"What can Darwin teach us about morality?" is the question this week at Cif belief, on The Guardian's Comment is Free site.
The first answer to the question comes from Michael Ruse, who is, like me, an error theorist when it comes to questions of meta-ethics (at least that's how I've always understood his position, and this brief piece seems to support it). Ruse is rather flip and cynical, but I think he's essentially right this time. It's a pity that he feels the need to get a dig at the "New Atheists" right at the end. That aside, all his paras are worth reading. Ruse continues to be, well, good in parts.
[...] there are those – and I am one – who argue that only by recognising the death of God can we possibly do that which we should, and behave properly to our fellow humans and perhaps save the planet that we all share. We can give up all of that nonsense about women and gay people being inferior, about fertilised ova being human beings, and about the earth being ours to exploit and destroy.
Start with the fact that humans are naturally moral beings. We want to get along with our fellows. We care about our families. And we feel that we should put our hands in our pockets for the widows and orphans. This is not a matter of chance or even of culture primarily. Humans as animals have gone the route of sociality. We succeed, each of us individually, because we are part of a greater whole and that whole is a lot better at surviving and reproducing that most other animals.
I'm not sure I'd put the last sentence quoted exactly like that - after all, it might be questioned whether we really do succeed judged by our own values, something that natural selection is indifferent to - but it's about right. And hey, some subtle distinctions cannot be teased out in such very limited space.
I don't know whose answer will be next, but my own will be appearing at some stage this week (yes, they asked me ... and I managed to do 600 words while at the big Global Atheist bash). The piece I've written will be pretty consistent with Ruse's, though with a different emphasis. Presumably there will also be some religious folk contributing, but we await events.
Meanwhile, as usual, some of the comments are amusing ... (I think I'll try to avoid the comments when my own contribution goes up. You get some real nutters commenting there. But of course, I'm not referring to all the sensible people who read this blog. Go and comment away!)