In part one of our series on the argument of morality, we established the grounds for the argument in that transcendent, objective moral truths do indeed exist. The question to answer now is, how do we account for them? We’ll look at one answer today.
One answer to the argument is brought forth by nihilists. The answer is that morality is simply an evolutionary illusion. Evolutionary ethicist and atheist philosopher of science, Michael Ruse, and his colleague, Edward Wilson, put it this way:
“Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence, the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will—or in the metaphorical roots of evolution or any other part of the framework of the Universe. In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding. Ethics is produced by evolution but is not justified by it because, like Macbeth’s dagger, it serves a powerful purpose without existing in substance.…Unlike Macbeth’s dagger, ethics is a shared illusion of the human race.16″
Atheists such as Michael and Edward pose the answer that our morality is grounded in our genetic evolution and DNA. So morality is not something that exists in reality, rather it’s an illusion “fobbed off” on us via evolution so we don’t kill each other off. On the surface, it seems reasonable, but if we look deeper, there are some unfavourable consequences this needs to answer for.
This Theroy Extols A Darwinian View of Morality.
This theory, if taken to its conclusion, holds to a Darwinian view of morality. A “survival of the fittest” moral base that has disastrous ramifications. Our very existence is derived from naturalistic laws of evolution that kills off the weak and favors the strong. This answer is one the acclaimed atheist Richard Dawkins is unapologetically against:
“I don’t care what’s against the evolution principle. I’m all for going against the evolution principle. What we need is a truly anti-Darwinian society. Anti-Darwinian in the sense that we don’t wish to live in a society where the weakest go to the wall, where the strongest suppress the weak, and even kill the weak.”
As much as I applaud Dawkin’s words, the problem is, why should I feel obligated to go against the evolutionary principle? Why do I feel obligated to help the weak when it’s my own survival that my genetic nature declares as most important? It’s this evolutionary principle that spurned on the likes of Hitler, Zedong, Stalin, Lenin, and Pol Pot, who killed millions of people, more so than any religious war had ever done. While it can be argued it wasn’t because of their atheism that they killed so many, like some religious wars were, their actions were certainly consistent with the views they held. But not all people grew up to be like Hitler or Stalin. That is where this theory’s biggest problem lies.
We all have different genetic pathways, different DNA, it’s what makes us who we are as individuals. I had no choice in my eye color, my hair and skin color, and if this theory is true, I also had no choice in my moral code as well. If our morality is based on our individual genetic pathways, how can I judge another who holds a different genetic pathway? How could I judge Hitler’s genetic code if he had no choice in the matter? How can I say my genetic code is superior to Stalin’s? If my morality is based on my DNA, and if we all have different individual codes, morality becomes subjective and based solely on the individual subject. What happens then? We are denied of all moral responsibility.
In the end, if this theory is true, we are nothing more than the chemicals we’re made up of. There is no value or dignity accredited as we have no choice to our morality. Two cosmologists made one of the most terrifying statements in all history:
“Quite ultimately, it is not human beings that are important, it’s DNA.“
Is this antitheism’s message to all? That we are of no worth as individuals? That we are nothing more than material matter? I can’t emphasize the depravity enough. But on the other hand, if objective morals truths exist in a transcendent moral law giver, and if we’re made in this being’s image (Genesis 1:27), then we are worth something. We do have a choice and can be held responsible for wrong actions. Right and wrong do exist as objective principles based on the standard of this being’s character. We do hold dignity when we do what is right. We become more than mere DNA and material matter, we become valued individuals, endlessly loved by our creator. Does this mean theism is the only answer to the origin of objective moral truths? Naturalism has a few more of its own answers up its sleeve, so we’ll hold that back until dive down further in pt.3