Recently, i discussed the problems atheism has with establishing a base for moral discussions (see here). Now it is time to delve into the problems with one of the most commonly used ethical theories of non-theists–evolutionary morality (or, to use a phrase coined by Koukl, “monkey morality”).
Evolutionary Morality generally argues that our moral beliefs arose by some kind of naturally-selected process. Notably, ethical judgments which benefited the survival of the species tended to be favored (thus, murder was frowned upon), while those judgments which prevented the spread of one’s genes tended to be disfavored (hence the reason rape is not permitted, for now it makes one stigmatized socially, thus leading to difficulties propagating genes).
Without much further ado, I find numerous problems with this ethical theory. Here, I shall present only a few.
1) How can we get an “ought” from matter in motion? Ultimately, evolutionary moralists assert that all there is in the universe is the physical realm. As such, a “person” is reducible to matter in motion. But then how exactly is it that there can be a moral “ought” if everything is matter in motion. Evolutionary morality reduces ethical decisions to the point of being mere wishes at best. There is no “ought” or “should” in evolutionary morality, for there cannot be. Ought’s can only be issued from sources to which one has obligations. It is hard to see how a person owes obligation to one’s species or matter.
2) Evolutionary Morality assumes that what is best for a being is the survival of the species. How is it that we can say what is best for an individual being is to insure survival of the species? What is it that makes it “good” or “right” to propagate genes? Furthermore, what if an individual does not wish to help insure survival of his/her species. Suppose there is a species of sentient beings, the Plargons, who are in all ways horrible. They travel the galaxies, taking over lush worlds, burning them to the ground and using every available resource until it is depleted, and then move to the next planet. Suppose now that Judy, a Plargon woman, decides it would be better for her species to be eradicated from the galaxy, for they are without capacity for reform. She therefore manages to destroy all other Plargons, and then retires to a corner of the galaxy alone until she dies, exterminating the Plargon race. Would this be a good or bad thing? Such a hard question should take much consideration from any thinking person, but evolutionary morality circumvents the hard question and simply delcares that Judy has done the greatest evil imaginable, for she has gone against the survival of her own species.
3) Evolutionary Morality assumes that all beings “should” desire the continuity of the species, yet this assumes a higher morality. Again, what makes it “good” or “right” to do things for the survival of our species. Humanism suffers from this glaring problem. It’s all well and good to say that what is good for humanity is what we should strive for. But whence does this “should” come?
4) Evolutionary Morality destroys altruism. Altruism, on evolutionary morality, is generally stupid. For to sacrifice oneself to save another (or several others) is to destroy one’s own place in the gene pool, thus eradicating one’s very reason for existence. Yet it seems intuitively as though altruism is a great good. Evolutionary morality therefore goes against our common sense notions of morality.
5) Evolutionary Morality is arbitrary. That which is good for the species may change over time. Recall the case of rape. I have heard it said that at one time rape was considered “okay” or “good” because it was one way to ensure the survival of the human race. Now, however, due to societal constraints, rape is “bad” or at least “stigmatized” and therefore is viewed negatively. But it seems intuitively that rape is a great horror, no matter what the circumstances! This is another case of Evolutionary Morality violating our moral senses. Furthermore, suppose the nuclear apocalypse happens, leaving only a few hundred humans alive. Evolutionary Morality could allow for rape to once more be a great good, for after all, we would need to repopulate the earth! Why should the feelings of some women or men get in the way of the survival of the species!? Again, the bankruptcy of Evolutionary Morality shines through.
It seems to me that the problems with moral systems which do not include God are endless. Without a lawgiver, anything can be right. Without a lawgiver, there are no “oughts”. Morality therefore dies.
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