The Atheist’s Shallow Worldview

engineers-scales-335147-mRecently in a discussion with some atheists, I asked, if all life descended from a common source as many evolutionists claim, why do atheists care for humans more than for other species?

The exchange stemmed from the oft-used assault on God based on the lack of prohibition against slavery in the Ten Commandments. Why, I asked, were atheists so intent on human rights but not on animal rights (though a growing number are moving in that direction). Now that I understand this common descent theory, I would expect those who hold to it to follow the logically consistent position that all life was worth fighting for or that no life was worth fighting for. But to advocate for human rights over and above animals seems inconsistent.

The answer I received was that there’s species identification—we treat those like us more favorably.

Of course other names for “species identification” would be prejudice, partiality, favoritism, bigotry, intolerance. I mean, if it’s OK to identify favorably and advocate for one species over the others, then why not do the same for one gender over the other, for one race over the others, one religion over the others, one language, one ethnicity, one hair color or eye color or height or weight or favorite sports team? 😉

In fact, it seems few atheists think past their assertions to the logical next step or subsequent consequences of their worldview.

In truth what ground do atheists have for ethical living? Why, from their perspective, is pedophilia wrong or murder or rape or car jacking or terrorist attacks? One atheist says the “human community decides,” but on what basis? If more people, or more powerful people, want to have sex with children, than want to protect children from abuse, would the “human community” simply change the laws as if wrong has become right? This is precisely what the movement to change the definition of marriage is doing.

Atheists apparently see nothing wrong with such a moving scale of right and wrong (unless, I suppose, the scale should move to a point where atheism was a crime). Rather, the moral imperative is simply the will of the people (or of the powerful people). This position reflects what life is like without God. There is no authoritative standard and ultimately we descend into caveman thing: might makes right.

What else is there? Self-sacrifice for others becomes a foolish act if this life is all there is. Why give to the needy instead of hoarding all we can get? After all, survival of the fittest should prevail.

And yet, there are impressively generous atheists who seem to derive some pleasure in thinking of others and not just themselves. How does that fit with their worldview?

There’s no absolute standard of right and wrong, and yet almost unanimously all peoples would stop to help a crying child, give directions to a stranger, thank the man who changes a tire deep in the American desert.

The atheist can’t explain the compunction to do what is right. They don’t believe that humans have been made in God’s image.

At the same time, they have no answer for why an atheist would gun down three Muslim students or curse Christians at every opportunity or act in other hateful ways. They don’t believe humans have a sin nature.

In essence, atheists can only go skin deep because that’s where science stops. It doesn’t examine the intents of the heart. What can atheists say about the basic philosophical questions of human existence: who am I, why am I here, where am I going, what is truth, how do I know what is right and wrong (and where did the sense that there is a right and wrong come from)?

The answers I’ve heard are these: humans are a product of chance and evolution, without purpose, ending at death (therefore going nowhere); and truth, like right and wrong, is whatever you make it to be. In that shallow, simplistic worldview, there’s no explanation for the self-sacrifice of a Jim Elliott or for the forgiveness of a Corrie ten Boom or for the selfless service of a Katie Davis. No. The best atheists can can do is rail at the God they say does not exist.

He, on the other hand, extends grace and mercy to whoever believes.

Published in: on February 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm  Comments (31)  
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The Limits Of Science

Embryonic_Stars_in_the_Rosette_NebulaAtheists don’t like to admit this, but science is limited. True science, that is. There’s a particular process known as the scientific method that leads to truth pronouncements, but only a limited body of truth.

Art, for instance is foreign to science. What can science tell a painter or musician or writer? Is there a way to measure who will or won’t have a particular artistic ability? Does science tell these creative people what notes go with which or what colors they need on their pallet?

Perhaps we need first to understand what specifically are the claims of science. Here’s the definition from the Oxford American Dictionary: “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.” This “systematically organized body of knowledge” comes about by use of the scientific method which also has a strict definition:

To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning (Wikipedia).

So if someone is exploring, say, the existence of a certain historical figure, such as Jesus of Nazareth, science can’t help because there’s no empirical or measurable evidence. Clearly, science can’t be a guarantor of historical truth.

Philosophical truth is another area in which science is pretty useless. Ask a why question and science has little choice but to shut up. Why are we here? Why is there suffering? Why do some people believe in God and others reject Him? What can science contribute to such explorations?

Of course science is also useless when it comes to ethics. We have no empirical way of measuring right or wrong, though we all agree that right and wrong exist. Science can’t tell you why we think this way and it can’t help us figure out what belongs in each category.

