"But there are many other moral decisions that make no sense at all from an evolutionary point of view. For example, nothing is more antithetical to the propagation of the species than homosexuality, so how does supporting same-sex marriage provide a survival benefit to the species?"
- not everything that is a moral question is directly tied to propagating individual genes (inclusive fitness). The issue of gay marriage is one of rights and justice. Why should we care about rights and justice? 1) for our own benefit; 2) for the benefit of others.
"Reproduction is rather important to survival, so how does abortion provide an advantage? How does caring for the elderly increase the species' chance of survival?"
- I think these are also issues of rights and justice. Why should we care about others? We don't have to, but we do tend to, and generally think it is right to do so, and have to justify when we don't. It is a norm - helping in response to need. This means it is a moral instinct. I believe it must have arisen when we lived in small interdependent groups and were very valuable to each other. There is the story by Darwin of the blind fat pelican:
Many animals, however, certainly sympathise with each other’s distress or danger. This is the case even with birds. Captain Stansbury found on a salt lake in Utah an old and completely blind pelican, which was very fat, and must have been well fed for a long time by his companions. Mr. Blyth, as he informs me, saw Indian crows feeding two or three of their companions which were blind; and I have heard of an analogous case with the domestic cock.
“The Descent of Man” – Charles Darwin
Why did the other pelicans feed the useless blind pelican? They wouldn't have had fine intellectual moral reasons for doing so. They just did it.
I believe this comes down to two interrelated reasons: 1) all individuals are linked, if you think about it; 2) the helping / seeking help that goes on between parent and infant. This targeted helping between parent and infant has become detached from its original cause and is available to be used in social situations. It is adaptive - increases individual reproductive success - for members of a group to be able to read and help each other. This targeted helping must be extended to all members of the group, by instinct.
"why should any human being bother with something as ultimately meaningless as morality?"
- how would you feel if someone came to your door and pulled a gun on you? You would care about right and wrong in that instance.
According to evolution science, all life on earth started as a bunch of molecules that accidentally coalesced in a lifeless puddle of mud to form a complex little biological machine that we call a cell.
This opening statement needs to be supported with evidence. Evolutionary Science does not make any such assertion. How life started is the Science of Abiogenesis. Evolution only studies how life evolved after it got started.
Further down you say:
In light of the above facts (at least, according to evolution science)…..These are not facts according to evolutionary science. They are however “facts” that Creationists like to talk about. It shows a complete lack of understanding about what the Theory of Evolution is.
They also confuse Evolution with making statements about human morality because they consider their ancient desert god worshipping morality to be superior to modern day ideas. One quick example is that they believe they “have dominion over all animals” but we would look to the ethical treatment of animals.
Yes, I know you consider them to be FACTS. But do not claim your points 1-4 are factual because of evolutionary science unless you can support that with sourced evidence. They are DEDUCTIONS (not facts) that you are making and they are not being made by evolutionary scientists. Your assertions can be debated as assertions but not as scientific facts. It is not splitting hairs as assumptions and facts are distinct areas.
"so what? You don't have to follow that "law" if you don't want to. Why be fair if is doesn't suit you?
... Evolution science says,"If you want to steal, do it. It means nothing. Do whatever you think you can get away with.""
Evolution says, there is such a thing as consequences. If we act in certain ways, then our life and our world and that of our children starts to fall apart. Other people disapprove of us if they find out. Even if our peers approve of us, the legal system does not. And if the legal system does not act, society falls into chaos.
Evolution also says, there are such things as moral instincts. In our brains the pleasure centre lights up when we are good to someone else. It makes us happy to be kind to others, and unhappy to be bad to others, both immediately and when the consequences hit home.
So your [I suspect - it's OK] God has been replaced by reputation, the legal system, the coherence of society, the pleasure centre in the brain and making ourselves and others (which benefits ourselves) happy.
If you follow the religious reasoning of "why should people behave", then it seems to me there are two:
1) to please God, because God is great, mighty and good etc. This is a good and valid reason in my opinion (if we leave aside the question of the existence of God).
2) because God will punish you if you don't (figuratively speaking). So that really makes you a terrible person, because it implies that you would be a depraved criminal if God wasn't watching you, and - yes - you will push the boundaries as far as you can on any given occasion.
Evolution science says, "If you want to steal, do it. It means nothing. Do whatever you think you can get away with."
