What about naturalistic evolutionary ethics, in which we develop an awareness of right or wrong and moral obligation to help us survive/reproduce? Ethical awareness has only biological worth.5 Such an approach leaves us with the following problems: First, can we even trust our minds if we are nothing more than the products of naturalistic evolution, trying to fight, feed, flee, and reproduce? Charles Darwin had a "horrid doubt" that since the human mind has developed from lower animals, why would anyone trust it? Why trust the convictions of a monkey's mind?6 The naturalistic evolutionary process is interested in fitness/survival-not in true belief; so not only is objective morality undermined so is rational thought. Our beliefs-including moral ones-may help us survive, but there is no reason to think they are true. Belief in objective morality or human dignity may help us survive, but it may be completely false. The problem with skepticism (including moral skepticism) is that am assuming a trustworthy reasoning process to arrive at the conclusion that I cannot trust my reasoning! If we trust our rational and moral faculties, we will assume a theistic outlook: Being made in the image of a truthful, rational, good Being makes sense of why we trust our senses/moral intuitions.
In addition, we are left with this problem: if human beings are simply the product of naturalistic evolution, then we have no foundation for moral obligation and human dignity. This could easily undermine moral motivation. The sexual predator and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer acknowledged the seriousness of the matter: "If it all happens naturalistically, what's the need for a God? Can't I set my own rules? Who owns me? I own myself."7
5Michael Ruse, The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 262.
6Letter (3 July 1881) to Wm. G. Down, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1887), pp. 1:315-16.
7Jeffrey Dahmer: The Monster Within, A&E Biography (1996).
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Naturalistic evolutionary ethics
From Paul Copan: