This is the latest in a series of posts about a moral question called the Euthyphro Dilemma, which is sometimes given as a challenge to God. See the first two parts for an explanation of the problem and the first two responses.
Third, as Aquinas pointed out in his fourth way, we cannot discern between good and better unless we have standard that is external to the objects being measured. I can only tell if one thing is whiter than another by having a measure of ultimate white to compare them to, for I would never know if one was closer to the ultimate unless I had some standard to measure all the objects by. If all I had were beings on earth to determine goodness, I would not be able to look at all of them and find moral flaws, for I measure them with a moral standard more perfect than all the beings . . . every human on earth has moral flaws. Therefore goodness cannot be determined by looking at flawed things on earth, which is the only option left to the materialist who tries to use Euthyphro to deny the existence of God.
Fourth, a critic might also reply: Goodness is when something benefits the individual person. Nutrition is good because it benefits someone, and sickness is evil because it hurts them. If God is the source of goodness, the Christian has to show how good things, such as nutrition, would not be good if God did not exist, or at least how God must exist for things like nutrition to exist. If things that positively benefit people can exist without God existing, then God is not necessary for good to exist.
This is incorrect for several reasons. This criticism defines good as something that benefits people. Why is this so? What is inherently good about benefiting people? Some environmentalist might claim, as some undoubtedly have, that humans are a detriment to the earth and it would be ‘good’ if we all expired. Some atheists, like Richard Dawkins, tell us that the universe, at bottom, has no evil, no good, just blind pitiless indifference. So it is not universally accepted that good is something that benefits humans.
Further, this fourth criticism assumes that benefiting someone is good, it does not prove this is so. Defining what is good is one of the basic questions, and this fourth objection assumes good from the beginning. Next, if we look at an act and say that act benefited someone, therefore it it is good, we have measured the act against a moral standard that is independent of us, the individual, and the act. There must therefore be a moral code independent of the world.
Also, this objection presents a false challenge. The challenge is not whether nutrition can exist without God, but whether nutrition itself is good, and where the concept of good came from in the first place. The king of the skeptics, David Hume, stated that people always seem to sneak in the concept that something ought to be, and do so without proving it.
The next post will have more explanations of why the Euthyphro Dilemma is a false dilemma as it relates to God.