Where do morals come from? Are they objective or subjective? Are their origins from God or are they somehow a result of evolution, a byproduct of Social Darwinism? Our answers to these questions largely determine how we live with and treat other humans and often even define which humans have human rights that should be protected.
About a decade ago, we watched an interesting series by the Dutch public broadcasting system, VPRO. The question of the origin of morality was put to Darwinian paleontologist, the late Steven Jay Gould, in part 6 of their 7-part series, “A Glorious Accident”:
Interviewer: You said morality cannot be taught by nature – if you seek in nature for morality, or free will or rationality, you won’t find it.
Stephen Jay Gould: I said you won’t find morality which is a question of how we ought to behave… Moral questions are questions about oughts. Nature, as science understands it is a factual set of properties. There’s no way you can go from the facts of nature to the oughts of actions. They’re just different things.
Interviewer: Nature is non-moral?
Stephen Jay Gould: Yes.
Stephen Jay Gould: Non-moral. It’s just not, not a theme.1A Glorious Accident (6 of 7) Stephen Jay Gould: The Unanswerable Dutch Public Broadcaster VPRO
When pressed as to why we should be “moral,” Gould could only appeal to pragmatism – we should be moral, so we won’t kill each other. But why not kill each other? Given the opportunity, those that are more able to survive will do so, and those less able will be eliminated and be less of a drain on natural resources. Recognizing these enormous global benefits, why not kill each other? Who is to say that would be wrong? Evolution is served very well by killing. Men in competition for mates and necessary goods would all try to kill their rivals, driven unconsciously by the all-important evolutionary drive to survive and reproduce. Since, in a Darwinian world, those are the only two important pursuits, how could that possibly be judged as wrong? And who has the right to place other people under such a burden? Killing others may not be right for you, but it may be completely right from another’s perspective. Evolutionarily speaking, it is just the way it is. Whoever survives will go on to reproduce, provided that some biological females also survive. And if the females should decide for whatever reason that they are not sexually attracted to the available males, evolution has already solved that dilemma by increasing the size and strength of the males while keeping the females smaller and weaker so that the survival of the species would not be hindered by something as silly as mere feelings and/or personal preferences. Evolution is inexorable and not hampered by niceties. The female would simply have no veto power in the matter. As we discover in the book A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion by evolutionists Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, rape is simply a part of the evolutionary process by which a less desirable male continues to propagate his gene pool. The authors helpfully point out that rape isn’t a question of morals:
The biologist George Williams, in his 1966 book Adaptation and Natural Selection, clarified what Darwin meant when he wrote of natural selection’s rejecting all that was “bad” and preserving all that was “good.” First, Williams noted, these words were not used in a moral sense; they referred only to the effects of traits on an individual’s ability to survive and reproduce. That is, “good” traits are those that promote an individual’s reproductive interests. We evolutionists use the term reproductive success to refer to these reproductive interests, by which we mean not the mere production of offspring but the production of offspring that survive to produce offspring (Palmer and Steadman 1997). A trait that increases this ability is “good” in terms of natural selection even though one might consider it undesirable in moral terms. There is no connection here between what is biological or naturally selected and what is morally right or wrong. To assume a connection is to commit what is called the naturalistic fallacy. In addition, Williams clarified that natural selection favors traits that are “good” in the sense of increasing an individual’s reproductive success, not necessarily traits that are “good” in the sense of increasing a group’s ability to survive.2As quoted from, The New York Times on the Web, Natural History of rape
So, in a culture that has Christian morality woven into its fabric, rape may be viewed as “undesirable in moral terms,” but from a Darwinian perspective, it is not wrong – in fact, it is good. It is merely an essential tool of evolution. Perhaps women at least need to seriously consider the implications of evolutionary theory.
We are, as a culture, opposed to slavery, but is slavery intrinsically wrong? If morals are simply pragmatic social constructs, without reference to an all-powerful God, on what basis can anyone today claim that the former enslavement of Africans, for example, was immoral? Why all the judgmentalism? After all, the scientific consensus of evolutionists at the time of the Civil War was that blacks were lesser evolved beings. The people just “followed the science,” and science said the evolutionary gap between blacks and whites was far greater than the evolutionary gap between blacks and apes. Under that school of thought, owning a black person was not any different than owning a canary, cat, or cow. For that matter, evolution never did and still does not care whether we own a man or a canary as long as the conquering species improves its chances for survival.
