The question he states that atheist can't answer is:
How do we choose between good and bad instincts? Theism, for several millennia, has given one answer: We should cultivate the better angels of our nature because the God we love and respect requires it.
He goes on with some assmonkey rhetoric:
Atheism provides no answer to this dilemma. It cannot reply: "Obey your evolutionary instincts" because those instincts are conflicted. "Respect your brain chemistry" or "follow your mental wiring" don't seem very compelling either. It would be perfectly rational for someone to respond: "To hell with my wiring and your socialization, I'm going to do whatever I please." C.S. Lewis put the argument this way: "When all that says 'it is good' has been debunked, what says 'I want' remains."
The reality is that not only is the atheist answer to the question simple, it is also based on reality.
We have evolved a mindset that allows us to be inclined to be able to survive and procreate and to do our best for our offspring to survive as well, just like every other animal on this planet. By survival, I am talking about food, shelter, getting along with mates, and avoiding predators which includes doing stuff that will make someone else want to kill us with certainty.
Yes, we are conflicted, the selfishness that comes with our individual survival (which could lead to "bad" behavior) versus doing things that appear good or altruistic in order not to piss others off, and even doing good things on the expectation that "if I open the door for you, you will open the door for me."
Culture does add rules as well. Laws that remind us to be good or pay the consequences (jail not hell). Culture norms that keep us in good standing in the culture as well, influence us. Most norms and laws are just common sense that benefits our evolutionary survival written down on paper.
Good and bad instincts are constantly being weighed in our brains, mostly subconsciously. Good instincts win out usually, because we would be extinct by now if they didn't.
Now for the question that theists can't answer. I am defining theists in this case as anyone who thinks we need a belief in God to be able to choose between right from wrong:
How do chimpanzees decide between good and bad instincts?
Before you say they don't. Read this:
Chimps may display genuine altruism
CHIMPS are not known for their manners, but it turns out they are more civilised than we give them credit for. They seem happy to help both unrelated chimps and unfamiliar humans, even if it means exerting themselves for no reward.
True altruism - completely unselfish acts for somebody else's benefit - was until recently considered uniquely human. When animals help, the theory went, they either help relatives, thereby increasing chances of passing shared genes to the next generation, or they count on having favours returned in the future.
Now Felix Warneken and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have found that 12 of 18 semi-wild chimpanzees went out of their way to help an unfamiliar human who was struggling to reach a stick. They even did this when they first had to climb into a 2.5-metre-high ropeway and for no reward. Equivalent experiments ...
Chimps get angry but not spiteful, study finds
LONDON (Reuters) - An angry chimpanzee will take revenge but -- unlike a human -- it will not do so out of spite, according to a study published on Monday that offers insights into how people perceive what is fair.
The study showed chimpanzees would seek retribution when wronged but did not punish others out of spite, for instance if another chimpanzee was better off, said Keith Jensen, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, who led the study.
Scientists had debated whether a sense of fairness and social comparison applied only to humans and the study was an attempt to answer some of the questions, Jensen said in a telephone interview.
"Like humans, chimpanzees retaliate against personally harmful actions, but unlike humans, they are indifferent to simply personally disadvantageous outcomes and are therefore not spiteful," he and colleagues wrote in a study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.
The study suggests that anger is an important motivational force but what causes it differs greatly between chimpanzees and humans, Jensen said.
"Humans and apes both get upset at theft but humans are more likely to get upset at unfairness," he said.
For more reaction to Gerson's article check out Rank Atheism and also An Atheist Responds by Christopher Hitchens.
Big H/T to Internet Infidels News Wire, a great place for what is hot in the world of belief and atheism.