Friday, July 11, 2014

"Morality is a collective illusion"

Darwinian philosopher and atheist Michael Ruse on morality:

I am on record as an “evolutionary skeptic.” I don’t deny substantive morality — you ought to return your library books on time — but I do deny objective foundations. I think morality is a collective illusion, genetic in origin, that makes us good cooperators. And I would add that being good cooperators makes each one of us individually better off in the struggle for existence. If we are nice to other people, they are much more likely to be nice to us in return. However, as the philosopher J.L. Mackie used to argue, I think we “objectify” substantive ethics — we think it objectively the case that we ought return library books on time. But we do this (or rather our genes make us do this) because if we didn’t we would all start to cheat and substantive ethics would collapse to the ground. 
So I don’t buy the moral argument for the existence of God. I think you can have all of the morality you need without God. I am a follower of Hume brought up to date by Darwin. Morality is purely emotions, although emotions of a special kind with an important adaptive function.


  1. Why should anyone care about his subjective opinion about morality, and where does he get his "ought"? Rational/irrational at its finest.

    1. It's useful to document prominent secular philosophers who frankly admit that atheism is incompatible with objective moral norms.

    2. Agreed, my questions were intended as rhetorical given the inherent incoherence of the position set forward.

      Nevertheless, I'm personally grateful that anti-theists are largely irrational and inconsistent in the manner in which they deploy their arguments vs. the manner in which they actually live.

      Otherwise I suspect we'd have a lot more sociopaths running amok and making a general mess of things than we experience presently.