Can Science Answer Questions about Morality?
A great merit of Sam Harris’ recent book The Moral Landscape is his bold affirmation of the objectivity of moral values and duties. To say that moral values and duties are objective is to say they are valid and binding independent of human opinion. For example, to say that the Holocaust was objectively evil is to say it was evil even though the Nazis who carried it out thought it was good. And it would still have been evil even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everyone who disagreed with them, so everybody who was left thought the Holocaust was good.
Molecules in Motion
Over the next few posts were going to look at objective morality. Top atheist disagree on whether there are or are not moral absolutes. Sam Harris says there is, and tries to explain it away in a very weak way. But people like Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins come to grips with the idea that without God there are no moral absolutes.
Think about the ramifications of that for a minute. If we are just molecules in motion such as Dawkins says and what is the point of doing good for anybody but yourself? If the whole point of living is to propagate your own genes, then what’s the point of helping anyone else across the world much less next-door?
If you chuck moral absolutes out the door anthend altruism and ethics are simply just illusions, they don’t exist. Even though we would like them to, we chastise others for not following them yet without moral absolutes they don’t exist.
If on Bertrand Russell’s worldview of moral absolutes not existing, then there is no reason to be outraged at the atrocities perpetrated by one people group on another. We can be outraged because we know deep down that it’s wrong. Somewhere deep inside of us we know without a doubt that murder and rape that all these things are wrong.
Turn that on its head for a second. Without God there is no basis for any of these things to be wrong. For us to say the murder, that stealing is wrong without God, what is that based on? Nothing. Nothing makes it wrong without God. We can try to say that it’s evolution and genetics and all these things that might help our species, but in the end all of these explanations fall short.
What questions have you heard people ask about morality?