Philosophy & Ideas

The Origins of Morality: God versus Nature

Morality is central to who we are. Despite large-scale moral lapses down the centuries and a myriad of smaller ones in everyday life, we must be moral creatures, at least overwhelmingly so. If this were not the case, we would surely lead a very fearful, brutal, rude and tenuous existence. Is this morality a gift from God or is it from evolving nature? This is an important question as religious observance fades in the Western world. God is immutable. The state of nature is not.

Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, published in 1759, reflected the predominant view of his time:

The happiness of mankind as well as of all other creatures seems to have been the original purpose of the Author of Nature when he brought them into existence … 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.

Times have changed and there is now a large body of opinion, tracing back to Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, that believes morality to be a product of nature, unaided by any deity.

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Both Darwinians and those who believe in a creator agree that our drive to do good and to act decently with one another is innate. However, there is irreconcilable disagreement about where this comes from. Is it from God, as Adam Smith assumes, or from nature? In exploring that question, I will talk about God and religion somewhat interchangeably but, at the last, will also argue that it is important to keep in mind a distinction between the two.

Paul Kelly, writing in the Australian on August 28, quoted Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser speaking at the St Thomas More Society: “The maintenance of religion and religious institutions is vital to the moral ecology of our nation.” Leeser’s view is common in Judeo-Christian conservative circles. Here is US Attorney-General William Barr speaking (and brilliantly I think) at the University of Notre Dame on October 11:

Religion helps promote moral discipline within society … the [consequences] of the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism … have been grim. Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground.

Here is British commentator Melanie Phillips writing in her newsletter in November:

The attack on the West has been driven by the combined forces of secularism and Marxist beliefs posing as liberalism, with the aim of creating a new world order in which God is dethroned by mankind, biblical morality is replaced by secular ideology, and truth is subordinated to power.

I would like to be more specific than Leeser, Barr and Phillips. I believe that the maintenance of Christianity and Christian institutions is vital to the continued reinforcement of our moral values. I am happy to throw in Judaism—Christianity’s root—into the mix. Of the rest I am indifferent except to note with emphasis that no one in their right mind would say that Islam reinforces the moral values which have underpinned Western civilisation. That isn’t a provocative statement; simply one founded in reality.

To say that not everyone agrees that morality is beholden to God or religion is an understatement. Richard Dawkins is a leading figure among the many who hold a contrary view. In prosecuting his view, he faces two historical facts, both of which he acknowledges. First, in his uncompromising words in The God Delusion, “no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking rituals, the anti-factual, counter-productive fantasies of religion”. Second, all cultures and societies have moral standards which, if not entirely coincident, are broadly similar. Thus, religion and morality have been integral parts of human history. However, this doesn’t mean that one is related to the other. And Dawkins sees no relationship between the two.

Dawkins believes that religion and morality are independent of each other. At the same time, in his world, there is no getting away from the inevitability that both must spring from the same evolutionary forces. Everything about the way we look, act and think must be rooted in these forces if, indeed, as he believes, we emerged from extremely primitive life forms through spontaneous variations and natural selection. As Charles Darwin himself put it, “natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being”.

There is a question to answer. How come Darwinian natural selection which, as Dawkins writes, “habitually targets and eliminates waste” did not weed out religion, which is “so wasteful, so extravagant”? Dawkins does not pretend he knows the definitive answer; which is fine. He offers a theory which I will cover later, though its specifics are not so important. What is important to understand is that whatever the question dealing with human development, Dawkins and those who believe as he does never leave their plantation. For them, the answer must lie in evolutionary theory. It cannot possibly lie outside.

This belief in the completeness of evolutionary theory is both a weakness and strength. Justified or not, it constitutes by definition a blinkered search for the truth. On the other hand, it is powerfully immune from contradiction. There is simply nothing that cannot be explained by evolutionary conjecture. This is not necessarily science in the Popperian sense because it is hard to disprove conjecture. But it is watertight, inspired by an absolute conviction that if something can’t be explained by evolutionary theory today it will be explicable tomorrow or on some future day. The drawbridge is up and the moat wide and full. Religion has no way in.

You might think that religion is more accommodating of evolutionary theory than evolutionary theory is of religion. Seemingly it is. In reality, it is not. Take Francis Collins in The Language of God. Here we have a leading scientist, writing in 2006 when head of the Human Genome Project, explaining his apparent acceptance of all of the tenets of Darwinian evolution yet believing in God. Collins goes as far as any believer of God can go in embracing evolutionary theory. But it simply won’t do.

