‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Is Michael Ruse flogging a Dead Moral Horse?

Ruse asks us to believe that morality is subjective, a product of our genes. We only believe it is objective because our genes determine that is better for us. Let’s be frank, atheism kills morality, and any attempt to get it up and running in a godless system is futile. He writes in this article; God is dead. Long live morality: Morality is something fashioned by natural selection. That doesn’t diminish its usefulness, or its comfort

‘God is dead, so why should I be good? The answer is that there are no grounds whatsoever for being good….Morality then is not something handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is something forged in the struggle for existence and reproduction, something fashioned by natural selection….Morality is just a matter of emotions…So morality has to come across as something that is more than emotion. It has to appear to be objective, even though really it is subjective.’

There a number of angles to respond to Ruse. Firstly, what is moral? It isn’t enough to say that evolution can make us moral, we have to ask what is good morality. Why should we consider murder to be wrong at a foundational level. As Ruse notes lion’s are often multiple murders so Darwinism doesn’t help us decide. Is morality just about social cooperation? In Hobbes state of nature every man is against every man, or with Darwinian filial affections, every tribe is against every tribe in a state of nature. But that doesn’t stop tribes fighting, whether they be football supporters, Africans or Caucasians. In a state of nature how do we determine what is moral? Darwinism could lead to family or tribal cooperation in exterminating a rival tribe, but not to good morality. Morality has to transcend human emotions to be at all real.

Secondly, what of truth? A commitment to tell the truth is good morality. But if our genes have evolved to lie to us, then how can we know anything moral with confidence, or trust that what our genes are telling us really is the good? This is an argument for relativism and confusion in ethics. Modernism opens the door to post-modernism. Ruse would do well to read Phillip Johnson’s article Nihilism and the End of Law

"Arthur Leff had a deeper understanding of what the death of God ultimately means for man. He saw modern intellectual history as a long, losing war against the nihilism implicit in modernism’s rejection of the unevaluated evaluator who is the only conceivable source for ultimate premises. Leff rejected the nihilism implicit in modernism, but he also rejected the supernaturalism that he had identified as the only escape from nihilism.”

Posted also at Uncommon Descent

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