Where do you get your standard of morality?

I shared a clip last time from a really smart and well-educated scientist who was an atheist and became a Christian (Francis Collins). And part of the reason for his conversion came from the writings of another really smart and well-educated former atheist who became a Christian (C.S. Lewis). The subject was morality, which I would like to continue looking at that today. 

This post, like the last one, is not about mass shootings, gun control, or evil, or any other current event you might want to read into it. I’m not talking about symptoms but something much more systemic. It’s about why we have all failed to practice the kind of behavior that we expect from someone else.

You see, as long as the focus is on mass shootings and other terrible events in the world, we can excuse ourselves because, after all, we’re not doing those terrible things…we’re not like them. But when we talk about why we don’t do as we know we should, that includes all of us. I also realize there may be some readers who may not want to admit this.

Nonetheless, we do have strong empirical evidence for thinking that this “fish bowl” we’ve all been swimming in is not as it should be. We see it in our everyday life and in the news. And we know this because we have a sense of what is right, good, fair, just…moral, ethical… even though we’re not sure why we know this.

The funny thing is, while there’s many differing views on the specifics of morality, all healthy human beings seem to have an internal moral code about the way we ought to behave.

So, what I would like to do today is pull back the curtain and see what may lie behind our “should be.”

I’ve asked my atheist/humanists readers to tell me where they get their moral code from. One response was a reference to an Atlantic Monthly article by E.O. Wilson titled, “The Biological Basis of Morality.” You can read that if you would like.

This author puts how one answers the question of morality into two basic camps:

  • The Transcendental view
  • The Empiricist view

Wilson declares himself to be an empiricist and deist. Here’s how he frames the argument:

Every thoughtful person has an opinion on which premise is correct. But the split is not, as popularly supposed, between religious believers and secularists. It is between transcendentalists, who think that moral guidelines exist outside the human mind, and empiricists, who think them contrivances of the mind. In simplest terms, the options are as follows: I believe in the independence of moral values, whether from God or not, and I believe that moral values come from human beings alone, whether or not God exists.

While I can see why this view would be compelling for those who want to avoid being religious, it does become rather incoherent for the transcendentalist to believe in some outside “guidelines” without an intelligent being (or  a “God”) as the source of those guidelines. But I do have sympathy for wanting to devise a scheme that avoids the religious abuses of the past.

Another way to look at where our standard of morality comes from is C.S. Lewis’s view in the short clip below. Lewis breaks the groups up into two polar opposite views:

  • Materialist view
  • Theistic (religious) view

And one in-between view:

  • The “Life-force” view

You can watch this short clip to see what Lewis had to say about what’s behind the moral law:

According to Lewis, these views have been around since humankind started thinking, and  you cannot tell which one is the right view from science. Science can tell us how nature works, but it cannot tell us why nature exists. Even if science were to discover everything there is to discover in the cosmos, the question about why there is a universe, or does the universe have any meaning, would go unanswered.

Lewis says there’s only one case where we can know whether there’s anything more, and that one case is our own case; we find there that we don’t behave as we know we ought. The other way around, if there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe anymore than the architect of a house could be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way we could expect it to show itself is inside ourselves, in an influence or a command to behave in a certain way. And that is just what we do find inside ourselves. Paul identified that internal influence this way:

14 For example, whenever people who don’t possess the law as their birthright commit sin, it still confirms that a “law” is present in their conscience. For when they instinctively do what the law requires, that becomes a “law” to govern them, even though they don’t have Mosaic law. 15 It demonstrates that the requirements of the law are woven into their hearts. They know what is right and wrong, for their conscience validates this “law” in their heart. Their thoughts correct them in one instance and commend them in another. (Rom.2:14-15 TPT)

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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96 Responses to Where do you get your standard of morality?

  1. John Branyan says:

    Can’t escape the inner voice that whispers, “You’re not a great as you’re telling everyone.”

    Our current culture is in a free-fall. We deny evil exists and we’re convinced that people are “good”. Then a gunman slaughters school kids and it creates a dilemma. Rather than admit the dilemma, we March on Washington to demand the politicians “do something” to set the world right. When the politicians fail, we’re stuck because we can’t call their failure “evil”. So we blame Christians for praying and “doing nothing to help”. That keeps us from facing the horrifying truth that not only does “evil” exist but WE are responsible for creating it.

    • Mel Wild says:

      They cannot escape that inner voice but at least they have drugs that can make them not care or feel anything.

