Did Morals Evolve?
by Greg Koukl
I have consistently put forth what I believe to be a very strong argument for the existence of a personal God and the reality of personal guilt before God based on the existence of self-evident moral rules in the universe.
I think it’s a good argument. But it hasn’t gone unchallenged, especially by those who are committed to the belief that nothing truly exists which is not subject to examination by the senses through scientific inquiry.
This idea has been around in some form for a long time and goes by a variety of different names, depending upon how it’s nuanced: physicalism, scientism, anti-realism, nominalism, strict empiricism, naturalism, etc. I think it’s safe to say that modern man thinks he believes this. (Shannon) But this man who said knowledge was only available through empirical testing also said he’d been in love many times, and you can’t put love in a test tube. Further, you can’t weigh this empirical knowledge he was referring to. And the more we talked the more it became evident that we couldn’t even discuss the issue without having to employ the very abstract entities he claimed didn’t exist.
By the way, virtually everything we hold to be dear and important to us….cannot be analyzed empirically. If this is true, and if it’s also true that nothing is real that is not available to scientific scrutiny, then nothing truly important to us actually exists.
A recent challenge to the transcendent nature of morality comes from the book The Moral Animal–Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology , by Robert Wright, published by Pantheon Press. I have not read the book, but I have read the review by Sara Lippincott in the September 4 (1994) Book Review section of the LA Times . Lippencott sketches out the arguments for us.
The thesis: "conscience, the seat of our moral sense, evolved as a survival mechanism. When…we feel guilt because we have harmed a sibling, it is because we have thereby imperiled the proliferation of our genes. When we feel guilt because we have harmed someone outside the family circle, it is because we have potentially damaged our own (survival enhancing) status."
This doesn’t account for guilt we may feel for wantonly mistreating some other animal, which is an immediate problem with this view as an explanation for morality, but let’s ignore that for a moment because something else is more pressing…
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