In the last part of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I discussed Dawkin’s speculations on the origin of religion. In Chapter six Dawkins continues his speculations or the Roots of morality with all the same faults and some new ones. I looked forward to this chapter with great interest, as not only is Morality a key issue in life, it is also behind one of the arguments for the existence of God.
Thus I was disappointed, thought hardly surprised, when Dawkins began with what at best can be considered a strawman argument. He says “many religious people find it hard to imagine how, without religion, one can be good, or would even want to be good.” (pg 211) Since “many” is a somewhat vague term when talking about the vast majority of the world’s population, Dawkins’ statement is undoubtedly true in some sense. Still, it really misses the key issue of the origin of morality. As I wrote in my book Christianity and Secularism, concerning this subject, “this does not mean that only people who believe in God are moral. A person can be an atheist and still be a very moral person, and a person who does a tremendous amount of good. The real question is where do morals come from?”(pg 179)
But before moving to that question I would like to address some comments Dawkins makes concerning a letter that claimed that evolution was by blind chance, atheism was nihilistic, and if true would mean that life was without meaning. Dawkins objects saying “for the umpteenth time, natural selection is the very opposite of a chance process.” (pg 214)
Here Dawkins equivocates a bit. Equivocation is using the same word or phrase with different meanings. Dawkins is correct in that evolution is not a chance process, in the sense that it is governed by natural laws, and the forces that govern evolution are constantly selecting the most likely to survive, weeding out the rest. So when talking about evolution as a process, it is a process with a goal. But chance does play a role, as it is by chance that certain features appear so that the process can either select or reject them.
However, if instead of talking about the process of evolution, we consider the occurrence of evolution or the result of evolution, chance plays a huge and even dominant role. Evolution does not teach that human being appeared because evolution purposed for them to appear, they appeared by chance. In fact, the more science studies origin of the world and the condition needed for intelligent life, the more they must fall back on chance to explain why we are here. So Dawkins’ rebuttal depends on a narrow and somewhat different meaning for evolution. Thus the equivocation.
Dawkins then goes on to point to his book “Unweaving the Rainbow” to argue that atheism does not mean a meaningless nihilistic existence. Again there is some equivocation here. Dawkins is correct in the sense that we can find meaning in anything. Parents often find meaning in their children. People can find meaning in their work, or in their hobbies, or in helping others. The can find meaning in supporting their favorite sports teams, or perhaps in Dawkins case in science. So in this sense Dawkins is correct.
But this is a very subjective and narrow type of meaning. The real question is whether not there is anything more than this. If the Sun were to explode tomorrow, and all life on earth wiped out, the planet broken in small pieces, would any of this have meaning? The answer from evolution must be no. Whether you had been a Stalin murdering millions, or a Mother Theresa who had devoted your life to helping the poor, a world class athlete or a couch potato, a Christian or an atheist, would make no difference at all. All would irrelevant and without meaning.
The simple fact is that meaning requires an intellect, a though process that can judge value. To have a meaning beyond ourselves requires a thought process beyond us. To have an ultimate type of meaning requires an ultimate type of thought process. In short, it requires a God.
Now the atheist can argue that this is all there is. There is no meaning beyond the meaning we give to things. They can even argue that we should give some meaning to certain things. But they can’t legitimately complain when Christians they charge that their view says there is no ultimate meaning.
A similar confusion, lies behind the charge that atheist can’t be good, though in Dawkins defense it is a common error. If one believes that morality comes from God, then absence of God, would then be an absence of morality. Many falsely assume that this mean immoral, but it doesn’t. An absence of morality would be amoral, not immoral. Atheists, because they reject God as source for morality, are not automatically immoral; they are free to pick whatever morality that suits them. Many adopt large parts of the morality of the society in which they are raised, which in the western world is a morality that has been strongly shaped by Christianity.
But this freedom to choose the good, also means they are free to choose the bad. This is why the foundation of morality is so important, and why atheists even though they may be themselves moral, have a major problem in this area.
This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.