The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Should We Have the Death Penalty for Animals that Kill Animals?

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On Wednesday, I spoke to a group of 22 men and women in Detroit, Michigan, on the subject of economics and how to account for the fundamentals that make markets work, especially private property and laws against theft. There were some atheists in the group with only a few Christians present. Most would call themselves Libertarians. We agreed on the particulars, but we disagreed on the basis by which economic laws operate. I maintained that these seemingly self-evident truths have their foundation in the reality of God’s character. Most disagreed. God was not needed. It was a healthy and stimulating discussion that went on for nearly two hours. One young man claimed that we develop our moral values from studying nature, in particular, the animals and how they act. He, along with some others, insisted that we humans are animals, albeit more highly evolved animals.

I pointed out that animals kill other animals and eat them without any judicial repercussions. When have we ever read of a lion being put on trial for killing and eating a gazelle? We shudder in disgust and horror as Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (1991) tells how he ate a man’s “liver with some fava beans and a nice Chi-an-ti.” Even the story of the Uruguayan Rugby team’s post-mortem cannibalism high in the Andes in 1972, forever immortalized in the movie Alive, makes us uncomfortable. Given materialistic presuppositions, are these such awful things morally wrong? Most would say yes. But if we’re animals, there should be no aversion to killing and eating human animal flesh, either alive or dead.

Philosophically, the materialist has taken the amorality road. Not only has the Bible been rejected as a source of law, even natural law cannot be accounted for in an evolving universe. Secularists, dominated by the Darwinism, are materialists. A materialist denies the existence of anything that does not have material substance. If something can’t be seen, tested, and measured, it doesn’t exist. Following the standards of modern-day scientific theory and practice, science can say nothing about morality. All science can do is observe behavior. Science can detail what people do, but it can’t determine if what they do is either moral or immoral since moral norms have no material substance. There’s no way to study values in the laboratory. For example, James Rachels explains the materialist’s logic in his book Created From Animals: “Darwin’s theory, if it is correct, only tells us what is the case with respect to the evolution of species; and so, strictly speaking, no conclusion follows from it regarding any matter of value.”[1] In scientific terms, all a naturalistic scientist could conclude is that two men killed other men and women. He could not say whether this is “right” or “wrong.”

Michael Ruse, understanding the dilemma of how materialists account for moral value, maintains that “it is an empirical fact that humans have evolved in such a way as to be highly ‘altruistic,’ and moreover to be greatly dependent on such ‘altruism.’ . . . Hard though it may be to imagine, the murder rate among humans — even taking into account the mass killings of the last century — is less than that among many mammals. ”[2] There is no provision in law for “other mammal murder.” Murder is a category found in the Christian tradition, a tradition denied by a theistic naturalists. The moral worldview of Christianity is needed by the materialists to create a moral center for the obvious amorality inherent in consistent atheism. Without God there is no way to account for prohibitions against murder. In fact, even the idea of murder is borrowed from the Christian worldview.

Endnotes:

[1] James Rachels, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1990), 92.
[2] Michael Ruse, Can a Darwinian be a Christian?: The Relationship Between Science and Religion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 192.

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