I’ve noticed how many liberal, skeptical-minded nonbelievers tend to have strong convictions as it relates to protecting the environment, liberating the poor, eradicating diseases, and justice for the oppressed. All these things are worthy causes, though we all hold different methods by which we think they should be addressed.
I also notice some glaring contradictions with this kind of thinking among skeptical non-believers. These non-believers create an inconsistent worldview for themselves. They like to say things like, “all senses and convictions can be explained through biological evolution.” They readily admit that since we have evolved via natural selection, we can’t completely trust our own senses. They say our belief in God is simply a belief that has helped us survive, not that there is an actual God. They think beliefs, even our false beliefs, are beneficial to our survival and that is how our false belief in God originated. Maybe so. But here’s the rub with this kind of thinking: If we cannot trust our faculties as it relates to the falsity or truth about God, then why should we trust our faculties as it relates to anything at all, including macro-evolutionary science? To put it another way, if our cognitive faculties tell us only what we need to survive, not about what is actually true, why trust those faculties about anything at all? What a glaring contradiction!! Couldn’t it be then that this idea of macroevolution is simply an imaginary one that has merely assisted our human development? Why trust it?
We know God exists not because we have tangible proof, but because of cumulative clues that point very strongly toward His existence. We have the Cosmological Argument about causation of the universe. We have the teleological argument regarding the undeniable design features of the universe. We have the Anthropic Principle, which describes the delicate fine-tuning of the universe to allow life to survive. We have the regularity of nature. We have the existence of undeniable, objective moral values and duties. All of these things (plus many more) cumulatively form a solid basis for God’s existence.
But there are a few more things to add to the list. Remember what I wrote in the first paragraph. Many people have a very deep conviction to protect the environment, stand up for the oppressed, help the poor, and eradicate disease. As I pointed out, under a macro evolutionary view of the world, we have absolutely no reason to trust our convictions in these areas. After all, under this view, how can we trust anything we think to be true? Why should we carry a strong conviction about environmental issues? A Darwinist, if he is to be consistent, should admit it’s all just an illusion. The point is this, if there is no God, we should not trust any of our cognitive faculties at all.
But the problem for the Darwinist is that he does trust his cognitive faculties in areas he is most passionate about! He goes on about his every day life using his cognitive faculties and trusting them probably more than he trusts anything else. He has no real basis to say nature will go on regularly but he goes right on benefiting from nature’s regularity. He has no ultimate purpose for his social causes but he goes right on crusading for them.
However, if we believe God exists, we have every right to trust our cognitive faculties. We have every right to know the list of evidences for God is actually real. We can ground all the questions about the regularity of nature, moral obligations, helping the poor, or caring about God’s creation. Believers can crusade for justice and environmental stewardship because we have ultimate purpose in doing so.
Just like the bible states in Romans 1:19-20, everyone knows God is there. But isn’t it funny that those who deny him cannot actually live that way consistently?
Altruism is a behavior and feelings that show a desire to help others and show a lack of selfishness. The reality of altruism is a huge problem for atheism and Darwinian evolution. We know altruistic behavior has existed for as long as knowable human history. An example of why this creates major problems for Darwinian evolutionists can be understood in the following examples. A newspaper runs a story at Christmastime detailing the difficulties of a less fortunate family that is very needy. A man reading the story is compelled to anonymously donate a large portion of money to this needy family to help them get through winter, to have necessities, and gives them the ability to provide some extra Christmas gifts to the children of the family. This anonymous, altruistic action offers absolutely no kind of evolutionary advantage yet things like this happen all the time. It stands to reason that, since this kind of behavior offers no evolutionary advantage, the trait of altruism should have disappeared long ago, if Darwinian evolution were true.
Consider the following story, which is true. In May 2012, several groups of people were attempting to climb Mt. Everest as they do every year. A young Israeli climber was nearing the summit when he came across another climber who had run into trouble. This Turkish climber had fallen and lost most of his equipment, including his oxygen tank and his face mask. He was clearly going to die very soon. The Israeli halted his ascent and spent several hours helping the distressed Turk back down Everest. He saved the Turks life and lost three of his own fingers and four toes to frostbite. He also lost his lifetime dream of reaching Everest’s summit.
In addition to all that, since May 2010, Turkey and Israel have been political enemies. There is no love lost between these two countries. So why did the Israeli risk his own life and give up his own dreams for such a self-less act? It’s possible that he could have gained a better standing in the mating world had he had he been able to place “Everest Conqueror” on his dating resume. The act did not do a thing to save and propagate his own DNA. He did not save one of his relatives or even someone of his own ethnicity. These are things that atheism cannot adequately answer.
What does atheism and Darwinian evolution have to say about this subject? Natural selection tells the evolutionist that all humans strive to propagate their genes through future generations. Some evolutionists claim that altruistic prestige that goes along with say, being a fireman, attracts healthy, beautiful females to altruistic males who, if they survive the risk of dying, have the ability to better propagate their genes over men who are less willing to risk their lives. This is a flimsy argument on its own merit. Oftentimes, complete slobs who are lazy and cowardly can attract beautiful women. Maybe the slob has huge amounts of money from an inheritance or lottery winnings, as “luck” would have it. Moreover, based on Darwinian evolution, it seems strange to me that any woman would want to reproduce with a man who consistently risks the gene pool by tempting death or giving away his family’s money to help others. Let me be clear. I understand things like this happen, it just doesn’t make sense based on Darwinian evolution.
Evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton has another explanation to the problem of altruism. He claims that an altruistic person will still save his genes because he is more likely to rescue or die for his own kin. He says you can save two of your children at the expense of your own life. But if you’re saving cousins, your one life would have to save four cousins to make it worthwhile. Or if you’re saving second cousins, you would have to sacrifice your one life for eight of your second cousins in order for the statistical formula to work and for your genes to be properly propagated. These genetic computations seem very, very questionable. Who would really be ready and willing to calculate these formulas in preparation for an altruistic action?
Geneticist E. O. Wilson has recently shied away from his lifelong belief that evolutionary processes could account for altruism. He has begun to use an example that compares people to ants. Ants will “choose” to assume roles that will shorten their own lives to enhance the colony. But, as mathematician and the history of science research fellow at Boston University Amir Aczel asks, what is analogous to the human “colony?” Is it one’s family, race, community, nation, etc.? Aczel reminds us of examples of people jumping in icy water to save a dog or firemen rushing into a fiery building to save a cat. Neither act will be beneficial to the “colony.”
People all over the world are paid modest wages to fight as soldiers and to serve as policemen and first responders. They do altruistic acts for people of different races, ethnicities, languages, religions, etc. European Christians risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis. Soldiers form brotherly bonds that cause one another to fight to their death to save their comrades. As Aczel (who is agnostic) points out, “To claim that these are acts that propagate one’s own genes would seem preposterous.”
So what could be the cause of this kind of behavior? The answer to me is very simple. It is caused by decency and goodness that is rooted in a decent and good God who upholds all of creation (Col 1:17, Psalm 100:5). Christians have a great deal of evidences for objective morals rooted in God such as goodness, selflessness, kindness, and generosity. We are friends of a good God (James 2:23) and friends and helpers to one another (Matt 5:42). Christians have very good evidence for God’s existence, the truth and authenticity of the Bible, and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. If we follow the evidence where it leads without a presupposed worldview, we can find the answers to many, if not all, of our questions.
(Some of the material in this article has been adapted from the book by Amir D. Aczel, Why Science Does Not Disprove God (New York: HarperCollins, 2014).
The subject of this writing is something that comes up fairly often. The assertion made by the atheist to the Christian is that minds cannot exist without brains. We must be very concise in how we respond to this assertion. Christians do not necessarily claim that the mind does not use the brain and the brain does not use the mind. The claim a Christian should make is that the mind and the brain are two separate things. Claiming anything more or less than that is unnecessary. Let me define something before moving forward. For the purposes of this article, I am going to use the terms mind and soul interchangeably. The main thing we are looking at here is the differences in the material (the brain) and the immaterial (whether that’s the soul or the mind).
The first thing that must be pointed out when discussing this matter is that science cannot really do much of anything to help us answer the question. All science can do is show that X causes Y, or that Y depends on X. To illustrate this think about the self-driving cars being tested by Google. Let’s say you tell the car GPS where you want to go and sit back in your seat to relax until you arrive. So this car is required for your transportation. You are dependent on it. Likewise, the car is dependent on you to tell it what to do. You are not the car and the car is not you but you both need each other to reach your ends. Now let’s say the car breaks down and you are trapped inside. If you couldn’t escape the car, you would be dead for all intents and purposes. But, if you can remove yourself from the car, you can get around again. So, in this case your body is not the same thing as the mechanism that was transporting you. I want to show that souls (and minds) and physical bodies are like this. The soul (and mind) uses the body but when the body breaks down, you leave the body and still exist. Your self-consciousness lives in a body but is not the body. This is a basic description for how a Christian describes a soul.
Ok, back to showing how this matter cannot be answered by science. A well-known atheist by the name of Peter Atkins claims, “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.” This type of thinking is called “scientism,” which I consider a sort of religious viewpoint. If Atkins claim is actually true then there are many disciplines that we should toss out the window such as literature, poetry, art, music, ethics, and philosophy. How can science tell us that the Mona Lisa is a work of genius? Science can tell you that adding poison to someone’s drink can kill them but it cannot answer whether the act was right or wrong.
The great Oxford mathematician, philosopher of science, and bioethicist, John Lennox gives us an example of how science cannot deal with every aspect of existence. He tells the story of his Aunt Matilda baking a beautiful cake and the cake is submitted to top scientists for analysis. The nutritionists will calculate the calories and tell us its effect on the body. The biochemists will tells us about the structure of the fats and proteins in the cake. The chemists will describe the elements involved in their bonding. The physicists will analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles. The mathematicians will offer equations to describe the behavior of those particles. After all of this can we say the cake is completely explained? We know the how of everything but suppose someone wanted to know why the cake was made. Aunt Matilda knows she made the cake for a purpose, but not a single scientist in the world can tell why she made it. Unless Aunt Matilda tells us, they are powerless. Science cannot answer questions of ultimate purpose. Moreover, it’s absurd to say that because Aunt Matilda made the cake for her nephew who just earned his degree, that we must dismiss purpose as an illusion because science cannot deal with it.
