There are, of course, naturalistic theories of the origin of morality that account for it as a result of evolution, the chance product of a trial-and-error process that has taught us what behaviors lead to the success (or failure) of communities. We understand, for instance, that universal dishonesty would be lethal to a society.
But what of an individual who believes that morality is merely an illusion foisted upon him by evolution? Why should that person, doomed (on an atheistic view) to a brief span of life followed by oblivion, care what happens to his or her community? Why shouldn't he grab whatever he can, if he can get away with it? Mere blind, purposeless evolution supplies no cogent answer.
"Two things," wrote the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant (d. 1804), "fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily reflection is occupied with them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me."
Daniel C. Peterson is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, where he also serves as editor in chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. He is the founder of MormonScholars Testify.org, the general editor of "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture" online at www.mormon interpreter.com and he blogs daily at www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson.
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