Or how about relational truth? Some people are drawn to each other. They have “chemistry,” but no one can tell you exactly what that means or how people achieve it. This relational chemistry exists between a man and wife, between friends, between team members. But when it comes to the latter, it’s not always there. Sometimes everything “clicks” and sometimes it doesn’t. What makes the difference? A certain leader, a peacemaker, someone whose unselfishness is an example to the others? No one can quantify what it is—it’s beyond the purview of science.

Then there’s the spiritual realm. Most atheists I’ve communicated with deny a spiritual realm because science can’t measure it—a shortsighted . . . or maybe, blind . . . pronouncement. Millions of people down through time have reported spiritual experiences. Atheists, however, consider these as delusions, fabrications, or brain function—none of which they can prove.

Rather, their trump card is that no one can produce scientific evidence to support the spiritual—as if science with its dependence upon empirical data can measure the supernatural.

What’s most intriguing to me is that atheists who cling so firmly to science most often embrace evolution as the explanation for humankind’s existence, and in fact of all life. Yet the very thing they use to counter the idea that the universe and all life has been created, is the very thing they can not verify scientifically.

Oh, sure you’ll hear a lot of science thrown around—light traveling through space for untold light years, rocks determined to be millions or billions of years old, fossils of a pre-man, and so on. But none of that is science.

Science is based on observation and questioning (how did man come to be?), followed by conjecture (he might have evolved from a lower life form), also known as a hypothesis. Then comes the real work: experimentation. The subject in question must undergo testing which yields empirical data, and the tests must be repeated to verify that the results weren’t simply coincidental. Clearly, no one can replicate evolution or its companion theory, the Big Bang. There are no experiments we can run to show how nothing exploded into life, how that life organized itself from a single cell to multiple cells, each more complex than the one before it.

In short, science is too limited to prove the theory of evolution, to disprove the existence of the supernatural, to explain morality, to determine answers to the great questions of purpose.

So why, I wonder, have we deified science as if it is the end all of every discipline? It is not.

Published in: on February 11, 2015 at 6:31 pm  Comments (6)  
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Are Christians Not Very Bright?

Sarah_Palin,_Queen_of_PorkI understand when political types attack their opponents by stating or implying they aren’t very bright. It’s a way of undermining public confidence in the person, a la Vice President Dan Quayle and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Hence, as a presidential candidate President Bush was vilified because he earned a C in college, or maybe had a C average at one point–I don’t recall the precise details. Never mind that the college happened to be Yale and most of the people in the US couldn’t even get into that school, never mind pass a single course.

The troubling thing is, that strategy seems to be spreading from politicians to evangelical Christians. And worse, evangelical Christians seem to be agreeing with the idea that evangelical Christians aren’t very bright. (Which begs the question: should we believe someone who isn’t very bright when he says he isn’t very bright? 🙄 ) For example, in “Lots of Stupid Christians,” Dr. Coyle Neal says, “The example of Fundamentalism shows us one possible reason there are so few evangelical intellectuals.”

The distressing thing here is that “so few evangelical intellectuals” is treated as a given. But where are the data supporting such a statement?

And who defines “intellectual”? Are only PhD’s in philosophy considered intellectual?

What’s particularly galling to me is the complete dismissal of theologians as part of the intellectual community. I suspect atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and the late Christopher Hitchens would be included on a list of intellectuals, but why not men like William Craig Lane, Ravi Zacharias, and Alister McGrath who debate those atheists?

Why not John Piper or R.C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung or Francis Chan who study Scripture and look at culture through the lens of theology? Why wasn’t the late Professor Howard Hendricks or Dr. Clyde Cook considered an “intellectual”? Because they spent their time in seminaries and Christian universities?

And what about the likes of John MacArthur or Charles Swindoll, men who influenced evangelical Christianity a great deal these past forty years–are they not intellectual enough to be counted as intellectuals?

Then there are all the people living in towns and villages in Asia or Africa, speaking multiple languages, often translating from one to the other, understanding multiple cultures, and bringing a global view of God’s word to their work–are they not intellectuals because they don’t hob-nob with the rich and famous, they don’t lunch with politicians and media types?

If intellectuals must publish in a set of elite journals and expound on irrelevant arguments which the Apostle Paul saw as worthless, then sure, I’ll agree, there aren’t very many evangelical intellectuals. But really, if we’re talking about people who can speak to the cosmic issues of life, who know and understand how to frame an apologetic for the Christian faith, then thankfully, all these naysayers are wrong. The evangelical Christian intelligentsia is alive and well, thank you very much.

Published in: on March 12, 2013 at 6:36 pm  Comments (15)  
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