The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

No Way to Account for Morality

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The Intelligent Design movement is making its way through the schools and the courts. Even traditionally unscientific-minded Christians are embracing ID because it seems so rational and obvious. As expected, the materialists are running scared. They extol the reasonableness of their scientific worldview, but deny anyone else the same access to reason when it comes to questioning the basis of materialism. While the ID movement has its helpful emphases in terms of science, the moral argument for the existence of God has a powerful impact as well.

The moral argument for the existence of God is popular and effective because it touches people where they live. Few parents worry that their children will lose an argument over whether the cosmological and teleological (design) arguments for the existence of God are rationally supportable. While these and other arguments are important and even necessary, they normally don’t come up in conversation until moral questions are made an issue. When did you ever say the following to your son or daughter as he or she went out for the evening? “Remember what I told you about the supposed analytic/synthetic distinction as it relates to epistemology and certainty. You don’t want some atheist getting the best of you in an argument. Drive safely”?

Parents are far more concerned about personal moral issues as they relate to their children than tightly wound philosophical arguments. Not stealing or cheating, and avoiding pre-marital sex, abortion, homosexuality, and drugs are more immediate concerns. Even so, we all will eventually ask the “why” question: Why is something morally right or morally wrong? There must be some ultimate justification for behavior. The atheist has never given a good answer as to why we should be good or even what constitutes the good.

Without first dealing with presuppositions, not only does a person have difficulty accounting for what he claims to know, but he cannot determine what’s moral or immoral. Greg Bahnsen’s summary is helpful at this point: “Given the presuppositions of the atheist, he could not make sense out of adherence to the laws of logic, nor could he make sense out of the principles and procedures of science itself. The atheist cannot give a rational account of the fundamental assumptions of ethics, either. Atheism is philosophically unable to argue ethically, scientifically, or logically against the Christian faith.”[1]

Moral questions can only be answered in terms of ultimate presuppositions. What are the precondi tions for morality? Where does the atheist go to account for his moral worldview? Why should I be concerned about the poor if Darwin is right? Raising moral questions serves as an indirect way to get an unbeliever to come to grips with the internal inconsistency of his worldview. Given that there is no God, why are there moral absolutes and human rights?

The unbeliever will claim that the Christian’s ethical views are defined in terms of a religious commitment, while he, the unbiased and neutral skeptic, appeals to reason, facts, and science. Consider the following argument by Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois:

A pro-life advocate sees abortion as a sin against God who infuses life at the moment of conception; a pro-choice advocate sees abortion as a decision to be made in accordance with the best scientific opinion as to when the beginning of life, as we know it, occurs. No conversation between them can ever get started because each of them starts from a different place and they could never agree as to what they were conversing about. A pro-lifer starts from a belief in the direct agency of a personal God, and this belief, this religious conviction, is not incidental to his position; it is his position, and determines its features in all their detail.[2]

Fish only gets it half right. Both sides maintain a presuppositional starting point. But he is wrong when he implies that the pro-abortionist is scientifically objective. When has the pro-abortionist ever formulated his or her argument “in accordance with the best scientific opinion as to when the beginning of life, as we know it, occurs”? And so what if science does determine that life begins at conception? Why is human life significant? Science can’t tell us. Science alone can’t tell us when a life is valuable or whether life itself is significant and should be protected. You and I are alive, if the materialist gets to define life, because certain electrical impulses can be detected on a machine. Hum an life is truly significant because there are remnants of the Christian worldview still functioning in the operating room, but even this is dwindling given the way some argue for a “woman’s right to choose.” Choose what? Choose to kill her pre-born baby.

Given all the evidence, the materialist cannot admit the true significance for humans even when it stares him in the face. The November 11, 2002, issue of Time published an amazing ten-page article that was titled “An amazing look at how we all begin. . . . The latest science on how healthy babies are born.” The amazing in pictures, to be published in From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds (Doubleday), are breathtaking. Here’s the article’s take on the moral implications of the images as they relate to the abortion debate:

Antiabortion activists may interpret them as evidence that a fetus is a viable human being earlier than generally believed, while pro-choice advocates may argue that the new technology allows doctors to detect serious fetal defects at a stage when abortion is a reasonable option.[3]

Science, given its self-imposed limits, cannot make moral judgments. It can only describe what is, not what ought to be. The author of the Time article goes out of her way to avoid any consideration that there might be an Agent of design behind what is going on in the womb. We’re told, “To be sure, the marvel of an embryo transcends the collection of genes and cells that compose it. ”[4] In what way? Transcendence is such an unscientific term. Near the end of the article, we read, “the list of potential threats to embryonic life is long.”[5] Abortion is not one of them. A great deal of concern is voiced over how to prevent birth defects, but the greatest danger to a developing “fetus,” pre-meditated abortion, is ignored as a pre-born baby’s biggest killer. Kim Painter of USA Today can’t escape the materialist vortex: “Alexander Tsiaras may be the world’s most high-tech baby photographer. Or more accurately, embryo and fetus photographer.”[6] When have you ever heard a pregnant woman say, “I just felt the fetus kick”?

The slippery slope of amoral science continues. Peter Singer, professor for Human Values at Princeton University, promotes the idea that parents should have up to 28 days to determine if they want to kill their child if he or she is born disabled. Why stop at 28 days? What if a child is disabled at one year? Helen Keller contracted an illness when she was not quite two years old that left her blind and deaf. Should she have been a candidate for the new immorality?

Endnotes:

[1] Greg L. Bahnsen, “Presuppositional Reasoning with False Faiths,” Penpoint (July 2002), 2.
[2] Stanley Fish, “Why We Can’t All Get Along,” First Things 60 (February 1996), 18–26. Quoted in Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2001), 66
[3] J. Madeleine Nash, “Inside the Womb,” Time (November 11, 2002), 70.
[4] Nash, “Inside the Womb,” 73.
[5] Nash, “Inside the Womb,” 77.
[6] Kim Painter, “The Miracle of Life Unfolding,” USA Today (November 7, 2002), 8D.

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