Monday, October 6, 2008

Does evolution make good sense of objective morality?

As we continue to explore the moral argument, we have admitted that objective moral values are real (i.e., rape is always wrong). The question at hand is whether anyone other than a moral lawgiver--God--can account for these objective moral values.

It seems to be the only other option is Nature gave them to us. but what is Nature? Well Nature turns out--even mother nature (notice the personification of nature to make people feel better and offer purpose and care)--to be nothing more than blind, random chance over time according to the Naturalistic story--Neo-Darwinism being a prominent part of the just so story.

Here is what Dr. Michael Ruse, a Darwinian Philosopher of Science at Florida State, had to say about morality:

“Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says "love thy neighbor as thyself," they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction . . . And any deeper meaning is illusory.”

Now not everyone agrees with him. But it is hard not to. Where do objective moral values come from? What about a random, blind process of chemical reactions puts an obligation on me to do one thing and not another? Even an 'obligation' is not physical, though we all know they are real--so how do you get non-physical obligations from a physical process...a rearranging of the bb's of matter?

Darwinian evolution, at best, only offers a description of the current state of morality today--perhaps social agreement? What it does not offer is why I ought to be moral tomorrow.

So it seems then that premise 1, in absence of a counter argument is more likely than not true as well.

If that is the cast then the argument is sound. The conclusion follows necessarily from the premises.

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values & duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values & duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

8 comments: said...

It's been suggested that morality in humans points to the power of natural selection in that those with a sense or morality also possessed a sense of community responsibility. So, the argument goes, humans with a strong sense of morality were more likely to survive to pass along that trait to subsequent generations while those without a sense or morality were less likely to survive.

Regarding your syllogism:
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values & duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values & duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
To suppose that moral values do not exist apart from God seems unconcluded.

Another thought: What do those who post on this blog not identify themselves. It seems cowardly.

blog admin said...

Hello and thanks for wieging in.

a couple of thoughts:
1. why is survival a good to be sought? (on a naturalistic phsyics and chemistry level that is. In a theistic worldview, this of course is not an issue)

2. natural selection is not an "it" with powers or purposes. I think too often it is personified like Mother nature. it is a description of things--that's it. no end game. Blind, random chance is all that is available.

3.even if I grant for the sake of discussion that those with the "stronger sense of morality" survived, that is still just a description or explanation of what has happened up until now. It does not however provide me, today, an ought to do the same. On that scheme a person has no obligations whatsoever to further the species. Why not act in complete accordance to one's desires--whatever they happen to be. There is no objective sense of morality provided--only a description.

regarding the argument:
I am not saying that no other "possible" explanations exist. But the more modest claim of plausability - more likley than not. So in light of a more plausable explantion, God as an agent makes the best sense of obligations and objective moral values. Proof in the formal sense is only available in Mathmatics.

It seems to me a sound deductive argument--the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises.

the burden of proof here is on the one who would disagree with premise 1. Premise 2 seems unavoidable by a properly functioning human being.

No cowardly conspiracy here. We just use blog admin for ease of use. ;) Thanks! said...

You're welcome.

I would like to add my comments to other posts, but would appreciate being privileged to know to whom I am conversing. said...

Burden of proof, by the way, falls upon the one making the original allegation.

Unless, of cource, you are the IRS.

Drew Mazanec said...

What if I disagreed with premise 2? I propose that there are no moral absolutes, only personal preferences.

I propose that which we call moral is that which we perceive as desirable in society and immoral is that which we perceive as non desirable.

Hence, the illusion of objective morality.

What say you?

valdemar squelch said...

In the 18th century, most Christians thought buying and selling black people was morally acceptable. Indeed, many fine churches were built with the proceeds of slavery. What changed? If morality is truly objective, it must have remained the same. Were Christians then simply too stupid to perceive what was good? Too greedy? Too drunk? If there is objective morality, we must conclude it is a very weak thing indeed, if it can blind us - or at least some of us - to the difference between human beings and cattle. Better to accept that morality is a cultural invention.

blog admin said...

Here some response to some recent comments:, my name is Jon, good to meet you.
Drew, thanks for dropping by. I think we can propose anything we like as possibilities; but the question really is what do we believe deep down. And I think the view you suggest is in fact unlivable. The sex slave trade is not only illegal; it is immoral and objectively so—even though a lot of people out their prefer sex slaves. Child molestation and abuse is objectively morally wrong—in every society everywhere. Rape is objectively wrong—even if the majority thinks it is OK. These aren’t illusory; they are obvious when we think about them. And these are what need a sufficient grounding.
A couple of things. 1) objective moral values are not due to majority opinion, Christian or otherwise. So, the Christians that did those things were objectively wrong. 2) Your other point seems to get rid of the idea of moral progress. As people grow and mature in virtue and understanding they change. 3) “If there is objective morality, we must conclude it is a very weak thing indeed”, well I would say values aren’t weak, humans are—we fail to do the good. The world is a messed up place. That is why in Christianity you have grace and a savior / teacher in Jesus Christ to teach us how to live and forgive our many mistakes.
Also, Christians aren’t the only one who struggle with conforming to objective moral values. In the 20th century alone, the big 3 atheist regimes of Mao, Stalin, and Hitler killed 100 million of their country men in the name of “progress.”

Ktisis said...

Most of the challenges against the concept of objective morality point to either (1) failure on the part of humanity to live up to it (i.e. slavery, etc) or (2) Darwinian hypotheses of survivability benefits of certain types of behavior(s). These are, at best, distractions from the thrust of the discussion.
First, the failure of any sub-group of the human population from living up to the standards of objective morality only points to another severe problem for naturalists, i.e. free will, and sin or disobedience by default. One can read entire chapters in the New Testament where the apostles had to scold and remind professing Christians of the errors of their ways. Rather than their failures being an argument against morality, in reality, it necessarily reinforces them. Whether slavery in the 19th century, fascist prejudice in the 20th, or insatiable corporate greed in the 21st, these failures point all of us toward a better standard, and the revulsion we experience as an affirmation of their deviate nature.
Secondly, attempting to explain (in quite a broad-brush) objective morality as some type of societal mutation to aid in the survival of the species fails upon even a superficial examination of the facts. Evolution, as a blind naturalistic force, with no consideration for species; only acts (if indeed it actually exists) towards the passing on of the genes of the individual. One cannot discuss societal issues. By very nature, survivability is intensely personal, actually, it only reaches down to the individual. Therefore, all such speculation concerning morality as being a chemical process that aids in the progress of the society as a whole is spurious at best.
One particular example of this is self-sacrifice. If I have the mutation to be "moral", "self-sacrificing", then I would help others live, but I myself would not survive the present crisis. Therefore, those that I help would survive to pass on their (perhaps non-self-sacrificing) genes, but, alas, the "moral" individual may have no descendants. This is in direct contradiction to those who espouse moral-evolution. Also, selfishness is the very antithesis of morality, yet it is the most preferred method of individual survival and therefore of genetic contribution. No amount of mental gymnastics and just-so-suppositions can deny this basic tenet. Remember, the evolutionary model only deals with the ability to pass on genetic information, it cares little for the ability of others to do the same, it is intrinsically selfish and individual by default and definition. Mankind, as the most intelligent being on the planet, can survive just fine alone, or in small groups. With our advanced intellect and tool making capabilities, the concepts of the "good of the group" mutations contain only a veneer of truth.
In conclusion, what of moral issues that contribute zero to the survivability of the group? What of honesty, integrity, and of respect for others? Only through a severe stretch of imagination can these by tied to survivability, though, necessarily, the naturalist must blindly assign them to such.