Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views

Evolutionary Theory of Right and Wrong Dispels Illusion of NOMA

We've been told time and again by both mainstream science organizations and the national media that, as the National Academy of Sciences puts it, "Religion and science are separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought whose presentation in the same context leads to misunderstanding of both scientific theory and religious beliefs." While some may dismiss this as a dubious theological statement, it seems that more and more Darwinists are rejecting the NOMA facts-values dichotomy for reasons as old as Darwin's theory.

Here comes Harvard's Marc D. Hauser, an evolutionary biologist who is ready to demolish any illusion of NOMA. The New York Times reported yesterday on his attempt "to claim the subject [of morality] for science, in particular for evolutionary biology."

Dr. Hauser's proposal is that there is a universal "moral grammar," an innate sense of right and wrong which transcends cultural norms. To anyone familiar with C. S. Lewis's argument for traditional morality from The Abolition of Man, this is evidence for natural law, or what Lewis called "the Tao." For Dr. Hauser, it becomes instead the basis for assuming that "the system that unconsciously generates moral judgments is immune to religious doctrine." By removing both revelation (religion) and reason from the equation, Hauser is left with only one option: Darwinian evolution must be both the cause of and the key to our moral sense. This argument, which starts with evolution and ends wherever we currently find ourselves, goes back to what Darwin himself wrote on evolution and human morality in The Descent of Man. What makes this particular instance so noteworthy is how often this argument is obscured in order to further the claim that evolution has no religious implications... and how this review of Dr. Hauser's new book lets it slip that "the proposal, if true, would have far-reaching consequences." How's that?

It implies that parents and teachers are not teaching children the rules of correct behavior from scratch but are, at best, giving shape to an innate behavior. And it suggests that religions are not the source of moral codes but, rather, social enforcers of instinctive moral behavior. (Emphasis mine)

The article even goes on to say admit that "[m]atters of right and wrong have long been the province of moral philosophers and ethicists... Moral philosophers may not welcome a biologist's bid to annex their turf." It looks like NOMA has been officially discarded, at least by The New York Times.