Collins’s God isn’t the one using Intelligent Design to mould evolution, as is favoured by some Christians trying to build a bridge between evolution and religion. Intelligent Design mainly rests on the irreducible complexity of the simplest life forms. In other words, if multiple co-dependent components are needed to make even the simplest life form, without any one of which it wouldn’t work, which is apparently the case, how does natural selection alone account for the “miraculous” coming together of all components at the one time? A mystery indeed and one which John Lennox, Dawkins’s occasional antagonist, explores in God’s Undertaker. However, the problem with seeing irreducible complexity as the pathway to God is that science has a way of explaining tomorrow what is inexplicable today.

Collins, in my view, sensibly rejects Intelligent Design, which is essentially a variant of a “god of the gaps” theory, in favour of what he calls “theistic evolution”. This points to God outside of time and space who, as Collins says, “created the universe and the established laws which govern it”. Thus, “the outcome would be entirely specified [but] from our perspective … would appear [to be] a random and undirected process”.

In short, God determined, and knew, by the way he started the process of creation and its guiding laws, that it would inevitably evolve to where it is. “Intelligent conception” is perhaps a better term to describe this process than the one Collins uses. But whatever it is called, I happen to find this idea, this conjecture, for that is all it can be, about the relationship of God to existence, to be the most appealing of those available. However, that is by the way. We should be clear. This way of looking at things is as equally exclusionary of evolutionary theory as evolutionary theory is of religion. To understand why this is so, it is instructive to again turn to Dawkins; most particularly to his account in The Blind Watchmaker, where it is made clear that evolution is a bottom-up process blind to its fulfilment. In other words, it is blind to the way things will turn out. This is the complete opposite of the top-down approach of intelligent conception. There is no blindness there. God knows exactly how things will turn out.

The competing theories have no substantive meeting place. Those who believe in God fool themselves if they think that accepting natural selection gives them a taste of the Pierian Spring. If you do not accept the bottom-up process as being all that there is to evolution then, to Dawkins and his fellow travellers, you are akin to those who believe in tooth fairies and hobgoblins.

I was struggling to find a down-to-earth analogy to explain the unrepairable rift between the two theories. Here is one. In poker, everyone agrees that the evolvement of two pairs into a full house occurs on drawing a fifth card of the same value as one in either of the two pairs. But an unresolved question is whether the deck was randomly shuffled or stacked. That is an important question in poker. Its counterpart question in the theory of evolution is a defining one.

Dawkins, and evolutionists generally, look to natural selection to explain morality. The underlying explanation is that acting morally was advantageous at both an individual and societal level. For example, in primitive societies, without the benefit of insurance companies and government bail-outs, people depended on their kin and neighbours to help them in hard times. So, they helped others in expectation of being helped. Societies within which this didn’t happen would not fare as well; as neither would societies within which a large proportion of people were thieves and murderers.

By the way, I don’t think we are meant to assume that there were primitive societies within which people were complete rotters to each other and thus perished. Moral behaviour must have been built in at earlier stages of evolution. It’s a bootstraps theory of moral behaviour; eventually codified. The codes, drawn up and taught, reflected the proposition that something was prohibited if its large-scale adoption would be damaging to societal survival and flourishing. We, most of us at least, thus became good through genes and memes. The theory is unassailable in the sense that it can’t be disproved.

According to Dawkins, religion is a misfiring by-product of valuable evolutionary traits. He mentions numbers of possible candidates to explain this, provisionally favouring regard for authority. This regard for authority takes on mythical forms fuelled by dualism—the innate but, in his view, common misconception that the mind and material body are separate. Children, he notes, survive better if they do what grown-ups tell them. It is a short step from this to have regard for priestly authority and for an ultimate authority operating on a non-material spiritual level. The form of the ultimate authority, varying at different times and in different places, becomes a meme passed from one generation to the next.

It is not important that my concise take on Dawkins’s complex accounts of the possible development of morality and religiosity is exactly right or complete. The central point, which runs through everything he writes, is that morality and religiosity, like any other aspect of human behaviour, must be explicable in one way or another by natural selection. For example, on the suggestion that there might be a cerebral disposition to believe in God, Dawkins says this: “If neuroscientists find a ‘god centre’ in the brain, Darwinian scientists like me will want to understand the natural selection pressure that favoured it.”

