Creationism and the Value of Life

Creationists are forever babbling about how “Darwinists” have no reason to value human life. You’ve seen their mantra: Evolution teaches that the universe is all random, there’s no purpose to anything, we’re here only because of chance mutations, which means that life has no meaning, there’s no reason for morality, etc. Indeed, the most fanatical creationists wildly assert that acceptance of evolution inevitably leads to evil.

In contrast to that absurdly contrived bleakness — which never seems to manifest itself in the lives of those who understand and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution — it’s useful to have a ready response. So what is it?

Aside from pointing to the countless examples of scientists (some of whom are atheists, while others are not) leading apparently happy and productive lives, there is also the acknowledged phenomenon of the virtuous pagan. On the other side of the coin, while most clergymen seem to lead exemplary lives, there are well-known examples of disgraced clergy. In other words, the real-world evidence for the creationist’s claim that morality belongs exclusively to them is — to put it gently — unpersuasive.

That should be sufficient, but let us seriously consider the frequently heralded morality and respect for life that creationists claim is uniquely theirs because they insist on taking scripture as literally true, word-for-word. The first thing to note is that they don’t accept it all as word-for-word true. Most creationist reject the scriptural teaching that the earth is flat, stationary, and rests on pillars while the sun, moon, and stars revolve around it. See The Earth Is Flat, and also The Earth Does Not Move.

That too should be sufficient. But let’s be charitable and overlook the glaring fact that most creationists don’t follow their own rules. Let’s take them at their word. What do they (selectively) believe that makes life so precious to them but not to us?

The deity described by a word-for-word reading of scripture is most certainly a destroyer of cities. You remember the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. No one was spared — well, no one but Lot and his two darling daughters.

Aside from that, and other documented incidents of mass slaughter, if the tale of Noah’s Flood is accepted as being literally true, then it cannot be denied that the creationists’ deity is a planet-killer. He’s promised that there won’t be another Flood, but what comfort is there in that? How will the next mega-death be accomplished — asteroid collision, plague, or maybe the sun will go nova? It’s a small comfort that the next Big Death won’t be by drowning.

Planetary extinction is no big deal to the creationists’ concept of a deity, because he can speak it all into existence again with only a divine word. Perhaps it’s happened many times before; we have no way of knowing. There’s no getting around it — life on earth is utterly trivial and virtually meaningless in that kind of setup. But that’s the way the creationists see the universe, and they tell us that setup is the source of their morality and respect for life. Perhaps we’re not sufficiently gifted, but we just don’t see it.

The theory of evolution — and science generally — gives us a very different perspective. Something we’ve written before, Creationism’s Fallacy of Retrospective Astonishment, seems appropriate here:

It’s true that each moment in the world is the result of a blindingly complicated mix of factors. We can’t compute all the variables, yet from our knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology, as we look around we can be fairly confident that each moment of the day things are functioning in accordance with their nature.

[…]

Long chains of natural causes and consequences happen all the time. In fact, that’s what reality is made of.

[…]

Although there’s no evidence that we’re the product of any impossible events, each of us is the result of a unique series of natural occurrences. Our existence will never be repeated. We’re irreplaceable. Priceless. This is why — contrary to the endlessly repeated claims of the creationists — the theory of evolution places a far higher value on individuals and all of humanity than creationism, according to which we could be wiped out and started up again on a whim.

So there you are. To sum it up, our humble opinion is that the scientific view of things must inevitably place an infinitely higher value on human life than the creationists’ way of thinking. In other words, morality is on our side. That’s not atheism — it’s reality.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationism and the Value of Life

  1. To repeat myself the nth time:
    Doesn’t this “value” argument apply at least as much to Storkism?
    What value is there to a collective (such as “mankind”) more than the value of the individual?

  2. BRAVO!!! *standing ovation*

    BRAVO!!! BRAVO!!!

  3. Another good post. One story I always think of is the story of Job, and all the bad stuff that happened to him so God could test his faith. Who cares that his wives and children were all killed, God gave him replacements at the end of the story because of his faith. Job didn’t seem to mind. I suppose your examples are better because rather than just some guy’s family, it refers to the destruction of all life on earth and how easily it could be replaced by God.

  4. Great posting. I agree with LRA.

    I thought life got a lot better when I finally realized that there was no god up in heaven watching me all the time. I did not run amok and become a despicably immoral creature…the feeling was more akin to that feeling I had when I moved out of my parent’s home for the first time – it’s a sense of satisfaction in being completely responsible for oneself. It doesn’t hurt that there is no eternal damnation either, or like SC points out, a threat of some arbitrary future sudden extinction.

