If we follow the materialists consistently down the materialist road, apart from biology and chemistry, there is nothing. No mind. No logic. No reason. No soul. No love. Even the conceptualization of these non-entities can’t be conceptualized using matter-only presuppositions. If something (a contradiction in itself) can’t be studied using a probe or a microscope, not only doesn’t it exist, it can’t exist. As you can understand by this line of argument, this is more than a debate about the existence of God, since once God is pushed out of the cosmos into the black hole of nonexistence, everything associated with His attributes follows.
Harris and Dawkins weren’t the first to propose a DNA-only existence. The rationalist (atheist) philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) constructed a similar paradigm more than a hundred years ago:
That Man is the product of causes which had no provision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.
The reason most atheists aren’t monsters is that they are not consistent with their atheistic assumptions. If man is nothing more than the “collocations of atoms,” then why did Russell bother opposing the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation since we are all “destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system”? What’s the difference between a fiery end caused by man or one caused by the heat death of the universe? Why should atoms care? But Russell did care. He cared because he was an inconsistent atheist.
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In his religious ode to evolution, River Out of Eden, Richard Dawkins relates the story of how “the British newspapers all carried a terrible story about a bus full of children from a Roman Catholic school that crashed for no obvious reason, with wholesale loss of life.” He reports that a priest responded to the tragedy by stating, “But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative. If the universe was just electrons, there would be no problem of evil or suffering.” Dawkins offered the following response: “On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with meaningless good fortune.” How can Dawkins refer to the bus crash as “terrible” and tragic? Was he referring to the death of the children or the destruction of the bus? In Dawkins’ view of his evolutionary Eden, is there a difference between the chemical entities, one consisting of electrical impulses passing through meat and bones and the other of electrical charges surging through generators and wiring? Of course, like most of the rest of us, Dawkins does not live consistently with his own belief that Darwin’s natural selection is “blind, unconscious, automatic,” and with “no purpose in mind.” This keeps him from being the monster he ought to be if he was a faithful practitioner of the Darwinism he promotes and defends.
. Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship” (December 1903): http://users.drew.edu/~jlenz/fmw.html
. Quoted in Dawkins, River Out of Eden, 132.
. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins/BasicBooks, 1995), 132.
. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: Norton, 1986), 5.