The elimination of purpose and meaning from the modern conception of the material universe was not and is not a ‘result’ or ‘discovery’ of modern science, but rather a philosophical interpretation of the results of modern science which owes more to early modern secularist philosophers like Hobbes and Hume…than it does to the great scientists of the last few centuriesThat is to say that as a biologist he things biological theories like evolution have obvious philosophical implications. The trouble is real philosophers see those implications as anything but obvious. So when Coyne says:
As a biologist, I see belief in God-given morality as American's biggest impediment to accepting the fact of evolution. "Evolution," many argue, "could never have given us feelings of kindness, altruism and morality. For if we were merely evolved beasts, we would act like beasts. Surely our good behavior, and the moral sentiments that promote it, reflect impulses that God instilled in our soul."This is a straw man. I don't know anybody who argues this. But notice the opposites here. We have evolved morality and God-instilled morality. Why can't it be both? These are no only not opposites. They are not even in the same category. Asking whether something is from evolution is a scientific question. Asking whether something is from God is a religious question. So the thinking is quite muddled.
Then he addresses the question we have been discussing a bit on this blog.
Should we be afraid that a morality based on our genes and our brains is somehow inferior to one handed down from above? Not at all. In fact, it's far better, because secular morality has a flexibility and responsiveness to social change that no God-given morality could ever have. Secular morality is what pushes religion to improve its own dogma on issues such as slavery and the treatment of women. Secular morality is what prevents ethically irrelevant matters — what we eat, read or wear, when we work, or whom we have sex with — from being grouped with matters of genuine moral concern, like rape and child abuse. And really, isn't it better to be moral because you've worked out for yourself — in conjunction with your group — the right thing to do, rather than because you want to propitiate a god or avoid punishment in the hereafter?
Nor should we worry that a society based on secular morality will degenerate into lawlessness. That experiment has already been done — in countries such as Sweden and Denmark that are largely filled with non-believers and atheists. I can vouch from experience that secular European nations are full of well-behaved and well-meaning citizens, not criminals and sociopaths running amok. In fact, you can make a good case that those countries, with their liberal social views and extensive aid for the sick, old and disadvantaged, are even more moral than America.