Man, Morals, Ethics and Religion


Reading through the article by Frank Zindler, “Morality Does Not Require Religious Belief”,[1] I was impressed with the way he frames the question, that religion does not have a monopoly on morality and ethics in our society.  My interest was that in my own experience I know quite a number of Atheists, and non-believers who are very compassionate and loving towards their family, and society in general.  In my own way I was intrigued about the way Zindler would go about explaining this in atheistic terms.  Zindler also peaked my interest with his statement that, “Our happiness is greater when it is shared” [2] I was happy that Mr. Zindler and I agree totally on that subject.

In Zindler’s article he espouses evolution as the cause of societies’ morality and ethics, not religion.  Intriguing though this argument may be, the flaws abound in not only his logic, but also his own knowledge of man.  Zindler perceives that without religion man has formed ethics quite nicely on his own, through the trial and error process of evolution.  Although this argument of Zindler may be compelling, in this paper I will show the presuppositions he presents, and his unbalanced and irrational worldview.

Zindler is a well-known biology professor; he was one of the first to stand against Creationism in the classroom.  This by itself was a bold move.  His argument and thus his worldview stems from his chosen profession as an evolution-teaching biologist.  Science has been his teacher, and evolution his guiding path.  Reading this article it appears that there is nothing more to Zindler’s Atheism then his total and complete support for evolution.  For Mr. Zindler the biologist, evolution explains the problem of man’s existence; the creation of the cosmos, and all the other questions that are put to him about mans presence here on this planet. His thoughts are captured well in this quote from him describing his passion for believing in evolution and excluding God from any equation:

The most devastating thing, though, that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of             biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people, the central      myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve, there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin, there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation, there is no need of a savior. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity. [3]



In furthering the “death knell of Christianity”, in his essay arguing for a non-religious origin of morals and ethics, Zindler takes us to the Darwinian view of Human Beings.  In this, Zindler reports that our nervous systems have been “imprinted” with certain properties that allow us to distinguish between right and wrong.  Zindler puts it this way; “Nature also has provided us with nervous systems which are, to a certain degree, imprintable.”[4] The author continues in this polemic to describe that this capacity to imprint a moral and ethic force upon us is not a well known or a “pronounced phenomenon”[5] Describing the imprinting process, Zindler likens it to a form of “attachment behavior” .

Zindler then takes the imprinting thesis to analogize the human behavior of “love at first sight” with the imprinting of morals and ethics, with out any form of outside dependence on religion.   This imprinting of love upon the human nervous system forms an attachment behavior, which in turn then produces a strong interpersonal bond.  Along the same line of argument, the biologist Zindler informs us that the attachment behavior then assists us in breaking through our own “ego barriers”, and then in turn creates our own “significant other”.  Professor Zindler speaks more about this in the way Nature has given us ethical and moral lines of demarcation, by stating that the two characteristics of our nervous system, our emotions and our selfishness, are perfectly compatible within us.

Compatibility is the key word here again in Zindler’s essay, not with imprintable nervous systems this time, but with our DNA association with African Apes.  In this conversation the Professor brings out the main theory of evolutionary inheritance between humans and animals.  In an example of a sacrificial act that shows morals and ethics without religion, Zindler gives us the instance of an elder African Ape protecting the rest of the Apes by giving his life in a fight with a leopard.  Mr. Zindler goes on to cite examples of this with foxes and fruit flies.  In all these situations we are being led to the main goal of the essay that adds to Zindler’s thesis for morals and ethics, that goal being “cultural transmission”.

Cultural transmission according to Zindler is the handing down from generation to generation the morals and ethics that people live by.  This transmission is the root cause of all morality, not religion, according to Zindler. The Ten Commandments, according to the writer, are the “moral counterpart of the “here’s-how-you-rub-the-sticks-together” phase of technological evolution.”[6]  In using the Ten Commandments in his argument the author shows his regard for these moral and ethical standards.  Zindler uses the Ten Commandments when he states, “we need something more then the Ten Commandments”[7]. In this construction, Zindler is showing his “cards”, marking off an inconsistency in which Zindler logically infers that at one time in the past the Ten Commandments were adequate for mankind, but now with technology rapidly expanding, we need more, we need our ethics and morals to be firmly planted in scientific self-knowledge. These morals and ethics “must be improvable and adaptable”[8]

In describing morals and ethics being adaptable, Zindler probes into the “Enlightened Self-Interest Principle”.  In this he describes what is his view of human nature.  In this section of his essay he attempts to divide the two words enlightened, and self-interest.  He supposes a person would live an entirely selfish life, disregarding their neighbors and only out for their own self-interest.  This type of person according to Zindler would be naturally ostracized from society, but a person who practices a balanced life, with self-interest and enlightenment would naturally be a person not selfish entirely, but balancing his life through selfishness and social enlightenment. This type of theoretic example of man creating his own morals and ethics is the way Zindler sees the issue left alone without any outside knowledge of God.  In other words, left alone, man would develop morals and ethical values on his own, harking back to the main worldview of Zindler’s, evolution and survival of the fittest.