There are many things that are far outside of scientific explanation. Two big ones are laws of logic and laws of nature. Science could not even happen without the scientist presupposing laws of logic and laws of nature. C.S. Lewis once said, “Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.” Science simply cannot explain these things. The main point is that science deals with the materialistic world but there are clearly immaterial things in the world. To name a few: laws of logic, laws of nature, love, guilt, emotions, reason, etc. If everything can be reduced to materials as atheists insist, then the atheist has a huge problem on his hands.
Darwin knew this. He even admitted that his ideas on evolution are bunk if a human soul exists, that is to say an immaterial being that exists apart from the physical body. Macro evolution rests on a foundational presupposition that immaterial minds do not exist. That is why atheists must cling fervently to the idea that there is no mind, but just a moist brain. Perhaps Obama would refer to them as “bitter clingers.” If there is an immaterial mind, their dogma on evolution is false! It is presuppositional belief. Remember this!
Now that we know this topic is outside the realm of science we can discuss whether the mind and the brain are the same thing. One way we can know this is not the case is by showing the mind is not materialistic like the brain. If it was, then you would be an entirely different being today than you were 15 years ago. We know the brain changes molecules completely about every 7 to 15 years. So if your mind was completely material, it would not be the same as it was 15 years ago, but yet, you are the same being with the same personality.
Think about this: Let’s say scientists are experimenting on your brain and they prod it in different areas. They may prod one area and it conjures up a memory. They may prod another area and it may conjure up an image of your sister wearing a pink dress. Now, if your mind was just as physical as your brain, the scientist should not have to ask you what is in your mind during the experiment. It seems somehow, somewhere he could dig around in your brain and find the image of your sister in a pink dress. But he cannot. That’s silly. Furthermore, no one is aware of their physical brain. The subject would never say, “Oh, I just felt a molecule line up when you prodded and it corresponded to my sister in a pink dress.” So, you are unaware of your physical brain, but you are certainly aware of what’s going on inside you.
Humans can experience two types of sensations. One type is an awareness detected by the five senses. The other is awareness not detected by the senses such as fear, love, anger, and thoughts. These types of sensations can be described using words and can be true or false. Physical states cannot be true or false but thoughts can. Mental states in the mind do not have size or shape and are not spatially located. Everything about the brain runs counter to all of this. The brain is completely physical. A scientist may have more knowledge about my brain than I do but he can never have more knowledge about my thoughts, emotions, and mental state than I do. I know what my thoughts and feelings are but a scientist can never inspect these things.
There is no amount of information in my moist, physical brain that can tell a person who I am, my dispositions, and my personality. If I am just a brain then others ought to be able to know everything about me by prodding around in my brain.
If I am only a brain and do not have a mind, then all my behaviors, intentions, and decisions, are fixed by my brain, genes, and environmental input. Physical objects always, always, always obey natural laws and inputs, therefore if I am only a material brain then I am simply reacting to molecular reactions based on natural laws. If this were the case I would have absolutely ZERO grounds to claim free will. I would no longer be personally responsible for my actions, whether good or bad. And on top of that, I wouldn’t be able to freely type this article!! But, as the empirical evidence shows, free will does exist and it requires that we are more than just a physical brain reacting to the laws of nature. Therefore, I am a mind and soul that has a physical body.
When we are asked a specific question such as, “What is your middle name?” we can answer that question specifically. How can blind, repetitive laws of nature explain our ability to answer such a question? Should we think that molecules magically line up in the proper way by blind, repetitive laws to respond accurately? That’s the height of absurdity! We have the intelligence and intentionality to answer correctly. Mere physical objects cannot do things like this. A rock is just a rock. It does nothing but exist as a rock. If humans are simply materialistic beings, then why should we believe we have any more of an ability to reason than a rock?
Concerning the placebo effect, it’s always funny to see the atheists squirm with this one. To put it in basic terms, it’s mind over matter. A person in severe pain can be told he will be administered pain medicine. He believes this to be that case when the doctor actually gives him a sugar pill to swallow. Studies show that in up to 45% of patients, the mere thoughts in their mind of getting what they think is actual medicine will cause their pain to subside. Likewise, the mind can cause the body to deteriorate quickly when consumed by depressive thinking and mental stress. This makes no sense if the mind is physical. The publication New Scientist magazine listed the placebo effect as number ONE on its list of “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense.” Well of course it doesn’t make sense if you approach the matter from presuppositional Darwinian evolution dogma!
When Christians claim to have a soul separate from the body the atheists get very, very militant. And earlier I showed why. They think this is superstition when in fact they are the superstitious ones! They are the ones who believe their creator magically popped into existence out of nothing by nothing by chance. And by the way, chance is not a cause. It’s a way to describe mathematical possibilities or to gloss over ignorance on a particular matter that can’t be answered on atheism, a sort of “God of the gaps” for the atheists. Speaking of nothing, atheistic evangelist Daniel Dennett claims consciousness is an illusion. Now think about that for a minute. In order to detect an illusion you would have to see and know what is actually real! LOLOLOLOL. So apparently he exempts himself from his own theory. I wonder when he wrote that nonsense if he sat there and thought, “You know, every truth claim I believe and am writing is an illusion.” Let’s hear him talk about that on his book tour!