On religion, Dawkins and other atheists make a lot of the Bible having passages which provide a poor guide to moral behaviour. For example, there is a deal of slaughter and some questionable treatment of women in the Old Testament. How do Christians square this? My own perspective is informed by a cautionary appreciation that our puny human minds might not be up to comprehending the context and import of everything in scripture. The anguished attempts by Job and his companions to comprehend the mind of God in the face of Job’s unjust torment is emblematic of the problem. C.S. Lewis in his essay “The Weight of Glory” provides insight into our limitations: “Heaven is, by definition, outside of our experience, but all intelligible descriptions must be of things within our experience.” These limitations are not embraced by those who believe in only what can be seen and touched or potentially seen and touched.

Former Presbyterian minister and later self-proclaimed rationalist, Mangasar Mugurditch Mangasarian (1859–1943), was as fervent as modern militant atheists in prosecuting the case against religion. He does not appear among the most prominent of theologians in any list I can find but his address “Morality without God”, delivered in Chicago in 1905, is a tour de force. It contains all of the principal arguments that atheists would want in their kitbags. He had invited the bishop of the Episcopal Church in Chicago along to provide counter-arguments but was rebuffed, which was probably sensible of the bishop.

Mangasarian frames his arguments around a number of propositions. First, that there are many good people who are not religious. Second, that there are many religions and they can’t all be right. Third, that the character of God is unknown to us despite what priests tell us. Fourth, that the God of the Old Testament routinely breaks his own commandments by, for example, encouraging killing, adultery and theft. (Mangasarian doesn’t mention Allah but you have to think that the Islamic god would provide him with even more ammunition.) Fifth, that Jesus’s advice to turn the other cheek is misconceived and would leave us victims of every evil, morbidity and iniquity. And lastly, and key, that acting morally for the sake of earning reward in an afterlife is ignoble as compared with the nobility of acting morally simply for the sake of it.

This summary of mine does not catch the richness and flamboyance of Mangasarian’s assault on religion. They obviously came from his heart. To give a flavour: “The God of the Jewish and Christian scriptures is not a moral being.” “We are better than our beliefs, better than our creeds.” “There is nothing more immoral than unending torture.” “I can not think of a greater insult to human conscience than to say that this fearful establishment [Hell] with its everlasting stench in our nostrils is the parent of all virtue, and that if its fires were to be extinguished there would be an end to human morality.”

Mangasarian and Dawkins would undoubtedly be in furious agreement on most things; certainly, they would agree on the relationship between God and morality. As Mangasarian puts it: “The scientist’s position is that morality is independent of a belief in God.” Believers dissent, seeing the whole process of human evolvement as being set in motion top-down by God. At the same time, some of the incidental arguments of non-believers are far from trivial. In particular, we all know good people who do not believe in God.

These days, many of our friends and family members might not be believers. Of course, this is not conclusive. Those with any lineage in the West will have been influenced by Christianity and Christian traditions. And everyone else comes from a society influenced by religious cum spiritual traditions of some kind, most of which have some variant of the Golden Rule. So, disentangling human behaviour from the influence of religion is not straightforward. Is it important to try? It depends upon the inquiry. When it comes to the relationship between morality and God it leads down a false trail. Focusing on religion, on its character, on its effects, or on its observance or non-observance, is beside the point. God isn’t religion.

Atheists like Dawkins and rationalists (or humanists) like Mangasarian fight robustly but without landing any telling blows on God. They are here, as it were, among religions and human beings, while God is over there, at some considerable distance. Nothing that Dawkins says about the bottom-up development of morality grapples with Servais Pinckaers’s conviction (in Morality: The Catholic View) that “the moral law expresses the divine will”. C.S. Lewis has the same conviction. In Mere Christianity he begins developing his theme this way: “We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion … We have only got as far as a Somebody of Something behind the Moral Law.” He instructively notes that this moral law takes on similar characteristics across time and in different nations and cultures.

Simply put, Pinckaers and Lewis have “thou shalt not” predating the tablets of stone. It can be summed up this way. Religion reinforces moral values and therefore to believers performs an indispensable role in underpinning a well-ordered and moral society. However, that is not the same thing as saying that religion created those same moral values. 

Whether you are Pinckaers or Lewis or Dawkins, you equally believe that the moral law has been hard-wired into human beings. To that extent there is a meeting of minds of a sort, but one that offers no resolution. The premises are poles apart. At the same time, the unfolding experience is the same regardless of the premise. Thus, evidence and empiricism have no power to uncover the truth.

