How do we explain and ground morality? Christians believe that morality is rooted in the character of God. If a perfect God exists, his nature is our measure of good. Every aspect of morality is then measured based on that perfect standard. However, to someone who does not believe in God, they must either appeal to a different standard or accept that none exist and relativism is true. Some appeal to the standard of human wellness. Morality is measured by whatever makes people more free, healthy, happy, etc. They claim that this way, they can base it on objective scientific data. Can morality be explained by human wellness?
A Step in the Right Direction
Before answering, I want to say that I think this is actually a pretty good standard if you’re going to reject theism. It rejects relativism, a prevalent and destructive view of morality. This view acknowledges human dignity and rights. It gets many things right, at least in a pragmatic sense. What it lacks is the foundation to ground right and wrong. Human wellness may tell you what is right, but it cannot tell you why something is right.
Why is Human Wellness Good?
Although I think the standard of human wellness comes to many of the right conclusions, can it ground them? What is it that makes health and freedom good? We can scientifically observe the factors that contribute to these things. But science can never tell you that those things are right. That is a philosophical claim, not a scientific one. Why humans? Which humans? This standard cannot make any authoritative claims unless it borrows from a worldview like theism. If someone tramples on the weak and believes that they are doing the right thing because that’s how natural selection is supposed to be, how are you supposed to tell them that they are wrong? Why should they care about human wellness?
Human Wellness Lacks Authority
The keyword missing in this view is authority. With theism, there is a single authority that everyone can look and point to. God is the universal standard of right and wrong. If what we read about him in scripture is true, he has the necessary authority to ground morality. With human wellness, humans are still the authority, just like any version of relativism. Perhaps the addition of science adds a bit of objectivity and credibility. Still, without an appeal to something higher than humanity, there can never truly be authority. Can morality be explained by human wellness? At best, it can identify morality. Human wellness is better than most alternatives but still insufficient to explain and ground morality without God.
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