While the existence of evil is a fairly compelling proof of God’s existence, there is a recent challenge to the concept that evil and the existence of objective morals are evidence for God. This section covers this recent challenge to the existence of God.
In the Worldview section I indicated a more recent challenge to the existence of God, and that being the Atheistic explanation as to where morality comes from. For many years the existence of objective morality and evil have been two challenges to evolution and Atheism, which have been difficult for Evolutionists and Atheists to answer. Since the beginning of this century however, Evolutionists and Atheists have proposed a new theory. This theory is that objective morals can be accounted for through evolution. I believe the following video is a fair and accurate presentation of this position:
Morality Comes From Evolution
This has been one of the more challenging topics for me to gain a good understanding of, so don’t be discouraged if you find it slightly confusing at first. I hope that I have given an effective and understandable overview in the limited space given. I strongly encourage you to explore the links provided as they will connect you with many of the resources I found for the topic. Like the other topics in this guide, these sources will allow you to not only access more information on the topic but also see the explanations given by the speakers themselves. With this topic especially, I believe that reading this content more than once and exploring the additional links, is very important to gaining as good an understanding as possible.
If you’re not quite clear on what morality is, it is what we consider Right and Wrong. To be moral means to do what would be considered the right thing to do in a situation. It relates to right and wrong. An example of doing what’s right or doing what’s moral would be to not steal something, or to not cheat someone, etc. Not doing these things would be the right and moral thing to do even if you could do the opposite without anyone ever finding out. Another term for morality is Ethics.
It is important to realize that with morality there is more than one definition. Like truth, there is objective morality and subjective morality. Remember in the section on Truth where we used Greg Koukl’s illustrations of ice cream and insulin to represent the two different classifications of truth: subjective truth, and objective truth? Morality is very similar.
Subjective Morality is like ice cream in that it is that morality which we choose or decide upon for ourselves. It is what we prefer and decide is right, and others can prefer and decide differently and still be right. You may have heard someone say the phrase, "I don't care what anyone does as long as it doesn't affect me." This is a statement symbolizing subjective morality more accurately than any other I can think of.
Objective Morality is like insulin in that it is a standard which exists outside of anyone’s preference or what any individual or group decides. It is the same for all people at all times, whether 1000 years ago or 1000 years from now. Rape has always been wrong and will always be wrong, regardless of any feeling or preference of any person or teaching by any culture. Greg Koukl uses the phrase “It’s the difference between real bad and feel bad” to illustrate the difference between the two definitions of morality .
J.P. Moreland’s presentation below shows evidences for objective moral laws at 21:50 minutes.
Evidence for Christianity
He uses the example of torturing babies for fun, and kindness and honesty as evidences for objective moral laws. Without anyone telling you, you automatically know which of these three examples is bad and which is good. In his presentation above, J.P. Moreland also shows a very creative way to respond to a moral relativist. A moral relativist is one who believes that all morals are relative or subjective.
Seven Things You Can’t Do as a Moral Relativist
When someone makes a statement about morality, it is important to determine whether they are referring to objective or subjective morality. If you've read through previous sections, you should be familiar with the difference between someone making an objective claim and a subjective claim, and also the significance between the two. As in the previous Truth section, determining which morality a person is referring to is very important when in a conversation with them. The Tactics section provides methods of determining what a person means without being insulting. The Tactics methods can also be used so that the person you are talking to doesn't assume that you mean something you don’t.
Evolutionists are now making the claim that morals can evolve. They indicate that the evidence for this can be seen in nature. As shown in the video at the link above, animals seem to show a solidarity in the way the members of their community interact with one another. This observed solidarity is pointed to as an evidence of a Natural Morality.
The author of the video points to the fact that animals in the community behave the way they do because it is ultimately better for the community, and thus better for the members of the community. It is better for the members to be more moral to each other so that the community has a better chance of survival and is able to maintain larger populations.
Referring to the Mexican Beaded Lizard, the author indicates,
“Natural selection seems to be the only thing that explains the necessity of this sort of behavior”.
Referring to the spectacled Cayman Alligators where one female remains behind at the nursery pool, he states,
“The survival of the population greatly outweighs the inconvenience of the lone adult female”.
The author states that “Complex courtship rituals provide an advantage over rape” in the ability of the species to thrive. Toward the end of the video he gave a current example showing the benefit of teamwork over independence, and illustrated this through his playing Capture the Flag with other students when he was in college.
I believe that this video is presented as evidence that evolution can bring about morality. While the examples the author gives seem to be good evidence to support his conclusion, I believe there is information critical of his conclusion which needs to be considered as well.