What evidence might be culled does not go to the central issue of whether morality is a product of God’s will or man’s evolution. It can potentially go to the effect of religion and its observance in determining the extent to which society and morality at times draw closer together and at times drift further apart. Much has been written on whether religion has been more a cause for good or for ill. Historians can pick woeful parts of history and make a case either way, depending, at least in part, on their political and religious dispositions. But that is commentary on the past. As we speak, a decline in religious observance is unfolding in the West; certainly, when it comes to Christianity. How is morality doing?

My view, along with the views of Julian Leeser, William Barr and Melanie Phillips, is that morality is suffering. Moral values are not being reinforced as they should. However, not everyone is similarly minded. Unfortunately, or perhaps inevitably, the interpretation of current experience is as susceptible to the religiosity and political leanings of observers as are past experiences.

Some look at societal developments like the undermining of the presumption of innocence and of free speech; the rise of identity politics, new tribalism and victimhood; the elevation of agenda-driven factoids over facts; bringing LGBTQ sexual preferences into classrooms; and the relaxation of laws and conventions around abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage, as some prominent examples of a causal connection between a decline in religious observance and moral regression. Others see these developments as redressing past wrongs or part of a laudable flowering of human expression and freedom. I know this, because (sadly) I know some such people.

But, to be clear, debate about societal developments and religious observance does not directly bear on the central unresolvable question. Are we, and the way we are innately programmed to behave, the end product of bottom-up natural selection or the end product of divine top-down creation? I plump unequivocally for the latter and pin my hopes for our future on it. At the same time, I can’t help but admire the unquestioning certainty of Dawkins. In words essentially matching those attributed to Catholic historian Hugh Ross Williamson in describing agnostics, he’s certainly not one of those “wishy-washy boneless mediocrities who flaps around in the middle”.

Peter Smith, a regular contributor, wrote on “Christianity and the Economic Order” in the January-February 2019 issue.

 

26 comments
  • lloveday

    In God Delusion, Dawkins cites a 1-7 scale where 1 represents a probability of 1.0 (100%) that God exists and 7 represents a probability of 0.0 (0%) that God exists, Dawkins classified himself as a 6 – viz he thinks there is a significant 14% possibility of God existing. To me that, unless, like misogyny, atheist has be redefined, marks Dawkins as an agnostic rather than an atheist.
    .
    Adding to the veracity of that tag is the title of Chapter 4 “Why there almost certainly is no God” – again Dawkins declines to deny the possibility of God existing.
    .
    Horses win at 7.00 (14% chance) every day; I got 6.90 about Trump – 14% is, to me, far from indicating “the unquestioning certainty of Dawkins”
    .
    I don’t know Dawkins but my feeling is he says and writes for money, not from any serious conviction.
    .
    PS: I got 9.20 about Bloomberg getting the Demorats nomination (now into 4.60).

  • gavanhe

    Having read Stephen Meyers “Darwins doubt” and the “Signature in the cell”, I am now of the persuasion of Intelligent design. The astounding complexity of the cell and it’s intricate workings leave little to no doubt that intelligence was required to create it. Whence this intelligence…..? There can be no doubt that it is all Gods’ work. No mere God of the gaps. The cell is prior to evolution. No cell no evolution!
    One astounding fact: there are somewhere near 10 raised to the power of 80 elementary particles in the universe, to create one functioning protein (a relatively simple protein) consisting of 150 amino acids of which there are 20 requires one chance in 150 raised to the power of 20 to get it right, a truly impressive figure.

  • Andrew Campbell

    Thanks Peter.

    I’ve spent the last few days trying to get three chooks to accept another. The three are settled and happy, daily free-ranging. But would they accept the new chook?” No way. He was pecked, hounded, and chased away. Now he won’t go into the cage at night and will soon become fox’s dinner.

    What’s the point? Well, there are two possibilities. There’s an evolutionary/atheistic worldview that says the chooks are just doing their thing, progressing their species, eliminating the weakest. It’s all nature, normal, and has to be ‘moral.’

    On the other hand, perhaps there’s a God, God who didn’t make a world like this in the beginning; and it won’t be like it at the ending. God who will one day redeem and restore His world and perfect it. Give me the later worldview any day.

