In the previous post, we found significant problems with survival ethics, the ethical theory which claims that “morality is easily explained by evolution and the tendency for biological life to survive and reproduce.” But there are more problems.
Survival ethics are merely descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe the behaviors of the past that led to survival of the human species. I may be thankful that people followed these rules in the past, but how am I to decide whether I ought to follow these rules in the future?
As Francis Beckwith explains, “After all, some people in the past raped, stole, and murdered. And I know of many people today who have feelings to rape, steal, and murder. Perhaps these behaviors are just as important for my existence and the preservation of the species as the ‘good’ behaviors.” Unless there is an objective moral law that is over and above survival ethics, there is absolutely no possible way to determine which behaviors that have been produced by evolution are the good ones and which are the bad ones.
One response available to evolutionists is that those societies that have allowed atrocities, such as Nazi Germany, have not survived, and so evolution did indeed cull them out. This response fails for two reasons. First, brutal and tyrannical regimes have existed since the dawn of mankind and they continue to exist today. People of the nineteenth century were basking in the afterglow of the Enlightenment and were confident that mankind’s scientific discoveries and progress were leading them to a golden age. Yet within the first half of the twentieth century two world wars were fought when brutal regimes rose to power. To argue that we are now reaching some sort of evolutionary nirvana where corrupt governments can no longer arise seems incredibly naïve, to say the least. History is replete with dictators and despots and there is no end in sight, unless you are a Christian theist who knows that Christ himself will usher in the end of times.
Second, if the evolutionist uses the failure of brutal regimes as evidence they are morally wrong, then this indicates that any brutal regimes that do survive are proved morally right. In other words, only survival is a criterion for rightness, but this lands the survival ethicist right back in social Darwinism, which survival ethicists decry.
A second possible response to the point that evolution has produced those who rape, murder, and steal is to say that we should only rationally obey moral feelings that the majority of people hold. A few bad apples are not to be heeded. Here again, there are numerous counter examples that can be given.
The majority of Europe was under Nazi rule during World War II, so by this criterion Europeans should have adopted the majority view of German nationalism.
During the heyday of the Soviet Union, millions lived under its brutal hegemony, so it would have been impossible for anyone in that nation to hold the view that their government was behaving immorally.
Slave ownership was an almost worldwide phenomenon just a few hundred years ago, so how could a person living during that time claim that owning slaves was morally abhorrent? They could not unless there was an objective and universal moral law that was true for all people at all times; survival ethicists deny this view, however.
More examples could be given, but neither moral truth nor any other truth is determined by a vote. If everyone in the world believed that two plus two equals five, then everyone in the world would be wrong. No philosophical theory can overcome the laws of mathematics or our intuitive knowledge of right and wrong, so we should always be cautious when we are told that whatever the majority says must be right.
Evolutionary ethical systems suffer from numerous problems that are not easily resolvable. In stark contrast stands the ethics of Christian theism. Christian theism holds that the universe was created to glorify God, that history has a purpose and that it is moving toward a climax where good will defeat evil once and for all.
God created human beings to have intimate relationships with him. Out of God’s perfect moral nature flow his ethical commands to love him and to love one another. He is the transmitter of moral laws; he has the authority, as the ultimate standard of good, to demand obedience; he has placed an innate knowledge of morality in us; our conscience seers us when we disobey his laws; he knows our motives and intent even when other humans do not; he is spirit and has created immaterial souls and values for his creatures. Every single moral intuition we have is explained logically by God’s existence. In fact, if there is even one objective and absolute moral law, God must exist.
The nineteenth century German atheist Frederick Nietzsche pronounced that God is dead and he predicted that the twentieth century would be the bloodiest on record. He understood that any ethic without God as its source would lead to moral chaos. Fyodor Dostoevsky, the famous Russian novelist, has said that if God does not exist, then all things are permissible. It was obvious to these men that without God, ethics have no foundation. A house with no foundation collapses into rubble and morality is no different. How can a perfectly holy, just, and righteous God be replaced with a mindless, irrational process such as evolution without devastating consequences?
The contemporary western world is unaware of the danger of evolutionary ethics because it is living on the borrowed foundation and capital of Christian theism. Evolutionary ethicists maintain a following only because their theories cloak themselves with a veneer of Judeo-Christian morality. Take away that veneer and their ethical systems collpase. Our only hope is to hold tight to the one who made us, the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ.
[quotation references can be provided on request]