53. Where Do Atheists Get Their Values?
Kyle Thompson [+]
Harvey Mudd College and MiraCosta College
Atheists source their values from the same wellsprings that all humans do: biology, culture, and reason. Evolution equips newborns with the raw materials of morality. Culture and socialization shape and constrain the developing person’s moral sentiments. Reason can refine those values. Of course, a complex dance takes place between these broad sources—evolution, culture, reason—and there is no simple way to spell out how they bestow any human with values. The dance includes friendships, real-life mentors, fictional heroes, value-laden myths, sorrow, hugs, organized sports, late night reflection when sleep won’t arrive, DNA, the sting of unfairness when someone cuts in line, and much more. Perhaps the only place where atheists don't get their values is belief in God, which they lack. While the theist appears to have a simple answer to the origin of their values—e.g., “God” or “religion”—such responses cloak an equally complex dance of ideas and events and evolutionary heritage. In total, the question of where atheists get their values is really a question of where humans get their values.