      We love to argue about the symptoms but seem to be afraid to pull back the curtain to see the cause. When I see all the blame-shifting (scapegoating) going on whenever the “next tragedy” strikes, it just illustrates again that nothing has substantially changed with flawed human nature since the beginning. Hey, Nero blamed the Christians for burning down Rome! But we’re still very tribal, fearful, and need a sacrifice to appease the god of our own hypocritical indignation. We’re just more sophisticated at it now. But that’s the “world” pulled over our eyes. It’s ubiquitous yet we don’t see it. Quite interesting to behold once one does see it.

  2. Well said, Mel. This all reminds me of Margaret Mead’s quote, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

    What is a mass tragedy but someone unable to confront and accept the nature of the evil within them? An unwillingness to accept that you are a sinner, just like everyone else? Moral law is going to insists somebody is to blame for this mess you are experiencing, and “moral law” at its darkest is going to lead us to conclude that the solution is just to rid our world of all the “bad” people.

  3. Nan says:

    Just a little “thinking out loud” here …

    So if we all became “God-Believers” (or at least “Christ-Followers” as you have defined in several posts), everything would be hunky-dory. We would all love one another, there would be no “evil” in the world (i.e., no “bad people”), science would attribute their discoveries to the Big Fellow in the Sky, everyone would forsake those “other religious beliefs” (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Bahai, that distorted Islamic religion, along with all other views that aren’t based on the Bible), and there would be a church on every corner where we could all go to sing praises to “Our Creator.”

    You may consider this to be facetious, but seriously … would this not be a version of the world if everyone became “believers”? And if so, what would be the point of “heaven?”

    • John Branyan says:

      Your description of what it means to be a “believer” is a cartoon. You may consider this to be facetious, but seriously…

      The problem is NOT that you don’t believe in God. The problem is that you are rebelling against God. In your honest moments, when you’re not making snide, personal attacks on us religious folks and blocking us from your blog, you’ll admit to believing in “something” out there that exists beyond the natural universe. You’re just too full of yourself to worship that “something”. You can’t bring yourself to admit that the “something” is bigger and better than your own intellect.

      So you reduce that “something” to a “Big Fellow in the Sky” and tell yourself that’s what religious people believe. You laugh at us when we insist that we’re not looking to put “a church on every corner where we could all sing praises”. You smirk at the idea of “sin”. Your insufferable pride won’t even admit to believing in evil.

      What’s the point of “heaven”?
      Heaven is the place where wicked people aren’t around to laugh at us anymore.

      • Nan says:

        The very primary reason I banned you from my blog is extremely well-demonstrated in your response. I did NOT attack you or anyone else in my comment, yet you managed to make several insulting — AND JUDGMENTAL (Matthew 7:1-3) — remarks in your response.

        As a non-believer, I do find such a world as I described incomprehensible. And yes, I admit to using what may be considered uncomplimentary terminology, but from my perspective, the impossibility of such a scenario calls for it. Nonetheless, it seems this is what Christians envision and I find that curious.

        • John Branyan says:

          LOL! I love it when you mock Christians for believing what the Bible says then turn around and quote scripture. If evil doesn’t exist, certainly “judgment” isn’t a problem.

          “And yes, I admit to using what may be considered uncomplimentary terminology, but from my perspective, the impossibility of such a scenario calls for it. Nonetheless, it seems this is what Christians envision…”

          You have every right to be uncomplimentary. You can even be insulting! I’m actually a fan of sarcasm and snark. If you’ve got a better theology than Christianity, let’s hear it! Then I’ll join you in jeering at Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      So if we all became “God-Believers” (or at least “Christ-Followers” as you have defined in several posts), everything would be hunky-dory.

      Nan, if everyone (including Christians) actually followed Jesus it would mean they would do what He says, which includes treating others exactly like we want to be treated, loving others as God loves us, even loving our enemies, not seeking revenge, not being envious or greedy (which is a product of materialism’s ontology, btw), and not hypocritically criticizing and blaming other people for what we’ve been a part of, giving all people infinite value, even the most marginalized, and treating them exactly the way Jesus treated them.

      Furthermore, our sense of morality and accountability would not be made up as we go, stuck in our own subjective heads and denying the untenability of it, but would be firmly grounded in other-centered, self-giving love (which Jesus said is what all of Scripture is about), which is the essence of God’s very nature and empowered by His grace. There would be no “us vs. them” or religion, because religion is something else.

      …science would attribute their discoveries to the Big Fellow in the Sky….

      Not as you snidely suggest; again, you are talking about some “god of the gaps,” not the Christian God. Science would be enhanced because it wouldn’t be limited to narrow-minded materialism. Metaphysics give the “why,” science gives the “how.” It would give us a more fully-orbed worldview that includes all dimensions of reality.

      And if so, what would be the point of “heaven?”

