Can humans really know what a good deed is without the guidance of God? I argue that we can’t, there are two reasons for this, one reason is that our life is very short compared to the timeline of the universe. According to NASA, the Big Bang happened between 12 and 14 billion years ago, let us assume 12 billion to make humans seem more relevant. Also let us assume that a human live to be 100 years old (again helps us seem more relevant), that means that humans live to an age that is 8.33e-7% of the age of the universe.
This reason leads me to believe that we simply do not understand the generational impacts of some of our decisions in a way that would allow us to define a moral standard. Humans cannot do this without the help of an entity that understood time and space better than humans ever could (I am speaking of God). This is where something like the butterfly effect could be considered. Do humans understand the complicated relationships between all of the things on earth? How can we when our lives are so short?
To think of it another way, we screw up all of the time in our lives because we don’t understand how today’s actions will affect tomorrow’s results. To think that humans have the ability to make a moral standard means that we need to understand how a certain action effects events that we may not yet know or understand. Some decisions are very easy, like should you steal from your neighbor? Most people will say no without hesitation to this because it is clear that the consequences will always be bad. However, what happens when the situation is a little more complicated? For instance, what would you do if a close friend or relative wanted you to cosign a loan for them? The Bible says no (Proverbs 17:18), but with the rising cost of college tuition, the rising pressure to attend a four year university, parents will often cosign a loan with the best intentions. With the tough job market, many students (and others with loans) have a hard time paying the loans back. According to a Federal Trade Commission report, 75% of cosigners end up paying the loan that they cosigned for. This type of result can lead to severed relationships that could last for years. We are finite beings that have a very limited idea of time and therefore are not equipped to make these types of decisions. Only an infinite being that is beyond time, that understands all things is capable of developing a moral standard that can withstand the test of time.
The second reason why I think it is silly to think that humans can know anything about morality without God is that we are a disturbing combination of stupid and arrogant. I don’t mean this in a small way, I mean this in a big way. According to NASA, humans have been around for millions of years, and throughout all of this we still haven’t figured out how to build and maintain a stable government, among other things. It was found that national constitutions have an average life span of 17 years, which is pretty pathetic considering that these documents are supposed to be the backbone of how a particular country is supposed to operate. That is a lot of experimentation with no conclusion met in 230 years. Humans are this ignorant and short sighted in choosing the rules and government that rules them and yet everyone still thinks they have the best ideas politics and government.
If we take a moment to look at the United States in particular, we will find a multitude of examples of humans making bad moral decisions. One obvious example is slavery, to enslave any people against their will is immoral, making it against a particular set of people (black people) just makes it so that the relations between blacks and whites will take longer to heal. Another more recent example is the incarceration of marijuana dealers and users. Why do we think that breaking up families because two individuals are agreeing on a transaction is the moral thing to do? Obviously, the legalization of marijuana is becoming more popular so we are learning as time goes on. But if we must learn, then it is not a very good standard is it?
These two reasons working together form the basis of why humans will never be able to form a fundamental moral standard. A moral standard must be something that does not change throughout time because if it does then it is not a standard. Beyond this semantics issue, there is also the issue that humans don’t change with time. This is a very important point, technology changes, language changes, humans traditions change, but humans on a fundamental level do not change. All humans want is love, community, and respect; and this has not changed over time. I write more about this here.