Morality is Biology, my Christian Friend

Evolved Morality: The Biology and Philosophy of Human Conscience ...
Religion may have become a codification of morality, and it may fortify it, but it’s not the origin of it.                    –Frans de Waal

(In his book,  The Bonobo and the Atheist, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that morality is built into our species. Rather than coming to us top-down from God, or any other external source, morality for de Waal springs bottom-up from our emotions and our day-to-day social interactions, which themselves evolved from foundations in animal societies.)


Excerpt from a Christian blog:

Most people will agree that no matter how I manipulate that question, the holocaust was OBJECTIVELY wrong – and this is where the moral argument comes into play. When you say something is wrong or right it is always in comparison to a standard. For some, that standard might be a role model, for others it could be themselves! Regardless of what your standard is, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to have objective moral standards if everyone based it on different things. Certainly, many of the Nazi soldiers did not believe they were doing wrong because their standard of right and wrong was based on that which was dictated by the regime – does this mean that it was not wrong? Of course not!

This same argument can be flipped and reflected onto whether something is good or right and in the end, it boils down to the measuring scale we are using. If objective morals exist, God must exist. God is the standard upon which all deeds and actions are measured.

The Scottish philosopher W.R Sorely summarised the moral argument into three points:

1. If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist.

2. Morality is objective and absolute.

3. Therefore, God must exist.



You said in your post, “morality is objective and absolute.”

Says who? Murdering thousands upon thousands of innocent Jewish men, women, and children was a violation of the moral standards of civilized nations in the 1930’s and 40’s. But that has not always been the case in human history. Killing an entire race was not considered immoral in ancient times (just look at stories in the Hebrew Bible, for example). Morality changes with time, my friend. It is NOT objective. Morality is a product of the culture in which it exists. You assume there is something called “objective morality” only because ALL civilized nations today hold to that standard. Morality is nothing more than the rules of behavior of the “herd”, whether that herd consists of gorillas, elephants, or human beings.

Christian blog author:

You are suggesting that morality is subjective and relative. It sounds like you are saying that there is no right and wrong, but rather a set of learned behaviours which we have observed from society around us. The problem with your argument is that if there is no objective truth then you or I are in no position to say that something is wrong or right. If you want to go down the slippery slope of saying that rape is wrong in my opinion but not in everyone’s then do so at your own peril. If you truly believe that morality is just rules formed by society, you cannot say that racism, rape or murder is wrong… because then wrong and right wouldn’t exist, only opinions constructed by society.


Words obtain their meaning from human beings. Words do not have inherent meanings. For instance, the definition of “racism” is very different today from what it was 50 years ago and that definition was very different from the definition in the 1850’s. An abolitionist in 1850 may have perceived himself as very progressive, and NOT racist, due to his support for the abolition of slavery, however, at the same time, he would never have dreamed of allowing his white daughter to date, let alone marry, a black man. Today, for a white father to hold such a position is considered blatantly racist.

“Right” and “wrong” only exist in the mind of the person using those words, my friend. Those two words are not equivalent to “legal” and “illegal”, concepts which apply equally (at least in principle) for everyone regardless of what each individual may think of the rightness or wrongness of the law in question. So I can say that it is my opinion that rape is “wrong” but more importantly, rape is ILLEGAL. Most mammalian herds have rules when it comes to sex. Most herds have rules when it comes to killing other members of the herd. Herd members who violate those rules are punished, sometimes severely, by banishment or by being killed. Gorillas, elephants, and lions follow these rules because thousands of years of experience have taught these animals that having these rules increases the survival of the herd. Herds with order and tranquility tend to survive and pass on their DNA compared to herds that are constantly fighting and in turmoil. Morality is nothing more than biology.





End of post.

4 thoughts on “Morality is Biology, my Christian Friend

  1. Material atheists can only appeal to:

    The government (what is legal/illegal)
    Their own preferences

    Since NONE of these are good foundations, they have to admit that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and therefore shouldn’t be angry when they see something they think is “wrong” happening, since the person doing it doesn’t think they are “wrong” – so why does the atheist think that they are right and the wrongdoer is a wrongdoer?


    1. Bottom line: The herd makes the rules. Your opinion and my opinion of the rightness or wrongness of the herd’s rules are irrelevant. Violate the herd’s rules and you will be punished. That is how it works.


  2. “Rather than coming to us top-down from God, or any other external source, morality for de Waal springs bottom-up from our emotions and our day-to-day social interactions, which themselves evolved from foundations in animal societies.”

    This would seem to be the answer most consistent with the evidence, yet it seems that this is not something that even enters the minds of most people.

    Interestingly, when we look at PhD and faculty philosophers 56% lean towards moral realism, and only 16% lean towards theism. In other words, most philosophers think that morality is objective, but don’t believe in a person God. I really don’t think that theists have a good leg to stand on when they make these kinds of moral arguments for God.


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