Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)


David Baggett


evolutionary debunking arguments, existence of God, moral apologetics, moral realism




Recent debates in the area of metaethics and moral epistemology have centered around evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs). These arguments purport to show that the conclusions of Darwinian evolution pose a serious problem for moral knowledge. I argue that attempts to resolve the issues around debunking arguments from a non-theistic framework fail. I also agree with some atheists who argue that the evidence shows universal benevolence to be an attitude-independent moral truth. I then show that non-theistic approaches do not adequately account for this, whereas theism does. Theism not only explains the cosmic coincidence between our moral beliefs and moral facts, but it also explains the deeper cosmic coincidence between universal benevolence and human flourishing. I examine several prominent EDAs, with particular attention given to those of Sharon Street, Richard Joyce, and Michael Ruse, as well as several other less well-known arguments. Some EDAs aim at undermining moral realism in general, while others target certain moral intuitions. I examine both types of EDA, along with some preliminary objections aimed at keeping EDAs from getting off the ground. Various counterarguments from moral realists are examined, including general objections that EDAs overreach into other domains besides morality, as well as extended discussion of third-factor arguments which attempt to neutralize the debunking challenge by arguing that evolution could select for some third factor which correlates with moral truths. I argue that all of these non-theistic responses by moral realists fail due to the fact that they are question-begging or illegitimate attempts to shift the burden of proof. The solution proposed by debunkers to the challenge to moral realism is to adopt moral antirealism. Special attention is given to Street’s Humean metaethical constructivism, which she thinks provides the only way to evade moral skepticism in the light of debunking arguments. I argue that antirealism does not avoid skepticism because it is a form of skepticism. Non-theistic arguments between debunkers and moral realists result in a standoff in which both sides have to beg important questions. Very little attention has been given in the literature to possible implications of EDAs for theistic views. This dissertation aims at providing a remedy for this.

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