The evolutionary origins of morality…

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A lot of atheists seem to feel like children who’ve been forced by parents to go to church and believe in God.  Like they’ve had religion shoved down their throats, and now they put a lot of energy into fighting back.  As a result, every day there’s another article or book trying to disprove God by arguing there are naturalistic reasons for things like morality.  “You don’t need a ‘god’ to tell you right from wrong, it’s part of how creatures are naturally wired” they say.  “Starting from the right assumptions, you can find a purely evolutionary basis for what we think of as ‘right and wrong.'”  And what you don’t expect me to say right now is: they are absolutely right!  If they’re wrong about something, they’re wrong about what it is they think Christians believe…

I can’t speak for other religions, but in the Bible, human beings knew that killing, stealing, lying for personal gain, having affairs – and things like these – were wrong.  They didn’t need God to come down and explain these things to them.  Which is why out of the million or so words that make up the Old Testament (and New Testament), you’ll find maybe only a dozen relating to any of these on the list.  In the Bible, we’re designed by God, so of course we have this internal “sense” of right and wrong… And because these things are part of God’s character, the world works better when people are kind and compassionate.  What I mean is: of course these things SHOULD be *natural* from the Bible’s perspective…

But Christian philosophers do make a case about God having to do with morality: that our belief that “certain things are absolutely good, and others absolutely bad” (what’s called Moral Law) is only an opinion…  I may feel like something (like genocide or racism) is absolutely wrong, but that’s just my opinion and the opinion of my culture.  I have no basis to say it’s actually (objectively) wrong… especially if there are people and cultures that say otherwise at certain times.  Our concept of “absolute right” and “absolute wrong” is an illusion UNLESS there is an ultimate Being who’s judgment is above human opinion.  Whenever someone says, “but that’s wrong,” the obvious rebuttal is, “but that’s just YOUR opinion.”  It’s like two teams arguing about a foul, only there’s no referee and no rule book.  In order for something to be an “absolute foul” there has to be a referee and a rulebook that he follows.  Or as C.S. Lewis has said, there has to be an absolute Moral Law; and if there is a Law, also a Law-Giver.

This kind of argument is really philosophical, or epistemological, and it’s not something that those trained in the sciences usually notice.  One cannot get rid of God in Moral Law by studying Evolution any more than you can argue a foul by studying weather patterns during the game.

Related posts:

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  2. How to have a healthy debate…
  3. The emotionally healthy church…
  4. Why it doesn’t matter that Christians differ on evolution, homosexuality, guns, politics…

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