For me, one of the most compelling reasons I believe in a good God is the nearly universal human awareness of morality. There are wide-ranging opinions regarding morality. Many people say that morality is subjective. To support their claim, they point to different cultures and the vastly different moral norms found around the globe. It is true. In one culture someone may bring their neighbor dinner while in some remote areas of the world, someone may eat their neighbor for dinner. This extreme example aside, moral norms do vary widely. However, what is consistent is that all people have some sense of morality. Some will balk at this statement claiming that they themselves, or others may be amoral, that “anything goes,” as far as they are concerned. This breaks down as soon as someone “wrongs” them or someone they care about. At that point a person is convinced that morality is a real thing. Still, the argument is made that morality is a human construct, or the result of evolutionary processes that came about to preserve mankind in the survival of the fittest.
The idea that morality is the result of societal evolution is a popular notion, but one that I believe is flawed in its failure to account for moral behaviors that would seem to be in direct opposition to evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory and the terms “Survival of the Fittest,” and Natural Selection, refer to the process of less dominant genes ultimately being “beaten out” or removed from the gene pool through various means. For instance, more well adapted organisms may selectively mate with other well adapted partners to the exclusion of the less adapted organisms, thus ending the genetic line of the lesser organisms. Other factors may also play a role in the removal of the so-called “bad genes.” Environmental conditions may change and eliminate some. Predators, including those of the same species may eliminate genetic competition by killing rivals.
When this occurs in nature, among wild animals, there is little concern about morality. The exception to this would be that many people will lament the damage that man has done to the natural environment in cases where an animal's decline may be attributed to mankind's intrusion into nature. Of course, this thought process seems to miss the fact that man's so-called intrusion into nature could also be looked upon as Natural Selection at work as man is supposedly the top of the food chain and the pinnacle of evolution up to this time. Though people tend to blame humanity for our encroachment on other wildlife, most human beings still agree that human life has worth. Therefore, killing people has been looked upon as immoral throughout history with few exceptions. There have been horrific genocides over human history and these have been roundly criticized by humanity. Still, what drove those who committed these atrocities? Did Hitler not aspire to create the Master Race? Was his idea out of line with evolutionary theory, or was it acting upon evolutionary theory? Richard Weikart, Professor of History at Cal State Stanislaus, has written several books addressing this topic. Criticism or praise for his books seems to depend on the worldview of the critic. In his book, From Darwin to Hitler, Weikart explores the connection of Darwinism to Hitler's beliefs and the moral impact these beliefs had in Nazi Germany.
Looking at Nazi Germany gives us an example of an entire culture buying into a particular ideology and the devastating effects that were manifest as a result. Without an objective standard for morality, we are all subject to formulating our own. This is a perilous state for humanity. Things can go smoothly for a culture as long as those in power share common moral norms with the people they lead or govern. However, if those in power have a different ideological or moral belief system, there is reason for the populace to be fearful. If there are no moral absolutes, if there is no objective moral standard, then opinions, feelings, preferences, and ambition may drive the morality of a society. The ramifications for this are profound, particularly if we look at it from an evolutionary standpoint.
