Friends, neighbors, TRC'ers, I have returned. Your faithful correspondent was back in Waco taking his doctoral preliminary exams.
I can report two things.
First, I have now equalled one Dick Cheney in terms of progress toward the Ph.D. He is ABD and so am I. (Cue the Bentsen-tribute where a ghostly voice reminds me that I'm no Dick Cheney.)
Second, the subject of the natural law came up in a talk with a friend. She is very passionate about the rights of illegal aliens, border issues, etc. I happened to know prior to the conversation that she considers herself a "nontheist." If I understand correctly, the word nontheist is being used by some to get away from the highly negative associations attached to the word atheist.
Anyway, I listened to her talk about the rights of various people and finally had to ask: "Where do those rights come from?"
She thought about it and said, "I think I'd go with the Constitution on that." (This would strike some as a bad response, but it isn't so wrong. Just because one doesn't have all the constitutional rights as with a youth, prisoner, or illegal alien, it doesn't mean one has no constitutional rights.)
I replied, "Those are just words on a piece of paper. They could easily say something else."
She then returned, "I can't see the answer being natural law."
Me: Why not? I have a friend from Nigeria and we agree on the essentials. Lying is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Murder is wrong. Unprovoked assault is wrong. Yet, we are on opposite sides of the globe. These notions seem to be built into the structure of reality.
She: But there have been people who sacrificed virgins!
Me: That doesn't do anything to undercut natural law.
Me: The people who have sacrificed virgins have offered justifications for doing so. In fact, they offer an ultimate justification -- to satisfy a god. What would damage natural law thinking would be if they thought it wonderful to sacrifice virgins for no reason at all. They may be wrong about the justification, but they aren't wrong that one must have a good one before murdering innocent people.
And at that, we had to switch the subject because she did not wish to be converted to natural law any more than to Christianity.