    For just one current example, most fundamentalists seem to get worked up over non-heterosexual people, of whatever type. Many seem to think that god’s wrath will come over us because gays can marry, or maybe become ministers in some churches, or, worst of all, teach in schools. Remember Katrina was held to be due to those wicked souls in New Orleans, by certain unsympathetic creationists. How can life for such a person be happier than life for a person who does not believe in deities with twitchy trigger fingers? How sad it is to be stressed out constantly by what other people do with their own lives.

    Yes, life as a non-creationist is vastly more happy than life under the thumb of a temperamental deity.

  5. maxff, Job’s children were killed (the method varies according to verse), but his wife survived. What I think is rather fun (although this is probably only fun for we Theists) is to ask a creationist why they don’t believe the story of Creation in Job. It’s much more exciting; laying the foundation of the earth, throwing stars up in the sky, fighting sea monsters. OK…as I said, it’s probably only fun for Theists.

  6. Excellent post, interesting argument. Christopher Hitchens tackles this same issue in a lengthy but interesting clip from 2007, before his unfortunate illness. (The site, The Cobourg Atheist, also has a section of articles dedicated to ethics, morality and religion.)

    http://www.cobourgatheist.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=903:hitchens-on-atheist-morality&catid=148:christopher-hitchens&Itemid=62

  7. His wife survived? oops on my part, I haven’t read it in awhile and may remember wrong. Thanks for the correction. 🙂

  8. Sometimes Creationists will argue that if *any* of the Bible is suspect as not being necessarily God’s inspired Word and can’t be taken literally (they mean Genesis), what’s to keep you from attacking the entire Bible? Where would you stop? My reply would be, “That’s YOUR problem,” but it’s more of an argument aimed at wavering Christians showing signs of leaving the OEC reservation, not for the hopelessly damned. However, if I did have to start picking and choosing what to leave out of the Bible, I’d certainly start with Job. It opens with a scene in Heaven, depicting it like the court of an Oriental potentate, and continues with God and Satan being on free and easy terms with each other rather than enemies. And they make a bet involving testing an innocent man to destruction, with collateral damage killing other innocent people. Besides the theological problems, Job *reads* like a fictional work, with implausible dialogue in which people eruditely debate philosophy, scenes no one could have witnessed (those in Heaven), and a contrived symmetry when Job gets the same number of children he started with back at the end. It’s a literary creation, not the account of actual events happening to real people. It also ends with Job dying at a preposterous old age, 140 years after the recounted events. This is certainly one book I’d put on the list as being dubious historically.

    However, Creationists need it, in particular because it mentions the Leviathan and the Behemoth, which they interpret as dinosaur sightings. There’s also something interpreted as an indication a brief Ice Age was going on up north in Job’s time, at least about as much of an Ice Age as Creationists are grudgingly willing to concede. I’ve even run into a really naive fundy or two convinced that Job himself actually wrote the book that has his name on it, even though it includes Job’s own death, because, well, it has his name on it. But I’d start with Job, and if it leads to other books being questioneded, again, that’s their problem.

  9. You won’t post this, but you’ll have seen it.

    SC writes: “In contrast to that absurdly contrived bleakness — which never seems to manifest itself in the lives of those who understand and accept Darwin’s theory of evolution — it’s useful to have a ready response. So what is it?”

    Here it is:

    We believe in Darwin, the Father all-sovereign, explainer of all things visible and invisible, and in one Thomas Henry Huxley, the bull dog of Darwin, begotten from the substance of Darwin.

    We believe in his son, Julian Huxley, of one substance with his Father.

    We believe in Ernst Mayr, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Dawkins who proceed from the spirit of Darwin and Huxley, and through whom all things were understood, things on heaven and things on earth:
    who for our enlightenment were made flesh and became men, who suffered grievously at the hands of petty academics, were denied tenure and publication at State schools, but rose to preeminence at superior universities and ascended into endowed chairs and chancellorships without end.

    By their convictions and firmly held beliefs may we and all our works be judged.

    Amen.

    For we are the chimps of his lab and the apes of his zoo …

  10. Stoopid troll is being stoopid.

  11. LRA says: “Stoopid troll is being stoopid.”

    He won’t be back.

  12. @David: BWAHAHAHAHA! (laughs at David… and points)
    Note to David: My comment above was about as useful to the discussion as yours. I was simply more concise.

  13. aturingtest

    Little late to this party but…
    I have always had a problem with a system that seeks to impose “meaning” and “value” from an oustide influence or source that isn’t even meaningful in itself outside of that imposition. What’s wrong with finding “meaning”, “value”, and “purpose” in life in life itself? And what other purpose is there in seeking it elsewhere than to arbitrarily impose on others your own values, etc.?