For the past couple of days we have been considering how the existence of objective moral values and duties point to the existence of One Holy, All-good, All-powerful God. Philosopher and Theologian Dr. William Lane Craig has crafted a sound and valid moral argument for the existence of God that aids in bridging the reality of objective moral values/duties to the existence of the All-Good (and thus Holy) God:
In yesterday's post we took the above argument and explored it premise by premise; showing that the moral argument exposes the fallacy of atheism. Today's post aims to consider possible objections to the idea of there being such a thing as objective moral values and duties. Atheists and secularists that advocate there being no such thing as objective morality hold to a form of ethics called "moral relativism". In short, moral values and duties are "relative" or "related" to whatever a particular person believes to be right and wrong. This of course contrasts with what we have been advocating in these posts - namely because God exists, objective moral values and duties exist. With that short introduction, lets look at a few possible objections and see if we can respond.
Does biological "herd instinct" instilled by evolutionary natural selection and "survival of the fittest" explain our desire and obligation to be moral
The so-called "New Athiests" (authors such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, the late Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris) claim to one degree or another that morality arose as a result of biology. Athiesm (whether "New" or "Old") espouses the worldview of naturalism - which teaches that the universe, life and humanity arose as a result of chance and random organization of material atoms. Famous author C.S Lewis had himself been an athiest before coming to faith in Christ. As he wrote his epic work articulating his robust faith in Christ: "Mere Christianity", much of what he said addresses the typical objections raised by Athiests and secularists today.
C.S Lewis writes: "(S)ome people wrote me saying, 'Isn't what you call the Moral Law (Lewis' term for objective moral values and duties) simply our herd instinct and hasn't it been developed just like all our other instincts?" Lewis' reference echoes similar sentiments by so-called New Atheist proponent Richard Dawkins who has been noted as saying that at bottom, we are nothing more than the sum total of a random collection of material properties dancing to the rhythm of our own DNA.
So how does Lewis respond to such claims that assert morality as being nothing more than mere instinct - conditioned and refined by evolution and natural selection? Lewis writes: "We all know what it feels like to be prompted by instinct: but that is not what I mean by Moral Law. We all know what it feels like to be prompted by instinct: by mother love, or sexual instinct, or the instinct for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act in a certain way. And, of course, we sometimes do feel just that sort of desire to help another person: and no doubt that desire is due to the herd instinct. But feeling a desire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not."
So Lewis is not denying that on one level - our actions are partly due to instincts. However, instincts and naturalism are not adequate to explain why we feel the sense of "oughtness" or "obligation" to help, do good, suppress our appetites or put others ahead of ourselves. Lewis goes on: "You will probably feel two desires-one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct) and the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct of self-preservation). But you will find inside of you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulses to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now that thing that judges between the two instincts, that decides what should be encouraged, cannot tiself be either of them."
Lewis then concludes by illustrating how our instincts are likened to a piano keyboard, with each instinct being like a separate key. Objective moral values and duties are the sheet music which tell us what tune to play, which key to push, which key to not push and thus result in the music that is morality. Now key to Lewis' illustration is the fact that the sheet music required a composer - an intelligence, that contained within them the musical score and character to compose such a piece.
Our whole point is of course that without a Moral Law-giver, there is no objective moral law. In short, Athiesm and naturalism cannot explain on their own terms why we have objective moral values and duties. Author Dean Hardy in his book "Stand Your Ground", page 152, notes: "The first realization that needs to occur is that every athiestic view of ethics rejects the possibility of having an absolute standard by which to judge what is right and wrong. Without an infinite being on which to base morality, there are simply no absolutes. So, when the athiest claims that something is right or wrong, questioning "why" often results in an interesting discussion."
So does naturalism and secularism, using the standard hypothesis of evolutionary natural selection adequately explain why we desire to be moral and why we ought to be moral? As we concluded yesterday, we must conclude today that the answer is "no". The atheist may try to coin the conversation in terms of "instinct" alone, however, on athiesm and natualism, the "oughtness" of morality cannot be explained. As I noted yesterday, we are not saying that non-theists cannot be moral. What we are saying is that without God - there cannot be such things as objective moral values and duties. Hence the argument still stands: