Jerry Coyne: Paul Bloom debunks the “Moral Law Argument for God”

In a posting of January 31 on his Blog, WhyEvolutionIsTrue, Jerry Coyne writes,

I’ve just finished reading Paul Bloom’s short book, Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil. It deals frankly with the contention of some religious people that the “innate moral sense” of humans, especially our altruism—which is unique in the animal kingdom—could not be a result of either evolution or culture, and therefore must have been bequeathed us by God.  This is in fact a common argument of Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and a man who should know better….

Jerry, I would ask, Why do we go on speaking of the “argument,” as you do in your posting when you say, “a common argument of Francis Collins, …” There is no argument. For example, what ever could, “bequeathed us by God,” possibly mean? And how does that phrase really differ from “flown to us by the stork, or down the chimney by Santa Claus?”

For just as we cannot reason with someone who believes in Santa Claus (nor do I want to when that someone is my three year old grandchild) we cannot really reason, in fact have anything to say to someone whose God leaves absolutely no tracks on this earth, when and if He ever does come here, no tracks that we might follow leading to something real. There is simply no evidence of tracks made by a real God.

The interesting question for me is the same one I mentioned in an earlier comment on your article in TNR, why do we go on acting as if the creationist did have valid arguments. For his argument, if we do even allow him one, is never more than just words, that is, rhetoric. At best his rhetoric, his language, the language of his religion, may be highly persuasive having been dressed up in music, in songs and works of art, and for centuries this coincidence of beautiful artistic forms with belief has terribly confused the issue of whether or not there is a God. Many have and still do take he truth, beauty, and goodness of many of our artistic works as the evidence of God’s existence.

In any case without these expressions, without the poems, songs and such the believer has nothing at all of substance. For if you were to remove the beauty of the art form, take down, for example, the uplifting, soaring structures of Chartres and Mont St. Michel, there is really nothing left. It’s the reverse of the argument of the creationists when they say take away God from the Good and there is nothing at all.

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