Over the weekend, I represented my university – BIOLA – at the Unbelievable Conference in London. It was so great to promote their MA programs in Christian Apologetics and Science and Religion to attendees.
One chap spoke to me at the stand, and confessed that he was wrestling with the moral argument for God. I pointed out that these arguments didn’t get you all the way to Christianity…tho they do point to a form of ethical monotheism.
I asked with his problem was. He explained that, he feels evolutionary arguments seem sufficient to justify moral behaviour. So where does that leave God? After all, surely moral actions are ones that preserve the species. And those species who are NOT moral, won’t survive. So species that survive…are moral species.
First – if we are just physical beings, then morality is an illusion. There is no right and wrong, we just have physical brain compositions that may differ from other people…but that’s okay. He responded, “That’s not what I’m saying.” But – I think it is. As soon as you allow for an evolutionary type of explanation for human beings, you cut God out of the picture right away. Evolution is about chance and necessity, it is an unguided process. And not even God can guide an unguided process – that idea makes no logical sense to me.
Second – you can’t really get a hard ought from evolution. When people express moral statements, they do so with force. A moral “ought” isn’t just someone’s opinion. They state it as a demand, not a suggestion. He disagreed with me that evolutionary arguments don’t account for this. But – to my thinking – you need a Moral Law, not a social convention or accepted behaviour, to account for this ought. You also need a personal source to this Moral Law before whom we feel guilty when we inevitably break the law and justify ourselves for doing so.
He wasn’t convinced.
But there are two more problems here.
Three – why is it right for a species to survive? Why is this morally preferable over death? If the fittest must survive, this suggest an element of competition between individuals. Rabid self-interest. What does it benefit me for the species to survive? Perhaps my survival is tied to the species’ survival? Yes – but why is it morally preferable for my people to survive and not die out?
Four – evolution only gets you to survival. It’s doesn’t get you to truth. Alvin Plantiga pointed this out. Caveman A may think the way to hug a tiger is to run away from that tiger. Caveman B may think you need to wrap ones arms around the tiger to hug it. Caveman B dies pretty quickly, and makes a great meal for the tiger. Caveman A survives by running away. But – even though he survives – this does not mean his beliefs are true. In fact, his belief was false, but he survived anyway.
The point here is – moral oughts are understood to be important and true statements. But evolutionary justifications are inadequate to justify true statements. They don’t require something to be true…just to be promoting of survival (even if they are false).
My conclusion is that evolution doesn’t do a good job of justifying morality.
 Alvin Plantiga, Warrant and Proper Function, (Oxford University Press).