Post Author: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2006-05-05 05:30:47
Morality Proves that God Exists
The moral argument appeals to the existence of moral laws as evidence of Gods existence. According to this argument, there couldnt be such a thing as morality without God; to use the words that Sartre attributed to Dostoyevsky, If there is no God, then everything is permissible. That there are moral laws, then, that not everything is impermissible, proves that God exists.
Most facts are facts about the way that the world is. It is a fact that cats eat mice because there are lots of animals out there, cats, and lots of them eat mice. It is a fact that Paris is the capital of France because there exists a city called Paris that is the capital of France. For most facts, there are objects in the world that make them true.
Morality Consists of a Set of Commands
Moral facts arent like that. The fact that we ought to do something about the problem of famine isnt a fact about the way that the world is, its a fact about the way that the world ought to be. There is nothing out there in the physical world that makes moral facts true. This is because moral facts arent descriptive, theyre prescriptive; moral facts have the form of commands.
Commands Imply a Commander
There are some things that cant exist unless something else exists along with them. There cant be something that is being carried unless there is something else that is carrying it. There cant be something that is popular unless there are lots of people that like it. Commands are like this; commands cant exist without something else existing that commanded them. The moral argument seeks to exploit this fact; If moral facts are a kind a command, the moral argument asks, then who commanded morality? To answer this question, the moral argument suggests that we look at the importance of morality.
Morality is Ultimately Authoritative
Morality is of over-riding importance. If someone morally ought to do something, then this over-rules any other consideration that might come into play.
It might be in my best interests not to give any money to charity, but morally I ought to, so all things considered I ought to. It might be in my best interests to pretend that Im too busy to see my in-laws on Wednesday so that I can watch the game, but morally I ought not, so all things considered I ought not.
If someone has one reason to do one thing, but morally ought to do another thing, then all things considered they ought to do the other thing. Morality over-rules everything. Morality has ultimate authority.
Ultimately Authoritative Commands Imply an Ultimately Authoritative Commander
Commands, though, are only as authoritative as the person that commands them.
If I were to command everyone to pay extra tax so that we could spend more money on the police force, then no one would have to do so. I just dont have the authority to issue that command.
If the President were to command everyone to pay extra tax so that we could spend more money on the police force, though, then that would be different, because he does have that authority.
As morality has more authority than any human person or institution, the moral argument suggests, morality cant have been commanded by any human person or institution. As morality has ultimate authority, as morality over-rules everything, morality must have been commanded by someone who has authority over everything. The existence of morality thus points us to a being that is greater than any of us and that rules over all creation.
What the Moral Argument Proves
If the moral argument can be defended against the various objections that have been raised against it, then it proves the existence of an author of morality, of a being that has authority over and that actively rules over all creation. Together with the ontological argument, the first cause argument, and the argument from design, this would give us proof that there is a perfect, necessary, and eternal being that created the universe with life in mind and has the authority to tell us how we are to run it. The correct response to this would be to seek Gods will and to practice it. This, according to Christianity, is what life is all about.
Objections to the Moral Argument
The moral argument takes the existence of objective moral facts to be evidence for the existence of God. Morality consists of a set of commands, and there must therefore be someone who issued those commands. Further, moral considerations always outweigh non-moral considerations, and whoever commanded morality must therefore have authority over everything else.
Moral Scepticism Argument
One response to the moral argument is the sceptical objection, the denial that there is any such thing as morality.
It might be suggested that morality is a tool invented by the powerful and inculcated into the masses in order to keep them in control, that there are no real limits on what we can and cannot do, but that it is in the interests of those who run society for us to think that there are.
However it is put, this objection holds that the theist cannot argue from moral truths to God, because there are no moral truths from which to argue.
I have no idea what to say to people who think along these lines. I find this view incomprehensible. I strongly suspect that most people who say these kinds of things know better; that what they deny with their lips they know in their hearts to be true.
Some acts are wrong; few things are more obvious than this. The existence of morality is most obvious when we suffer by its being violated. When we are wronged, we quickly feel the moral imbalance.
Those who cannot see this, who genuinely lack a sense of morality, are usually taken to suffer from a psychological disorder; they are called sociopaths. I confess that I do not know how to persuade such people that the world is not morally void.
Evolutionary Ethics - Argument
A more comprehensible attempt to refute the moral argument suggests that a naturalistic explanation of morality can be given by evolution theory. Given a world in which the resources necessary to support life are scarce and danger is all around us, people will have to compete to survive. Those that compete well will survive and reproduce more people like them; those that compete poorly will disappear. Groups of people that cooperate are more likely to survive and reproduce than are groups of people that do not. Natural selection, then, will favour those forms of behaviour that we call moral, because they have survival value. Over time, this process will lead to a moral instinct in human beings, a natural propensity to act well.
However, plausible this explanation may be for some elements of morality, there are other elements of morality that cannot be explained in this way like Altruism for example.
Even the foremost advocate of evolution theory, Richard Dawkins, recognises this. In The Selfish Gene, he writes:
My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the genes law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true... Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. [Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press (1989), p3] What is more, even if it were possible to explain our moral instincts using evolution, this would not explain morality so much as explain those instincts away.
We tend to believe that we are subject to moral obligations, that we ought to act in certain ways. An evolutionary explanation of those beliefs would entirely undermine them; it would tell us why we have those beliefs but it would give us no reason to think that they are true. In fact, it would do the opposite; it would explain why we have those beliefs even though there is no such thing as morality. The evolutionary objection to the moral argument is the sceptical objection in a different guise.
If we believe that there really are moral principles that bind us and other people, then this appeal to evolution will not satisfy us. And behind the moral principles, there is a principle-maker, who is God. (By an unknown author)