      So, what do you think is the point of heaven, Nan? Are you suggesting some Greek mythology; we’re just to suffer here in the evil world until our true essence can escape the prison house of our bodies? That would be Platonic, not Christian. We are supposed to bring what is true in heaven on the earth; that’s the central point of Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6. According to our eschatology, heaven ultimately joins earth. And when this happens there’s no more war, tears, pain, sorrow, brokenness…that’s not so bad, is it? 🙂

      • John Branyan says:

        I suspect that Nan already knows all of this. Remember, she did “extensive research” for her book. Her decision to leave Christianity is based on solid, reasonable, scientific evidence that repeatedly contradicts Christian doctrine.

        I’m waiting for her to explain her alternative theology so that I can join her on that enlightened Humanist pedestal. I’m eager to hurl condescension at you and the other “believers”.

      • Nan says:

        Mell, I appreciate your response, but essentially, you haven’t answered my question.

        What I would like to know is this (putting aside my “snideness”) — if everyone (from ALL religions) became Christian and all the things I mentioned (along with.the qualities you pointed out — lots of love and concern for others, no revenge, no greediness, science being “enhanced,” no war, no tears, no pain, no sorrow) … came into existence right now, what would be the point of heaven (as defined in the bible and in the context of how most believers see it)?

        Quite frankly, I think such a world would be boring. No denying that it would be nice to get rid of the more ugly aspects of this life, but whether this version (loving … pleasant … peaceful) would be the ideal … not so sure. Sorta’ reminds me of the zombie-like, submissive wives of Stepford.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Quite frankly, I think such a world would be boring. No denying that it would be nice to get rid of the more ugly aspects of this life, but whether this version (loving … pleasant … peaceful) would be the ideal … not so sure. Sorta’ reminds me of the zombie-like, submissive wives of Stepford.

          So, what you’re saying is you want it both ways. Have a world where we can just fully indulge our self-serving narcissism but without any of the “bad stuff.” Everybody does what’s right in their own eyes. Yes, now I’m being snide but, seriously, your response sounds pretty strange to me. So, overflowing love, peace, joy, patience, goodness, kindness, and self-control are boring and zombie-like? Huh? You must have a very religious view of these things, Nan.

          And you sound like C.S. Lewis’s analogy: we’re like ignorant children preferring to play with mud pies in a slum while a vacation by the sea is offered to us.

          God’s love is not zombie-like. Quite the opposite. It’s two completely free people willingly giving of themselves to another without losing the essence of who they are. One is not absorbed into the other, but they are enhanced by the union. It’s the ultimate freedom because we are fully functioning as human beings without the baggage we call “normal” today.

          But, ironically, you are talking about the world Ron apparently wants. The one he accuses God of not making in his comments. One where everyone does exactly as they’re programed, error-free and flawless algorithms performing as designed by the perfect manufacturer. That would be Stepford wives zombies.

          Frankly, I have no idea what you think other-centered love means, because your response is nothing at all like what it means in Scripture.

        • Nan says:

          Mel, I have experienced what you call “God’s love.” Very much so. Everything you’ve written about was part and parcel of my life at one time. But after awhile, for me, it was not satisfying.

          Personally, I don’t think humankind is designed to live according to someone else’s standards. Even in the bible, there are multiple instances of rebellion (the “first couple” is a good example) — but it was happening long before then. And of course, it’s evident in today’s world as well. Why is that? Could it be that it’s just part and parcel of human nature?

          There’s no denying that some find satisfaction in being submissive to an authority figure (after all, we’re all a little bit different) — but not everyone. Perhaps this is simply because of that human nature thing I mentioned.

          And this brings me to your dismissal of the point I was making when I referenced the Stepford wives. When everyone is living according to the design of someone else (“God”) and ignores or pushes down their innate desire to be unique, is this not an example of someone who acts or responds in an robotic way?

          I know we will never see eye-to-eye on any of this, but perhaps that’s because of the several things I have just written. 🙂

      • John Branyan says:

        Apparently, Nannykins isn’t going to offer an alternative to Christianity. That’s a shame. Since heaven is so “boring”, I’d love to know what exciting afterlife she’s expecting as a Humanist.

        I’m always puzzled by the reluctance of the pagans to offer any smidgen of their enlightened insights. Makes me suspect that they don’t have any ideas behind their skepticism.

        • Mel Wild says:

          It’s possible they don’t offer an alternative because they like things the way they are. After all, heaven is boring. And don’t forget that evil doesn’t exist. There’s nothing wrong here. Don’t rock the boat, John.

