Atheists, materialists, and evolutionists are cranking out books trying to come up with ways that can account for morality. I have a shelf-full of them. Their first problem is that they assume there is such a “thing” as ethics. That morality is real. Let me be clear. I am not saying that atheists are immoral. They do moral things and act in moral ways but only in terms of a foreign worldview called Christianity. Atheists have to borrow what they concede is a moral worldview because materialism knows nothing of morality. At the atomic and molecular level, there is no such thing as morality. Billions and trillions of molecules that have no morality don’t suddenly become moral because they’re in the shape of what we call human beings.
Modern-day biology has become materialistically reductionistic, subject only to “physics and chemistry”
“Modern biology has arrived at two major principles that are supported by so much interlocking evidence as to rank as virtual laws of nature. The first is that all biological elements and processes are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry. The second principle is that all life has evolved by random mutation and natural selection.”1
There is no room for sentiment, morality, or any of the poetic graces in life.
My point, which I’ve made numerous times, is that atheists can’t account for the justification of a universal moral code so that evolved entities are obligated to follow it. The operating assumptions of atheism make such a code impossible to locate, identify, and enforce at the cosmic level.
For example, Richard Dawkins states the position well: “Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that dimply do not make evolutionary sense.” In the same chapter of The Selfish Gene, Dawkins writes, “I think ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ sums up our modern understanding of natural selection admirably.”2 To push his case further along, Dawkins offers a fitting analogy of his view:
The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have survived, in some cases for millions of years, in a highly competitive world. This entitles us to expect certain qualities in our genes. I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness.
If you want to get an idea of what Dawkins is describing, consider the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre that took place between two Chicago criminal gangs: the South Side Italian gang led by Al Capone and the North Side Irish gang led by George “Bugs” Moran. The shooters had the selfish genes. Their goal was to survive at all costs and to keep their selfish-gene boss happy. Given what Dawkins claims for evolutionary development, did the killers do anything morally wrong?
Some of Dawkins’ fellow evolutionists are uncomfortable with the way their popular high priest states his views. For example, Scott M. James writes the following in his book An Introduction to Evolutionary Ethics:
And yet, when we step back and observe ourselves, there is something about Dawkins story that doesn’t make sense. For if he’s correct, then people would never have an interest in doing the right thing (never mind knowing what the right thing to do is); people would never admire virtue, rise up against injustice, or sacrifice their own welfare to benefit strangers. If human beings are ruthlessly selfish at the core, then we should find unintelligible Adam Smith’s observation that man possesses capacities “which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.”
James’ use of Adam Smith is interesting since Smith was neither an atheist nor an evolutionist. Smith believed in God and a moral universe that was reflective of God’s character. A man who pursues his own interest in economic exchanges is in reality “led by an invisible hand,” so that [b]y pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.”3
Smith’s “invisible hand” is the hand of “Providence.” In his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) Smith points out that acting in a virtuous way has social benefits by way of cooperation “with the Deity.”
But by acting according to the dictates of our moral faculties, we necessarily pursue the most effectual means for promoting the happiness of mankind, and may therefore be said, in some sense, to co-operate with the Deity, and to advance as far as in our power the plan of Providence. By acting other ways, on the contrary, we seem to obstruct, in some measure, the scheme which the Author of nature has established for the happiness and perfection of the world, and to declare ourselves, if I may say so, in some measure the enemies of God. Hence we are naturally encouraged to hope for his extraordinary favour and reward in the one case, and to dread his vengeance and punishment in the other.
Adam Smith believed in a moral universe because he believed that God set the moral standards for behavior.
If there is no God, then there is no morality that has to be obeyed. There may be behaviors that an atheist claims are moral or immoral, but there is no ultimate judge that says so, either on this side of the grave or on the other side.
Given atheistic assumptions about the origin of the universe and evolution from molecule to man, will there be any difference at death between the most moral person and the most immoral person other than the obituaries that are written about them by the living? Both will turn to dust, and not a single molecule of their dusty remains will be treated any differently based on how they lived.
In 1991, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a convicted-murderer’s death sentence because the justices ruled that the defendant deserved a resentencing hearing because the prosecutor improperly quoted the Bible in his closing arguments.4
Karl S. Chambers was convicted of fatally beating 70-year-old Anna May Morris while robbing her of her Social Security money. District Attorney H. Stanley Rebert told the jurors, “Karl Chambers has taken a life. As the Bible says, ‘And the murderer shall be put to death.’”5 Why is murder wrong? Why is murder punished by evolved beings? Other “animals” aren’t punished for murdering other animals.