It’s important to point out that the notion of the mind being the same as the brain is not a mainstream scientific idea. This notion is popular in atheistic circles but there are plenty of scientists who don’t buy it, rightly so. Nobel Prize winning neuroscience professor John Eccles supported the theory that the mind is a separate entity from the brain and cannot be “reduced down to the brain cell processes.” That’s just one Nobel Prize winner. There are hundreds if not thousands of search engine results with some great peer-reviewed resources showing how science is baffled by this subject. And it will stay baffled for reasons we discussed. It’s really not a scientific issue, but I digress.
So this notion of mind and brain is very easy to discern. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of thought (pun intended). Remember, to be a consistent atheist, materialism must be true. To be a consistent atheist, the mind cannot be immaterial. Former world-famous atheist Antony Flew had something to say on the matter. He said, “Science cannot discover the self; the self discovers science.” Perhaps, that is partly why he became a former atheist.
“Atheism argued that it abolished violence and tyranny by getting rid of what ultimately caused it: faith in God. It was a credible claim in the 19th century precisely because atheism had not yet enjoyed the power and influence once exercised by religion. But all that has changed. Atheism’s innocence has now evaporated. In the 20th century, atheism managed to grasp the power that had hitherto eluded it. But then atheism proved just as fallible, just as corrupt, and just as oppressive as any belief system that had gone before it. Stalin’s death squads seemed just as murderous as their religious antecedents. Those who dreamed of freedom in the new atheist paradise often found themselves counting trees in Siberia or confined to the Gulag—and they were the lucky ones.”
One of the key aspects of the French Revolution was that in France, the church was seen as being on the side of government. As a result of the church being interested in its own power and authority as opposed to being interested in the welfare of the people, atheism began to look sexy. As McGrath points out, “For many in modern Europe, the conclusion was obvious: religion is an oppressor; atheism is a liberator. Clearly though, as the 20th century proves beyond all doubt, atheism leads to an oppressive end.
Fast forward to our post 9/11 world and we see the publication of three books by authors who apparently don’t know history or ignore the atheistic bloodbaths of the 20th century. In response to the 9/11 terrorism, atheistic evangelists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett published books labeling religion a threat to the well-being of mankind.
Put very simply, they claim religion causes mass murder. But, when one takes an objective view of the facts, we see suicide bombers are motivated by a much more complex set of circumstances. As it turns out, religion is neither a necessary nor sufficient reason for suicide bombers. The common factor found in suicide bombers is the sense of total helplessness in the face of perceived oppression coupled with a lack of conventional military capacity.
We need to forcefully squash these silly assertions made by today’s “new” atheists. This kind of thinking leads me to believe that the new atheists do not have a firm grasp of the implications of their own worldview as it turned out in the 20th century. Learn to recognize these facts and bring them up. These attacks on Christianity by the new atheists need to be soundly and intelligently crushed.
 Quoting Alister McGrath in the book by Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) p. 29
The question is in the title, “Can Atheists Be Moral?” The answer to that question is rather is easy to determine. We have no reason to suspect that atheists cannot be moral individuals. I personally know atheists who seem to act morally in their daily lives, despite their cursing at something they think does not exist. So the short answer would be YES! But, I’m interested in questions that goes deeper than that.
Is morality relative?
On what basis do humans place morality?
I am going to make the case for objective morality and that objective morality is based on God. The most common objection that comes up in this argument is a misunderstanding of terms. So first allow me to define the term objective morality. To define the term, it must be broken down into its two parts. To say that something is objective is to say that it is independent of what people think or perceive. By contrast, to say that something is subjective is just to say that it is not objective; that is to say, it is dependent on what human persons think or perceive. To say that there is objective morality is to say that something is good or evil independently of whether any human being believes them to be so. An example of objective morality would be that torturing little babies for fun is wrong no matter what anyone believes about it. Raping and beating women for sport is always wrong no matter what anyone believes about it.
To discover a basis of objective morality I want to show that this entire subject matter is completely outside the realm of science. Science deals with only the physical world. Science cannot tell us what ought to happen, it can only tell us what will probably happen under certain circumstances. Objective morality on the other hand tells us how we ought to act. To attempt to explain morality on a scientific, evolutionary basis is a fatal category error. Morality is not physical. You cannot weigh it or see what color it is. If morality has its basis in Darwinian evolution, then morality cannot be objective. If there is no God and we evolved from slime, then we have no higher moral status than slime because there is nothing beyond us to instill us with a sense of objective morality or dignity. If morality had its basis in the Darwinian evolutionary process, then raping women to propagate the DNA of men should be considered right. Murder of the weak, invalid, and elderly should be the norm. This is just nonsense that does not deserve any further treatment here.
Something further needs to be addressed before moving forward. What I am not claiming is that belief in God is required to know and recognize objective morality. Rather, I am making the claim that God’s existence is necessary for objective morality itself to exist.
Let’s answer some objections to objective morality before we make our case for God.
Moral relativism says that societies or individuals decide for themselves what is right and wrong. There are three types of moral relativism: cultural relativism, conventionalism, and individual subjectivism. Since this is a blog and not a book, I will not break these down. Instead, I will try to cover them wholly with two examples. First, for one to say, “all truth (including moral truth) is relative” is a self-refuting statement. You should reply, “is that truth relative?” You can see it is self-refuting. Furthermore, if he is claiming all truth is relative, then why is he pushing his supposed “truth” on me? I’m amazed there are people who believe this way but I see it nearly every single day.
