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Morality and worldviews: A preliminary reflection

Posted on 24 August 2011, 15:06

I’ve showed in this blog how many atheists defend that, if naturalistic atheism is true, then no objective (human mind-independent) morality exists. In my opinion, they’re totally correct in this point.

If naturalism is true, then (and please, keep in mind the following 5 characteristic of naturalism in order to understand this discussion):

1-There is not objective purpose for cosmic evolution and existence (only subjective, person-dependent purposes or ends do exist).

2-Persons and sentient beings are not essential or basic features of reality, but accidental and non-necessary by-products of evolution.

3-Persons are purely material, and since matter is controlled by deterministic laws (at least in the macro-physical level), then a person’s actions are wholly and fully determined too. This destroys any libertarian concept of free will and, as consequence, of moral responsibility.

4-Physical things (persons, cell phones, molecules, shoes, cars, atoms, etc). have at least a basic universal property in common: all of them have physical ENERGY. However, moral values have not physical energy, therefore (if they exist) they’re not physical things.

If naturalism is true, then physicalism is true; but if non-physical moral values do exist, then physicalism is false, and so naturalism too. (This is why the objective existence of non-material moral values is at variance with naturalism).

5-Moral commands (orders, prescriptions) are directed upon rational sentient beings (just think giving a moral command to a non-sentient object like your chair, shows, t-shirt or keys, or to a non-rational sentient being like a rabbit).

Now, if rational sentient beings are not essential or basic in naturalism, is it plausible that objective moral laws like “Don’t kill other people” do exist in such worldview? Who or what would be exactly the foundation of such command, if naturalism is true?

Please, keep in mind that we are not talking here about religion or God or the church or the Bible (or any other red herring used by charlatanistic atheists to prevent you to think hard about atheism). We’re trying to think about the putative existence of objective moral values and laws in a naturalistic-atheistic worldview. Period.

Is plausible that a moral command like “You shall love other persons like yourself” be an objective feature of reality (like atoms, entropy, etc.) if the naturalistic atheism is true? I think the answer is obvious to any honest thinker.

As naturalist Keith Augustine has argued: “It is possible that moral laws have existed since the Big Bang, but that they could not manifest themselves until sentient beings arose. However, such a view implies that there is some element of purposefulness in the universe—that the universe was created with the evolution of sentient beings “in mind” (in the mind of a Creator?). To accept the existence of objective moral laws that have existed since the beginning of time is to believe that the evolution of sentient beings capable of moral reasoning (such as human beings) has somehow been predetermined or is inevitable, a belief that is contrary to naturalistic explanations of origins (such as evolution by natural selection) which maintain that sentient beings came into existence due to contingent, accidental circumstances” (emphasis in blue added).

Note that, as Keith correctly argues, the view that objective moral laws do exist objectively would imply some element of “purposefulness” (which is incompatible with an essential feature of naturalism: namely, the non-existence of an objective purpose for existence and evolution).

It is absurd to think the universe created moral laws having in “mind” the future existence of human beings, because if naturalism is true, no “mind” existed before the arising of sentient beings. Therefore, how the hell could the purely physical, mechanistic, non-conscious and non-mental universe to have such a purpose (or any other purpose for that matter)? If naturalism is true, the “universe having purposes by itself” makes no sense at all.


Having thought hard and for years about this question, I think the best way to understand this problem is to classify worldviews in terms of “personalistic ones” and “non-personalistic ones”.

The personalistic worldviews are those in which persons are ESSENTIAL in the fabric of reality. The best example is theism (the view that God exists), in which the most important and essential being (namely God) is a PERSON. In theism, persons and sentient beings are essential, and non-sentient beings and properties (atoms, energy, keys, pens, etc.) are secondary. In these worldviews the physical universe is thought mainly as an instrument to satisfy the spiritual ends or needs of persons (God or his spiritual creations: human beings, souls, spirits, etc.).

Non-personalistic worldviews are those in which persons are ACCIDENTAL, in the sense that they could or couldn’t exist. The best example is naturalism. In naturalism, everything that exists is physical matter-energy and its configurations (=patterns of organization). Persons and sentient beings are just lucky, contingent (non-necessary) accidents of a non-personal, largely random and without purpose cosmic evolution.

Now, I ask you: In what kind of worldview an OBJECTIVE moral command or prescription or law like “Don’t rape little children” or “Search for the truth” or “Love your parents” (which is aimed at rational sentient beings with free will) fit better? In a non-personalistic one like naturalism, or in a personalistic one like theism?

I think the answer is obvious and doesn’t need any particular defense or justification.

Just think hard and honestly about it. I’ll write more in future posts.

Courtesy of


There is another way that morality could have developed other than presuming that moral laws were created along with the physical laws of the universe. The most reasonable basis for morality from the materialist viewpoint is that moral laws evolved along with the other aspects of human evolution. Obviously, it was bad for the group if one person was able to kill another or many others for his own aggrandisement. And helping others was an efficient way of doing tasks. Love binds couples which increases the chance that their children will get the resources they need to survive. Etcetera.

Accepting this definition of morality, as I do, nevertheless does not answer the question of why we do good or commit evil in any specific instance. We have all had the opportunity to take advantage of others to enrich ourselves but declined to do so. Why? If we can overcome our desire to kill someone who is bothering us why cant we overcome our propensity to help others, since we understand it as just an evolutionary mechanism that we can ignore at will? Some people make such efforts and others do not. We call the former moral and the latter immoral. But such a choice is made by the immaterial consciousness, and is not subject to the morality that we inherited from our ancestors. Thus, morality is not just an epiphenomena of evolution. It is a human value system.

Dean DeHarpporte, Thu 24 May, 09:38

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