  4. “Quite frankly, I think such a world would be boring. No denying that it would be nice to get rid of the more ugly aspects of this life, but whether this version (loving … pleasant … peaceful) would be the ideal … not so sure. Sorta’ reminds me of the zombie-like, submissive wives of Stepford.”

    It’s a bit funny, but as a kid I decided I wasn’t going to heaven at all because all that peace and sitting quietly on a cloud playing harp music sounded absolutely boring. That a FALSE understanding of heaven, based on cultural narratives and paintings.

    I grew up under atheism and the submissive, zombie-like, Stepford wives of atheism are downright tragic. They submit to everything but the Lord, everything but the truth. They stand for nothing and so they just tend to fall for anything. It’s absolutely crazy making.

    • Mel Wild says:

      It’s a bit funny, but as a kid I decided I wasn’t going to heaven at all because all that peace and sitting quietly on a cloud playing harp music sounded absolutely boring.

      Haha! Yes, this fantasy religion would definitely be boring. Thank God it’s nothing like that! We can be sure of one thing. If we think a life with God is boring, we don’t know God at all! This idea of “Gerber babies with wings playing harps on clouds” comes from some awful theology that has nothing to do with Christianity. Probably made up by an atheist! 🙂

  5. Mel,

    I want to say first, thank you. Thank you for posting the E.O. Wilson article. I hope you noticed his last paragraph, particularly his last sentence:

    The eventual result of the competition between the two world views [Trancendental vs Empirical], I believe, will be the secularization of the human epic and of religion itself. However the process plays out, it demands open discussion and unwavering intellectual rigor in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

    I’d like to answer your opening question: Where Do You Get Your Standard of Morality?

    I have gotten the CORE of it from my parents, then my parent’s families, then my birth-place, youth and into my late teen’s community and cultural region. But also my ancestral heritage going back many generations to German-Franco Europe, both maternal and paternal sides. With all of those ancestors and their cultures over time and experience comes a very large plethora of epigenetic rules that reach me. This formed my core values over my first 19-20 years of life. Many scholars of paleoanthropology, sociobiology, genetics, behavioral science, psychology, and neurology assert that the evidence shows these traits have been passed down the last 50,000 to 75,000 years.

    Then from my 20’s into my early-30’s my successful soccer/futebol career took me all over the world, living and playing on 4 of the 6 inhabitable continents! During those years I experienced, as well as learned, just how immeasurably HUGE life and people can be beyond your wildest imaginations! Unless you’ve been there and done it, you’ll never be able to precisely predict, guess, much less pass judgement on what those people and their cultures are really all about. It should also be stated too that during those 10+ years I was a “born-again” evangelical, fundamental Christian in college, in church ministries, and in seminary. Seminary was not only to obtain my Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy, but equally to learn and absorb everything possible about the Holy Scriptures, inside and out, sideways, top to bottom. Therefore, all of these additional cultural experiences, education, and years abroad further contributed to my core values or morality standard.

    Today, I feel extremely comfortable, very grateful for all my trials & fortunes, and very content with my position as a well-rounded Freethinking Humanist. And as you mentioned Mel, I too have sympathy for those wanting to devise a scheme that in fear avoids the fact that life isn’t the least bit monisti… on any level. For some that’s very scary and from my life experiences and education, I do understand.

    Thank you Mel and have a GREAT weekend sir.

    • John Branyan says:

      It doesn’t seem like you understand the question…whoops…hang on…
      BRAVO!! Excellent comment, Professor!! I say again, BRAVO!

      Now that we’ve dispensed with the necessary accolades and affirmations, I’ll try and help you understand what Mel is asking.

      If Mel asked you, “What is your standard for height?” You would say something like, “I am 178 centimeters tall.” The ‘standard’ would be the metric centimeter.

      If Mel asked you, “What is your standard for loudness?” You could say, “Anything over 90 decibels is too loud.” The ‘standard’ would be the decibel.

      Neither of these questions would be appropriately answered with, “I have gotten the CORE of it from my parents, then my parent’s families, then my birth-place, youth and into my late teen’s community and cultural region.”

      Your ‘standard of morality’ is the system that you use to determine right and wrong.

  6. “Mel, I have experienced what you call “God’s love.” Very much so. Everything you’ve written about was part and parcel of my life at one time. But after awhile, for me, it was not satisfying.”

    What’s missing here is fear of the Lord and a keen awareness of His power. That’s what “boring” means, the excitement, the fear, the power is absent. That’s a real blight on the potato of modern Christianity, because we have rendered God so loving, so predictable and peaceful, that people no longer find that relationship satisfying, especially women. I call that state of being “divorcing Christ.” He grows so comfortable and familiar, so devoid of power, that we can no longer see what benefit He serves in our life.

