Science and Morality
According to Frans de Waal, evolution explains human morality. Countless studies with primates such as bonobo’s and chimpanzees show that they, too, empathize and sympathize with one another, that they care for each other, and that they have a sense of fairness.
On the one hand, this symposium will give ample attention to these fascinating studies. On the other, it will ask to what sorts of philosophical conclusions about morality can be drawn from it. How exactly is the biological and evolutionary evidence supposed to bear on moral thinking and philosophical reflection on morality? How plausible is it to think that evolutionary explanations and their kin explain everything about morality? Do they leave certain aspects unexplained? Do these studies show that there is no such thing as objective morality or moral knowledge, or should we look elsewhere for answers to these questions? Can science be a source of moral knowledge or do we arrive at moral beliefs through other routes?
This symposium is part of a series of public lectures and symposia on science and the Big Questions.
When: June 3, 8-10 pm
Location KC-07, VU Main Building
Do We Need God to be Moral?
What distinguishes a human being from other primates? Although many different answers are possible, most people will argue that, among other things, human beings have a capacity for moral reflection that influences our decisions while other primates are led by their instincts. Instead of following our natural instincts of aggression, violence and sexuality, we consider values like equality, freedom and responsibility of major importance. These values are grounded in a religion, a worldview or a philosophy. However, the question is if this view on human beings is correct.
This question is raised by the work of the Dutch biologist and primatologist Professor Frans de Waal, who argues that moral behavior can be found among other primates as well. Morality, therefore, is not something that is given to human beings from above by a religious or philosophical system, but something that emerges from below as part of our nature. Does this mean that human beings are only a bit more sophisticated than other primates? And that morality is grounded only in human nature?
Prof. Dr. Frans de Waal will discuss these issues with Professor Jeffrey Schloss, professor of Biology at Westmont University. As a biologist he sees an important relationship between biology and the Christian faith. According to him religion and morality is more than just a product of human nature. Professor Nico van Straalen, professor of Biology at the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences at VU University, will lead the forum.
By bringing together these eminent speakers with scholars and students, the Veritas forum does not intend to formulate a final answer but to get the crucial issues in view so as to distinguish more clearly what the truth may be and what its implications are. The Abraham Kuyper Center organizes this forum in cooperation with the Veritas Forum.