From an evolutionary view, humanity should aspire to keep the strongest, smartest, most well-adapted genes in the collective gene pool. Those who don't advance the genetic ascension should be eliminated. As opposed to a moral obligation to care for the elderly, sick, weak, physically or mentally challenged, these people should be removed from the gene pool, and they should not be allowed to use the limited resources available as the earth's population continues to grow. In essence, these “needy” people should be killed. That sounds and is reprehensible. Yet, I find it difficult to come up with a rational argument against it from a purely evolutionary standpoint. On the contrary, there are things that we see in humanity that we instinctively know to be good. These acts contradict a purely evolutionary explanation. For example, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor was a Navy SEAL manning a sniper hideout along with three of his SEAL teammates during operations in Ramadi, Iraq. On September 29, 2006, insurgents apparently located their position A grenade was tossed through the doorway into their rooftop hideout. Monsoor was closest to the door. His teammates said that “He never took his eye off the grenade. His only movement was down toward it.” Mansoor threw himself onto the grenade killing himself, but saving his teammates. As a member of a SEAL Team, Monsoor would be considered elite in several areas. His physical strength, endurance, and skills would be among the best in the world. His mental aptitude and emotional and psychological prowess would also have to be elite as the training required to become a SEAL is renowned for its brutal combination of physical and emotional endurance challenges. The genetic profile of a SEAL would be a definite “keeper,” for the evolutionary gene pool. Yet, when we see heroism like that of Michael Monsoor, we marvel at the goodness, bravery, and valor of a person who would make such a sacrifice to save others. An evolutionary theorist may contend that this moral choice was made to preserve the genetic contributions of his similarly gifted teammates. This contention seems extremely flawed in that it removes a primary objective for any organism living within a system governed by evolutionary laws. That motivation? To keep your genetic material in the gene pool. Additionally, the choice to sacrifice oneself for the others, to genuinely align with “Survival of the Fittest,” must only be made if it is conclusive that the genetics of the survivors is superior to the one who makes the sacrifice. Obviously, in the heat of battle, these types of choices are made, not because of “evolutionary forces,” but because of character, goodness, and love. I will provide one final example that, for me, is difficult to explain if morality is an evolutionary construct. The name Benedict Arnold has become synonymous with betrayal. Arnold served as a general for the American Continental Army in the Revolutionary War before defecting to the British and leading their troops against his former country as a Brigadier General. Most of us view betrayal as one of the most egregious and hurtful actions that can be taken against another person, or people. Yet, why would this make sense from an evolutionary standpoint? Arnold benefitted greatly financially and vocationally. One could argue that his actions were consistent with a “survival of the fittest” mindset. A traitor may rightly see that their best chance at living and prospering may be to sell out their friends, workmates, etc. If the others weren't smart enough to make that choice, then, they deserve what they get. Of course, this isn't how most people view life. Most of us see these types of actions as despicable. We know that these selfish actions are wrong. Why? God teaches us through the words of Paul as he writes to the church in Rome:
(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) Rom. 2:14-15
There are an abundance of verses in the Bible that tell us that God is good. Psalm 106:1 says “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Jesus Himself said, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good...." The biblical worldview believes that morality is objectively established by the One Who is good. God is good and defines good. In the same letter to the Roman church, Paul tells them that the mind of man has been darkened by sin. He says that, as a result, we make wrong choices. The prophet Jeremiah writes in his book that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked. This may sound harsh, but it does explain the extremes in what various cultures have arrived at in their definitions for morality. It explains the horrors that are possible when morality becomes a relative choice made by mankind that is often driven by convenience or popular opinion. Objective morality as defined by God requires that mankind submits to His authority. This is humbling. I know that there are times in my life when I have tried to define my own morality. My prayer is that I live a life of constant repentance from that tendency. I believe that many people have a mistaken idea about what submission to God's authority really is. Yes, it can be difficult (but life is difficult anyway!). However, submission to a good God, a God who designed every good thing, is not intended to spoil our fun. To the contrary, Jesus tells us that He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The One who invented fun, joy, food, sex, happiness...the One who is good, wants you to have life and have it the way it was designed.
I see goodness in the world. I see evil in the world. I believe both are real. Therefore, I believe in a good God, and I am so grateful to Him.
Until next time!
Evolution has become the go-to response for many who hold to an atheistic worldview when asked to account for the appearance of life on earth. Despite this common refrain, evolution has never been an explanation for the beginning of life. The theory of evolution as presented in Darwin’s Origin of the Species, does not offer an explanation for the appearance of life. Darwin's theory assumes the existence of life and then offers an explanation of how these first, primitive organisms evolved to bring about the remarkable diversity we see today.
Some of the best minds in the world have worked tirelessly trying to formulate laboratory conditions that would allow inanimate, non-living matter to come together to create life. They have never been able to do so. Amazingly, if they were able to construct some sort of living organism, all it would prove is that with the proper environmental conditions, a mind could, through the use of intelligence, design life. The possibility of the environmental conditions coming together and forming life by chance is highly improbable for numerous reasons. Supporters of the idea of spontaneous generation of life (abiogenesis) have presented various ideas including the so-called “primordial soup,” (a pond, puddle, ocean, lake, etc.) where the various building blocks necessary for the development of life came together and began to mutate, and somehow randomly produced a self-replicating entity. Early evolutionary biologists greatly underestimated the complexity of even the simplest life forms. A simple protozoan is often thought to be one of the earliest, simplest organisms. Even these “simple” organisms are now known to be overwhelmingly complex.
