Monday, September 02, 2019

If There Is No God, then Right and Wrong Don't Exist (Moral Nihilism)

My back yard

If I was an atheist I would be forced to conclude that morality does not exist. It could not exist, because my atheism would be committed to metaphysical naturalism.

On naturalism (aka physicalism), reality is physical. There are no non-physical facts; hence, no moral facts.

I believe I would find fellow atheists, who express moral outrage, to be odd in the sense of self-contradictory. If morality did not exist, what is the sense of moral outrage?

Attempts to extract morality out of naturalism are akin to pulling rabbits out of hats. University of Virginia professors James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky agree. In Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality (October 2018), Hunter and Nedelisky argue for the following.

  • Efforts to derive morality from naturalism have repeatedly failed.
  • In the end, science cannot tell us how we should live or why we should be good and not evil, and this is for both philosophical and scientific reasons.
  • In the face of this failure, naturalists (the "new moral scientists") have concluded that right and wrong, because they are not amenable to scientific study, don't actually exist.
  • This is moral nihilism.
  • Moral nihilism turns the science of morality into a social engineering problem.
  • If there is nothing moral for science to discover, the science of morality becomes, at best, a program to achieve arbitrary societal goals.