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Evolution and Morality

There is a very ancient thesis that the only secure foundation for public morality is religion. Moreover not just any religion will do -- it must have supernatural being(s) who monitor your behaviour, have standards of right and wrong that you must meet, and who act on how well you meet those standards.

We are, so to speak, the wayward children of the Gods who are to be loved, to be punished when we are bad, and rewarded when we are good.

Now the important thing for public morality is not whether there is such a God or Gods, but that people believe and accept that there are. Without such a guide, people naturally fall into depravity.

Mark that, for the purposes of securing public morality, it does not matter whether the religion is true or not, but only that people believe and accept it.

Let us accept this thesis as a postulate. Let us further accept the maintenance of public morality as a necessity, one that has higher priority than the determination of truth. Indeed, by evolutionary criteria it does. A minimum level of public morality is necessary for survival of a society; intellectual honesty is not.

Under these assumptions, what is the status of evolution? Why it is almost infinitely destructive. The funadmental objection to evolution is to a concept underlying it, the notion that it is permissable to use rational thought to study life and that, where rational thought and religion come into conflict, rational thought takes precedence.

Once such a pernicious concept takes hold, the psychology that permits the unquestioning acceptance of religious belief and its corresponding beneficial effect on behaviour is undermined, to the ultimate detriment of society. In other words:

Intellectual dishonesty in the name of religion is a virtue.


This page was last updated February 7, 2002.
Copyright © 1993 by Richard Harter

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