A second way to dispel moral relativism is to use the Nazis as an example. When they went to trial, their defense was that they were following the rule of law in their country. They said they were simply following orders based on the views of their country’s government. As we know, justice was served by appealing to a higher, objective moral standard. This is important to remember when you hear an atheist make the claim that each society dictates the moral standard. So which society is correct? Hitler’s or Mother Teresa’s? If it’s all based on the opinion of that particular society then it should have been right for the Nazis to murder millions of innocent people and wrong for the rest of the world to condemn them. After all, it’s all based on subjective opinion.
So let’s cut to the chase. If there is no God and no Heaven or Hell, then no ultimate justice will ever be served. The baby torturer and the serial rapist will simply become worm food when they die. The most well-known atheistic evangelist, Richard Dawkins, says, “Too bad. Just because we wish there was ultimate justice doesn’t mean there is.” Well, I don’t doubt that. I don’t do much “wishful” thinking either. But the point is this: if there is no justice, then it follows that there is no injustice. Something cannot be deemed wrong if there is no ultimate right. C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” We strive to perfect our society, to reach for some unattainable utopia while presupposing that we somehow know we still need to progress. How do we know this? How do we know we still have room to improve ourselves? Louis Markos put it nicely when he wrote that a supposed materialistic society can strive to be progressive, but without any fixed, transcendent standard of good and evil, right and wrong, how can we know that we have progressed?
Speaking of Richard Dawkins, he made a remarkable admission about objective morality during an interview with Justin Brierley after he maintained that our sense of morality is an outcome of evolution. The audio can be found here. You may fast forward to the 5:29 mark. Ill reproduce part of the statement here.
Brierley: When you make a value judgment, don’t you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it’s good? And you don’t have any way to stand on that statement. Dawkins: My value judgment itself could come from my evolutionary past. Brierley: So therefore it’s just as random in a sense as any product of evolution. Dawkins: You could say that….nothing about it makes it more probable than there is anything supernatural. Brierley: Ultimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six. Dawkins: You could say that, yeah.
Wow! So according to the atheistic evangelist, Dawkins believes that rape is simply socially unfashionable. At least he is being a consistent atheist. After all, without God, there are no objective moral standards. Dawkins thinks all of our thoughts and behaviors are simply the blind results of molecules bouncing around in our brains. In River out of Eden, Dawkins says,
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference….DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.
So it’s very clear, the new atheists can not only determine a basis for objective morality, many of them deny its very existence! In order for atheists to live with themselves in a purposeless universe they must steal from God. That is to say, they borrow things from a theistic worldview such as peace, justice, ethics, etc. because they have no basis for these things on a purely physical, materialistic worldview.
Another atheistic evangelist, Sam Harris, says he actually believes in objective morality. He bases his position of morality on learning about the well-being of conscious creatures. The problem with this position is that it merely shows us what method to use to discover what is moral, not what actually makes something moral. If you didn’t get that last sentence, please re-read it. It is very important to understand that I am not arguing an epistemological position about morality but rather an ontological position. In other words, we aren’t talking about how we know morality. We are talking about why it objectively exists. Toddlers can know morality by how it makes them feel. If a child steals a toy from another child then feelings are hurt. What I am getting at is the deeper question: why does having something stolen from us bring about a sense of injustice? You can know morality exists while denying God. I can know a book exists and at the same time deny its author. But there would be no book unless an author existed. Atheists pull this same nonsense with God and objective morality. Many of them claim to know objective morality while denying God exists, but there would be no objective morality unless God exists.
Another common objection to objective morality is the Euthyphro dilemma. Euthyphro (a character of Plato) asks, “Does God do something because it is good or is it good because God does it? The problem here is that Plato offers only two options when there is a third option that he left out. The whole question assumes good exists wholly apart from God. This is a solid misunderstanding of God (at least the Christian God). For God does not look to a standard beyond himself. If he were required to look to a standard beyond himself then he wouldn’t be God. God is also not arbitrary. So the third option left out is God’s very nature is the standard of an unchanging moral nature. This so called “dilemma” was answered hundreds of years ago but for some reason the new atheists bring it up from time to time.
Let’s make the case for an objective moral law giver.
Again, this is a blog, not a book, so I cannot spell out every single piece of evidence. There are so many subjects (such as altruism) I just don’t have time to touch at least at this moment. But along with answering the objections above, I think I can give a quick summary to show that God is the most reasonable basis for objective morality.
Objective morality contains a sense of obligation and oughtness that is universal, authoritative, and outweighs considerations of culture, time, and place. Objective morality is always discovered and not invented. Objective morals are prescriptive to how we should act, not descriptive of the world. But where did these objective morals originate? Because morals cannot be scientifically tested, because they deal with purpose and will, because they are universal and transcend societies and time, their origination cannot be rooted in anything physical. Because they universally and transcendently prescribe how we ought to act then we can conclude that something prescribed must have a prescriber. This prescriber must also transcend societies, cultures, people, and time itself. We can employ two simple syllogisms to help us think about God as the grounds for objective morals. One of them goes like this:
If a personal God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
Objective moral values do exist.