No, it does not. Christians and Muslim says that is what Evolution states. It is a conclusion they incorrectly deduce because they do not understand the Theory.
"why should any human being bother with something as ultimately meaningless as morality?"
Because of the consequences. We force morality to have meaning. Ted Bundy fried in the electric chair. Being an arshole just doesn't pay off. We evolved the concept of justice to deal with immorality. Does the universe care? I don't know, but I see no evidence that we are being supervised.
In light of the above facts (at least, according to evolution science), why should any human being bother with something as ultimately meaningless as morality?
First...we have no choice. We learn a set of morality that molds to an inherant genetic programming (sort of like how we learn a language...there are certain features that must be included and the language you learn will fill this criteria meaning your language must adapt to how the human mind processes the various parts of communication) and also what we learn from our family and peers as we grow up. You cannot suddenly shed that sense of morality once you are a rational thinking adult. You cannot do that anymore than get rid of the language you've acquired. You can turn your back on some of it and do whatever you want but that morality is still deeply lodged in your mind. Going on a killing spree is not shedding morality...that is ignoring some and only some moral codes for a moment. It is impossible to shed morality...just as we cannot shed our language. We can only ignore some parts of it...or mold and change other parts of it.
Second...even if we would shed that morality (though we can't) you have dozens upon dozens of reasons for maintaining at least some sense of morality. If you have the slightest desire to maintain the relationships you have with people, set goals, meet a partner with a long term relationship, have children, learn with others, develop a support system of friends and collegues (all very important things for people that we cannot walk away from whether we are living in a tribe in the jungle or in a concrete city) you'll need to accept some code, any code, of morality for that to work.
That doesn't mean you cannot shape that and reshape much of it for yourself...think about it rationally and try to influence that code among a large group of people...you are pretty much stuck with the overwealming amount of "morality" that you learn and grow up in...assuming you stay in that community.
If the human race became extinct, the universe wouldn't even notice. And the universe, which is mindless and meaningless, doesn't care if you live your life as a monster or as a saint. You can live like Ted Bundy or Mother Theresa; it doesn't matter, since everything is meaningless.
You are conflating the long term picture with the short term one. Of course...once all being (and any other alien spiecies that come into contact with us) are gone and all records of us are going...none of it will matter.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't matter during your own life. Having no sense of morality will work against you very quickly and you'll lose your relationships, freedom and everything you care about if you do whatever you want (especially in a psychotic sociopathic way).
Something not mattering in the distant future is not the same as something very much mattering now. Modern medicine won't matter when the universe ends but it does for all of us now. If you cheated during the olympics, it wouldn't matter at all when humans are gone but it matters a lot now. If you atom bombed a city...it means nothing once we are gone and our records are gone. You cannot tell me it doesn't matter now. It matters to the people affected, it matters to the person who does it (the price he will pay and the sense of guilt and loss he will experience later) and all of those bystanders who suffer afterwards...generations to come.
All codes of morality can be ignored, since we are mud, and to mud we shall return.
You completely and utterly don't understand the process of evolution, or, morality.
Evolution is not the tornado in the junkyard making a working Boeing 747....that's creationist propaganda...a strawman argument.
What it really says is that chemicals tend to react in certain ways...and, for example, if you have sodium and chlorine, they can form a salt Sodium chloride) crystal.
It is not random...its because one has positive and the other has negative ends, and, when in a solution, the positives and negatives tend to attract each other.
If other metals beside sodium are present, calcium, for example, you would get calcium chloride instead of sodium chloride.
Extrapolate this concept, adding the premise that some chemicals are MORE or LESS attractive, to each other, so, more of the compounds that are favored, chemically, will be made...and fewer of the compounds that are less favored, etc.
Again, this is not a random process. The individual reaction between one ion and another, finding each other, is random, but what happens is not. The OVERALL reaction is not random, as if we have sodium and chlorine in a solution, we KNOW how much, total, will form salt crystals, if we later evaporate the water leaving only the salt, etc.
So, as a result of the large number of EXPECTED random interactions...we know what we will get, because the result is predictable based upon chemistry.
Further extrapolate the concept to the resulting chemicals simply continuing to react with each other...and, form new compounds, which in turn react with the other new compounds.
Eventually, you end up with an alphabet soup of chemicals. They tend to get increasingly complex as larger and larger molecules react with each other, parts then add to others, and so forth.
Some chemicals are self replicating...its simply a chemical property of some compounds...they react with mirror images of themselves, or other versions of themselves, such as cis or trans versions, etc...