    Those old fashioned notions, awareness that we are sinners, fear of the Lord, complete dependence on Him, are absolutely vital for this very reason.

    • Nan says:

      I appreciate your thoughts, IB. You seem to possess some empathy for those of us who have “divorced Christ.” While I reject the “old fashioned notions” you mentioned, I do find great satisfaction and peace in my life without them.

    • Mel Wild says:

      What’s missing here is fear of the Lord and a keen awareness of His power. That’s what “boring” means, the excitement, the fear, the power is absent. That’s a real blight on the potato of modern Christianity, because we have rendered God so loving, so predictable and peaceful, that people no longer find that relationship satisfying, especially women. I call that state of being “divorcing Christ.”

      Good point, IB. Frankly, I have no idea what “God” Nan’s talking about. She keeps saying she’s “been there, done that” but I hardly think one can have the “shock and awe” encounters I’ve had that have made every cell in my body resonate at once, something so altogether unlike, yet so transformational and affirming, that it ruins you forever for a “normal” life, or any superficial religious life. Boring is NOT the God I know! Sounds to me like something else.

      And, btw, the “old fashioned “fire and brimstone” never did anything for me, so I’m not talking about that either. This “fear” is overwhelming otherness and awareness, as you said, that has opened my eyes to see things that cannot be unseen again, to things so wonderful, so powerful, so fulfiling that words fail me. He is more real to me than the air I breathe.

      And, either way, our opinions won’t matter one iota in the end. We will all see who’s right about this. I’m totally fine with that. 🙂

  7. John Branyan says:

    This from Nan: “When everyone is living according to the design of someone else (“God”) and ignores or pushes down their innate desire to be unique, is this not an example of someone who acts or responds in an robotic way?”

    No.
    Robots cannot “ignore” or “push down their innate desires”. Robots do not have free will.

    There is a name for when we push down our innate desire to be unique: “Civilization”. People respond to moral instincts by ignoring the innate desire to be selfish. When you kick God out of your life, you ascend to the role of the supreme being. You don’t live “according to the design of someone else”. At least, that’s what you tell yourself.

    But you’re comfortably cocooned in Westernized culture which is built on a foundation of Christian morality. You can worship at the altar of “Self” because the laws of this civilization afford you that luxury. I dare you to imagine what life would be like if everyone lived according to their innate desires. I dare you.

    • Mel Wild says:

      But you’re comfortably cocooned in Westernized culture which is built on a foundation of Christian morality. You can worship at the altar of “Self” because the laws of this civilization afford you that luxury.

      North Korea is a perfectly godless culture free from the oppression of Christianity. I think they have low crime, too. I’m sure there’s a lot of freedom to be individuals there. 🙂 But seriously, in light of the 20th century where secular government reigned supreme, it makes me wonder where these atheists get their confidence considering that more blood was spilt, more violence done against humanity than in the whole of human history combined. Not something I would hang my hat on.

      • John Branyan says:

        I have some sympathy for the atheists on this subject. They are ignorant. They sincerely believe that it’s possible to remove “religion” but maintain morality, ethics, and civilization. They think the “default position” of mankind is a concern for the well-being of others.

        I can forgive their ignorance. We all have stuff to learn. What I can’t tolerate is the repeated assaults on Christianity while offering nothing in terms of a philosophical alternative.

        • Nan says:

          John … suggest you read up on Buddhism. You might learn that morality, ethics, and civilization are not exclusive to your god. Here’s a starter page: https://thebuddhistcentre.com/buddhism

          BTW, I don’t practice Buddhism. I’m just providing a “philosophical alternative.” 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          This is not an argument, Nan. All you are saying is that there is truth in all religions because there is an innate need in humankind for the transcendent, for meaning beyond themselves. If God exists, we would expect this.

        • John Branyan says:

          I appreciate the assignment but I’m already familiar with Buddhism. It’s essentially atheism.

          If you don’t practice Buddhism, why are you recommending it as a “philosophical alternative”? I’d be interested in know what you DO practice now that you’ve shed the shackles of Christianity. What have you found to be more satisfying than the “love of God”?

        • Nan says:

          John, if I haven’t made that clear by now … *sigh*

          I don’t claim ANY “philosophical alternative.” I just enjoy each day as it comes and have no guilt, fear, or trepidation about the future. If that seems incomprehensible to you, Mel, IB, or any others reading along, sorry. It is what it is.

          And that finishes my “sermon” for today. ‘Til we meet again … have a nice evening. 😘

        • John Branyan says:

          Whew! That’s a relief!
          I was afraid you were going to shatter my faith with irrefutable rational thought.

