The suspense is over. You can release that white-knuckled grip.
We left the last post with this question: Can’t evolution account for human morality? If so, doesn’t that eliminate the need for a God?
More precisely – if we can ground morality in evolution, then we don’t need God for that. If morality receives its being (see “ontology” in the last post) from evolution, then it can be an independent reality which does not lead inescapably to God.*
This would be a very puzzling thing indeed – can evolution bestow being on anything? Isn’t evolution a process, and not an actual entity? Does it possess powers? This strikes one as an awful lot like cosmologists ascribing creative powers to the laws of physics…which have usually been understood as descriptive, not capable of action.**
So what my friends have done, then, is to confuse moral ontology with moral epistemology. They have answered the question, “Can evolution account for our discovery of objective morality?” or even, “Does the success of our species along evolutionary lines depend on adherence to an objective morality?” That is – what can we know about morality, and how can we know it?
Craig’s argument asks a very different question: Where did that morality come from, which evolution led us to discover, which seems even to promote our survival as a species? If morality is only an evolutionary phenomenon, then it is only a survival technique. If it is only a survival technique, then “moral” values and duties are not objectively right or wrong, good or bad.
And we’re back to Premise 2, which virtually everyone agrees with. Except the psychopaths. Premise 2 therefore gives us a firm push back to Premise 1 – If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. “Evolution” is not an answer here.
Citing “evolution” is like watching a character develop in a story, starting as a scoundrel and becoming a hero (Lady and the Tramp, anyone?) and supposing that “character development” is the ground of moral values and duties in the context of the story. No – that development is responsible for moral epistemology (what the characters can know about morality, and how they can know it), but it does not explain from where those values and duties have received their being. That depends on the author.
*One might reasonably ask, if evolution is regarded as an entity, “From what does evolution receive its being?” But you are likely to be greeted with a blank face which, shaken off a moment later, will result in the assertion of the dogma, “Evolution is a fact.” I recently asked an agnostic friend, with all qualifiers in place – I’m not debating that evolution is true, but I don’t know what this assertion means, “Evolution is a fact.” Isn’t it really a theory, which describes a verified phenomenon? How are we to properly understand “evolution”? He, amicably enough, admitted that he didn’t really know.
**Yet another acquaintance has made the point that humans are pattern-seeking creatures, and we sometimes see patterns where none exist – a strange assertion, to be sure. It would be more accurate to say that humans detect agency where none (apparently) exists, as when a shadow catches the corner of one’s eye, and one assumes an intruder or ghost. But if you notice a pattern in the trees of a virgin forest, this does not mean there isn’t a pattern: It means there may not have been anyone who planted them just so. Yet, they are in that pattern according to natural laws…Isn’t it odd, then, that a cosmologist would ascribe agency to laws? Isn’t it possible that they are making the mistake my acquaintance thinks that religious people are making?