Do Animals Display Morality? William Lane Craig Responds

CNN did an interview with Frans de Waal author of The Bonobo and the Atheists: in Search of Humanism Among the Primates. .  Here’s part of the book’s description from the publisher:

In this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research, esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within. Moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution.

William Lane Craig has provided a podcast in response to the author’s interview with CNN.

Craig seems unimpressed with de Waal’s argument and says the book is not really concerned with dealing with morality as he defines it which is objective moral values and duties which are independent of human opinion and human society. Craig says, “He’s [de Waal] talking about certain behavior patterns that are exhibited by Homo sapiens and which he finds anticipated among certain higher primates. What he means by the “source” of morality he’s talking about the historical origins of morality not about their ontological foundation.” Craig is willing to grant that animals may display behavior patterns that we also find in human behavior and that these may predate Homo sapiens but this in itself does not provide an adequate foundation for objective moral values. On naturalism there can be no objective moral basis to ground morality. De Waal on the other hand, Craig says, is talking about ” the mores and the psychological beliefs and behaviors that society exhibits which do certainly change.”

I find all of this very fascinating.

Bonobo and the Atheist

Frans de Waal is a Dutch/American biologist who has been named among Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Our Inner Ape among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor at Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes Primate Center.


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, William Lane Craig. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Do Animals Display Morality? William Lane Craig Responds

  1. The fascination for me is that it takes a philosopher to turn the discussion around and point out the inadequacies of any theory that is latent with a philosophical framework not shared by the philosopher (naturalism vs. theism). I wonder if we (Christians) continually talk past others (non-Christians) and use our own lingua franca to one-up a discussion. The distinction between historical vs. ontological basis for morality is an important one, but I can hear de Waal saying, “There you go. Changing definitions to get your jab in! I’m not having a philosophical discussion; I’m having a psycho-social/historical one!!”


  2. Jessica sayer says:

    I wonder why animals have that in them then? some animals seem like they have loyalty and compassion. I wonder why God gave them that


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