Naturalistic Atheism describes a universe ruled only by the push and pull of blind natural forces upon matter. Nothing else exists apart from the physical world. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins provided a popular illustration of this worldview in his 1996 book, River Out Of Eden:
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in 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 other good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”
Is this consistent with the way anyone actually lives? Do atheists actually see the universe this way? Can society accept the ramifications of this worldview? The answer to all three questions is a resounding no. One only has to review the claims made above and apply them to their own life to refute them. Described above is a rather cold world, void of meaning, justice, and any sense of good or evil. An existence, I suspect, that most would agree is not their experience of reality.
The immediate problem here is that Dawkins tells us life is without meaning because the universe is controlled by blind physical forces and genetic replication. He’s using science in an attempt to convince us that something immaterial does not exist. Does anyone else see a problem? Of course, science can only report on things that can be tested. So is it any wonder that Dr. Dawkins cannot discover meaning through the lens of his microscope? Or record it’s weight? Or identify its origin? The use of observational science to respond to a philosophical problem is inappropriate since these kind of questions simply cannot be answered by science. So, instead, scientists, like Dawkins, must discount the existence of meaning, and a meaning-giver, right from the start.
Here’s what I mean by meaning. According to James Anderson’s inciteful article from www.thegospelcoalition.org called, “Can Life Have Meaning Without God?”, meaning involves the careful consideration of at least three concepts: purpose, significance, and value. Folks who may be afraid to sound boastful need not worry that proclaiming meaning for their life is as conceited as it sounds. After all, after some personal introspection, don’t you think that most people see their lives as having a fundamental goal (purpose), a contribution to the grand scheme of things (significance), and a betterment of the world (value). According to Dr. Dawkins, atheists don’t believe this, or do they? One only has to look at Dawkins’ own biography to see that he seems to believe that his life has meaning. From his wikipedia page:
“He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1962; while there, he was tutored by Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. He continued as a research student under Tinbergen’s supervision, receiving his MA and DPhil degrees by 1966, and remained a research assistant for another year.”
“In his scientific works, Dawkins is best known for his popularisation of the gene as the principal unit of selection in evolution; this view is most clearly set out in his books:
The Selfish Gene (1976), in which he notes that “all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities”.
“Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a supporter of various atheist, secular, and humanistic organisations. He is a patron of the British Humanist Association, and a supporter of the Brights movement.”
Wouldn’t studying zoology at Oxford, being tutored by a Nobel Prize winner, and earning Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees denote a life of purpose? What if you were a writer of successful scientific books aiming to accurately describe the universe? Wouldn’t you say that pursuit is significant? And why else would he support atheist, secular and humanistic organizations if he did not think his doing so would be of value? No, Richard Dawkins says that life is without meaning, but lives in a manner that says quite the opposite.
You might say, “But wait. Maybe the good doctor meant that meaning is not granted from outside one’s self. Couldn’t he simply choose to commit his life to the noble pursuits of science and education thereby giving purpose, significance, and value to his own life?”
In response, that view sounds reasonable until you realize that if it were true then any one person’s self-created meaning would be equal to all other self-created meanings of the world. In other words, Hitler’s meaning would be just as purposeful, significant, and valuable as Ghandi’s. From Anderson’s article, “The only way we could non-arbitrarily discriminate between all these subjectively meaningful lives—to deem one better or more worthy than another—is by smuggling some objective values through the back door. Sooner or later the meaning-from-within camp has to pilfer from the meaning-from-outside camp.”
Furthermore, do you have the ability to bestow meaning onto your own life? Can you give your own life meaning if your life lacks meaning from the beginning? Anderson asks, “How can meaningful choices arise out of a meaningless life?” The truth is that we lack the authority to give our own lives meaning due to our limited view of the big picture. Wouldn’t any self-created meaning be based solely on our own personal whims?
Moreover, declaring that your life or anyone else’s life lacks meaning denies the obvious effect that one life may have on others. In other words, even if German industrialist hero Oskar Schindler would have testified that his life was without meaning, the 1,200 Jewish laborers that he saved during the Holocaust, when asked, would certainly disagree. Schindler’s actions during that horrible time in history meant the survival of generations of Jews. An incredibly meaningful life indeed.
Discussion of the Holocaust can easily lead us to the next troubling aspect of Dawkins’s worldview: justice and good or evil. Again, we can call on another quote. This one is a particularly over-the-top rant from the Dawkins’s bestseller on atheism, The God Delusion:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
If you compare the quote above from The God Delusion and the first quote from River Out Of Eden, you’ll notice the mention of justice in both instances. More specifically, he says there isn’t “any justice” and that here the OT God is “unjust”. How can this be? Which quote is true, if either? See, by painting God as unjust, he presupposes the existence of something just, since injustice is a deficiency of justice. Dr. Frank Turek explains this compellingly about evil in his terrific book, “Stealing From God”:
“Evil is like rust in a car; If you take all the rust out of a car, you have a better car; if you take the car out of the rust, you have nothing. . . In other words, evil only makes sense against the backdrop of good. That’s why we often describe evil as negations of good things. We say someone is immoral, unjust, unfair, dishonest, etc.”
So to paraphrase Dawkins’s delusional quote: God is not good. This again takes an objective moral stand that is denied credibility in his first quote where he declares there is “no design, no purpose, no evil and no other good.” Dawkins cannot resist because he has to know at some level that objective moral truths and values exist. Meaning that there is truth beyond the push and pull of natural forces. He cannot sustain his own view that the world is ruled only by moral opinion.
Undoubtedly, we would not recognize a society that lived out this worldview consistently. This view allows the existence of a Holocaust that is not objectively wrong or evil. The nazis could never be blamed for the horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people, since they were simply “dancing” to the music of their DNA. This atrocity, that is, if atrocities could exist here, wouldn’t be their fault. Calling acts such as these war crimes could only be considered, at worst, a mere difference of opinion. Without the grounding of something or someone objectively good, each action in the universe would have equal value, none worse than another.
In his book, mentioned above, Dr. Frank Turek discusses a great example as to how far a consistent atheist would have to go to maintain his worldview, which occurred during a debate between Turek and David Silverman, president of American Atheists. Dr. Turek pressed his opponent that without the existence of God, there is no objective morality (meaning right or wrong are not based on opinion). Eventually, Silverman, in his pursuit of consistency, had to admit that there was no way to hold the nazis accountable for what they did. The immoral nature of the Holocaust cannot be affirmed by the atheist worldview. The kicker here is that Silverman is himself a Jew! A world of consistent atheism is a world of complete madness.
Someone may say, “Wait, wait. People have done horrible things in the name of Christ, haven’t they? Are Christians any better? What about their inconsistencies?”
Of course, Christians have fallen short. You can look for examples throughout history or even the facebook pages of some believers. But you should not judge a philosophy by its misuse. And you are right, there are inconsistencies, but we have a name for those inconsistencies. We call it sin. And unlike atheism, Christianity has a solution for this problem: The life-saving blood of Jesus Christ.
We have a Lord who stepped down from his throne in heaven and took our punishment because He loves us that much. The reality of Him reveals lives of purpose, significance, and value and a universe where the shadows (injustice and evil), as Turek puts it, prove the sunshine (objective good). Atheism only has these created, blind natural forces, physics against molecules, that fail miserably to describe reality as society observes it.