          Enjoying each day as it comes without guilt, fear or trepidation about the future is how I live too! 😘

        • Mel Wild says:

          What I can’t tolerate is the repeated assaults on Christianity while offering nothing in terms of a philosophical alternative.

          Don’t you know it! It’s all about what you’re against, devoid of anything positive, compelling, or coherent. As David Bentley Hart laments about the blight of modern atheism:

          It probably says more than it is comfortable to know about the relative vapidity of our culture that we have lost the capacity to produce profound unbelief. The best we can now hope for are arguments pursued at only the most vulgar of intellectual levels, couched in an infantile and carpingly pompous tone, and lacking all but the meagerest traces of historical erudition or syllogistic rigor.

        • John Branyan says:

          Ask an atheist for directions and she’ll say, “I don’t know. But I’m certain you’re going the wrong way.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          Right. Frankly, they often sound more like angry ex-wives to me. And I’m talking about the men as well.

        • John Branyan says:

          Apparently, Nan doesn’t have an alternative philosophy to Christianity.
          (Shocking, isn’t it?)
          She just lives each day as it comes and doesn’t feel guilty about anything.
          Each day is a chance to ridicule you for your beliefs and she’s grateful to eternal “nothing” for that opportunity.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I can see why. It’s gratifying to have a life devoid of meaning and purpose…then you just die.

        • John Branyan says:

          Yes indeed.
          No wonder she left Christianity!

  8. sklyjd says:

    Listen to all this stuff about morals. The complicated and fantastical way it works, and all the fluffy stuff associated with it.

    The pure fact of the matter is that we are all animals and it is a simple process. I know the Christians will fall over, complain and sob over that one and call me crazy.

    Animals have morals, there is some stuff on You Tube showing this at work and Live Science as one site of many has an article saying “animal behaviour research suggests that animals have moral emotions. One study found that rhesus monkeys will forgo food if they had to push a lever that would electrically shock their companions to get it.”

    This on its own may not be convincing for anyone; however, scientists have many theories on this issue and it is without doubt a scientific issue under examination not a religious one, but more decisively an issue of neuroscience and again another sobbing issue for theists.

    Religious cults, beliefs and theists like to invent and inject more complicated philosophies and ideologies into this issue, but the inescapable fact is that evolutionary principles are responsible for our most basic morals of survival and this should not be debatable, due to the fact we are not yet extinct.

    Of course, human brains will absorb further experiences and events etc, over the course of our life time from birth and our brains change with this knowledge. We may choose to reject certain things or embrace them, however just living without conflict and enjoying the company of other humans and a family who take care of you as a child is generally accepted as the best start in life and where we learn so many of our social and moral skills. We can learn Christian morals, Islamic morals, Jewish morals, Buddhist morals etc, and of course just standard normal humanistic morals that are all similar to each other in content and built upon the core moral principles that come originally from biological animal and human evolution.

  9. Ron says:

    As I mentioned in another thread, the Pirahã people are proof positive that you don’t need an imaginary friend to treat others with dignity and respect; just dignity and respect for others.

  10. john zande says:

    I’ve always found the morality argument for a god to be the absolute weakest for the simple reason that we have hard evidence that this thing we call “morality,” which is really nothing but a formative sense of good (positive) and bad (negative) behaviour, is a product of neurological processing power. The more neurons, the more accute an organisms understanding of it. Countless studies, across numerous species, prove this beyond any rational doubt. It is not a human phenomena, and it is anything but complicated.

    • John Branyan says:

      I’ve always found that asserting morality is merely the product of neurological processes to be the absolute weakest for the simple reason that we have no hard evidence for it at all.

      You’ve have spouted pure, religious dogma.

      • john zande says:

        Feel free to present studies that falsify anything I’ve said…

        • John Branyan says:

          Feel free to present studies that support anything you’ve said…

          LOL!

        • john zande says:

          Can’t link, Mel’s set up doesn’t allow it.

          But you can start at Marc Bekoff’s paper: Wild Justice and Fair Play, then move onto
          Ken Binmore’s paper, The Origins of Fair Play.

          And Sarah Brosnan’s 2007 paper is also quite good, as a starter:

          “In a cooperative species, being able to distinguish when one is being treated inequitably is very useful for determining whether or not to continue cooperating with a partner.”

        • John Branyan says:

          How fortunate! No links allowed!

          Doesn’t matter. Your version of morality has nothing to do with right and wrong. Your morality is determined by natural causes. Everything is programmed by chemistry to do whatever it does.

          You aren’t writing these comments because you believe you’re correct. You’re writing them because your neurological chemistry dictates you do so.

