Chow Mein, Fried Rice, and Morality

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At Apologetics Canada, I am something of a token Asian. That comes with the joy of being associated with all kinds of Asian stereotypes just for good laughs. (Many of them are true of me!) One of these stereotypes is my love for rice.

Well, as you might expect of a stereotype, it’s only half-true.

I love rice. I grew up eating rice three times a day (typically). I never got sick of it. Instead, I love it more as I grow older.

Yet, when I go to a Chinese restaurant, I hardly order, say, fried rice. Without fail, I’ll order chow mein every time. (And I don’t eat chow mein – I inhale it.) Why? Because, well…

I prefer chow mein over fried rice.

In my last post, I discussed the need for an external standard in order for us to make moral pronouncements on the basis of objective morality. We all need to pin morality on something, to ground it. Otherwise, it becomes impossible to make moral pronouncements that are binding on other people.

So, what can serve as the basis for objective morality, that is, morality that applies to everyone regardless of human opinion?

Most Christians, including myself, think that only God can be the source of objective morality, and I’ll argue for that position in a future post. For now, though, let’s look at some non-theistic options. In my last post, I mentioned a number of possible candidates. Let’s start with personal preference.


Right from the get-go, you can see that this doesn’t bring us objective morality. This is subjective morality to the nth degree. Nonetheless, I think it is helpful for us to examine this idea that morality is subjective on the individual level. Here is a question for us all:

What is the consequence of having personal preference as the basis for morality?

Perhaps it would look something like this:
(Viewer discretion advised: Violence and sexually suggestive themes in this scene)

As you were watching this, you were (hopefully) rooting for Batman, weren’t you? Here is Joker, doing whatever his whimsical fancies dictate, terrorizing people to get what he wants. Then comes Batman, fighting in anonymity to protect the innocent (and not so innocent).

But here is the twisted thing: If morality is whatever each individual makes of it, for all we know, Batman is the bad guy.

It is just that the Joker just happened to like to kill people indiscriminately to get what he wants and Batman just happened to like the idea of protecting the innocent. At the end of the day, this boils down to “might makes right.” In other words, morality doesn’t exist.

Not only is morality boiled down, it’s evaporated altogether.


And all that remains at its core is preference. If this is true, then my preference of loving a newborn baby to torturing it for fun is really of the same order as my preference of chow mein to fried rice. These two types of preferences are same in kind, only different in the area of subject matter.

But do we actually live like that’s true?

If we don’t, then our experience seems to show moral individualism to be false.

For the most part, the personal-preference-morality is rather easy to do away with. I know of very few people who would affirm that morality is whatever each of us makes of it. Most people that I’ve spoken to who don’t hold to objective morality will opt for group preference instead as the basis for morality. We’ll examine this in my next post.

About the Author


Steve is a follower of Christ with a heart for apologetics. In his early 20s, Steve experienced a faith crisis due to intellectual undernourishment. Through this experience, he has come to see apologetics as the "intellectual care of the soul" and now feels a personal burden to walk with others who may be struggling with doubt and/or seeking sincerely. Steve holds a diploma in Worship Arts and a BA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, BC. He has completed a master's degree in Christian Apologetics through Biola University. Steve lives in Edmonton, AB with his wife and two children.

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  1. Pingback: One-Upped: Jimmy Fallon and Objective Standards - Apologetics Canada

  2. Pingback: What Could Have Been - Apologetics Canada

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