  • Ian MacDougall

    A well-written piece by Peter Smith on just about the oldest topic around.
    I went to a public lecture by the philosopher of science Daniel C Dennett of Tufts University a while back, at which he pronounced that in his view, Charles Darwin was the greatest scientist who ever lived: “greater than Newton; greater than Einstein.” That was in Dennett’s view because Darwin’s theory had such wide applications and implications for so many fields across the whole of biology and perhaps even beyond.
    One estimate: There are about 100 billion stars in our galaxy, up to 10 trillion galaxies in the universe. That means up to 10^24 (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars. As well, there are up to ~10^22 (19,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars similar to our Sun, each having at least one planet similar to Earth.
    All this is in a Universe estimated to be 13.8 billion years old, which brings to mind the comment of JBS Haldane to the effect that the Universe is not only most likely queerer than we suppose, but also queerer than we can suppose.
    The Bible has largely lost the authority it once had on Nature, and priests and prophets held to be in constant communication with The Creator of the Universe have been surprisingly ignorant of the truths of it revealed by science. (Christ himself is reported to have cured a madman by commanding the demons to come out of him. The man was likely suffering from schizophrenia, the latest research on which indicates it may be due to chronic inflammation of the brain. Christ appears to have been unaware of that.)
    The God held to have created all of the Universe and laid down the laws of Nature, is also reported in the Bible to have disguised himself as a burning bush.(!) Evil in the world is down to a talking snake, also created by God (maybe when he was not concentrating properly) which first corrupted Eve, who went on to corrupt Adam, by persuading him to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And what human discipline covers that? Why, philosophy: which includes all of science.
    I think it likely that in the Bible we see the battle shaping up between religion and philosophy, which has seen religion retreat pretty decisively.
    But the greatest insight I have found is that of the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who maintained that in any religious ritual, the congregation or group involved is actually worshipping itself. It that idea is there IMHO in Matthew 5.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/11/15/the-number-of-earth-like-planets-in-the-universe-is-staggering-heres-the-math/#50fb3e634932

  • PT

    Ian Mac. Typical comment of a tool who fails to understand what he reads!

    Firstly, our galaxy is a giant amongst galaxys. Secondly, Sir Fred Hoyle undertook your “probability analysis” but with much greater mathematical understanding, and decided that the odds of creating matter that had self awareness was a few orders of magnitude greater than the possible numbers of habitable planets taken from even the most optimistic estimates.

    Do I really need to push further?

    My issue with you is the very inconsistent claim that lefties have to “scientific truth”! Something conspicuously absent with GMOs, fracking, etc. Your clear animus with mining fits in perfectly!

  • Ian MacDougall

    PT:
    Your rant is noted, as are your unfounded and questionable assumptions. Also I have no trouble with genetically modified organisms, if that is what you refer to by GMOs. You provide no cited reference to Hoyle, so I cannot check that, nor his assumptions for that work. But SETI (championed by NASA astronomer Carl Sagan, who you may have heard of) goes on. I think it should. While we are on that, though its prospects are rather small, if successful it would be the scientific game-changer of all time, IMHO.
    “Do I really need to push further?” Yes, I think you have to.
    “My issue with you is the very inconsistent claim that lefties have to ‘scientific truth’!”
    Please explain? And how on Earth is that relevant to me? (nb: I assume you are speaking as a shill for coal.)
    .
    And re Peter’s article: the God of all that enormous Creation, from the galactic level down to that of quantum mechanics, was one who demanded appeasement via blood sacrifice, and so took human form and had himself crucified as a sacrifice of himself to himself. For the Original Sin, somehow transmitted down the generations to pollute us all; via a mechanism no geneticist I am aware of has ever suggested or postulated upon, raised in conversation, or even hinted at.
    .
    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51223704

  • deric davidson

    There is an on going rise in satanism and the occult around the world. Satan is real as is hell. The need and the call for exorcisms is on the rise. Moral decay is on the rise even within religious institutions. There’s not a climate emergency world wide there is a moral emergency. As more and more deny God (as did Lucifer) things are going from bad to worse in societies around the world – a rise in hate, division, violence and the abominations and perversions of abortion and sodomy. The Dems in the US are a personification of this collapse in morality.

  • Ian MacDougall

    deric:
    “There is an on going rise in satanism and the occult around the world.” Be that as it may. But we, and perhaps some other species of social animals, could not function socially without the ability to empathise, which in turn rests on perception, which is at the heart of intelligence. (Some psychologists maintain that intelligence is perception.)
    Christ’s Golden Rule is all about empathy. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ = ‘see any situation as your neighbour sees it; imagine yourself in your neighbour’s situation.’
    nb: The earliest formulation of the Golden Rule apparently comes from Confucius, in the 6th C BC.

