Part 13 Did morality evolve?

The last objection to objective morality is…

3.     Morality evolved

People who believe in the theory of evolution make a case that morality is simply a matter of genetics.  There are major problems with this viewpoint.  According to this view, natural selection works in the genes.  Morality can be explained mechanistically through chance genetic mutations and natural selection.  Love and hate, feelings of guilt and remorse, gratitude, and envy are all genetically determined.  Even the virtues of kindness, faithfulness, or self-control are in the genes.

First problem:  Can Morality Be Hard-Wired?

Evolution reduces morality to physical properties, genetic traits.  Physical characteristics and behaviors are determined by genes.  Therefore, conduct that is called “moral” is determined by genetic structure.  This raises two problems….First, moral statements must be able to be reduced to genetic statements, the random combination of molecules.

–  The difference between kindness and cruelty is the same kind of difference as between blue eyes and brown eyes.

–  The difference between Hitler and Mother Teresa is the same kind of difference between being short or tall.

–   Your own mother's kindness to you is the same kind of quality as her brown eyes: a physical, genetic trait.

–   The fundamental distinction between a Martin Luther King and white supremacists is their chromosomal makeup.

–   If morality is hard-wired, then Jeffrey Dahmer merely had an eating disorder[1].

But on reflection, kindness and cruelty seem to be different kinds of things than brown eyes or being tall.  Second, evolutionary morality is deterministic.  Humans do whatever evolution–specifically, natural selection–has preprogrammed their genes to cause them to do.  But the morality we understand involves free choice. Behaviors that are pre-wired for the purpose of survival are called instincts, not morals.  So the idea that morals evolved fails the first test.  If our preprogrammed genes are determined; then we can only do what we were born with.  However, the morality we are looking for is a free choice[2].

Second problem:  All morals that evolve are relative

If all morals evolved through the centuries, then there cannot be an absolute standard.  If that is true, then the evolutionist has to be a moral relativist.  Therefore, all the issues and problems that come with relativism also argue against morality evolving.  An evolutionist can never say any behavior is right or wrong universally, it is just a matter of genetics which plays out in the way we are hard wired.  If morals evolved then Hitler wasn’t wrong for murdering 6 millions Jews.

Remember the moral relativist is either ethics as pleasure or ethics of power.  Might makes right is the rally cry for the evolutionist.  We are all animals and just like any animal there are only instincts and behaviors, no right or wrong.  If you say over the millions of years a moral standard evolved, I am going to ask, what standard and who made it the standard?  What society or group was powerful enough to force their standard?  Again all you have is moral relativism because an objective moral standard must stand above mankind, it cannot evolve.  It is the type of standard where you need an infinite standard maker; that maker would be God, which the evolutionist denies.  So the evolutionist has to be a moral relativist.

Over the past few weeks I have established moral relativism to be false.  If moral relativism is false then morality must be objective; there is no alternative.  Where do we get objective morals?  Man cannot be the source of morality or else you have relativism.  The source must stand above man or shall we say, be transcendent from humanity.  The only answer is morality comes from an objective moral lawgiver.  This is the only logical conclusion.

Therefore, morality is a great way to make a case for the existence of God.  If objective morals exist, therefore, God exists.  This was the argument CS Lewis made in the first 5 chapters of his classic book Mere Christianity.  Christian apologist and debater William Lane Craig loves to use the existence of morality to argue for the existence of God.  I have yet to hear an atheist successfully counter his line of reasoning.

Go to part 14 here


[1]Koukl, Greg, “Monkey Morality; Is Evolution the Best Explanation for Ethics?” ©1998 Stand to Reason

[2] Ibed.

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