If there is no God, there are no absolute rules. Survival of the fittest prevails. We got to this place, says an evolutionists like Dawkins, by a series of bloody and violent struggles. Given the assumptions of evolution, not only was quoting the Bible during the sentencing hearing improper, but so was the conviction. If I, as a consistent evolutionist, were defending Mr. Chambers during his resentencing hearing based on the ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, my line of argument would have gone something like this:
Defense Counsel (DC): Mr. Chambers, did you go to public school?
Chambers: Yes, sir.
DC: Did you have a class in biology?
Chambers: Yes, sir.
DC: Were you taught that man evolved over long periods of time and that the strongest organisms survived over the weaker ones?
Chambers: Yes, sir.
DC: Did you learn that these were the natural and positive consequences of evolution?
Chambers: Yes, sir.
DC: Were you taught the Bible in public school?
Chambers: No, sir! It was not permitted.
DC (to the jury): Ladies and Gentlemen. You spent your hard-earned tax dollars educating this young man. It’s been said that our students are not learning what they’ve been taught. Now we find out that when a person does master his lessons, we put him on trial. You are here today because some strong ancestor eliminated a weaker ancestor somewhere along the evolutionary tree. We are proud of our evolutionary heritage. Look how far we’ve come due to the elimination of so-called “weak links.” How can Mr. Chambers be faulted when he followed the evolutionary tradition he learned in school? In addition, you heard the prosecuting attorney in the first trial tell us, “As the Bible says, ‘And the murderer shall be put to death.’” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned Mr. Chambers’ death sentence because the prosecutor quoted from the Bible. The same Bible that says that a “murderer shall be put to death” also states that murder is wrong. If the Bible is inadmissible in the one case, specifying punishment, then it ought to be inadmissible in the other case, specifying what constitutes a crime.
In the 1925 “Scope’s Trial,” the defendant, John Scopes, taught from an approved school textbook that was written by George Hunter with the title A Civic Biology by George Hunter.6 The book is not so much a scientific defense of Darwinism but a rehearsal of “Darwinism’s social implications. In particular, chapter seventeen discusses the application to human society of ‘the laws of selection’ and approves the eugenic policies and scientific racism common in the United States at the time.” (Scopes, a substitute teacher planted by the ACLU to test Tennessee’s anti-evolution law, was teaching his students from chapter seventeen.)
“Hunter believed that it would be criminal to hand down ‘handicaps’ to the next generation and regarded families with a history of tuberculosis, epilepsy and feeblemindedness as ‘parasitic on society.’ The remedy, according to Hunter, is to prevent breeding.”7 Here’s how Hunter put it:
If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race.8
Evolution validated the eugenics movement by giving it scientific legitimacy. The same was true about entrenched ideas concerning race.9 “Hunter believed that the most evolved of the ‘races of man’ is that of ‘the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America,’ which is ‘the highest type of all.’”10
Atheists will swear up and down that they are just as moral as theists. I would say that as atheists, operating with atheist presuppositions, they are neither moral nor immoral. They are nothing more than biological action figures. Their behavior has no consequential moral meaning because it is nothing more than a physical reaction, a by-product of chemical reactions and electricity.
- Edward O. Wilson, Let’s Accept the Fault Line between Faith and Science, USA Today (January 15, 2006). The evolutionist cannot account for the existence of biological elements and the laws of physics and chemistry. Why are there laws(↩)
- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), chap. 1.(↩)
- The material on Adam Smith is taken from Jerry Bowyer, God and the Economists, Forbes (August 17, 2011).(↩)
- The Marietta Daily Journal (November 9, 1991), 6A.(↩)
- Court Rejects Bible, The Atlanta Journal (November 16, 1991), E6.(↩)
- Philip J. Sampson, 6 Modern Myths About Christianity & Civilization (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2001), 54.(↩)
- Sampson, 6 Modern Myths About Christianity, 54-55.(↩)
- George W. Hunter, A Civic Biology (New York: American Book, 1914), 263. Quoted in Sampson, 6 Modern Myths, 55.(↩)
- Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another. The full title of Darwin’s book was On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Racism is not the same as bigotry or “prejudice.(↩)
- Sampson, 6 Modern Myths About Christianity, 55.(↩)