  • Rob Brighton

    Jordan Petersen seems to thread the needle rather neatly with his theories outlined in Maps of Meaning without denying god. From my understanding, he claims the underlying metaphors in stories such as religious texts provided a method by which moral teachings were passed generationally to the benefit of society.

  • pgang

    Jordan Peterson is in rehab for drug abuse. The man is a crackpot.

  • Rob Brighton

    Are you really sneering at someone addicted to prescription medicine in this day and age?

    “Mikhaila Peterson said that her father started taking benzodiazepines years ago after an “extremely severe auto-immune reaction to food”. After his wife, Tammy, had terminal kidney cancer diagnosed last April, his dose was increased, leading to physical dependence.”

    So thats a crackpot then eh? Seems legit.

  • pgang

    Peter Smith the question is resolvable. The question is this: Am I going to accept God as boss, or do I insist on being my own boss? The correct answer leads to life and logic. The incorrect answer spirals into irrationality and horror. There are only two philosophies in life: Christianity or humanism. All other -isms and so-called religions are a subset of humanism.

    If you choose humanism, then you face a world of mental anguish in relation to the meaning and source of existence. Confusion reigns supreme. It boils down to a fundamental concept: does ultimacy exist in the One – the universe, natural law, the heavens, interconnections; or does it exist in the Many – individuals, chaos, atoms, things in themselves? The problem for such existentialism (all non Christianity is existential), is that you must choose sides with one or the other, but you can’t have both. But if you choose one side as ultimate, then all meaning falls in upon itself.

    Here is where Christians hold the high ground. Because God is separate from nature, and consists of three persons as one, both the ideal and the real coexist perfectly within God’s nature, and this perfection is passed on to creation. Therefore, in the Trinitarian God, we have the answer to the great philosophical questions of life. To be rational then, we must choose God.

    Of course we are all humanists – that is our Adamic inheritance. Christians are set apart only because we put our faith in a new Jesus-based inheritance of God-in-control. So we have a Christian duty to listen to God and ignore the invalid teachings of men. This is not easy. But the Word tells us clearly that all things originated from God, and also gives us a specific account of creation and the history of the world, including its age. To read this account any other way is to do great violence to its clear meaning, to core theology, and soteriology itself. The world was created perfectly (without death) in 6 days. It is a little older than 6,000 years. This is absolutely non negotiable, because God tells us it is so.

    So why are you reading Dawkins? He has nothing sensible to say on the matter (yes I have read an early work of his – utter nonsense, basing his whole belief system on a totally irrelevant algorithm). Like many you probably find the creation account difficult to swallow, because society is awash with Darwinism and the ridiculous concept of long ages. So as a Christian, why aren’t you educating yourself in these matters? There is a wealth of scientific material available today from Christian scientists who have torn up the evolutionary play book and are making great in-roads into creation based scientific analyses and theories.

    The world is 6,000 years old, end of story. Morality exists because of God, end of story. That is the basis upon which to examine the world, both scientifically and philosophically. There is no ‘evidence’ for billions of years. You can count all the isotopes you like, but it doesn’t tell you anything about how they started life. ‘Long ages’ is an axiom, just as ‘6,000 years’ is. Have you ever researched any of the writings of your fellow Christian scientists committed to the Bible, or do you think that only atheists and liberals have a say in science and philosophy?

  • Rob Brighton

    It’s been shown that over 30% of scientists believe in God. Since the survey used was conducted in the United States, I think we can say that this is the same narcissistic, yet strangely elusive genocidal maniac depicted in the book that is used to justify the refusal to embrace the mental state the rest of us call sanity.
    The difference between them and creationists is that these individuals see the world as being a little more complex than a child’s colouring book. They have both a respect for the truth over their own fragile egos and also an aversion to making delusional fools of themselves in public, and so have found a way of incorporating a healthy dose of reality into their beliefs.
    Since it would be perfectly consistent with these beliefs, I don’t doubt that these rational theistic scientists would have any problem in embracing creation’s simplistic world view should it actually be supported by a little something called “any evidence at all.”
    All you have to do is find a taxon or two that contains members that bear a vestige or have been documented to produce atavisms that could not have been derived from a character in a basal ancestor, and you’ll have finished evolutionary theory. Not nearly as simple as broad unsupported statements on the web I grant you but with such confidence as is brimming in your post it should be a walk in the park for you.
    I also want to point out a fundamental error in a staggeringly naïve assumption that creationists seem to take for granted. You see, you appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that if evolution were disproved tomorrow this would somehow validate your particular creation fable.