All of the polemic here of Professor Zindler returns some way or another to evolution.  Everything he espouses has its root in the nature and development of the Earth and the Solar System.  This evolutionary foundation the author has built, starts to develop some cracks in the walls as soon as we delve into the essay in a deeper level.  What are some of the assumptions and “facts” that live within Zindler’s worldview?  Since almost everything begins and ends with evolution and his radical trust in everything it espouses, we will start to chip away at this basement of his faith.

As I have said in the beginning of my essay, Professor Zindler and I have a point of contact between us that is our knowledge of the world we live in is based upon our similar experiences and reasons for the things we see around us.  I agree with the Professor that sharing happiness is a great thing, I also find Zindler to be an intelligent and thoughtful writer.  This agreement between us begins the argument of where we differ.  That difference begins with the theory of evolution.  Evolution on it’s micro level can be seen in bacteria and the way certain strains of disease become resistant to antibiotics, but evolution on a grand scale has never been proven and certainly the development of morality and ethics, a non-physical property is way beyond the pale.

The assumption of Zindler is that man can make his own moral standards, and his own ethical standards.  Zindler’s argument and presupposition is that man needs nothing to help him decide how to live, because the standards and lines that he is not to cross has been handed down to him through “cultural transmission” from generation to generation.  This presupposition fails on it’s own logic because generations would have been wiped out by “learning” morals and ethics.  Murder, rape, robberies, general societal unrest would have caused vast loss of life.  How long would it take for the “imprint” to be put upon mankind before man would have enough moral and ethical skills to not commit adultery or murder his neighbor?  As with physical evolution there is no linkage to cause one to see the way morals and ethics “transmit” themselves to the next generation.  Without Christianity, there is no grace; there is no forgiveness, there is nor order.

Grace does not seem to be one of Zindler’s arguments here, but he does point to happiness as something to be shared.  Where does he find his happiness? How does Professor Zindler work through the moral standards and ethics when he finds himself in a position where ethical responsibility is called upon? According to Zindler, he has been “imprinted” with a moral code from thousands of generations that assist him in making moral and ethical decisions.  If this were the case then the world would be a place of peace and harmony.  It is the opposite.  The world is a chaotic place today filled with evil and immorality.  Even by Zindler’s standards he would have to admit that.  Morals and ethics if they were as Zindler says, handed down through evolution, then logically this could not be true, if only because of the tremendous rise in the rate of crime worldwide. It appears, Mr. Zindler, that the evolutionary imprinting of morals has missed its mark. The world is a dangerous place, and Christ is the timeless answer.

Christianity and the morals and ethics that it describes are timeless.  These ethics of bearing our brother’s burden are not within the DNA of man.  Man cannot do anything good, his entire being is beset by sin, it is only through Christ Jesus who imprints these words on our minds can we be taught morality and ethics, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44         But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  (Mt 5:43–44).  These are the morals that were taught to a people two thousand years ago, a people who were clamoring for a teacher to show them the way to interact with their fellow man.  These people had not been imprinted with any moral code; the only moral code they knew was keeping themselves and their families alive for another year.

Zindler’s idea of an evolutionary imprinting falls short again in our world filled with violence and hatred.  In Oz Guinness’ book “Unspeakable”,  he writes a chapter on our “Greatest Enemy” Guinness writes, “As a thinking people, few of us knowingly choose to be ostriches with our heads in the sand when it comes to human nature. But a recurring feature of the worst evils is their capacity to shock and sober the most realistic and hardened.”[9]  Guinness goes on to write about the effects of the Nazi death camps, and the Rwandan Massacres.  Here is where Zindler’s premise of an evolutionary code being “imprinted” upon our nervous systems has failed us. According to Zindler, we should be “moralized” by now, but even after thousands of generations, the proof we are not is continued violence and hatred in the twentieth century, and continuing on to the present day.

Morals and ethics cannot be handed down as something akin to a family story or an experience that needs to be learned.  Morality and ethics have always been taught and learned from God.  As Creator of all we see, He wants only His glory to be represented through His people in a Holy way.  This way involves teaching children about the way of God when they are young.  The morality and ethics argument imprinting argument fails again when we begin to speak of children.  If children were to be imprinted with some sort of moral code, then as parents we would see perfectly obedient children coming out of the womb.  We all know as parents this position is ludicrous.

