Interesting Conversation with an Atheist about the Moral Law and You Know Who

over at the Register.

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  • Newp Ort

    “…and You Know Who”

    um….the Jews?

  • vox borealis

    The atheist misses a possible gambit, one that I am curious how Mark (or any one of us) should respond to. What if she argued that morality does come from a transcendent source (of sorts): it is genetically encoded in our species as part of the evolutionary process. That is, she could argue we will *tend* toward certain social behavior, which has been called “moral”, treating especially well those closest to our “pack” (extended family, tribe, etc). This “moral” impulse is not all-determining (hence the many times the species acts “immorally”), nor does it come from a truly transcendent force operating outside the natural world (i.e. no God).

    I don’t buy this myself, of course, but it would be one possible way the atheist could respond to the whole “where do morals come from” challenge.

    • chezami

      My hair color is genetically encoded too. I feel no solemn sense of obligation not to change it if I like. I see no reason why a pack instinct is a moral obligation either, if it’s just one more epiphenomenon of mater and energy.

      • vox borealis

        Right, but that’s the point of potential objection: what we call “morality” is simply a series of genetically encoded responses to given circumstances. I took a behavioural biology class in university, in which it was argued (in lecture or the text, I don’t recall) that the sense of loyalty we feel to our family should be explained as an evolutionary mechanism designed to promote the given family’s gene pool. One *could* make the same argument about other “moral” behaviour. For example, most cultures usually prohibit stealing (at least in most cases). It could be argued that the *tendency* of human packs to cooperate and not steal from each other in many circumstances is simply a genetic impulse, because we are social animals, like some monkeys, as well as honey bees and ants.

    • Barfly_Kokhba

      There’s a simple explanation: because that is a falsifiable claim. Real scientists–folks with fancy book-larnin’–would have to prove such a theory with demonstrable evidence. That’s how science works.

      The activist rabid atheist contingent has already come close to blowing its load (pardon the crude expression, no pun intended) on tentatively sort-of half-implying that pre-disposition to homosexuality is genetic. They get away with that because most people seem intuitively open to the idea that people are “born gay.” But even that remains yet unproven by years of extensive genetic research into the matter.

      So if militant atheists and secularists start trying to fortify their entire highly-politicized worldview with hard science, they would be reigned in by the people who actually study science in a serious and professional manner, and put actual scientific research before their personal political agendas (not to mention that many accomplished and pioneering scientists are themselves believers in God.)

      Or to put it more bluntly, they don’t claim it because it would draw too much attention to the fact that they’re full of baloney.

      EDIT: I would also add that it is regrettable that many people of faith don’t seem to consider the above argument because they have perhaps been cowed into thinking that science has come close to anything that would refute serious religious belief. It hasn’t, and in fact modern science has actually corroborated some scriptural texts which seem to possibly refer to natural processes like “the big bang,” general relativity, and even evolution. Mark’s point about the number of “pro-science” atheists who actually have a working knowledge of the theory of relativity (or other scientific theories and research) is an excellent and important one in that regard.

      I highly recommend MIT-trained nuclear physicist Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s book “The Science of God” for more on that.

    • A book demands an author.

      • vox borealis

        Why? What difference does it make (I’ve long since forgotten)? I’m not making the case myself—as I said, I don’t buy it—I am merely thinking through a potential line of counterargument.

        • But that is the response to that counterargument.

          It’s the ID response, and thus I don’t use it very often. But if you are arguing that there is scripture written into our very DNA, especially for evolutionary-dead-end things like respecting the humanity of homosexuals who aren’t going to breed, then that is in and of itself an argument for theism.

          • vox borealis

            Ah, I get it. I missed your point.