In Atheism can objective morality exist through evolution?


Why or why not? Thanks.


From an evolutionary standpoint, the moment that humanity realized their own existence and gained full conscious then certain objective truths(morality) existed. However, since then the exact nature of them has and will always be debated and challenged. But what is your definition of “objective morality” that seems kind of vague.


I think only to a very minor extent. Most cultures (Christian and non-Christian) have similar moral norms, but there are too many instances of deviation from those norms for me to say that, yes, evolution produces a moral norm across the board. There are even deviations from the major norms, like not murdering, to keep me from saying yes to this question.

But I can understand where one could get the idea that it is possible. And, according to Catholic theology, there would be some form of it. There is in Catholic belief, the notion that inside every person is something at their conscience’s core called synderesis which is referred to (paraphrasing) as a spark of God in every one of us.


We’re all biased to a certain extent. But some things are objectively true from a moral standpoint (and let’s not confuse this with absolute morality, which doesn’t exist). Sam Harris wrote about it in his book The Moral Landscape. He is of the opinion that some things are objectively wrong and we can put forward reasonable arguments to back this up. I tend to agree with him.

For example, killing your daughter because she has been raped is wrong. Period. In that sense, absolute morality exists.

What we have developed through evolution is reciprocal altruism which has given us the ability to form groups and societies. We develop our sense of morality mainly through that. So, to a certain extent, the answer to the OP is yes.


Simple answer: no.

Slightly less simple answer: no, because without the Divine there can be no objective judgement, and without objective judgement there can be no objective morals.


Well, I suppose it depends upon whether the atheist believes in teleology and natural law. Technically, being atheist doesn’t exclude such notions.

Oh, like this:


I’m a bit perturbed at the moment, had an important piece of software crash, and am trying to kill time while tech sorts it out. So I may be a bit terse.

In actuality, even if there is a God there’s still no such thing as objective truth. If there were, then that objective truth would supersede God’s will. God would have no choice but to follow the course of action laid out by that objective truth. God would be impotent, and the objective truth would preordain everything. Instead what Catholics seem to believe is that the “objective” truth is simply God’s subjective truth given Divine authority, but that doesn’t make it objective. God can choose to judge you to eternal damnation, or He can choose not to, it’s His choice. That means that it’s not objective, it’s subjective.


Ok Bradski, I want to know why you think that the above mentioned scenario is absolutely morally wrong. If I believe that it’s not morally wrong, then why should your moral truth supersede my moral truth?

P.S. Either I’ve been misreading your name for years, or you’ve added a second “i”. Personally, I’ve somehow gotten a whole new username. Don’t know where it came from. I don’t think that it suits me.


why would it be wrong? different societies may not agree with you

who gets to be the arbitrator of what is right and what isn’t?

if man’s morality evolved one way why couldn’t he over a period of time evolve to the opposite? does evolution stop?



Well, I suppose some Catholics favor some form of Divine Command Theory, but that’s not the majority model. Your objections really only address Platonic Realism and DCT, which are not the majority favored views in Catholicism. But this topic is about how atheist morality may be grounded.


On a Catholic message board, that is the best answer. We were not made by nothing but by someone and when we die, we live on in another form and will see our maker.


On the contrary, God is defined as Truth (“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”) and therefore He is not bound by an external truth but rather His nature is, by definition, equal to the nature of Truth.

God is also defined as Immutable, and only that which changes can be subjective because subjectivity implies the possibility of change. Therefore God cannot be said to be subjective in His judgement because His judgement does not change.

He is also defined as Omniscient because He knows all things, but subjectivity belongs to those things which are not all-knowing because to be subjective implies a lack of knowledge, but God has all knowledge and therefore His judgement is always and entirely correct.

And finally, God is defined as Unequaled, in that there is no thing above or equal to God and He alone is of His nature. But to be subjective implies an existent equal, that another thing of equal knowledge or ability or nature may hold a different belief. But there is no existent equal to God in either knowledge or ability or nature and therefore there is no proper challenge to His authority. The only differing opinions to God are those held by lesser beings and the difference is entirely accounted for by their comparative lack of knowledge and ability and nature. Since they cannot be said to know anything God does not know, and He knows all that they do not know, it is impossible that they, in opposition to Him, can be right.


I had to re-register, hence the extra ‘i’.

We don’t think that something is right or wrong because it is immoral or not. Otherwise it would simply be an appeal to authority (it is written, someone told me, it’s what I’ve been taught etc). You agree with what the Catholic church teaches and that is why you are a Catholic. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be. I’d be absolutely astonished if you were to tell me that you thought the church was wrong on any number of matters but that you still obeyed the teaching.

On the contrary, it is because we believe that something is wrong that we call it immoral. The man who kills his daughter believes it to be the correct moral action. He doesn’t do it even though he thinks it’s wrong. Whereas I believe it to be immoral. So, as you ask, who is right?

He and I would need to discuss this and put forward reasonable arguments as to why each of us holds the particular position that we do. Now appealing to authority is not going to cut much ice I’m afraid. He might quote a line from his holy book that says it’s perfectly OK. So you telling him that your holy book says just the opposite gets us nowhere.

Now if you weren’t allowed to use any arguments based on your religious beliefs, I’d assume that you would come up with exactly the same reasons why he should not kill the daughter as I would. And they would be entirely valid. I doubt if the father would be able to convince any disinterested person that his honour was worth more than his daughter’s life.

By the way, what was your previous name?


Replying to each of your points in turn would make for a tedious and probably ineffective discussion. So let’s focus on Bradskii’s scenario. If God says that killing your daughter because she was raped is morally wrong, then why is it morally wrong? What is it that makes it morally wrong?


I’d hesitate to put down any change in our moral sense to evolution. At least in the short term (meaning anything less than tens of thousands of years). But there is no doubt that our attitudes change. Fox hunting, bear baiting, bull fighting, factory farming, child labour, women’s rights, gay rights, capital punishment, corporal punishment in schools…the list goes on and on.


I’ve seen atheist mathematicians and scientists describe math and science as existing objectively (i.e. as truths to be discovered, not as human constructs), so I suppose a secular person could look at morality the same way.


If we need to be specific, then it’s down to empathy and reciprocal altruism.

I don’t know about you (well, I hope I do), but I would be upset to see anyone suffer unnecessarily. Admittedly, the closer to home that occurs, the more it affects us. We tend to look after our immediate family and circle of friends more than we do with strangers. You’d save your wife from the burning building before the random stranger (evolution at work).

But that circle extends outwards to include almost everyone, especially if we are given specific details about the person. If I told you that a child just died in Uganda while you were reading this sentence, it wouldn’t affect you in the slightest. But if I were to tell you the child’s name, show you a picture, tell you about her life and possible hoes for the future and detailed the manner in which she died, I’d hope that it would have some effect on you.

Likewise the fact that a man is going to kill his daughter. You almost certainly couldn’t do anything to physically stop it (it’s happening a world away in an area where you have no influence), but you could certainly put forward arguments why it is wrong. Without recourse to any religious teaching. As would I.

Reasonable arguments beat unreasonable ones.


Why ‘atheist’ mathematicians and scientists? What you describe is true whatever your personal beliefs.


I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question. May you please clarify what you mean?


Why are you limiting scientists who obviously accept that maths is objective to those who are atheists?

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