"The moral argument in the light of evolutionary ethics" by Dr Johan De Smedt and Dr Helen De Cruz

Past Event

08 May 2012, 3:00pm - 4:30pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

This seminar is hosted by the Institute for Science and Ethics

Abstract: The idea that religion and morality are inextricably linked has been proposed in philosophy, cultural anthropology, and more recently, cognitive science of religion. In natural theology, moral arguments for the existence of God take this assumed connection between the religious realm and morality as a starting point: they hold that if objective binding moral norms exist, then God exists. Recent debates in evolutionary ethics have also focused on the connection between metaphysical naturalism and moral truth: does an evolutionary origin of morality entail moral skepticism? In this paper, we review the implications of evolutionary ethics for the moral argument. First, can a metaphysical naturalist maintain some form of moral realism? Second, why is there an assumed connection between morality and God’s existence, and is this assumption warranted?


  • Dr Helen De Cruz, postdoctoral fellow, Centre for Logic and Analytical Philosophy, University of Leuven
  • Dr Johan De Smedt, Research Fellow, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences,Ghent University


  • Helen De Cruz is also Templeton fellow at the University of Oxford. She completed her PhD thesis on the philosophy of mathematics in 2007. Her current interests include philosophy of cognitive science and philosophy of religion. On the Templeton fellowship, she investigates the cognitive basis of intuitions in natural theology.
  • Johan De Smedt, will be visiting SRC for academic year 2011-2012. His PhD thesis entitled Common minds, uncommon thoughts. A philosophical anthropological investigation of uniquely human creative behaviour, with an emphasis on artistic ability, religious reflection, and scientific study was defended in 2011.He works on the implications of cognitive science of religion for philosophy of religion, and on the cognitive basis of scientific practice.

Respondent: Dr Steve Clarke, James Martin Research Fellow, Institute for Science and Ethics