#1 daughter and Son-in-Law return today to the Frozen North.

We will miss them.

Looking on the bright side, though, it will mean that I will be able to get back to making holiday gifts, a process which — between the wedding gift and the celebrations — got pretty throughly derailed.

gray sweaterOh, I have been knitting.

Here is #2 son’s sweater, with the armscye decreases begun. I am using The Handy Book of Sweaters, at Lostarts’s suggestion, and so far it is working quite well and has eliminated all the arithmetic from the process. I haven’t gotten to the tough part yet, of course. I am making this in Wool of the Andes. I also have made some progress on Pipes, but a gray sweater is bad enough; I can’t also subject you to a picture of a navy blue sweater.

Both are great colors to wear, but they make dull progress pictures, I know.

My Christmas crafting this year is not mostly knitting, though. I am very conscious that I have not been getting any 1104craftysoldering practice in. So I found this picture from the Crafty Chica reassuring. Her soldering is just as primitive as mine, and her charms look, well, charming. 

I am not going to link you to her directions for these, because they say to put pictures inside glass, surround it with copper foil tape, and solder it.

We already have that concept, right?

It’s just harder than it sounds.

I have been making more little collages, though, and along here somewhere I will have time to set up my soldering iron and get them all from concept to reality.

In Chapter 6 of the The God Delusion, Dawkins looks at the question of morality. I’ve been having a lot of conversations about morality lately. C.S. Lewis (and I haven’t been chatting with him, but he is, like Dawkins, one of those writers who makes you feel as though reading his words is the same as having a conversation with him) makes the case in Mere Christianity for the existence of an objective moral law, and suggests further that the existence of such a law implies the existence of a lawgiver. It is this argument that Dakwins seeks to refute in Chapter 6. (If, by the way, you are interested in this argument or want to refute it yourself, then you should read Lewis’s book, or at least the early chapters in which he discusses the question.)

#1 daughter holds that an objective moral law would be identical for all people. That is, if religions were correct, there would only be one.

This is also Partygirl’s strongest argument for Catholicism. If Protestants were right, she says, they would be in agreement, instead of having so many different flavors of church.

Lewis says that we may not agree on the details, but we have startling unanimity on the basics. That is, some cultures say that you can have three wives and some say that you can have one, but none says that you can have sex with any woman you want with no restrictions. Or, to take an example from my conversation with #1 daughter, everyone agrees that murder is wrong, though we do not agree whether “murder” describes killing in war, abortion, or the killing of animals for food. Our human sense of right and wrong, says Lewis, is like the multiplication tables. We do not make it up, but instead we discover it.

Now, Lewis is a moral absolutist (that is, he believes that some things are right and some are wrong, plain and simple), but that is not the only possible position.

Another position is utilitarianism. This view holds that the rightness or wrongness of an action can be judged only by its effects. We hear this view expressed in terms such as “As long as you don’t hurt anyone else, do what you feel like doing.”

The problem with this point of view, to my mind, is that we can’t predict the consequences of our actions.

Adherents of free love in the ’70s did not foresee AIDS. A survey given me yesterday by a local grad student has “agree” or “disagree” options for statements like “Human ingenuity will insure that we do not make the earth unliveable.” Now there’s a gamble for you! But the people whose behavior led to the Dust Bowl did not know what was going to happen.

Combine our inability to foresee the consequences of our actions with our amazing ability to justify our selfish behavior, and utilitarianism leads to unintended harm.

Another viewpoint is pluralism, which says that different things are right and wrong for different people, in different cultures and circumstances. I used to hold that viewpoint. Reading and discussion in a Sunday School class persuaded me that I was wrong on that.

Lewis points out quite accurately that moral pluralism would mean that we could not condemn the Nazis for the Holocaust. He says that people who say there are many different moral systems, all valid, do not usually follow through with that when they are morally offended. You may be nonjudgemental about your friend’s belief in free love, but not if he dallies with your wife. You may be prepared to accept that property is theft, but that does not mean that you will help a robber carry your TV set to his car.

If we accept that some things are right and some things are wrong, regardless of the circumstances, then we also have to accept that people do things that are wrong with alarming frequency.

Now, my own view is that people do things that are wrong all the time, myself included. I do not think that I have a responsibility to condemn them for it, and I think that awareness of circumstances should lead us to compassion for wrongdoers, including ourselves. Sometimes we do not understand a situation well enough to be able to see clearly what is right or wrong, but that means we need to learn more about it. Many moral pluralists are very unkind about other people’s behavior — not on moral grounds, perhaps, but on questions of style or coolness. They are just as wrong in this, I believe, as those who picket movie theaters because they think that they are responsible for upholding morality.

Dawkins starts Chapter 6 with a sampling of loony letters he has received from people purporting to be Christians, and these ravings give me a clearer understanding of why Dawkins might be a little hysterical about religion. Like the rudeness of pointing out someone else’s slips of ettiquette, the immorality of abusing someone for his moral lapses should be enough to prevent us from doing it.

As Lewis points out, people who don’t know this — or any other example of right and wrong — are assumed to have something wrong with them.