Sunday, 31 October 2010

Atheist claims religion cannot explain universal morality

Sam Harris believes that Darwinian evolution can explain morality. The man looking behind the big beard is C. Darwin. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Along with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris is one of the most well-known militant atheists. Recently, Harris wrote an opinion piece in New Scientist in which he expressed his hope that the scientific study of morality would lead to sending religion to the scrap heap.

Harris’ view comes at an interesting time in the aftermath of the publicity surrounding Marc Hauser, the Harvard evolutionary psychologist who is the pioneer of evolution-based morality. Hauser is suspected of serious scientific misconduct. Yet, according to Hauser, ”the Darwinian pulpit” explains the universality of morality better than religion.

It did not prevent Hauser from producing questionable research results that his fellow-Darwinists strongly disapprove of, however.

Harris believes in the same source of morality as Hauser. He thinks that ”science”, by which he probably means an evolution-based worldview, can disclose why some things are acceptable and some other things are not.

Harris’ view is fraught with problems as Hauser’s evolution-based model has not worked very well in practice.

Logic would thus have us search for the origin of morality somewhere else. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans that all people, including non-Jews, know the moral law:

The requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.” (Rom. 2:15).

According to Paul, morality stems from creation. God has created us to be moral beings.


Harris, Sam. 2010. Morality: 'We can send religion to the scrap heap' . New Scientist 2782 (20 October).

Luskin, Casey. 2010. When Evolutionary Psychology Collides With Morality. Evolution News and Views (27 August).