Evolution and the Challenge of Morality

by Dr. Jason Lisle on April 14, 2008

Morality is a very difficult problem for the evolutionary worldview. The problem is that evolutionists have no logical reason to believe in right and wrong within their own worldview.

Morality is a very difficult problem for the evolutionary worldview. This isn’t to say that evolutionists are somehow less moral than anyone else. Most of them adhere to a code of behavior. Like the biblical creationist, they do believe in the concepts of right and wrong. The problem is that evolutionists have no logical reason to believe in right and wrong within their own worldview. Right and wrong are Christian concepts which go back to Genesis. By attempting to be moral, therefore, the evolutionist is being irrational; for he must borrow biblical concepts which are contrary to his worldview.

The Genesis of Morality

The Bible teaches that God is the Creator of all things (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3). All things belong to God (Psalm 24:1) and thus, God has the right to make the rules. So, an absolute moral code makes sense in a biblical creation worldview. But if the Bible were not true, if human beings were merely the outworking of millions of years of mindless chemical processes, then why should we hold to a universal code of behavior? Could there really be such concepts as right and wrong if evolution were true?

Evolutionary “morality”

Some might respond, “Well, I believe in right and wrong, and I also believe in evolution; so, obviously they can go together.” But this does not follow. People can be irrational; they can profess to believe in things that are contrary to each other. The question is not about what people believe to be the case, but rather what actually is the case. Can the concepts of right and wrong really be meaningful apart from the biblical God? To put it another way, is morality justified in an evolutionary worldview?

In response to this, an evolutionist might say, “Of course. People can create their own moral code apart from God. They can adopt their own standards of right and wrong.” However, this kind of thinking is arbitrary, and will lead to absurd consequences. If everyone can create his or her own morality, then no one could argue that what other people do is actually wrong, since other people can also invent their own personal moral code. For example, a person might choose for himself a moral code in which murder is perfectly acceptable. This might seem upsetting to us, but how could we argue that it is wrong for others to murder if morality is nothing but a personal standard? If morality is a subjective personal choice, then Hitler cannot be denounced for his actions, since he was acting in accord with his chosen standard. Clearly this is an unacceptable position.

Some evolutionists argue that there is an absolute standard; they say, “Right is what brings the most happiness to the most people.” But this is also arbitrary. Why should that be the selected standard as opposed to some other view? Also, notice that this view borrows from the Christian position. In the Christian worldview, we should indeed be concerned about the happiness of others since they are made in God’s image.1 But if other people are simply chemical accidents, why should we care about their happiness at all? Concern about others does not make sense in an evolutionary universe.

Perhaps, the evolutionist will claim that morality is what the majority decides it to be. But this view has the same defects as the others. It merely shifts an unjustified opinion from one person to a group of people. It is arbitrary and leads to absurd conclusions. Again, we find that we would not be able to denounce certain actions that we know to be wrong. After all, Hitler was able to convince a majority of his people that his actions were right, but that doesn’t really make them right.

Without the biblical God, right and wrong are reduced to mere personal preferences. In an evolutionary universe, the statement “murder is wrong” is nothing more than a personal opinion on the same level as “blue is my favorite color.” And if others have a different opinion, we would have no basis for arguing with them. Thus, when evolutionists talk about morality as if it is a real standard that other people should follow, they are being inconsistent with their own worldview.

Evolutionary Inconsistency

As one example, consider those evolutionists who are very concerned about children being taught creation. “This is wrong,” they say, “because you’re lying to children!” Now, obviously this begs the question, since the truth or falsity of creation is the concern at issue: we are convinced that creation is true, and evolution is the lie. But the truly absurd thing about such evolutionary arguments is that they are contrary to evolution! That is, in an evolutionary worldview why shouldn’t we lie—particularly if it benefits our survival value?

Now certainly the Christian believes that it’s wrong to lie, but then again, the Christian has a reason for this. God has indicated in His Word that lying is contrary to His nature (Numbers 23:19), and that we are not to engage in it (Exodus 20:16). But apart from the biblical worldview, why should we tell the truth? For that matter, why should we do anything at all? Words like should and ought only make sense if there is an absolute standard given by one who has authority over everyone.

If human beings are merely chemical accidents, why should we be so concerned about what they do? We wouldn’t get mad at baking soda for reacting with vinegar; that’s just what chemicals do. So, why would an evolutionist be angry at anything one human being does to another, if we are all nothing more than complex chemical reactions? If we are simply evolved animals, why should we hold to a code of conduct in this “dog-eat-dog” world? After all, what one animal does to another is morally irrelevant. When evolutionists attempt to be moral, they are “borrowing” from the Christian worldview.

Evolutionists Must Borrow Morality from the Biblical Worldview

One humorous example of this happened at the opening of the Creation Museum almost a year ago. A group opposing the museum had hired a plane to circle above with a trailing banner that read, “Defcon says: Thou shalt not lie.” Of course, we couldn’t agree more! After all, this is one of the Ten Commandments. In fact, the purpose of the Creation Museum is to present the truth about origins. So, the evolutionists had to borrow from the biblical worldview in order to argue against it. In an evolutionary universe, Defcon’s moral objection makes no sense (although we certainly appreciated the free advertising).

Making Sense of the Evolutionary Position

The Christian worldview not only accounts for morality, but it also accounts for why evolutionists behave the way they do. Even those who have no basis for morality within their own professed worldview nonetheless hold to a moral code; this is because in their heart of hearts, they really do know the God of creation—despite their profession to the contrary. Scripture tells us that everyone knows the biblical God, but that they suppress the truth about God. (Romans 1:18–21). Why would anyone do this?

We have inherited a sin nature (a tendency to rebel against God) from Adam (Romans 5:12), who rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). John 3:19 indicates that people would rather remain in spiritual darkness than have their evil deeds exposed. Just as Adam tried to hide from God’s presence (Genesis 3:8), so his descendents do the same. But the solution to sin is not suppression, it is confession and repentance (1 John 1:9; Luke 5:32). Christ is faithful to forgive anyone who calls on His name (Romans 10:13).


Nearly everyone believes that people ought to behave in a certain way—a moral code. Yet, in order for morality to be meaningful, biblical creation must be true. Since God created human beings, He determines what is to be considered right and wrong, and we are responsible to Him for our actions. We must therefore conclude that evolutionists are being irrational when they talk about right and wrong, for such concepts make no sense in an evolutionary universe.

For more information:


  1. The happiness of others, though important, is not the primary concern within the Christian worldview. To love and obey the God who has created and saved us should be our primary focus (Mark 12:30; Ecclesiastes 12:13). One aspect of this is that we should treat others with love and respect (Matthew 7:12; Mark 12:31).


Get the latest answers emailed to you.

I agree to the current Privacy Policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA, and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390