The whole subject of morality is a rather thorny one and has been tackled by far greater minds than mine, from the perspective of religion, humanism and evolution. I just hope I am not biting off more than I can chew here.

What prompted this though was a talk on Ockham’s Razor a few weeks ago from an evolutionist and atheist (although I do dispute that there can be such a thing as atheist) speaking in defense of evolutionary morality against the claims of Christian’s who often ask him in his talks how he can explain morality just using evolution.

As an aside, the reason that I doubt the existence of atheists is that to believe in atheism it requires that that they have absolute knowledge and I believe that it is impossible for them to know beyond doubt that something that they have no evidence for or against does or does not exist. This is an act of faith which atheists deny so by their own philosophy the best they can do is state that they have no evidence for the existence of a god which is closer to agnosticism if anything. It is somewhat like saying that Schrodinger’s cat is definitely dead.

Back to the subject. This guy’s argument (if I remember it correctly) was that there are evolutionary drivers for morality and that these drivers govern our behaviour and that these behaviours dictate our moral norms which in turn govern society. So the generally accepted norms that guide or conscience are no more than evolutionary imperatives to ensure the propagation of our species. In his talk he said that whenever he addresses this issue he takes an example from the recent news and uses it to explain the relationship between evolutionary theory and the morality behind the particular event being reported.

The particular example he used was that of a person who was found abusing a child. His argument was that children are the carriers of the genetic map into the next generation so the evolutionary driver is to protect that gene pool into the following generation the child must be protected and shielded from harm until that child is old enough to reproduce so as to pass on that particular genetic map. Many moral behaviours can be explained in similar terms. I have a number of issues with this argument. Don’t get me wrong, if evolutionists want to base their morality on such a foundation then I have no objection but at least let them engage in some intellectual honesty and not engage in self delusional rubbish as the excuse for logic above.

First this only explains the reason that parents would want to protect their children. I have no genetic stake in the protection of the children of my neighbour, let alone some stranger’s children. So why should I care – but I do. Let us say for example that the protection of another person’s children strengthens society on which I depend but this makes that child’s protection convenient – not a moral driver. It does not mean I can not abuse another person’s child, only that I may reduce my effect my chances of my offspring’s survival. But that only governs children in my society, the further children are from me relationally the less I am dependant on their survival. In fact it may aid my genetic survival if I kill those children in another society. So far from protecting children evolutionary morality would drive me to kill other people’s children. The behaviour of many lawless people can indeed be explained in evolutionary terms.

So the question really is why is it that some evolutionary explained behaviour is subject to regulation and others not? The fact is that behaviour of both the good and bad can be explained in evolutionary terms so why label one set of behaviours good and another set bad? The only explanation is that there is an independent driver for our behaviour and this tells us that some behaviours are good and some bad, and this is our moral compass, and nothing to do with evolution. The only explanation for this behavioural polarisation is that there is an inherent sense allowing us to distinguish the two.

Please feel free to use evolutionary explanations of our behaviour but I think that to use evolution to explain the existence of morality is a step too far. There has to be another reason for this innate sense of right and wrong.