Naturalistic evolution teaches that our sense of morality evolved

Naturalistic evolution teaches that our sense of morality evolved

Imagine I gave you a pill that made you feel morally obligated to give me money… Kinda random but hear me out. After the pill wore off, what would you think of your moral conviction to give me money? Would you regret it? Question it? Probably both.

That’s what moral conviction is if we’re simply evolved creatures. Why? How is that so?

Naturalistic evolution teaches that our sense of morality evolved

Naturalistic evolution teaches that our sense of morality evolved. That is, our “moral genes” just happened to make us better suited for survival, and thus those with a moral characteristic passed on their “moral genes.” And so, we have morality. But, so the thought goes, just as the Neanderthals died out, morality could have died out. Or certainly, a different form of morality could have won out. 

In fact, Charles Darwin says in The Descent of Man that if things had gone differently for humans they could have evolved to be like bees, where “females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters.” The atheist Michael Ruse in his book, Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach to Philosophysays, “Morality is a collective illusion foisted upon us by our genes.”

So, if we’re simply evolved from monkeys, morality is the equivalent of taking a pill that makes us think certain moral convictions are right. But the reality would be different. We, based on this view, only have those convictions—whatever they are: treat people nice, don’t murder and maim, etc.—because we happed to evolve that way (“took the pill”). 

Of course, just because the way that you arrived at a conclusion was wrong, does not mean that your conclusion was wrong. In a test where the answer is A, B, C, or D, I could just choose “C” because it’s my favorite letter. I may be correct in my answer, but I certainly don’t have a solid reason for believing in the validity of my answer. In fact, probability would say my answer is likely wrong. 

Another problem with wholesale naturalistic evolution is if we believe it explains everything then it in some ways explains nothing. Gasp. Yeah, that’s not a good thing.

If evolution explains morality, then I’m moral because of evolution which at least in some ways undercuts morality. Some people even say that religious people, like people that believe in Jesus, are religious because they evolved that way. Believing in a higher power brought some type of group identity which led tribes of our ancestors to be more likely to protect each other and thus survive and pass on their genes. And so, religion is the result of random mutational chance. 

In fact, you could argue all of our thinking processes are the result of evolution. We’re just matter in motion. We’re all just responding to random whims. From belief in morality to belief in evolution, we’re just evolved to think this way… We can’t do anything about it. It’s programmed into us. It’s the pill we were given…

But if all this is a pill we’re given—what we’ve randomly evolved to think—what should we think?… Isn’t all our thinking just built into us through evolutionary processes?… 

Alternatively, Christians believe that humans are created with an innate moral sense. 

So, it seems morality is either a fiction with no basis in reality or God created us and explains reality—explains why we have an innate sense that we should treat people nice and not murder and maim.

There are big implications for either view. What is your view? And why?

2 thoughts on “Naturalistic evolution teaches that our sense of morality evolved

  1. “Alternatively, Christians believe that humans are created with an innate moral sense.”

    The contrast presented between “natural evolutionary” and “Christian” perspectives, presented in this article, is not well-defined. Presumably, if a deity created us, then our morality is simply based on whatever this deity desired for us to do. This sounds a lot like the pill scenario introduced in the first part of the article. It would seem as if our two options are
    1. make your own set of ethics
    2. let someone/something else determine your ethics
    The first seems unappealing since it feels arbitrary. The second seems unappealing because one might feel as if they’ve been tricked into acting a certain way based on the interests of outside influences (such as the pill example).

    It is pleasant to think that the way we decide what is right, and what is wrong, is in accord with the path that leads to pleasant and fulfilling lives for all humans we involve. These might come about because the Creator knows best, or because natural evolution made it so.

    In fact, Jesus promotes such a viewpoint “love your neighbor.”

    It seems to me that trying to fight moral relativism with “God says so” doesn’t solve any qualms.

    1. Ben, I love and agree with your point. Thanks for sharing.

      One of the beautiful things about Christianity is, it doesn’t just give us a moral sense but a Savior and an example. Jesus is both. He dies for us and He shows us how to live. Jesus is truth incarnate. He shows us how to live and how to love.

      It was a big miss to not point to Jesus in this post and I really appreciate your feedback! 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: