This is the second in a series asking what would be the impact of objective morality?
Christians generally like to use the argument for Christianity, and acceptance of the Bible, on the grounds that it supplies a moral compass. This argument would suffer a severe blow if morality was indeed objective enough to be open to scientific enquiry. Unfortunately, the nature of morality in a Christian paradigm is that certain things are absolute (don’t murder; don’t steal; don’t covet etc.) If moral law is not objective, it cannot be absolute, thus the moral compass argument finds itself in a corner, if it is valid, then the Bible is wrong, but if it is invalid, then how does one support Christianity as a moral compass? I will not attempt to answer this question, I will focus on why the moral compass argument is invalid and why objective morality is essential to Christianity.
The first recorded instance of immorality in the Bible is obviously The Fall in Genesis 3, it reveals some interesting things regarding the moral compass argument and subjective morality. Firstly, it shows physical consequence for the immoral act, secondly, it claims that people have a moral awareness.
Verses 17 and 18 reveal the first point (from the English Standard Version.)
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
If this is indeed correct, then immorality can have observable physical consequences. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to verify whether immoral behaviour could cause the production of thorns & weeds, since the only situation science has ever known has involved these things, but if we have a look at 1 Timothy 6:9-10 compared to the state of affairs in the world we do know, it reveals some interesting things.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
The love of money (greed) is considered immoral by Christian standards, & also by the observable requirements of Morality as a characteristic. The measurable effects on morality part 1 shows how this is immoral from the idea of how it directly affects the human gene pool, but it also affects the environment. Climate change has largely become a problem because of a greed driven oil based economy, this is a symptom of immoral behaviour that can be seen in the natural world. Likewise, farming has become highly industrialised, the methods have lead to great weed control problems, & the driving of heavy machinery over crop lands, has led to compaction, making tilling more difficult, much like the scenario predicted in Genesis 3. This may seem to help the Christian point of view, but it certainly doesn’t help the moral compass argument.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
Genesis 3:22, thoroughly destroys the moral compass argument, if people know right from wrong (or at least the basics) then they don’t need a moral compass. When viewing morality as a characteristic, & considering the relationship between morality and the brain, then one could say that it could be argued that there is evidence that this assertion is correct, & people have morality somewhere in their genome.
Of course there’s a long way to go in the discussion regarding morality as an argument for a god, but the moral compass argument is weak, and is one that critics of religion have never really worried about. In future I will cover some of the more compelling arguments from morality for the existence of a god.