Monkey Morality: Can Evolution Explain Ethics?
By Gregory Koukl
Bongo is a chimp. He’s being punished by other members of the chimpanzee band for not sharing his bananas. Bongo is selfish. Bad Bongo. Moral rule: Chimps shouldn’t be selfish.
One of the strongest evidences for the existence of God is man’s unique moral nature. C. S. Lewis argues in Mere Christianity that there is a persistent moral law that represents the ethical foundation of all human cultures. This, he says, is evidence for the God who is the author of the moral law.
Not everyone agrees. Scenarios like that of Bongo the chimp have been offered as evidence for rudimentary forms of morality among animals, especially the “higher” primates like chimpanzees. This suggests that morality in humans is not unique and can be explained by the natural process of evolution without appeal to a divine Lawgiver.
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This view of morality is one of the conclusions of the new science of evolutionary psychology. Its adherents advance a simple premise: The mind, just like every part of the physical body, is a product of evolution. Everything about human personality — marital relationships, parental love, friendships, dynamics among siblings, social climbing, even office politics — can be explained by the forces of neo-Darwinian evolution.
Even the moral threads that make up the fabric of society are said to be the product of natural selection. Morality can be reduced to chemical relationships in the genes chosen by different evolutionary needs in the physical environment. Love and hate; feelings of guilt and remorse; gratitude and envy; even the virtues of kindness, faithfulness, and self-control can all be explained mechanistically through the cause and effect of chance genetic mutations and natural selection…
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