Even salt crystals are self replicating for example.
As they become more complex, and self replicate....versions that react with other complex chemicals will in turn make more copies of themselves.
As folding proteins, etc, change shape in the presence of reactive active sites, and so forth, progressively more reactive versions will "out compete" less reactive versions.
At some point, what we refer to as life, is formed.
There is a lot of debate as to what life really "is"...because now that we can SEE some of the really really complicated chemicals...we're not sure whether to consider them to be "alive" or not.
A protein is less complicated than a prion, but a prior is just a slightly more complicated protein...and, an infection with prions implies they are alive, but bad proteins in you is more like a metabolic deficiency or disorder. Most experts don't consider a prion to be 'alive' though, just a protein that folds in a way that is bad.
An RNA virus is less complicated than a DNA virus, and, many scientists don't consider a virus to be alive, as ALL they are is a package with the info to make more copies, but they cannot breed, or eat, etc...just make copies of themselves.
Bacteria are where most agree that they are 'alive'. They eat, breed, etc.
So, that is the opposite of random...its ordered. Things react in ways that are governed by their construction. It is not meaningless. It has meaning.
As for morality, it has nothing to do with the above in any way shape or form.
If we define morality as doing what is right over what is wrong....as a simple concept, it covers what most people and ethicists will agree with.
Many animals exhibit morality in the wild, and in captivity.
Dogs will help other dogs, elephants will help other elephants, and so forth, and, monkeys and other critters will share food, defend others, comfort each other, etc.
Many critters will also come to the aid of other species, share resources, food, warn them of danger, etc.
There were morals before Judaism and Christianity, etc, there were laws, codes of behavior, etc...and people and animals seemed to know right from wrong, and act accordingly.
So, I agree that the UNIVERSE doesn't "care" if you eat other people, or feed other people...because the universe is simply WHERE all this is occurring.
The ROOM Mother Theresa fed the hungry, and the ROOM Bundy satisfied his hunger, didn't care if the occupants were eating or being eaten...its just a ROOM.
Humans, and chimps for example, have always known that if they hit someone, or ignore someone who would want to be acknowledged, that it would hurt the other chimp or chump, etc.
They KNOW that because they KNOW what it feels like TO THEM, and, empathy allows them to imagine what the other party would feel like. It ALSO allows them to take advantage of it, and trick the other monkey...because they know how the trick would work on THEM...via the same empathetic ability.
So, we know right from wrong at least as primates.
After that, its about what we DO. If we are bad monkeys, we might steal the other monkey's banana.
If we are good monkeys, we might offer half of our banana to our buddy who's banana got stolen.
If the only reason you give half your banana away is that you feel bad for the other hungry monkey...it is not the same as if you only gave it because you thought the zoo keeper was watching and you'd get an infinite supply of bananas later as a reward.
If the only reason you STOLE the banana is because you knew the zoo keeper was not looking, or you DID NOT STEAL it because you thought he was...that doesn't make you a nice monkey.
It makes you a monkey who is bad, but, behaves if he thinks he'll get caught.
In reality, if a monkey keeps abusing the other monkeys, they might kick him out/shun him, because they don't like him. So, a keeper might get a bad monkey to pretend to be good, but, more often, and keepers in real life don't have infinite banana rewards...the OTHER MONKEYS determine what is acceptable behavior.
So, morality doesn't require a zookeeper. It requires being a good monkey instead of a bad one.
Enforcement of morals requires the other monkeys punishing the bad monkeys, and providing positive examples of behavior...to at least get them to behave better.
Humans do this too btw, not just other primates.
So, HUMANS who DO believe that the universe "cares" whether they are good or bad...because they think that there is a zoo keeper essentially, are called "Christians" for example (Other mythologies as well, not just Christians).
This, historically, and statistically, in a strange twist, makes them more likely to act immorally. Its logical, as, if they think they might get away with something, they are more likely to do it even if wrong.
IE: They only pretend to be moral..but steal the banana if they think they can.
In prisons in the US for example, when you compare the religions of the prison population, against the general population, you find religious people are extremely over represented...and atheists are extremely under represented.
The criminals are guided by religious morality. The atheists are guided by their own morality.
Atheism doesn't mean anything goes...it JUST means you see no evidence of gods.
Atheists, therefore, help show what humanity might act like without religious morals, and only human morals.