I have had people on multiple occassions say that evolution means there are no morals. Is that true?
It would probably be more accurate to state “If there is no God, then there are no morals.” From a purely atheistic standpoint, this argument would indeed make sense. If there is no God, then there is no final Arbiter of good versus evil, and those determinations are ultimately up to each individual. Those that propose the argument as you wrote it assume that the existence of evolution precludes the existence of God.
No. Like so many aspects of this topic, clear definitions are important to avoid misunderstandings. I think the Biologos position is that God used evolution to create humanity. In that case the fact that evolution was used does not prevent people from having morals that come from God (whether people evolved to have morals or God gave them in some other way).
I speak from an atheistic position. I define morals as rules for living and social interaction generally accepted by a society. Atheism being true does not mean there are no morals by that definition. It does mean that they don’t come from God, and that there is no judge or punishment beyond what people impose on each other.
If imposition and enforcement by God is part of your definition of morals, then atheism means there are no morals. But in facts atheists do generally act “morally” and feel obligated to do so by their conscience and/or their position as a member of a family, society, or species.
You should read through the thread The moral law and socialization. Lots of discussion related to your question.
… to be fair to (most?) atheists we could probably improve even more on the accuracy of this by adding:
“If there is no God, then there are no absolute or objective morals.”
Most atheists who are decent sorts of folks will of course accept and live by moral codes (far from denying their existence!). They just wouldn’t grant that they have any status beyond having been humanly contrived.
Thanks, @Mervin_Bitikofer, I did indeed overstate. I have read such comments before, but I concur, most atheists would disagree with my statement.
I’ve argued online with many an atheist on this point, and while an atheist can indeed have admirable morals, it is, in my opinion, a hollow morality, as naturalistic evolution implies that life is the result of a series of mindless accidents and is therefore meaningless. If life is meaningless, then so is morality (… and love, justice, beauty, honour, duty, kindness, compassion, empathy, etc, etc).
On the other hand, theistic evolution implies life is meaningful, because life is the result of the will of a loving God - who happens to place a great deal of emphasis on morality … so much so that it has eternal consequences for human beings.
@Walter (or is it John?) … right. Depending on the definition, a society of hominids can still have a “moral system” and a notion of “morality” … even if God doesn’t exist.
But for those who think God used Evolution to create human society, the definition that allows for what was described in the sentence above is not an adequate definition of morality.
Some atheists argue that morality results from the necessity to survive. If so, then how this any different to a dog learning to behave in a certain way in order to get feed by its master? Can a dog do morality?
But what is the meaning of this God? Was the God a “mindless accident”? You may have taken what you perceive as a “hollow” shell and placed another hollow shell around it to fill it.
I believe in a morality based on our own assessments. This phrase might be more aptly applied to a system imposed by fiat and which we are expected to follow or suffer some externally imposed punishment.
Perhaps you should read some of my posts dealing with the Great Leap Forward, and Richard Dawkins book “The Ancestor’s Tale” where he admits that humankind originated in a manner different that all other life on earth. We are an exception to chance mutations that result in tiny changes with no direction.
Agreed, and I wouldn’t deny that a God could potentially provide us with moral insight or instruction.
Speaking as an active Freemason… we masons believe in a god because Freemasonry, at it’s core, is about righteousness and righteous conduct. Without God to provide the measure of righteousness, it’s all just human convention.
The old pantheon’s of Greek and Roman gods were captives of an inherently righteous universe. The New Atheists don’t even accept an inherently righteous universe.
A lot of good questions there – all of them fairly far above my pay grade. There are words for these diverging lines of thought (does God say it because it’s true/good,or is it true/good because God says it is). I don’t have the big names or labels for those approaches at the tip of my tongue --others can fill in on that.
