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The Man…
The Myth…
The Legend…

CHARLES DARWIN

Everyone knows his name. And thanks to him we have answers to everything, especially to one of the most important questions man has ever dared to ask: Where did we come from? Also on his list of answered questions: Why are some people black and some white? What is our purpose? Why do we have coccyges?!? Why do we have morals?

Regardless of your particular beliefs, and whether or not you accept evolutionary theory in its fullest biological sense , you have to admit that this idea has rocked the world since its inception. And no, I don’t mean Dicaprio had anything to do with it. Today we’re not going to focus on some of the really important questions, like the origin of coccyges, but merely focus on one: Why do we have morals?

So why do we have morals?

Most theists make the argument that, like the beginning of the universe, morality is just one more piece of evidence in the case for a creator, that morality must come from something higher than us. All humans, everywhere, seem to have a sense of justice, a sense of right and wrong. Now, granted, people interpret their rights and wrongs differently (we’re all human), but we all still have it. Don’t believe me? C.S. Lewis had this to say to those who didn’t believe in what is called the universal moral law, “If a man will go into a library and spend a few days with the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, he will soon discover the massive unanimity of the practical reason in man. From the Babylonian Hymn to Samos, from the laws of Manu, the Book of the Dead, the Analects, the Stoics, the Platonists, from Australian aborigines and Redskins, he will collect the same triumphantly monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery and falsehood.” Think about it. Is killing babies bad? Is it wrong for someone to hurt you for no reason? Wouldn’t you want JUSTICE for it? Or is it only because you’ve been raised in a society dominated by Judao-Christian ethics?

Evolutionary biologists would like us to believe that morality, or our cognitive “awareness” of morality is a result of evolutionary processes. Along the evolutionary trail, what we perceive as “moral action” was evolutionarily advantageous to animals, that eventually culminated in humanity’s significant capacities for moral action. A big problem that I, as well as many other theistically-minded people, have with evolution as the answer to human morality is the problem of altruism. Altruism seems to fly right in the face of an evolutionary explanation.

Now, of course people have tried to come up with answers, so we’ll talk about the best arguments from evolutionary theory, and critique them(remember, these are arguments from evolutionary biologists).

1. Altruistic behavior in a male is favorable in mate selection by females
PROBLEM: This is exactly the opposite of behavior seen in nonhuman primates, of which we are supposed to hold ancestry with. Nonhuman primate alpha males will often kill newborn males in order to insure their status, or they constantly attack other males.

2. There may be indirect reciprocal benefits for altruistic acts
PROBLEM: This does not account for people who feel compelled to do small, unseen acts of charity for strangers or people they will never see again (Private donations that are requested not to be announced, anonymous gifts, etc.)

3. Altruism benefits the group as a whole, like ant colonies or pack animals that give warning signals of danger
PROBLEM: From a geneticist’s point of view, the ant-altruism fails. Ants pass on the EXACT same genes; it doesn’t matter who dies, the same traits carry on. Human genes are far more complex, even within small communities, and altruistic acts often transcend race/gender/nationality (and even species! think of owners for their pets). As for the warning signals, this sort of altruism runs into what Richard Dawkins calls “subversion from within,” which is a fancy way of saying this characteristic in an animal would cause its own downfall. As soon as an animal would develop altruistic behavior, it might make a few babies with that trait, BUT over time, their reproduction rates would be outmatched by the freeloaders of the group, who do not risk anything, would be in better shape to reproduce (and in greater numbers) and would extinguish the altruistic trait. It would be evolutionarily advantageous to NOT be altruistic.

So what do we have left???

It would seem that the theists have the upper hand here. There appears to be this universal, moral law that has been imprinted upon all of humanity, everywhere, and evolution cannot seem to come up with a sufficient answer. Even if you give credit to one of these arguments I mentioned, how do you account for EVERY person having it? Shouldn’t the “ruthless” and “amoral” have outproduced and eliminated the “weak” and “pitiful” softies?

If morals aren’t from a creator, the true objective moral being, then did we just make them up? If so, why do YOU still use them? If morals are arbitrary social constructions that came about out of necessity for communal prosperity of the human race, then why are you still operating from such an archaic system of decision-making? Maybe you should hear a sermon from Zarathustra (except he still has his own type of morality too). I have the feeling, though, that you can’t shake off every bit of your morality. In fact, if you get angry at this post because you think I’m wrong, it only makes me more right.

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