Therefore, a personal God exists.
Most of this article has been devoted to proving the first two premises correct. I have briefly shown that objective morals do exist, and I’ve shown that it would be more reasonable to ground them in a transcendent being (God) as opposed to grounding them in materialistic objects or processes. Therefore, the conclusion follows. Here is a simpler syllogism:
Every law has a lawgiver.
There is an objective moral law.
Therefore, there is an objective moral law giver.
Let me summarize what we have briefly covered in this article:
There exists objective morality.
Objective morality holds that something is good or evil independently of human beliefs about it.
Science is not the proper category for discussing morality.
Belief in God is not required to know and recognize objective morals.
Moral relativism is false.
In a world based on materialism, we cannot justify good and evil, right and wrong, justice or injustice.
Richard Dawkins thinks morality is arbitrary.
God is a reasonable explanation for objective morality.
 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith 3rd Edition (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2008) p. 173.
Pastors Steve Holder and Daniel Weeks recently hosted a debate at their church, Bethel Church, in Goldsboro, NC. I attended the debate after receiving notice from a friend that his uncle was one of the debaters. His uncle, Mike Manuel, is a noted Evangelist and Apologist traveling the United States preaching Jesus Christ. The topic of the debate, “Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in the 21st Century?” peaked my interest. My friend and I desired to attend and lend support to his uncle. Mr. Manuel was to argue in the affirmative. His opponent, Dr. Richard White, a science instructor at Wayne Early Middle College High School in Goldsboro, was to argue in the negative.
The following account of the debate is not meant to be a point-by-point account of every word that was uttered. I’m attempting to provide the highlights while also striving to give the reader a comprehensive view of the positions staked out by both debaters. My reporting will be offered in a “note-taking” format so as to make this account pointed and concise. Because of this, do not be alarmed to see points not placed into proper sentence format. Think of it as reading off my personal note sheets because that is essentially what it is.
This account will concentrate solely on the testimony given during the debate. In light of this, I intend to remain objective and unbiased. I will simply record things as they occurred to the best of my ability. I desire to editorialize the event in order to offer my personal thoughts and critiques. Because this is a long post, I will offer an editorialized review of the debate in a follow up post.
The debate lasted approximately 2 hours and the text below summarizes its content. The text can be read much faster than it would take to listen to the two hour debate, but after reading the text, I encourage you to listen to the debate which can be found here.
Background information of the debaters:
Mike Manuel: Mr. Manuel is a noted Christian Evangelist and Apologist based in West Virginia who travels extensively throughout the United States preaching that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Before Mike became a Christian he turned to a life of drugs & alcohol and became agnostic while attending Marshall University. His road to salvation began when he reexamined the things he had been taught, which he found to be fallacious. In 1975 he had an encounter with Jesus Christ and the Lord began to prepare him for a life of ministry. Mike pastored for 2 ½ years before transitioning to full time evangelism. He is an ordained minister through New Life Church, Huntington, WV of which Dr. Darrell Huffman serves as the pastor. He is the Vice President of Victory Ministries Incorporated, a ministry fellowship founded and chaired by Dr. Darrell Huffman. He is the National Director for Evangelism for the Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministers International, based in Dallas, TX. Mike also serves as an international Board Member of the Full Gospel Fellowship. Additionally, Mike is the founder of Revelation Power Ministries, a ministry centered on spreading the Word of God. Mike has seen many people saved, filled, healed, and delivered through the anointed preaching of the Word of God.
Richard White: Mr. White does not have a website but he provided some of his background information during the debate. As noted above, Dr. Richard White is a science instructor in Goldsboro, NC. Mr. White was diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin’s disease while he was attending Purdue University. He was treated with chemotherapy which utilized a drug found naturally in a flower grown locally in the area. One side effect of his treatment is that it damaged his heart. Mr. White is waiting on a new technology that he hopes will repair and heal his heart. Because of his medical experiences related to the use of the drug found in the flower, he became interested in medicinal botany which serves as his primary area of research. He is interested in science for other’s benefit and to educate curious young people.
“Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in the 21st Century?”
The format of the debate was that a question was posed to a debater so that he could offer a 5 minute response. His opponent would offer a 5 minute rebuttal and then the original person to which the question was posed could offer an additional 5 minute response. The questions to be asked were submitted in advance my Mr. White and Mr. Manuel. The final questions were chosen by the moderator, Pastor Weeks.
The first question (directed to Mr. White) read, “How do you interpret the phrase, ‘viable means of origin?” Mr. White thinks a particular model of origins is relative to a person’s worldview (Christian or scientific). He bases science on empirical data, lab testing, and hypothesizing, and relies on fossil evidence for things we cannot experience. Claims science has no business dealing with “why” questions but should only deal with “how” questions. We can only use what we observe. Abruptly proceeds into age-of-the-earth issues and describes how the Green River shale formation in the western US provides evidence for an old earth. Nevertheless, Mr. White contends that there should be two non-competing ways to view life. Example: if your car breaks down you may call a mechanic or you may pray. The two solutions should not compete, they’re simply two different approaches.
