Musing about
Evolutionary Ethics
(S. Lovell)

Here's an interesting question to consider:

Does evolutionary ethics explain morality itself or does it only explain the origins of our moral belief and / or behavior?

It seems obvious to me that evolutionary theory itself could (at best) only explain the latter, while evolutionary ethics must deal with the former unless it is going to turn out that our ethical convictions are merely a useful fiction.

But does it deal with this question? Perhaps we could have an evolutionary theory of the origins of our moral beliefs, but a non-evolutionary theory about what makes them true. But then it is far from clear why evolution would have led us to substantially the right beliefs.

Steve Lovell's personal note: Contrary to the most people's expectations, I have found Christianity and Philosophy to be not only compatible, but even mutually supporting... at least when both are bolstered by a healthy common sense.

To illustrate this we might briefly consider the most popular argument for atheism, which contends that

(1) an all-good God would want to prevent whatever evil he could, that

(2) an all-powerful God would be able to prevent any evil he wanted, and that since

(3) not all evils are prevented,

(4) no all-good, all-powerful God exists.

There are many questions that might be raised about this argument, but here I raise just one.

Premise (3) refers to certain events as "evil", but by what standard do we judge these events to be less than ideal?

Does not the very idea of imperfection imply an idea of perfection?

And in a Godless world, from where did we get this idea?

If the atheist's argument is to work, the universe cannot merely fail to be as I would like it to be, it must be genuinely unjust. But - in a Godless world - from where do we get this idea of just and unjust? It seems, in fact, that the premise at the heart of the atheists argument (that the world contains much evil), implicitly contradicts the atheists view that the world is fundamentally amoral.

Another form that the argument takes is that if God were good and all-powerful, He would intervene to prevent calamities on a more regular basis. While I sympathize with this, I can't help but notice that if I point out an occasion where God does seem to have intervened, the atheist will typically either say that the event did not happen at all, or that the correct explanation has nothing whatever to do with God. But it is surely inconsistent to complain at God for not intervening and then go on explaining away all alleged interventions no matter how good the evidence for these events may be.

These typical atheistic strategies suggest to me that the atheist's problem with God is not that there is conclusive evidence against His existence, and nor is it that there is no evidence for His existence. The problem is more likely to be that it's that the evidence is not nearly so clear as they would like. In other words God must be sought, and not only that: we must (at least sometimes and perhaps always) trust Him and "lean not on our own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).

A perspective from Steve Lovell. Steven Lovell lives in Sheffield, England, with his wife. His doctoral studies in philosophy centers upon the works of C.S. Lewis, and he aims to become a teacher of mathematics.

For more of his articles on philosophy, visit Philosophical Themes from C.S. Lewis.

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