In his book Making Sense of God, Timothy Keller writes, “If there is no transcendent reality beyond this life, then there is no value or meaning for anything. To hold that human beings are the product of nothing but the evolutionary process of the strong eating the weak, but then to insist that nonetheless every person has a human dignity to be honored—is an enormous leap of faith against all evidence to the contrary.” It seems as though the atheistic community finds itself at a crossroads: either every person has dignity in and of themselves because they are human, or no one has any value or purpose because we come from purposelessness.
In a recent online video, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” answers a submitted question about whether he thinks about his own mortality. Nye says that he doesn’t see any evidence that there is an afterlife. Here is what he said toward the end of the video: “So, furthermore, if evolution is in fact how the world works, and it absolutely sure seems to be from my point of view, one of the fundamental things about evolution that is so troubling is this whole idea of survival of the fittest.” Nye describes this as not having to be the strongest or fastest, but that you “fit in the best.” He continues, “And the troubling, troubling consequence of this is you don’t have to be perfect or super person, you just have to be good enough from an evolutionary standpoint. You just have to be good enough to pass your genes on. After that, evolution, if it were an entity, doesn’t really care about you, man. You had your kids, your genes are passed on and you expire, you lose your faculties as you just run out of steam and that’s just how it is.” He sums it up in just a few words: “Nature doesn’t care.”
This is the “troubling” reality of evolution. There is no purpose, meaning, or goal to reach at the end. You contract a disease. So what? Nature doesn’t care. If you’ve passed on your genes then you’ve done your part in the evolutionary process. That is nature’s “purpose” for you. Nye’s only advice in light of this harsh reality is to “live your life as best you can everyday.” But, what is “best,” and who defines it? We have to look outside of ourselves for the “best,” because it can’t be found within nature. We also can’t look inward, because every person has a different version of best. One might want to rape women to pass his genes on, yet this is immoral, even though animals forcibly reproduce all the time. Why is this immoral? Some would argue that this does not promote human flourishing (as Sam Harris would say), but it seems to me a rapist is doing exactly what nature would want him to do: flourish his genes. Besides, nature doesn’t care if a woman is raped, people do. But, where did caring come from if we are the product of an uncaring process? (In no way am I trivializing things such as rape, nor am I indicating that those who think as Bill Nye does are indifferent to such things.)
Richard Dawkins holds a similar view. In his book River Out Of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, Dawkins reiterates the careless nature of evolution, saying, “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” We are not moving toward anything, and there is no good or evil. So, what is life all about? Well, per Dawkins and others, absolutely nothing when you get down to it.
But, if we live long enough, we know this isn’t how the world works. Whether we are talking about meaning or morality, there must be something more to explain it all. Meaninglessness and indifference cannot lead us to where we are today. Try as they might, atheists cannot give a positive case for why we find purpose, meaning, and morals in our lives, except to say that we have created them for numerous reasons. Just as Timothy Keller said about meaning, I end with a quote from Frank Turek on morality. He says, “Morality is either objective or it’s not—there is no third alternative. It’s either objective in an unchanging God or a matter of opinion in seven billion changing subjects.”
1) Where can we find value in the evolutionary process? Can there really be any meaning or purpose without God?
2) What should we be doing with our lives if there is, as Richard Dawkins says, “no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference?” Are we really only living to pass on our genes and die?
3) Should we punish people for behaving like animals (lying, murdering, raping), when the conclusion seems to be that we are just animals?
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God. (New York, New York: Viking, 2016), 49.
Bigthink. "'Hey Bill Nye, Do You Think about Your Mortality?' #TuesdaysWithBill."YouTube. YouTube, 03 Jan. 2017. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden. (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 133.
Frank Turek, Stealing From God. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2014), 98..