From Whence Came Morals?

“[E]volutionary psychologists believe they are closing in on one of the remaining mysteries of life, the universal ‘moral law’ that underlies our intuitive notions of good and evil.” Such were the words of Newsweek senior editor Jerry Adler in his article, titled “The New Naysayers” (2006).

It has long been understood that morality exists (see Taylor, 1945, p. 83). Even the most renowned atheists have admitted such (see Simpson, 1967, p. 346): there is good and there is evil; there is right and there is wrong. Different people draw the moral line at different places, but “they all agree that there is such a line to be drawn” (Taylor, 1945, p. 83). Why?

Why are humans moral beings if, as evolutionists teach, we merely evolved from lifeless, mindless, unconscious matter over billions of years? Why do humans feel a sense of “ought” to help the poor, weak, and oppressed if we simply evolved by the natural law of “might makes right” (i.e., survival of the fittest)? Adler highlighted Richard Dawkins in his “New Naysayers” article as one of three scholars who “argue that atheism is smarter” (2006, p. 47). Apparently, one example of atheism’s superiority comes from evolutionists’ new explanation for morality, which they describe as “one of the remaining mysteries of life” (p. 48). According to Adler,

Dawkins attempts to show how the highest of human impulses, such as empathy, charity and pity, could have evolved by the same mechanism of natural selection that created the thumb. Biologists understand that the driving force in evolution is the survival and propagation of our genes. They may impel us to instinctive acts of goodness…even when it seems counterproductive to our own interests—say, by risking our life to save someone else. Evolutionary psychology can explain how selfless behavior might have evolved (pp. 48-49, emp. added).

And what exactly are these explanations? (1) “The recipient [of our acts of goodness—EL] may be a blood relation who carries some of our own genes.” (2) “Or our acts may earn us future gratitude, or reputation for bravery that makes us more desirable as mates.” (3) “The impulse for generosity must have evolved while humans lived in small bands in which almost everyone was related, so that goodness became the default human aspiration” (p. 49).

There you have it—atheism’s “smarter” explanations for morality. Although the “driving force” of evolution—natural selection—runs contrariwise to such moral, human impulses as empathy, charity, and pity, now we are told it “may impel us to instinctive acts of goodness…even when it seems counterproductive to our own interests” (p. 48). In summary, our sense of moral “oughtness” allegedly comes (1) from wanting to pass on our genes, (2) from a desire to be a hero and gain popularity, and/or (3) by default.

In actuality, “smarter” atheism is as foolish as ever (Psalm 14:1; 1 Corinthians 1:25). The desire to pass on one’s genes or to be a hero fails to explain the origins of human morality. When a person sees an unfamiliar child hanging from a six-story balcony and feels compelled to save that child from death (even though no one is watching), that sense of moral obligation must be explained in some way other than evolution. When a person is compelled to spend valuable time, money, and energy to help a poor stranger survive, even though such action may mean risking injury or death, naturalistic explanations simply will not do. To say, “goodness became the default human aspiration” is simply a copout for lacking an adequate naturalistic explanation.

Morality exists and makes sense only if there is a God, because only God could have created it. If all naturalistic explanations for the existence of morality have been shown to be inadequate, by default, the only logical explanation must be Supernatural (i.e., God).


Adler, Jerry (2006), “The New Naysayers,” Newsweek, September 11, pp. 47-49.

Simpson, George Gaylord (1967), The Meaning of Evolution (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), revised edition.

Taylor, A.E. (1945), Does God Exist? (London: Macmillan).


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