          You haven’t gunned down a bunch of school kids is because of your neurological programming. It’s not because you’re a “good” person.

        • john zande says:

          If Mel would change his settings, i’d be happy to link to dozens of studies.

          Listen, I’d love to sit here watching you make a total embrassment out of yourself (again), but I have other things to so, so when you can, do present studies that falsify anything I’ve said.

          Until then, my comment stands. “Morality” is not a human phenomena, and its anything but complicated.

        • John Branyan says:

          Until then, my comment stands.
          You have spouted nothing but religious dogma.

        • john zande says:

          You can start at Marc Bekoff’s paper, Wild Justice and Fair Play.

        • John Branyan says:

          You simply refuse to quit going in a circle, don’t ya?

          I said: It doesn’t matter!

          Your chemistry determines your morality. It’s neither “right” nor “wrong. It’s just biology.

        • john zande says:

          Memetic evolution has nothing to do with chemistry.

        • John Branyan says:

          Whatever.
          The point is morality is determined.
          You are not choosing your behavior.

        • john zande says:

          No, not “whatever.”

        • John Branyan says:

          I didn’t choose to write that.
          It was determined by my chemistry.

    • Ron says:

      Case in point regarding shared moral traits in animals is the following TED talk:

      “Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals” (First video in search results)

      What happens when two monkeys are paid unequally? Fairness, reciprocity, empathy, cooperation — caring about the well-being of others seems like a very human trait. But Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioral tests, on primates and other mammals, that show how many of these moral traits all of us share.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Whether you can see “morality” in animals or centipedes doesn’t answer where morality comes from. It would simply mean all sentient creatures have some degree of morality. Actually, that was my point. We all have it. And that’s the ONLY empirical data we have. The rest is educated speculations and observations. This is this same problem you have with consciousness.

        • john zande says:

          Whether you can see “morality” in animals or centipedes doesn’t answer where morality comes from.

          Yes it does: neurological processing power. That’s empirically demonstrable. There is a direct correlation between neurological capacity and demonstrations of increasingly complex ‘moral’ behaviour. The benefits of this talent are also quantifiable, demonstrating why this talent is “selected” through evolutionary processes.

          It would simply mean all sentient creatures have some degree of morality.

          Yes, no tinkering god required.

          This is this same problem you have with consciousness.

          What do you think is the “problem”? Where is the ‘hole’ in the demonstrable material explanation?

        • John Branyan says:

          Personally, I don’t believe animals display morality. I think they behave by instinct and some of those instincts look like morals. We say a mother bear is “nurturing” her cubs because she cares about them. We don’t call her a “bad mother” for abandoning them. We don’t hold animals to the same standard as people which, in my book, collapses the argument that animals are moral. But that aside, the possibility of moral behavior in animals does not lead to the conclusion, “therefore, God does not exist”.

          No matter your position on the subject, atheism is stupid.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You’re right, John, that it doesn’t prove animals actually have morals. That’s pure speculation based on observation. My point is that, even if they did have them in some fashion, it doesn’t answer the question why do they have morals.

        • John Branyan says:

          I’m fully prepared to find out that I’m wrong about animal morality. Heaven may be full of devout lions, monkeys and rhinos. Your point is that those morals were established by God. I agree.

          There’s no such thing as a “good” monkey unless somebody defines the terms. With animals, we define the terms. We decide what makes a good dog. We decide what makes a bad dog. We are “higher” than those animals so our rules supercede those of the animal. God is “higher” than humans so His rules supercede ours.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m fully prepared to find out that I’m wrong about animal morality. Heaven may be full of devout lions, monkeys and rhinos. Your point is that those morals were established by God. I agree.

          My hypothetical point aside, I would agree with you. I know for certain that my fluffy, purring, leg-rubbing, snuggly little cat would torture and eat me without the slightest bit of remorse if I suddenly shrank down to the size of mouse, so I know that he has none. 🙂

          We are “higher” than those animals so our rules supersede those of the animal. God is “higher” than humans so His rules supersede ours.

          Exactly. Common sense would say we don’t have the ability to come up with some objective code of morals because we are the one coming up with it. It’s not objective or universal if we’re the one making it up. We can only adjust from within the “code” we inherently have as we become more civilized. Materialist’s desperate attempts to find the cause of morals in biology is laughable. It’s the same as with consciousness. This is the problem when one has a narrow truncated view of reality. They try to fit every round peg in their materialist square hole. That’s why materialism is an untenable ontology.

        • John Branyan says:

          But if you would just allow Zande to link to the neurological research papers he’s referenced, it would settle this beyond all doubt.

