Thursday, May 9, 2013

Evolutionary Morality: Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal, a prominent psychologist and animal behaviorist, has written a new book called The Bonobo and the Atheist in which he argues that morality exists because of evolution.

His main thesis is that young children, chimps, and bonobos all express empathy and compassion--this shows that morality is not something that is learned or given to us by 'religion'.

The main problem with his thesis is that if we know that our morality is simply a survival aid, why should we follow it? I can't see any reason why we would be obligated to follow this morality that is built into our DNA, especially if we come across opportunities to better ourselves by not following it. Evolutionary morality cannot provide a basis for justified obligations.

1 comment:

  1. I find this as one of the most tangible challenges to atheism. The atheist is then forced to redefine the meaning of morality to mean something like anything beneficial to human flourishing rather than something that differentiates between objective good and evil. Like Dr John Lennox once said, he notices that many people flourish due to a lie.

    On this evolutionary morality view, ANYTHING that contributes to me flourishing is right and moral. NOTHING that can help me to flourish is prohibited according to this view, even if it is against the "herd morality".