Mr. Manuel responds to the question by saying he believes science and the Bible are simpatico. We need the scientific approach and need to approach things in light of reality. Contends a designed universe had a beginning and a builder much like buildings have a beginning and a builder. Claims some scientists protest the term “Big Bang” because it resembles terminology used in Genesis. Says scientists claim that the universe is expanding, if you track the expansion backward, we arrive at single speck. Scientists get agitated when asked the origin of the speck. Cites the 2nd law of thermodynamics and that the universe is losing energy and cannot be infinite. Design evidence is everywhere. Uses example that a criminal leaves traces of himself at a crime scene. No one ever says the crime scene just appeared out of nowhere. Someone was behind it. Describes how the first two verses of the Bible describe the five terms of science: time, energy, space, matter, and motion. Leans toward an old earth and pre-adamite society. Says creation is plausible, rational, reasonable, compelling, and persuasive.
Mr. White discusses that scientists cannot investigate whether God created in a certain number of days, the notion is not in the scientific realm, we are left with what we can observe. Admits “something” started blowing things apart. Uses example that scientists have no interest in why the Ebola virus is here, but only interested in how it works so they can stop it. Science cannot use origins to make scientific models.
The second question (directed to Mr. Manuel) read, “Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, and no effect occurs without a cause, wouldn’t there have to be an uncaused first cause?” Mr. Manuel says logic and reasoning leads to that conclusion. Says Christians need to be able to articulate this (1 Peter 3:15). Example: if you have an empty steel chamber and leave it for 100 years and check it again, it remains empty. There are laws of causation. Mr. Manuel then discusses the anthropic principle and how the universe is fine tuned. If any of the constants in the universe were changed slightly, we would not exist. Asserts that scientists use objective laws to make claims about anything. Tells how the human genome was decoded in 2000 and that our DNA provides the info that will determine our features in advance. Shows how the Bible already talked about this long before in Psalm 139:15, 16. Says explosions (Big Bang) do not create order, they always create chaos. There must be a master designer.
Mr. White says he is not equipped to answer the question, can only infer. Theologians can say God began things but scientists cannot test that in a laboratory. Agrees with Mr. Manuel on the complexity of life. Offers a naturalistic explanation by saying some viruses are considered intelligent because sometimes they will not kill their host because that would prohibit further propagation. Claims complexity was built over time. Admits complexity cannot be duplicated in a lab. Is quoted as saying it is possible God could have started all of this but it’s not a scientific answer, it’s theological. One approach is not better than the other, they are just different.
Mr. Manuel responds by saying the reason science can make predictions is because of present order and design. Moves on to say Cambrian period complex life forms appeared with no predecessors and no links to other life forms. Says Richard Dawkins sees order and complexity in the fossil record but there’s no history of its evolution. Speaks about Darwin’s doubt and fear of no transitional species in the fossil record. We see variety and adaptation but not special crossover. Debunks punctuated equilibrium and panspermia. Talks about in Greek mythology, they thought men held the Earth on their backs. Says Bible told us years before science that the Earth hangs on nothing (Job 26:7). Science didn’t figure it out until 1650.
The third question (directed to Mr. White) read, “Even the most basic biological mechanisms that we know are irreducibly complex. Nothing can be removed without disabling the mechanism. The individual parts are useless without the whole. The bacteria flagellum is an example. It has a whip-like part that allows it to move-much like an outboard motor-except this motor is water cooled. It features a universal joint, has gears for forward and reverse. It can reach speeds of 100,000 rpm’s, and can do self-assembly and repair. It has precision and economy of construction. Do you feel examples like the bacteria flagellum suggest intelligence? If not, how did it happen?” Mr. White claims there are many transitional forms and that we see them from fishes to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to mammals. He claims they are all through the fossil record. Says humans share genes with bacteria. Says gradualism is simply a model. Says punctuated equilibrium is a warranted claim. Admits he doesn’t know how things became more complex. Cites the now famous Penn U. RNA experiment.
Mr. Manuel responds by saying the bacteria flagellum suggests intelligence. Why do we not have animals that are ¾ man and ¼ ape? Says punctuated equilibrium came about because transitional fossils were never found. Says mutations never create new features or appendages but only modified what was there. Cites example of a scientist cutting the tales off mice for repeated generations but the descendants continued to grow tales. Discusses fish growing wings and flopping on the seashore…they won’t last long. Refers to the Penn U. RNA experiment and how the experiment was bunk because of the oxidation process and Dr. Miller admitted it. Says men and apes are 98% related but men and earthworms are over 90% related, this shows commonality in the material but not the arrangement. You can have 1000000 or .1000000. The material is the same but the arrangement has huge implications. Darwin’s finches simply adapted.
Mr. White claims evolution is not linear. Cites examples of transitional features in facial features of apes and humans. Says he’s not challenging that intelligent beings started the process. He is only interested in how it works.
The fourth question (directed to Mr. Manuel) read, “Are scientific and religious views really that different and do you fell we must choose one view or the other?” Says they’re not incompatible. Says claims against Bible are often faulty and cites archaeological facts. Provides facts about how scientists have repeatedly and falsely attempted to construct “men” from the fossils of animals. Warns to take scientific reconstruction with a grain of salt because of their faulty track record. Talks about whimsical climate predictions…in the 1970’s there was an imminent ice age approaching, now in 2014 we are told we are going to burn up. Says science once thought the stars could be numbered but cites how the Bible has always said they’re innumerable. Says overall, despite energy bursts from the sun, the earth is losing energy. Shows how the Bible teaches this in Psalm 102:25, 26. Says there is no incompatibility with the Bible and genuine science. The evidence points to an intelligent designer.