Fortunately when I first saw the video, the comments below from both Sam A and James Wallace existed. They were no longer there the last few times I checked. I don’t know if they were deleted because they were effective at showing the limitations of attributing objective morality to the behaviors of animals or not. Unfortunately the majority of comments currently on the video page are not worth viewing, and are primarily insults to other commenters.
Sam A writes,
“If we get our morals from Evolution that means what is morally correct could change, since the word Evolution itself means 'to change’.”
“Rape takes place all the time in the animal kingdom, does this mean it came from Evolution and that it is justified?”
Sam’s comment that ”Evolution itself means 'to change” is very accurate of the Evolutionary principal of Change Over Time. If objective morals don’t change, but evolving morals do, then evolution by definition cannot be an adequate explanation for objective morality. Claiming that evolution can bring about objective morality is the same as saying that “Change over time can produce something that doesn’t change over time”. This qualifies as self-contradictory, and would be a better example of subjective morality not objective morality.
Brett Kunkle of www.str.org demonstrates this effectively in an interview with Bobby Conway, in this One Minute Apologist video.
Can Evolution Explain Morality?
Sam, the commenter of the first video also mentions that rape takes place all the time in the animal kingdom. Sam presents this as an argument against the idea of morality coming from evolution. I’m not sure of the number of species which do this, but I found that male Mallard ducks will gang up on a female Mallard to mate with her. Since male Mallard ducks also engage in complex courtship rituals as well, should we conclude that this gang activity found in mallards is of less evolved members of the group?
This video shows mallard ducks in a courtship ritual.
Mallard Duck Mating Dance
This video shows this gang activity by male mallard ducks.
Male mallards force female with ducklings to mate
Maybe this is why a group of ducks is not referred to as a flock, but can be referred to as a Badling. Could the ducks in the second video be described as “Ducks behaving badling?” ;-) Sorry, I couldn't resist.
While the Can Evolution Explain Morality? video suggests that animal morality has evolved so that animals now engage in courtship rituals, the second video of mallard ducks demonstrates that members of at least this animal species don’t act morally in every instance, as is evidenced by the first video where the ducks demonstrate complex courtship rituals. This seems to contradict the idea that evolution is a sufficient explanation for the origin of morality. Could there be other species which behave similarly?
James Wallace writes,
“Animals exhibit moral behavior, ……they don't exhibit ‘ought to’ behavior like we choose to do.”
“I ought to be unselfish because it is better for the group, which is better for the species, which is better for me. So why ought I be unselfish? Because it is better for me. But looking at what is better for me, is selfishness. So all of this so-called description of where morality comes down to, gets reduced to this ludicrous statement: I morally ought to be unselfish so that I can be more thoroughly selfish . . . . Morality is something altogether different. We may debate about all that moral views and understandings entail, but one thing we can all agree on, I think, is that when we are looking for a definition of morality, we know it isn't about selfishness. It is about not being selfish, just the opposite. That's why these explanations don't work. They either smuggle morality into the equation by describing the behavior that is meant to be explained by evolution so they depend upon morality to do the job, or else the descriptions and explanations end up being reduced to selfishness, which isn't what we're trying to explain. We're trying to explain why one ought not to be selfish, not why one ought to be selfish.”
James makes a great observation. He shows that the reasoning given by Evolutionists, while initially sounding logical, is contradictory when brought to its logical conclusion. That conclusion being that acting unselfish as indicated in the video is in actuality acting selfish.
Something else to think about is that even ants and other insects demonstrate a type of community in the way their colonies seem to work and in the way the colony defends against predators. Even insects demonstrate courtship rituals.
Courtship Rituals in Insect Mating
Courtship Behavior of a Jumping Spider
If community and courtship rituals in higher level species are pointed to as evidences of morals evolving then don’t the same community and courtship rituals in lower level insects argue against those rituals as being evidences of morals evolving? After all, if lower level species have courtship rituals just like higher level species, then has Evolution - change over time - truly been demonstrated? And if Evolution isn't demonstrated by mating practices, since those mating practices are evidenced in both higher and lower level species, might there be a better explanation than Evolution?
The narrator of the video at 1:29 states:
“A species which is overly violent with each other is going to have a hard time maintaining a large population.”
If this is the correct understanding then how do we explain the female Black Widow and Praying Mantis, and how the female will regularly eat the male right after the mating process? How do we factor this into an explanation of morality originating through Evolution? Since the regular eating of the male during mating process reduces the population of the male of the species, and obviously the ability for the species to attain larger populations, is there any explanation which could show a benefit to the species as a whole as is proposed by Evolutionists? It doesn't seem so. Considering there appear to be major problems with this Evolutionary explanation, might a more simple explanation be found?