        • Mel Wild says:

          *groan* But I got to give Zande credit for his fundamentalist dogmatism.

        • Ron says:

          Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal is a biologist, primatologist, ethicist, Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center, in Atlanta. He has written numberous books and articles on primate societies and morality, and received numerous awards for his studies in those fields. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (US), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today, and in 2011 by Discover as among 47 (all time) Great Minds of Science.

          What are your academic credentials?

        • Mel Wild says:

          What are your academic credentials?

          What are your academic credentials, Ron? Why do you think you’re qualified to make this comment?

        • Ron says:

          I asked first. Do you possess the academic credentials to counter Dr. de Wall’s 40 years of field study?

        • John Branyan says:

          Morality has nothing to do with academic credentials.
          I think you know this.
          You don’t have anything to say but you can’t stop talking.

        • Nan says:

          You don’t have anything to say but you can’t stop talking. Baawaaahaaahaaa! Pot calls the kettle black!

        • John Branyan says:

          You feeling left out, Nannykins?
          Sorry.
          You don’t have anything to say either.
          Feel better?

        • Mel Wild says:

          And it has nothing to do with Ron’s academic credentials.

        • John Branyan says:

          LOL!
          I probably don’t have the academic credentials to determine the morality of stealing tools from my neighbor’s garage. I guess I’ll write a letter to de Waal and ask him.

      • john zande says:

        If Mel would host video and links and images, then there is a veritable mountain of evidence that can be presented which puts this subject to bed.

        Interestingly, I have shown Branyan the fair play video. He knows this stuff, he’s seen it, even the studies I’ve mentioned here, which makes his display of ignorance here all the more pathological.

        • John Branyan says:

          Branyan also knows that you’re full of crap, Zande.

          Your naturalistic worldview means morality comes from determinism. You’ve blathered endlessly about the nonexistence of evil. If there’s no such thing as evil, then good goes out the window too. There is no “right” or “wrong”. There is just chemistry.

          That’s checkmate, my friend.
          Game over.

        • Ron says:

          @JZ

          It boggles my mind when you hand someone the evidence on a sliver platter only to watch them wave it away and pretend it doesn’t exist or matter.

        • john zande says:

          Indeed, especially when on July 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm, John Branyan said:

          JZ, I don’t have any problems with animals displaying empathy, compassion or the ability to reason.

          The guy shifts his position so often he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going.

  11. sklyjd says:

    “Whether you can see “morality” in animals or centipedes doesn’t answer where morality comes from. It would simply mean all sentient creatures have some degree of morality.”

    Morality has come from the same place all of our emotions thoughts and beliefs come from, the powerful ever evolving and changing brain that is self-evident today.

    Morality for humans has evolved into today’s modern versions mostly through social interaction by humans by slowly eliminating idealistic beliefs such as sacrifices, cutting off limbs, stoning, whipping and burning people for criminal punishments. These changes have included the acceptance of homosexuals, equality for women, banning slavery and child hard labour etc, all these changes are now part of human morality that did not exist beforehand but are now identifiable and mostly acceptable.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Morality has come from the same place all of our emotions thoughts and beliefs come from, the powerful ever evolving and changing brain that is self-evident today.

      I’m sorry, that is an opinion, a speculation based on educated opinions by naturalists. That does not explain why we inherently have morals in the first place.

      Morality for humans has evolved into today’s modern versions mostly through social interaction by humans by slowly eliminating idealistic beliefs such as sacrifices, cutting off limbs, stoning, whipping and burning people for criminal punishments.

      You are talking cultural changes in SPECIFIC ways we act on our morals, not why we have them. The point is: why don’t we do as we know we ought? You can’t honestly point to biology or evolution to prove why we have all humans have a general moral code. There could be a million different specifics in how we behave, but we have an internal code, nonetheless. You are still not addressing the point of my post.

  12. I always notice how self congratulatory many non believers are, almost like they’re starring in an awards show or something. It’s like this never ending need to stroke their own egos. I also notice how they absolutely worship so called academic credentials.

    Christians have a lot of problem ourselves, we’re all flawed, but I must say a perpetual hunger
    for smug, self congratulatory, validation and always demanding to see people’s credentials are not big Christian problems. That’s one thing I really appreciate about us.

    So I guess an atheist standard of morality stems from a desire to feed their own ego and they tend to worship the number of letters people have after their name?

  13. Pingback: The Moral Argument | In My Father's House

  14. Mel Wild says:

    Okay, the comments here have wandered so far off the trail of relevance I will be closing comments here and have posted “The Moral Argument” to hopefully get back to my point.

Comments are closed.