What about racism? Is it intrinsically immoral? Christians understand biblically racism is wrong (Galatians 3:28), but from an evolutionary standpoint, why would racism of any one group against another be wrong? From a Darwinian perspective, on what basis why would it be wrong for Social Darwinists to “exterminate” six million Jews as sub-human, or why should Hutu Rwandans be judged for exterminating the Tutsis, which they called “cockroaches.” What mere human being – with no more value or meaning than a frog or a cockroach have any compelling authority other than their own diminutive opinion regarding these acts? The stars in the cosmos surely do not care, nor, as Gould points out, does evolution. In fact, if someone should decide that racism, rape, slavery, oppression, murder, or any other practice is wrong, upon what basis can they judge those who might disagree? Who, besides an all-powerful God, has the moral authority to impose their own views of morality upon anyone else? It seems that although many today want to shake their puny fists at any so-called God’s moral standards, Western morality is rooted in Christianity. As atheist and historian Tom Holland points out in his book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, even the ideas of personal freedom and human rights come from Christianity:
Just as Nietzsche had foretold, freethinkers who mock the very idea of a god as a dead thing, a sky fairy, an imaginary friend, still piously hold to taboos and morals that derive from Christianity. In 2002, in Amsterdam, the World Humanist Congress affirmed ‘the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others’. Yet this—despite humanists’ stated ambition to provide ‘an alternative to dogmatic religion’—was nothing if not itself a statement of belief. Himmler, at any rate, had understood what license was opened up by the abandonment of Christianity. The humanist assumption that atheism and liberalism go together was just that: an assumption. Without the biblical story that God had created humanity in his own image to draw upon, the reverence of humanists for their own species risked seeming mawkish and shallow. What basis—other than mere sentimentality—was there to argue for it? Perhaps, as the humanist manifesto declared, through ‘the application of the methods of science’. Yet this was barely any less of a myth than Genesis. As in the days of Darwin and Huxley, so in the twenty-first century, the ambition of agnostics to translate values ‘into facts that can be scientifically understood’ was a fantasy. It derived not from the viability of such a project, but from medieval theology. It was not truth that science offered moralists, but a mirror. Racists identified it with racist values; liberals with liberal values. The primary dogma of humanism—‘that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others’—found no more corroboration in science than did the dogma of the Nazis that anyone not fit for life should be exterminated. The wellspring of humanist values lay not in reason, not in evidence-based thinking, but in history.3Holland, Tom. Dominion (p. 538). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
Our moral compass comes from God. Not only do we have His moral and ethical standards given and expanded upon in the Old Testament and baked into our culture over thousands of years but according to the Apostle Paul, we have it stamped into our very being:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)
We are made in the image of God and thereby have a unique standing and responsibility in the creation. As such, any intrinsic morality we possess comes from the hand of God, Who created us. Even the concept of human rights derives from Christianity:
In 1550, in a debate held in the Spanish city of Valladolid on whether or not the Indians were entitled to self-government, the aged Bartolomé de las Casas had more than held his own. Who were the true barbarians, he had demanded: the Indians, a people ‘gentle, patient and humble’, or the Spanish conquerors, whose lust for gold and silver was no less ravening than their cruelty? Pagan or not, every human being had been made equally by God and endowed by him with the same spark of reason. To argue, as las Casas’ opponent had done, that the Indians were as inferior to the Spaniards as monkeys were to men was a blasphemy, plain and simple. ‘All the peoples of the world are humans, and there is only one definition of all humans and of each one, that is that they are rational.’ Every mortal—Christian or not—had rights that derived from God. Derechos humanos, las Casas had termed them: ‘human rights’.4Holland, Tom. Dominion (p. 347). Basic Books. Kindle Edition
As Western civilization races to remove any reminder of God as the foundation for morality and ethics, they pave the way to erase the Imago Dei from the image bearers themselves. To kill, rape, or subjugate women by displacing them with men who masquerade as women is just a meaningless personal choice. Likewise, to execute infants in the womb is neither right nor wrong but is just a personal preference. If someone believes it is wrong to subjugate others or to kill, they can personally decide not to do it, can they not? But they must never impose their personal preferences on those who disagree because THAT would be WRONG – small-minded and bigoted. We best not wander into the question of WHY bigotry and small-mindedness are WRONG and not just another personal choice. What is true for me is true, period. But what is true for you may just get you “canceled.” And it’s also true for me that canceling you is perfectly warranted. So shut up!
Christianity, with its understanding that God is the final arbiter between right and wrong, is the very foundation of Western Civilization. We are certainly not saying that Western Civilization was perfect by any means because people often fail to do what they know is right. Still, at least there was an almost universal understanding of what is right and what is wrong. We may already be seeing what Western Civilization is evolving into, with all right and wrong becoming nothing more than mere opinions, decided by the everchanging whims of popular culture. Yes, everybody’s truths may remain ostensibly “equal,” but some truths will be more equal than others, as we already appear to be witnessing. We think people may not understand the absolute horror that can descend when an entire civilization “goes rogue” and turns moral reality on its head.
Christians need to be in prayer to fulfill our God-given mission to reach out to the lost. We cannot allow ourselves to hate those who desperately need our love and prayers, though they might not be aware of any need for God and may even hate us. No matter what may happen in culture, we must be pointing others to Christ as their only hope for peace with God and blessed life everlasting. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31 NIV) There is nothing we can do that is more important than that.Ω
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|↑1||A Glorious Accident (6 of 7) Stephen Jay Gould: The Unanswerable Dutch Public Broadcaster VPRO|
|↑2||As quoted from, The New York Times on the Web, Natural History of rape|
|↑3||Holland, Tom. Dominion (p. 538). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.|
|↑4||Holland, Tom. Dominion (p. 347). Basic Books. Kindle Edition|