan, where morals are said to be grounded in the ideal of a perfectly rational committee of moral agents, Craig wrote:
Indeed, given that perfectly rational people do not exist, how can his pretended account actually ground moral values and duties? There is no such ideal committee; it does not exist and has never considered or decided anything. So how can actual objective moral values and duties be grounded in such a non-reality? (ReasonableFaith.org Q&A #44, "Contemporary Moral Arguments.")So it is not enough for Craig that we should have an abstract ideal; rather, we must have some concrete exemplar, akin to the Parisian meter bar. Only then can goodness and morals be rightly judged as C-objective.
Unfortunately, when it comes time to look at our moral experience to assess whether or not moral properties and truths are C-objective, we immediately encounter problems. For whatever objectivity we perceive in our experience seems to be semantic, and fails to indicate the existence of a concrete exemplar of perfect goodness. Craig defends premise (2) of his moral argument by insisting that we apprehend objectivity in our moral experience. I think that is probably correct, except that the objectivity we apprehend is not the sort of objectivity Craig needs for his argument. In particular, we apprehend semantic objectivity; but we do not experience anything to justify inferring a concrete exemplar of perfect goodness any more than encountering an imperfect meter stick justifies inferring the existence of a perfect iridium meter bar.
So I don't think that denying C-objectivity runs counter to our experience at all. Rather, it seems to me that when most people speak of "objectivity" they refer to semantic objectivity, i.e. whether or not it really is the case given what we mean by some property that an object possesses it. This kind of objectivity for morality stands quite independent from the existence of God, as Craig himself seems to recognize. In contrast, I don't think many folks have much of an eye for the alleged C-objectivity of moral values and duties, which is what Craig needs to show exists for his argument. That's not a part of my moral experience, and I see no reason to infer it from anything I really do experience.
The skeptic, then, need not reject the objectivity of moral values and duties; nor need he reject the notion that we reliably apprehend a realm of objective moral values and duties in our day-to-day moral experience. Indeed both of these suggestions seem quite plausible. Instead, the problem with Craig's premise is that he posits the wrong kind of objectivity. We apprehend semantic objectivity, and not the external concrete exemplar required for C-objectivity. So by pointing to moral experience, Craig hasn't actually offered any evidence for premise (2) of his moral argument.