Some atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, insist that morality is simply the product of evolution. Common moral sensibilities (Don’t murder, rape, steal, etc.) help ensure our evolutionary survival. There are number of problems with this view:
Rape may enhance the survival of the species, but does that make rape good? Should we rape?
Killing the weak and handicapped may help improve the species and its survival (Hitler’s plan). Does that mean the Holocaust was a good thing?
Evolution provides no stable foundation for morality. If evolution is the source of morality, then what’s to stop morals from evolving (changing) to the point that one day rape, theft and murder are considered moral?
Dawkins and Hitchens confuse epistemology with ontology (how we know something exists with that and what exists). So even if natural selection or some other chemical process is responsible for us knowing right from wrong, that would not explain why something is right or wrong. How does a chemical process (natural selection) yield an immaterial moral law? And why does anyone have a moral obligation to obey a chemical process? You only have a moral obligation to obey an ultimate personal being (God) who has the authority to put moral obligations on you. You don’t have a moral obligation to chemistry.
As I mentioned in an earlier post (Atheists Have No Basis for Morality), several atheists at a recent I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist event at UNC Wilmington struggled greatly when I asked them to offer some objective basis for morality from their atheistic worldview. They kept trying to give tests for how we know something is moral rather than why something is moral. One atheist said “not harming people” is the standard. But why is harming people wrong if there is no God? And what if harming people enhances your survival and that of most others?
Another said, “happiness” is the basis for morality. After I asked him, “Happiness according to who, Mother Teresa or Hitler?,” he said, “I need to think about this more,” and then sat down. This says nothing about the intelligence of these people– there just is no good answer to the question. Without God there is no basis for objective morals. It’s just Mother Teresa’s opinion against Hitler’s.
See also Neil’s post: Does our Morality come from our DNA?