The Thorny Issue of Morality


It never fails. Give an atheist a platform and before long morality and the necessary foundations for claiming something to be “right” or “wrong”, “just” or “unjust” will sprout up like mushrooms after the rain. It comes down to the age old question of “how do you know” and demonstration of how it flows from one’s worldview.

I don’t do these analyses of the arguments of atheists to make fun of them, though it often can’t be helped (see my refutation of Marshall Brain’s website which begins here), but bad arguments are simply bad arguments, such as found here in this post on the site Atheist Republic.

The bulk of the post presents itself as a rebuttal to William Lane Craig’s Modified Divine Command Theory (MDCT) pulling out the famed Euthyphro Dilemma (which I’ve discussed here) and the obvious category error (arising from a polytheistic culture) that it contains. What caught my attention is this quote from the end of the piece:

The question now is, can we think of any other possible explanations for the fact that many of us do admittedly perceive moral values in the world? And the answer is of course an enthusiastic, yes. We are social animals. Evolution, whether or not its existence is even acknowledged, is a perfectly tenable explanation for why we happen to have these ethical inhibitions seemingly woven into our very being. We, as social beings, are preoccupied with the good and the bad quite simply because nature has gracefully conditioned us to be this way.

Now, let’s think about that for a second.

Notice that the entire assumption is based upon the assertion that humans are merelysocial animals“. Let’s just allow it for a second and ask the begged question: so what? We could have just as easily have evolved into antisocial animals, in fact there are thousands of people diagnosed annually with with antisocial personality disorder. The fact that we can recognize that there is something that we can recognize about the disordered nature of such people seems to indicate that there is a standard of normality that we can appeal to. The question seems to be where does that standard come from? Evolution is a process, and to say that there ought to be a certain outcome presupposes, not random, unguided process, but goal-directedness.

Also, notice the use of the terms “good” and “bad“. If human beings have evolved, then whatever behavior is associated with that process just is. “Good” and “bad” change their meaning, from referring to moral characteristics to referring to behaviors that are either beneficial or not, these are not the same thing, thus the writer seems to be equivocating at this point.



Finally, there’s a point that has to be pressed upon, a point that C.S. Lewis pointed out: people know how they ought to behave. The Apostle Paul keyed into this reality in his epistle to the Romans, saying,

For when Gentiles [those who have not received revelation], 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, ESV)

Knowing what is right and doing what is right are two different things, and being able to demonstrate the flow of the concepts and how they can be or aren’t applied in society are as well, because it is not just that we have “behavioral inhibitions” but we have behavioral inducements as well. It’s not just that we “ought not” but that we “ought” as well and there is nothing in nature that can define those things as such, and if they are merely a product of Darwinian processes, then logically it follows that being kind and considerate is morally equal to be being vicious and selfish.

These are the logical errors that have to be identified and pointed out. They have to be exposed and used as leverage to point out the inconsistency in hopes that it can be used to call for repentance and faith in Christ.

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