Argument from altruism

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Argument from altruism says that altruistic behaviour in humans requires an explanation, which is God.

"the major evolutionary explanations of altruism fail [...] However, we observe altruism in nature and in the clear teaching of the Bible (John 15:13 Bible-icon.png; Philippians 2:2-4 Bible-icon.png). Altruism embarrasses evolution, but makes perfect sense in light of the biblical creation account. [1]"

"Agape, or selfless altruism, present a major challenge for the evolutionist. It is quite frankly a scandal to reductionist reasoning. It cannot be accounted for by the drive of individual selfish genes to perpetuate themselves."

Francis Collins, The Language of God


The argument

  1. Humans act altruistically at least some of the time.
  2. This requires an explanation.
  3. Natural processes, such as evolution, cannot explain altruism.
  4. God is the best explanation for altruism.
  5. Therefore, God exists.

Counter arguments

Argument from ignorance

Main Article: Argument from ignorance

Even if no known processes can explain altruism, that does not imply that God did it. It could have been caused by some unknown process. We may find better explanations in future, making this argument a God of the gaps.

Naturalistic explanations

There are many theories of how evolution can give rise to altruism. [2] Simply put, caring for our offspring and close relatives makes it more likely that our genes will be passed on to the next generation. The evolutionary advantage of having the prestige associated with being altruistic may more than compensate for its disadvantages.

For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

Also, game theory implies that cooperation is a stable strategy in some circumstances, such as repeated rounds of the prisoner's dilemma.

Altruistic behavior is seen in non-human animals:

Which God?

Main Article: Which God?

The argument supports no particular god or theology.

God is a poor explanation

God is a poor explanation because it is not predictive (in the scientific sense) and is arguably a bigger mystery than that it tries to explain.

What is self interest?

Altruism is said to be acting against one's interests for the sake of others. But who is to say what one's interests really are? Perhaps our self interest and altruism are actually the same thing?

Self contradiction

Main Article: Heaven precludes genuine charity

God supposedly explains altruistic behaviour because he punishes and rewards certain types of behaviour which motivates moral conduct. This assumes that people act in their own self interest. This contradicts the premise that people act altruistically.

"This argument is self-contradictory. It aims to explain how people act without regard to their self-interest, but then assumes that there could be no motive for acting altruistically other than self-interest.[3]"

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011
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