Evolution is True and Christianity, and All Religions, Are Not
"You don't get to advertise all the good that your religion does without first scrupulously subtracting all the harm it does and considering seriously the question of whether some other religion, or no religion at all, does better" ~ Daniel Dennett, "Breaking the Spell - Religion as a Natural Phenomenon"
"It is sometimes said that science has nothing to do with morality. This is wrong. Science is the search for truth, the effort to understand the world; it involves the rejection of bias, of dogma, of revelation, but not the rejection of morality." ~ Linus Pauling
Morality refers to ideas of right and wrong, behaviors that are in accord with standards that are deemed acceptable. The question then arises, what standards and who sets them? A common apologist challenge involves the quote by Dostoevsky, “Without God, all things are permitted.” So, why then are prisons filled with theists and not atheists? From this concept, it is thought by many theists that atheists must be immoral and not to be trusted. This false conclusion is easily dismissed by looking at societies and American states that are the least religious yet have the most human flourishing, as above in the section discussing the best places to live and worldviews. Most of the top scientists and philosophers are atheists or non-theists. Thus, it’s actually the opposite.
Indeed, is “all permitted” in the least religious, most atheistic democracies? Really? What happens if persons commit murder, theft, assault? All is permitted without consequences? Surely this famous quote apologists love cannot be adequately defended.
Is it not apparent that nearly all people have a moral compass? The question then becomes where did it come from? The theist would argue from God, the creator. Where would we get evidence of this direction, if not from scriptures? Certainly not from many Christians and other theists, who often have horrible behaviors. But when we look to the Abrahamic scriptures we see immoral divine behavior as I’ve detailed in Part 4/4 in the Christianity section. Indeed, He outlaws eating shellfish, wearing cloth involving two types, how to treat your slaves while giving edicts to stone to death adulterers, disobedient children, and orders the killing of millions of innocent children throughout scriptures. Look to the Bible for God’s examples of moral standards? God in the Bible kills millions. Also here. And especially here. Worse, is God's reasons for death penalties. Thank goodness for the Enlightenment and modernity as it has moved to secular humanistic values. Many Biblical theists are unaware of over 25 reasons the Biblical death penalty, most of them we would never support today.
“If your holy book tells you how to treat your slaves,
your holy book is disqualified as a source of moral code" ~ Anon.
"The fact that we can improve the bible by just saying 'don't buy or sell people'
makes it unqualified to teach morals" ~ Anon.
Where then does this internal sense of morality come from? Numerous studies show it’s innate. Can we look to evidence? Studying nature gives us the answer. Morality evolved in social species including humans and we later refined it culturally.
“Morality seems to me to be a natural phenomenon - constrained by the forces of natural selection, rooted in neurobiology, shaped by the local ecology, and modified by cultural developments.”
~ Patricia S Churchland
So many believers think that without God, one cannot be good, have a moral compass, and that atheists are thus inherently immoral and bad or evil. See here and here. Ironic that it's not true but also in some cases atheists show more compassion, empathy and kindness than believers. Consider:
Yes, Atheists Do Have a Good Moral Compass Study Shows
The Amoral Atheist? [3 studies are presented]
6 month old infants show moral sense
How do we know morality evolved and was not given from above? Various studies show it is innate and found in numerous species and shows a progression with more sophisticated social species. Shermer notes:
“The following characteristics are shared by humans and other social animals: attachment and bonding, cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and indirect reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and peace-making, community concern and reputation caring, and awareness of and response to the social rules of the groups. As social primate species we evolved the capacity for positive moral values because they enhance the survival of both family and community. Evolution created these values in us, and religion identified them as important in order to accentuate them.”
~ Shermer, M. The Bart Ehrman Blog. Guest Post. Why Even Conservative Christians Should Accept Evolution. Part 2, Sept. 8, 2022.
Frans de Waal notes that fairness arises from reciprocity and empathy from compassion, which exists in many social animals. A famous experiment was done with monkeys involving grapes and cucumbers. This video starting at 12:20 shows the result. Where did that monkey get its feelings of fairness, of what is right and wrong in that situation? The same place you did, with some additional cultural refinement.
This TED talk is actually excellent and very much pertinent to the subject here and I hope you watched all of it. If you have doubts about how the fairness experiment was performed, conditions and controls, I do hope you viewed the entire 16 minute presentation.
Chimpanzees have been noted to perform behaviors that appear to be proto-ritualistic at "shrine trees".
Bottom line - morality evolved in humans and then we refined it culturally. We have the evidence. It was not imparted into us by a divine being. The theist moral argument is dead, again another religious assertion killed by science. I assert that some moral standards are provisionally absolute, imparted by evolution over millions of years. They are so set in our DNA that they will probably never be changed. Many more morals are subjective and we’ve come up with secular societies that far exceed what God dictates in the Bible. Bradly notes that God is not the source of morality; indeed the scriptures prove that. There are at least 15 alleged offenses demanding the death penalty in the Bible. Some include being a rebellious son, worshiping other Gods, cursing one’s parents, being a woman who can’t prove her virginity before marriage (the hymen is highly variable and some women have little), being a homosexual and being a blasphemer. Secular moral standards far exceed anything religions claim. https://infidels.org/library/modern/raymond-bradley-source/
Below is an 11 minute collection of Sam Harris video clips regarding morality, probably many from about 2010. He makes a good case for moral standards and not relying on religion for them. Starting at 6:29 and to the end he also asserts that there can be objective secular moral standards and confronts some ideas from the political far left. These ideologies would probably be labelled "woke" in 2023 and going forward.
Morality and Ethics are just additional examples of how evolution affects about everything in our lives. Understanding of psychology must include evolution as the study of ethology demonstrates that how we behave usually has evolutionary roots. As Pinker has noted, in Medieval times people roasted cats for fun. What changed? Our moral arc was bent by Enlightenment values, not from scriptures.
Certainly our present laws in the best of our secular democracies have far exceeded the Abrahamic religious morality. It doesn’t matter if Christians are “no longer under the “Law”. These represent past moral edicts by the same supposedly loving and all wise God. His “standards” were tamed by modernity and Enlightenment principles. We can only hope Islam, 600 years behind Christianity, suffers the same fate. The morality of secular humanism exceeds that of the religious. In what ways and how? Zuckerman explains in this short 2022 article. Atheism is neither a worldview nor a religion. Is is simply a provisional conclusion drawn from observations of reality and the failure of theism to provide any real evidence for its assertions. See my discussion of atheism on this site.
Christopher Hitchens on morality and why he is against religion. Isolated morality comments start at about 5:15
“I get my morality from the Bible.
No, you don’t.
Your morality comes from common sense and respect for human dignity.
This is why you don’t stone the waitress to death when you go to breakfast after church for
“working on the Sabbath”. ~ Anon.
Photo by Thomas D. Mangelsen
What Makes Us Moral? [especially discusses cultural additions beyond what evolution gave us]
Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. 2006. Waal, Frans de. Princeton University Press.
The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates. 2014 (paperback). Waal, Frans de. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 290 pages.
The Non-Magisterium of Religion: Why Faith Is Not a Reliable Method for Determining Moral Values
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. 2017. Sapolsky, Robert M. Penguin Press. 790 pages.
Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and The Gap Between Us and Them. 2013. Greene, Joshua. Penguin Press.
The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. 2015. Shermer, Michael. Henry Holt & Co., LLC. 541 pages