I recently saw a short video clip of psychologist Jordan Peterson explaining the difficulty of establishing unquestioned moral precepts in the absence of them being ordained by authority.[i] He illustrated the difficulty by using Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. In the novel the impoverished Raskolnikov murders an unscrupulous aging pawnbroker for her money, which he thinks will allow him to do great things. Leaving aside Raskolnikov’s subsequent mental anguish, the question is whether his original rationale for the crime can be justified.
After all, the world is rid of an aging parasite and gains a young person with the means to do good. What is wrong with that? Peterson’s point is that without an external point of reference, to wit a god figure, no watertight conclusion is possible. Peterson gives an entertaining performance. But his take on the matter is commonplace. Morality is just one of a number of concepts which lose specificity in the absence of God. Absolute truth, for example.
Does the precise and whole truth exist? We think it does but, beyond the trivial, fail to find it. Even scrupulously honest people who search for it will admit that coming close is all that can be expected. Ergo, effectively, it doesn’t exist unless an all-knowing God knows it. Analogous to Schrödinger’s cat, think of yourself asleep while camping alone in the deep woods. You will either awake or die in your sleep. Which of the two events are true will not be known to the world until you wander into town or a park ranger discovers your rotting corpse. But God would know.
Take equality between men and women. As a human concept it is meaningless. Men are stronger and faster than women and there is evidence of there being fewer women at the extreme end of high intelligence than there are men. Women are better looking and, according to Peterson, more likable. I will let women folk add to the many attributes of the fairer sex. But it will end inconclusively unless we bring in the Christian God.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
— Galatians 3:28
I happen to think that the absence of an objective and complete measure of morality, truth and equality among humankind points to God as the missing adjudicator. But this is not the kind of evidence you could take to a court. And it doesn’t move militant atheists like Richard Dawkins.
They are steeped in this material world within which all aspects of the human condition are shaped by evolution. God is absent the scene. In other words, you can argue earnestly and endlessly about the importance of God as the ultimate adjudicator. None of it comes to a hill of beans if God is non-existent, a fairy tale, as they firmly believe.
Dawkins (The God Delusion) puts religious beliefs; which, he concedes, all cultures have, down to “an accidental byproduct [of natural selection] – a misfiring of something useful.” His variant of this theory (there are others) has natural selection favouring the reproduction of children obedient to authority. Thus far, this makes sense. Children who mind their parents are less likely to be eaten by crocodiles or run over by trucks. However, according to Dawkins, this leaves the same said children susceptible to accepting fairy tales about god figures. How one leads to the other, I have no idea. It is an almighty stretch.
Almighty stretches litter evolutionary science. Dawkin’s proposition that belief in God is an accidental and misfiring byproduct of something useful for survival is without scientific foundation. Where is the evidence? How can the evidence ever be found? It is a pure guess and one that can’t be disproved.
Start with the certainty that natural selection can explain everything and, then, all observations must be shoe-horned in. And if one explanation doesn’t suit, Darwinians have others. Take our feathered friends.
Dawkins describes the activity of certain birds “such as jays, of ‘bathing’ in an ant’s nests or otherwise applying ants to their feathers.” He doesn’t know why, but notes, that this shouldn’t “stop Darwinians from presuming, with great confidence, that anting must be ‘for’ something…if the birds didn’t do it, their statistical prospects of genetic success would be damaged, even if we don’t know yet know the precise route of the damage.”
This is an example of what passes for evolutionary science. He speculates that the birds might be using the ants to rid themselves of parasites, while noting that “there are various other hypotheses, none of them strongly supported by the evidence.” You can say that again!
Why don’t other birds do it then? Are we to assume that the forerunner of jays which first engaged in anting thrived while those which didn’t died out? How did the anting birds ever discover this unlikely key to survival? Never mind, Dawkin’s quotes a fellow geneticist: “The one point which I think all evolutionists are agreed upon, [is] that it is virtually impossible to do a better job than an organism is doing in its own environment.”
So, it comes to this apparently, whatever we see around us in nature is bound to be optimum for survival otherwise it would have died out. I have another theory about jays. Maybe they enjoy being tickled by the ants and pass this insight on to their offspring in the way that birds do. It is a pleasure yet undiscovered by robin redbreasts. Prove me wrong.
I find so much that is sheer speculation when I read evolutionists that it is richly ironic that they have the gall to dismiss God because of an absence of material proof. To be clear, armed only with the tools of this earthly life, such proof is unobtainable. If it were not so God wouldn’t be God.
The lawgiver cannot be derived from the laws. Examining the innards of a jet engine will not lead you to Sir Frank Whittle. Though you might be disinclined to believe that no-one invented it?
Scientists have no quarrel with God that they do not themselves invent. Many natural scientists see their science as uncovering God’s laws which govern the universe and life within it. Others see their science as uncovering rationalistic laws which govern the universe and life within it. Neither insert magic into their scientific endeavours. They do not clash in their pursuit of knowledge.
Best, though, to observe two rules when in the realm of science. Don’t spray around unfalsifiable propositions and call it science. Don’t use science as a weapon against God. It is not fit for purpose.