A colleague brought this blog post to my attention. I’d like to give the author kudos for a robust understanding of evolution and how some beliefs resulted in higher rates of survival during our distant past.
Here’s my reply to Kyle, which I would have posted as a comment, but his website would not allow:
It’s a very nice post. Well done, and love the interjecting images. Lol.
I think you answered well the question of where morality comes from (given a godless Universe). However, that’s not the most difficult question I wrestled with as an atheist. Let’s follow my atheistic arc to understand why morality is very troublesome for us*:
Here’s how I “killed God”:
- Does God exist? I don’t know.
- Can you measure him with any scientific devices? No.
- Is there any evidence that he exists? No. For example, you can have a very deep understanding of cosmology and evolution without ever “finding God”. Tracing things backward, they never end in “God”. Like Solar System Creation <- Galaxy Creation <- God!
- “But people believe in God and he works in their lives!” That fine, but people believing in something does not prove its independent existence. A summation of anecdotes cannot outweigh the lack of observable, verifiable scientific evidence.
- Ergo, I don’t believe God exists.
So, as an atheist, you have these skeptical tools. This standard that you apply to beliefs. Morality (“the Good”) doesn’t collapse because it depends on God, but because it depends on belief. An intellectually honest atheist will apply the same standard to “the Good:”
Here’s how I killed the Good:
- Does the Good exist? I don’t know.
- Can you measure it with any scientific devices? No.
- Is there any evidence that it exists? No. For example, you can have a very deep understanding of anthropology and genetics without ever catching an image of the Good in a microscope or cultivating it in a petri dish. Tracing things backward, they never end in “the Good”. Like Proteins <- mRNA <- DNA <- The Good.
- “But people believe in the Good and it works in their lives!” I don’t disagree with that, or the fact that the belief in ethics and morality have advanced us as a species and had a role in our survival. But you could argue the same thing about the belief in God. Again, people believing in something — even benefiting from that belief — does not prove its independent existence. The Good is either directly observable and scientifically verifiable, or it is not.
- Since there is no evidence in support of the existence of the Good, I do not believe it exists.
You’ve done a good job showing where the belief in morality comes from, but can you substantiate morality’s actual existence? The truth is that it’s kind of an unbearable existence to live without a belief in any independent morality, which is why most atheists are loath to apply the same buzzsaw to it that they lustfully used on God.
* Remember that the rational part of my brain is atheist, the superstitious part is devout Mormon.