Zindler must be aware of the unattainable position that he is in proposing about evolutionary ethics and morals, or otherwise he is denying the facts that control mankind.  He speaks of animals, of apes, and foxes and fruit flies having some small knowledge of morality.  He attributes this to evolution, to nature and all of nature’s grandeur. Dick Keyes talks about this at length in “Seeing Through Cynicism”, Keyes asks the same question about morals and ethics that I’m sure Zindler asked, Keys gives us the right answer, Keys says that:

The moral convictions necessary for creating or sustain civilization apparently call for a moral order that nature or the universe cannot give us.  I am fully aware that there are many theories that try to account for the source of moral experience from within society; the theories of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud all the way down to today’s evolutionary psychology[10]


Keys gets it right, the Universe or Nature are created and cannot ever give us any kind of moral order.  Nature through the supposed route of evolution does not bring us our moral and ethical convictions.  It is only when we realize that we are creatures made in the likeness of God, and that we are depraved people with sin filled minds, will we be able to see through the fog of lies that surrounds us.  Once we can truly see this, then we will see we need a sinless, righteous Son of God to cleanse us and show us the way to live in right morals and ethics.

It is the fog of lies and misunderstandings that Professor Zindler seems to live in, his essay points out the various biological “truths” in Nature and this is the ethics of today’s pluralistic society.  It is as J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh speak about in their book “Truth is Stranger Than It Used to Be”. They say this about the modern quest for ethics, “…meaningful ethical action cannot be rooted in anything as naïve, subjective or idiosyncratic as a story, since that would make ethics merely an expression of a particular cultural or religious attitude.”[11]  Society especially evolutionists such as Professor Zindler, cannot accept the fact that truth is singular.

The truth of modern ethics is further expounded in Middleton and Walsh’ book, they point out how new this idea really is when they say, “Even the Greek philosophical tradition, stretching back to Plato and Aristotle, did not think to extend its quest for objective knowledge of a universal and unchanging cosmic order to the realm of ethics.”[12]  In Zindler’s essay he is right there with this false idea of ethics and morals being evolutionary.

For Me the Bible has much to say about the way Mr. Zindler presents his essay.  Paul writing to the Romans brings out the point better then any author could.  In Romans 1:18-22(ESV) we read,


For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.    For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.       For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,


God is reveled to all men, His love and kindness has given us the morals and ethics that we have       today. It is through the Scriptures that we are privy to see God’s revelation and understand the morality and ethics we are to have as children of God.  For man to have his own ways and develop his own ethics and morals has caused untold sorrow and misery throughout the world.  Selfishness is not part of God’s plan for His people.  It is quite the opposite, Jesus being God knew the moral standard, and brought it to us.  It is a radical one way of life that people cannot accept because it calls for a different way of living.  Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, not be selfish and enlightened about it.  Jesus calls us to feed and clothe our enemy, not to use our own ethical standard to hate him.  It is a radical way that is contrary to Professor Zindler’s way of life, it is my hope and prayer that in God’s grace, the Professor will come to know that we are not our own, “we have been bought with a price”(1 Cor. 6:20 ESV) and all of our morals and ethics are seeds planted within us by a Holy God, not a changing with the times, scientific evolutionary theory.







Guinness, Os. Unspeakable. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2005

Keyes, Dick. Seeing Through Cynicism. Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006

Middleton, J Richard and Brian J. Walsh. Truth Is Stranger Than It Used To Be: Biblical Faith In A Modern Age. Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.


Zindler, Frank R. “Morality Does Not Require Religious Belief”. Pages 153-161 in Constructing a Life Philosophy. Edited by Mary E. Williams. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press 2005.



[1] Frank R. Zindler Morality Does Not Require Religious Belief  in Constructing a Life Philosophy Opposing Viewpoints, ed. Mary E. Williams, (Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2005), 153-161.

[2] Zindler 154.

[3] “The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview” accessed November 11, 2013, http://www.colsoncenter.org/the-center/columns/call-response/14641-perspectives-evolution-theistic-evolution-and-intelligent-design.

[4] Zindler 155

[5] Zindler 155

[6] Zindler 158.

[7] Zindler 159.

[8] Zindler 159.

[9] Os Guinness Unspeakable (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 2005), 38.

[10] Dick Keyes, Seeing Through Cynicism (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 127.

[11] J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press 1995), 65.

[12] Middleton and Walsh, Truth is Stanger Than It Used to Be, 65.