Good and evil are intrinsic to being. They just are.
The simplest living thing is driven to survive, the most primitive good. To all living things, death is the first evil. It may be ironic that Charles Darwin may have been the first to systematize this intrinsic morality – surviving where others do not is the first virtue.
This primitive morality is instinctual and its center is self. Sentient beings can reason concretely and apply these ideas to anything which peripheral to self, such as food, shelter, a mate, siblings, family, tribe, etc. These are “mine.” But the singular principle need not change: that which serves survival is good and that which threatens what is mine is evil.
These extensions of self become the first values to transcend self. Risking the self to preserve its extensions can become a greater good than personal survival.
Only sentient beings can abstract. Enter morality and ethics. Good can now include ideas. The well-being of others, nobility, beauty, duty, honor, freedom, etc., while having an indirect or speculative benefit to survival, have a higher place. Removing oneself from the center to serve a set of principles and values which transcend oneself can now become the greatest good. Whether one’s service lengthens or shortens one’s life becomes incidental.
But not all systems of morality and ethics are equal. It depends on what informs them. What are the starting principles? What is it that makes one set of moral dictates and ethical standards preferable of another set?
Unfortunately for Darwin, Evolution has nothing to offer to inform morality and ethics; serving survival is it’s only principle and tragically, mere survival trumps principled behavior. One must ask what good is survival absent transcendent values, without something worth surviving for? Evolution is given credit where no credit is due.
It is at this point that the consideration of varying world-views, starting principles and definitions of terms begins. Here, to this writer, the Bible remains the charter for morality and ethics. For the individual, truth begins with a keen desire for righteousness. The Bible informs moral/ethical choices and the benefits go beyond mere survival. God created time and space and it was good: Righteousness is the fifth dimension.