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.
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