What I will say, though, is that I don’t think any devout believer is too troubled over inaccessible questions like these as it essentially seems the non-believer is trying to appeal to a possibly “higher court” over [any possible] God. On the believer’s view, this turns out to be a fool’s errand. It has the persistent echoes again of that very clever and powerful “demiurge” god who is nonetheless just another being alongside us in the universe. This is the god who must compete with scientific explanations and retreat into the corner whenever we successfully master something for ourselves. This is the only god that I hear militant atheists dealing with and speaking about. Greeks (I think) would believe (along with you) that their pantheon of gods were just such beings, themselves subject to higher realities. The Christian (a classically well-informed one) does not think of God in that way at all, but as a “ground of all being” in whom we all have our existence. There will be no teasing apart some reality that is somehow independent of God. So I guess my attempt at an answer to the unanswerable is that the most real reality (physical, moral, spiritual, … everything!) is all bound up inseparably in God who by definition (for us) is transcendent to and immanent in everything. The buck stops there, so to speak. Regarding all the other gods, we are atheists right alongside you, joyfully putting such gods in their place wherever we see pretentious belief in them popping up. It is a sacred task.
Cheers. I don’t think many atheists would! To us, it is what it is. I get that it’s not an attractive scenario basically.
Cheers as well. We’re just one god ahead of you in that regard Nothing sacred about for us though I guess!
The BioLogos pages aren’t really about having to justify a belief in God… that’s the assumed premise for the rest of the discussion…
I suppose it depends upon how one differentiates between morals and ethics.
Few thousand years ago Socrates (?) observed that moral people are happier than immoral people and asked, “Why are most people immoral? Because most people are not rational.” Morality was defined as respecting local laws and customs.
The qudstion may be answered in another way in that we can look at how societies have developed along with different kinds of religion and spiritual consciouness. Anthropolgists have long studied tribes cut off from other societies and found that they have codes of conduct and a morality of sorts. There may some in-built and cultural norms related to family and tribe. More permanent stratified socities developed more complex law systems. We only need to look at such ancient texts like the Code of Hammurabi to see that there were moral values such as protection of the marriage bond, laws against theft and also against murder, although it may depend what person was murdered and how high up in society they were.
It is quite explainable when we consider that the “higher” apes and monkeys living in troops have “rules” relating to mating and status that become quite apparent when you observe them
It seems to me that In evolution Human beings had to create moral norms in order to exist in community and maintain a structure for the society inn order to survive. What we find in the OT are certain laws similar to but not the same as the ancient law codes. But then also the OT has parts that place greater emphasis on loving the stranger who is in the land, protecting the rights of the poor and slaves etc. Things designed to limit selfish and trbal tendencies.
it seems that God may have allowed natural sense of law to evolve but then supplimented this with revelation of types of moral behavior that are superior to what humans may have arrived at by their own reason and desires.
We can have sorts of morality without God but perhaps it becomes tribal and self serving in contrast to God, revealed as Love who takes us beyond that to something greater. Some people looking at evolution may conclude and want to exault selfisness and power and surival of the strongest. Our faith teaches us that is too limiting and our best humanity comes from going beyond self, family and tribe. This has come by way of God’s own revelation and in Jesus Christ and He is the greates guide to what morality realy is.
But the OT also has parts that endorse slavery, and explain how you can beat your slave as long as they don’t die in a couple of days. Among other things. There’s good things as well, but who’s chosen among the good and the bad? Hasn’t input come from many other sources? Has the Bible been our only guide (and is that even possible?) If not, what else but human reason are we talking about? People had a long time for the lessons you suggest to sink in, but the resulting record has been spotty at best. At this point, would it be better to go back 100 years or 200? What’s making the difference? Not to say that the Bible and Christian thought have been totally irrelevant, but it’s a pretty big claim to try to claim a superior standing for one’s morality or to suggest that only base rationales exist for order among human relations without it. You’d need a lot stronger case I think!
There is an indefinite moratorium on ‘slavery in the OT’ threads because the moderators are sick of reading them. Feel free to peruse any of the several long and involved past threads from this year on the topic if you are seriously interested in the question.