  • deric davidson

    ID is an alternative explanation (alternative to neo-Darwinism) for the origins of what we scientifically observe (often in detail) in nature. That is, it is not simply a ‘god of the gaps’ hypothesis. The most iconic application of ID relates to the encoding (programming) of the DNA molecule. This encoding cannot be sustained using a scenario of accident or randomness in its generation. It requires intelligence as all workable encoding does.

  • Alice Thermopolis

    “They, looking back, all th’ eastern side beheld
    Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
    Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
    With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms.
    Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
    The world was all before them, where they choose
    Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
    They hand in hand, with wand’ring steps and slow,
    Through Eden took their solitary way.”

    (Book XII, lines 641-649, Paradise Lost, John Milton, 1957-1665)

  • Ian MacDougall

    Rob: Well said.
    pgang: your question to Peter Smith: “So as a Christian, why aren’t you educating yourself in these matters? There is a wealth of scientific material available today from Christian scientists who have torn up the evolutionary play book and are making great in-roads into creation based scientific analyses and theories.”
    Citations would be a help there. Which scientists are saying this? And from what fields and contexts?
    “There are only two philosophies in life: Christianity or humanism. All other -isms and so-called religions are a subset of humanism.” Well that is one way of sorting the world out.
    Theologians have had a hard time telling fact from legend and folk-tale in the Bible, and particularly in the NT. But if we take that NT as a reliable historical record, then we are left with the fact that the founder of Christianity, one Yeshua bar Joseph, was born, lived and died in the Jewish faith. Judaism had spawned many sects in the course of its long history; as the old Jewish joke goes, “if you’ve got two Jews together in a room, you will have at least three opinions.”
    Christianity would probably have died out but for the fact that it was siezed on by Greeks in the cities of Asia Minor particularly. They used it as a means of reconciling themselves to the (transitory) dominance of Rome: far more difficult for the Jews, who went through the historic ordeal of revolts suppressed and Roman revenge: destruction of their city of Jerusalem and their Temple in 70 AD.
    The religions of the world from Aboriginal legends to Zoroastrianism, all base themselves on revelation of some kind. Scientific knowledge on the other hand, only comes through reason; including ‘hunches’. Science is 100% included in philosophy.
    But in choosing which religion out of the many on offer to follow, use of reason cannot be avoided. To Christians, their religion is the most logical choice of them all. And ancestry plays its part.
    Your post above shows this line of thinking.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(70_CE).

  • T B LYNCH

    Creation started with the Big Bang, discovered [much to the surprise of Einstein] by Catholic Priest and mathematician extraordinaire, Father George Le Maitre in 1927. The Big Bang created energy, momentum and time. As genesis says, Gods first act was to separate light from dark ie matter from energy/momentum and this is perfectly true. All this happened 13 billion years ago [though Le Maitres first estimate based in incorrect inputs was 2 billion years]. All of space-time is known to God, because God [as Saint Augustine correctly deduced] is outside of his creation [just as you can see the whole of the moon at a glance – being outside of the moon].

    God put 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the sky to cover the very low probability of the emergence of life. I define Life as information which can organise its own copying. Shakespeares plays are alive but they require a complex substrate – intelligent people who speak English. But you dear reader also require a complex substrate – Earth, Sun, Galaxy [to supply your elements made in supernovae] and the whole Universe [to cover low probability]. God is the life form which requires no substrate: being alive God copied himself as Christ, and force between them emerged as the Holy Spirit.

    Early life forms emerged in hydrothermal vents, making a living deriving 1/10 volt from inorganic molecules. One special day an entrepreneurial life form invented an antenna to harvest 2 volts from light, and escaped to the surface. A daughter life form invented RUBISCO to store the electricity as oxygen and sugar. RUBISCOs side effect was to reduce 99.995% of the CO2 still on Venus to all the oxygen on Earth. Oxygen allowed the evolution of multicellular life 500,000,000 years ago with its higher energy requirements.

