“Some of the opponents of Darwinian moral naturalism insist that morality requires a transcendent source in religious belief. But in this debate over slavery, we see that such religious belief–at least as coming from Biblical revelation–does not provide us reliable moral guidance. Cobb was able to show that the Bible–both the Old Testament and the New Testament–sanctioned slavery. (Recent books by Mark Noll and Eugene Genovese have surveyed the history of Southern proslavery arguments based on the Bible.) If the Bible cannot resolve such a moral debate, then we have to appeal to our natural moral experience that does not depend on religious belief. Darwinian science indicates how such moral experience might be founded in our evolved human nature.” LINK
(Reposting since this seems to be so popular. So far as I am aware, neither WLC nor anyone else has responded to this.) Abstract: This paper considers William Lane Craig’s metaethical argument for God’s existence. Roughly, the argument is that the existence of objective moral values provides strong evidence for God’s existence. I consider one by one Craig’s various reasons in support of the argument’s major premise, namely, that objective moral values and the nonexistence of God are at odds with each other. I show that Craig’s supporting arguments play fast and loose with the meaning of objectivity, and that they have no force whatsoever. I conclude that Craig’s argument does not succeed in showing that the existence of objective moral values, by itself, makes God’s existence more probable than not.
Index: Atheist Error Theorists(a handy collection of links to critiques of atheists who’ve suggested that atheism / naturalism / evolution /etc. leads to error theory or moral nihilism)
I want to a link to another terrific blog post by philosopher Larry Arnhart.
One worry–perhaps the worry–about basing morality on the biology of human nature is that it makes morality species-specific. Darwin himself voiced this concern in The Descent of Man:
“In the same manner as various animals have some sense of beauty, though they admire widely different objects, so they might have a sense of right and wrong, though led by it to follow widely different lines of conduct. If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering. Nevertheless, the bee, or any other social animal, would gain in our supposed case, as it appears to me, some feeling of right or wrong, or a conscience” (Penguin Classics, 2004, pp. 122-23).
As I have said, this argument from people like Cobbe, West, and Forde assumes a Platonic expectation of a moral cosmology–that morality is somehow woven into the fabric of the cosmos as a dictate of a cosmic God, a cosmic Reason, or a cosmic Nature.
I reject this Platonic moral cosmology, because I see no reason why morality cannot rightly be understood as grounded in our evolved human nature, so that what is moral for us would not necessarily be moral for any other species that might develop a moral sense.
Contrary to Cobbe, West, and Forde, I see nothing nihilistic in admiring the bee police for their evolved system of law enforcement, and in seeing this as showing that Friedrich Nietzsche was right to view “the entire phenomenon of morality as animal.”
Larry Arnhart always writes terrific blog posts; this one from 2013 is no exception. (If you’re a regular reader of the Secular Outpost but not of his blog, then you should start reading his blog.) In this post, he takes issue with (among others) Michael Ruse’s claim that evolutionary naturalism undermines the foundations of morality. Aside: isn’t it amazing how apologists like William Lane Craig will quote Michael Ruse to make an argument from authority to support the claim that atheism leads to nihilism, but then conveniently ignore the fact that equally well qualified authorities disagree with Ruse? In fact, many of Ruse’s colleagues have vigorously criticized his argument (see, e.g., here, here, here), but, so far as I can tell, Ruse hasn’t responded to any of those criticisms. This makes WLC’s appeal to Ruse in his debates even worse than it already was. I love this passage by Arnhart:
I think that Ruse’s point here is the same as my point in my paper for the workshop about liberal evolutionary morality being rooted in a moral anthropology but not in a moral cosmology. That is to say, human morality is rooted in human nature, human culture, and human judgment, but not in a cosmic Nature, a cosmic God, or a cosmic Reason.
But I see no warrant for describing this as a “terrifying” teaching that morality is an “illusion.” Ruse seems to assume a Platonic or Kantian view that the truth of morality would require that it be written into the eternal order of the cosmos, and so if it isn’t, then morality is an illusion. But surely the fact that we humans have evolved to be moral animals is an objective truth about us that will remain true for as long as we endure as the kind of animals that we are.(emphasis mine)