Since this explanation of objective morality coming through evolution has valid criticisms, shouldn’t another simpler explanation be considered? Wouldn't it be valid to conclude that all of these behaviors demonstrate nothing more on the part of the animals/insects than an example of instinct? Greg Koukl has written a great article on this subject as to whether animals actually demonstrate natural morality.
Monkey Morality: Can Evolution Explain Ethics?
What Greg aptly indicates in the article, which isn't addressed by this evolutionary theory, is that morality happens before the actual action. Morality is the motivation for the action, the reason a person performs an action, which happens before the action ever happens. This is like a person’s motive in a crime. Not just that they committed the crime, but why they committed the crime. In a courtroom the motivation of a person who does a crime is of primary consideration in the punishment of that person.
Consider the two following news reports where a person is killed in each of two different traffic accidents. While a person was killed in both accidents, the motivations of the two drivers are very different. In the first event the man clearly determined what he was going to do before he did it. In the second event the death was determined to be an accident.
Lake County jury finds Mundelein man guilty of first degree murder
Death from Route 145 wreck ruled an accident
The man in the first video was guilty of murder while the woman in the second video wasn't prosecuted. Since a person died in both crashes, what is the only difference that determined the different court findings? The different motivations between the two drivers.
Since only the physical action can be observed in animals and not their motivations, there is no way to determine the motivation of the animal before the physical action takes place. To attribute morality to animals overlooks this critically important point.
In the following video, Greg Koukl speaks on the difference between objective and subjective morality. He shows that the most Evolution can do is to make us feel that a particular action is wrong. It can’t make that action objectively wrong. I think his quote really illustrates this well.
“It’s the difference between Real Bad, and Feel Bad.”
How Do Moral Absolutes Prove That God Exists? - Greg Koukl
Why are you so afraid of subjective moral reasoning?
In the following interview between Sean McDowell and Atheist Michael Shermer, Michael Shermer contends that right and wrong would still be recognized in a world without God. But isn't this really speculation on his part, and isn't this also an assumption as to what is right and wrong, (a subjective determination)? And as an Atheist, isn’t this an assumption by Michael Shermer?
Objective Morality | Cross Examination | Ep. 6
Objective Morality 2 | Cross Examination | Ep. 7
Check the other great Cross Examination videos on YouTube! Begin with this one below and find others in the series in the column at the right.
Intelligent Design | Cross Examination | Ep. 1
As we have already seen in Jeremiah, the Bible states that we know that evil and right and wrong exist previous to us ever being told.
Jeremiah 31:33 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.
Children quite early in life demonstrate this inner sense of right and wrong through their actions and statements. Some of the statements Ive heard from children are, “He hit me!”, “She took my toy!”, and "It's not fair!". The child of a friend of my wife and I actually made the following comment about her brother when they were in their car driving, “He’s looking out my window!”
Grounding Morality - Greg Koukl
Morality from Science? - Greg Koukl
Objective morality - Greg Koukl
Is There an Objective Moral Law? - Frank Turek
Why Morality Must Be Objective
Must the Moral Law Have a Lawgiver?
Two Arguments for a Moral Law-Giver
If Morality Is Objective, How Can We Know It? (Video)
Ravi Zacharias On The Evolution Of Morality by Richard Dawkins
Atheism and Morality - William Lane Craig vs Lewis Wolpert
Where do Objective Morals Originate in the Universe?
Is There an Explanation for Moral Obligation on Atheism?
5 Common Objections to the Moral Argument
America Adrift – You Can’t Legislate Morality – D James Kennedy
Did Morals Evolve? - Greg Koukl
Why Evolutionary Ethics Fails to Account for Objective Morality
Guilt and God
God, Evolution, and Morality - Greg Koukl:
This is an excellent article split between two of STR’s Solid Ground publication!
In the above 2-part article, Greg states,
“Exactly how does this work? How does a mechanistic process produce a moral obligation? In what sense is goodness or badness a physical quality? Genes might determine behavior, but how do they determine beliefs about behavior when it comes to right and wrong?” Greg adds, “Remember what makes a behavior good or bad is not in its chemistry or physics. Right and wrong, virtue and vice, values and obligations are not material things.”
I encourage you to read and re-read this EXCELLENT article for the additional points Greg makes, to answer this proposed Evolutionary challenge to the existence God!
Considering there are very effective arguments against this new theory that Evolution can explain morality, it’s clear that the Evolutionary Morality theory, while an initially convincing explanation, doesn't stand up to analysis. At least not the supporting points presented in this video. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of some of the claims, as well as the contradictory evidences relating to this topic.
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