    The final step in human evolution was the fusion of two chimpanzee chromosomes to form human chromosome #2. Many human genes, in particular the housekeeping genes, are shared with bacteria, and are 3,000,000,000 years old. Finally bacteria invented sex [one cell in a billion – same as in a human female] 3 billion years ago, to keep up with a changing Earth.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON

    Before Richard Dawkins writings in The God Delusion, there was the Holy Spirit inspired words of the apostle Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians: 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12:

    “and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness”.

    Simply put, God sends a strong delusion to those who chose not to believe the gospel of Christ. Those who take delight in mocking and rejecting Him, He will condemn.

    In Shakespearian terminology Richard Dawkins hoist with his own petard.

  • T B LYNCH

    When I was a student there was a dilemma – viruses can be crystallised like chemicals and are therefore dead – but can reproduce if put into cells.
    Answer:- viruses are alive but require a complex substrate – living cells.
    As I said above, God is the life form which requires no substrate.

  • Stoneboat

    Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
    Hebrews 11:3
    .

    No need to explain Creation – God gives a measure of faith to those He chooses, and we understand what the heart has already accepted.

  • T B LYNCH

    I have been asked about sex in bacteria. Lederberg discovered this in 1946 and also showed that it took about an hour. Only one cell in a billion becomes a boy or a girl, which is why it was not discovered until 1946. [there are no homosexual bacteria – homosexuality is a biological dead end].
    Similarly a human female zygote may produce 1,000,000,000,000,000 daughter cells in a life time. One in a billion = one million cells become eggs by the time she is a twenty week foetus.
    Symmetry in Nature.

  • Doubting Thomas

    phang, your comment about Jordan Peterson tells us much more about you than it does about him, and none of it is to be proud of.

  • pgang

    Doubting Thomas, nice virtue signalling. Peterson’s ideas are all over the place. He stands as a public mouthpiece yet has a serious drug addiction issue. This is not how normal thinking people operate. But apparently I’m not allowed to criticise because, like everyone else, he is susceptible to personal tragedy; but mainly because some people think he’s marvellous. So what I am hearing from you is that I have no right to criticise because I am a lesser human. That says more about you than it does about me. But you go ahead and give up on critical thinking when it comes to popular public figures if you want.

  • pmprociv

    mmm

  • pmprociv

    Having thought about this most of my life, and argued about it endlessly with others of varying beliefs, I have come to two fundamental conclusions: (1) you can’t deny faith, which cannot be argued against logically; and (2) there must be an evolutionary explanation for religious belief. After all, it is manifested by all human societies, without exception, albeit in a huge array of forms, but with some underlying common features. Pertinently, no other species shows any inclination towards similar thinking, yet many demonstrate what could be interpreted as morality of some sort.
    Whether a supernatural deity exists or not is beyond human comprehension, or ability to prove or disprove. However, why one chooses a particular belief system over another usually boils down to where one was born, and/or raised. The author of this article was, I suspect, born into a Western Christian family; I very much doubt he’d be writing like this from a domicile in Saudi Arabia, say.
    My evolutionary explanation is too long to include here, but is reasonably expounded in my recent article in The Skeptic magazine (Teleology: Reason to believe. September 2019; 39(3): 56-8)
    Essentially, as toolmakers par excellence (and avid exploiters of other animal species, as well as fire and the lithosphere), humans had no choice but to view the world as belonging to them, and everything in it, including themselves, as having some essential purpose, i.e. an ultimate teleological approach to the world. The natural extension of such beliefs is that we, ourselves, just like all our tools and exploitable natural resources, must have a purpose and, therefore, a conscious creator. This is a direct result of how we evolved, and are hardwired. Morality is simply based on the “golden rule”, of course, essential to survival in complex societies, especially for a species that is the ultimate social animal; it is also a mandatory requirement for our complex tool-making and -utilising skills.
    Furthermore, religious belief then serves as a very powerful tribal glue, perhaps the most potent of all, but not surprisingly, is readily susceptible to exploitation by unscrupulous power-seekers. And, while religion might serve to strengthen in-group bonding, it less considerate to those on the outside; morality often doesn’t transcend religious boundaries kindly. Need I say more?

  • whitelaughter

    Notable that an inability to understand evolution and an inability to understand how and why the majority of Christians accept always seem to go together.

    “There is simply nothing that cannot be explained by evolutionary conjecture. ”

    False. To be explained by evolution, it must be shown to help a species survive and spread. Morality does; which is why morality exists. (Note that the existence of God doesn’t get aorund this; a race created to be moral would cease if morality did not do so).

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