Mr. White partially agrees and says there’s no need for conflict. Says science underpins technology. Says some scientists can get nasty. He looks at life through a window of science. God’s window should be in Sunday school. People should decide for themselves which window to look through. Mutually exclusive. Desires to teach children how to look through the science window. His education statement is, “I don’t care what you believe, I care what you understand.”
Mr. Manuel says naturalists and evolutionists have monopolized the educational system. Only one view is taught even though many advanced scientists believe in creation. Don’t compromise beliefs. Admits that his side has some ogres. Says scientists feel like they know more than others. There is monolithic group think in the halls of academia. Many teachers want students to believe what they believe. Says creationists are afraid to speak out. Moves on to talk about all laws have a law giver. Order doesn’t come from chaos, life always comes from preexisting life. Yet are told an amoeba came about on its own and divided itself. He asks how male and female developed.
The fifth question (directed to Mr. White) read, “How can we build bridges between people of differing views in terms of how the world was created? More specifically, the Bible teaches us that God created the world. If this is not true then what the Bible says about Jesus is also possibly not true, therefore the topic of creation is of profound importance. Is it possible for us all to adhere to what we believe and yet come to some type of manageable disagreement on the topic of creation?” Mr. White says the topic is important. Says he doesn’t want to punish students for their beliefs, but doesn’t teach about beliefs, teaches understanding. Says religion extends itself beyond things we can touch and measure. Pursue curiosity.
Mr. Manuel says we are to love people we disagree with. He says scientific hypothesizing extends beyond what we can see…that is beyond empiricism. Cites Arthur Keith’s forward to the 100th edition of Origin of the Species and how he said evolution is unproved and unprovable, we believe because the only other alternative is unbelievable, and that’s creation. Christians should reach out and pray for unbelievers. Build bridges but still retain our faith. Says we need God and creation in the public domain. Cites 3 different textbooks saying earth is 5 billion, 7 billion, and 12 billion years old. Scientists often just say things. Carbon 14 dating dated oysters to be 27,000 years old but they were still alive. They assume carbon breaks down at the same rate as now. Hopes this debate is building bridges and says Mr. White is a nice man.
Mr. White says scientists live with uncertainty and second-guessing. Claims creationists are not in mainstream science. He says publish or perish.
I’m not going to post each audience question but rather give a summary of the answers that each debater offered.
Mr. White’s answers to the audience: Believes the earth is old, cites Pangea. Read the Bible when he was young. Raised Presbyterian/Methodist. Wife is Catholic. Likes to explore in the woods. Says Bible has good standards for living. Beliefs do not disqualify or qualify his friends. Lived a “free” college life. His mother arranged an exorcism to be performed on him when he was younger. Admits not knowing how to reach God at a Campus Crusade retreat, and can’t explain why he can’t reach God. Will not teach ID because he says it’s not based on reputable research.
Mr. Manuel’s answers to the audience: Leans toward an old earth view. Says evolution needs lots of time and the chance of evolution happening are so high and the evidence for evolution does not add up. Believes in absolute moral values. Kept pet insects as a child and was very inquisitive. Says most of the world’s greatest scientists believed in God. Says many don’t want to believe in God because of rocky relationships with fathers, especially children of preachers. Naturalists often speculate, “could have” or “should have.” Says Christians should hold on to true science.
Stay tuned for my personal critique of the debate…
Lately, I have devoted an enormous amount of time to study and a small portion to football, which has kept me from writing out my thoughts. So, here is what I’ve been studying and thinking about for the last month or so.
Simply put, The Principle of Uniformity says that causes in the past were like causes we observe today. With this in mind, consider the specified complexity (it has a specific message) of DNA. It is chalk full of information. All life forms contain DNA, including the one celled amoeba. According to the supreme prophet of the New Atheism, the evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, the one celled amoeba contains more information than 1000 complete sets of Encyclopedia Brittanica. (This can be found in his book, “The Blind Watchmaker”).
As we know from the Principle of Uniformity, information always comes from an intelligent source and life always comes from existing life. Always. To claim that life can come from non-life and that information can develop itself is an extreme faith claim. The information contained in the DNA and life of the amoeba points us toward an intelligent cause. If information can come only from a mind and life can come only from existing life, good science would tell us that an intelligent cause is behind such specified complexity.
Why then do non-theistic scientists not accept such a claim? The answer can be found in a very candid comment made by atheist Harvard professor, Richard Lewontin. He admitted that Darwinists accept science that goes against common sense not based on empirical evidence, but rather a prior commitment to materialism so as to “not allow a divine foot in the door.”
Theism (and indeed Christianity) is not at odds with science itself. Theism and science blended together create a beautiful atmosphere to discover the amazing operation of God’s awesome creation. Rather, theism is at odds with bad science. Atheist scientists cannot consider supernatural creation when they legislate in advance the impossibility of such a claim and that’s quite unfortunate.