One of the many scientists who worked in the laboratory to build foundational components for life was Stanley Miller. He was able, through input of an electrical charge in combination with water vapor, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen gasses to form amino acids in a test tube. This has been hailed by many as proof that under the right circumstances, life could be formed by chance in earth's early environment. As I mentioned before, this merely proves that intelligence combined with the right ingredients in the right place, in the right combination, could produce a starting point for life as amino acids are foundational for the formation of proteins. Having all the raw materials necessary to build life isn't the issue. Synthesizing these ingredients in the right combinations, amounts, and in an environment that supports their stability, is what makes abiogenesis extraordinarily improbable given the current atheistic beliefs about the age of the universe, the stability of compounds, and about just how many “ingredients” are necessary for the simplest life to develop.
The simplest life form requires millions of parts at the atomic level.1 In a 1973 book entitled, Evolution: Possible or Impossible, James Coppedge laid out the following time and probability estimates. He allowed for the commonly held view that the earth is 4.6 billion years old, AND that all the components necessary for life were available in the primordial sea, AND that bonding processes were sped up by a trillion times, AND that every atom on earth was used. With those parameters in place the estimated chance of one protein forming would be approximately 1 in 10,000. A protein is not life. It is a building block for life. An estimated 239 proteins are necessary for life to exist. Coppedge estimated the probability of those 239 proteins forming with those assumed properties present on earth to be 1 in 10119,879. The time required to accomplish this would be 10119,831years. This is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000........ longer than the earth has existed. (The number would be 10 with over 100,000 zeroes after it longer than the earth has existed.) This is outside the range of probability. Keep in mind that a fully functioning first organism needs to form before any natural selection/evolution can take place.2
For me, it doesn't appear that there is any good reason to believe that life just popped into existence. Rather, I believe that many atheistic scientists have a preconceived bias that it had to happen through naturalistic causes and therefore a supernatural cause is ruled out a priori. That seems to be a more closed-minded approach to where the evidence leads than that of the theist.
In the upcoming post, I will begin to move away from these high-science discussions to more of my philosophical reasons that I believe God exists. Next we will discuss the possibility of objective morality.
2Coppedge, James, F. 1973. Evolution: Possible or impossible? Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.
In 1978, Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias would be awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. What had they discovered? In a nutshell, they discovered evidence for the beginning of the universe. These two men were working for Bell Labs attempting to measure “high latitude radiation from the Milky Way.” They were using the world’s most sensitive radio receiving device designed to pick up extremely low temperature radiation. In order to detect the extremely low temperature radiation they were looking for (the Milky Way radiation) they needed to get rid of any other “background noise” that would interfere. After accounting for and removing the other “noise,” they found that there was radiation they were picking up from beyond the Milky Way. Up until that time, many scientists believed in a “steady-state” theory of the universe that basically said that the universe was eternal. Many people had problems with this theory and other ideas were formulated. A few concepts that are out there include the Eternal Inflation/Multiverse Theory, the Oscillating Universe Theory, and other ideas that include things reminiscent of the movie the Matrix. Some of the theories seem pretty fantastic. It seems that many of them want to avoid the implications of a beginning, which the evidence for the Big Bang seems to point to.
Before Penzias’ and Wilson’s discovery of the background radiation, many scientists had put forth an idea of a Big Bang. These scientists believed that the universe exploded into existence from nothing. “Creatio ex nihilo,” is the Latin phrase used by scientists meaning creation out of nothing. A couple of these early Big Bang Theorists, Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman actually predicted that there would be a low level background radiation from the initial explosion…a sort of after-glow of creation. In 1948 they predicted that this background radiation would have a temperature of 5 degrees Kelvin. When Penzias and Wilson discovered the radiation, they found that Alpher and Herman were really close, as the actual temperature was 3 degrees Kelvin.
I sometimes enjoy reading modern scientists’ thoughts on origins, space, time, life, etc. I’ve enjoyed reading some of Stephen Hawking’s writings such as A Brief History of Time. I consider any and every idea based on whether it is logically coherent, consistent and whether it jibes with what I know of science. I’m not as concerned with the certifications or titles of the person sharing the idea as I am the validity of his/her arguments. That being said, I recognize that I am a person with presuppositions and biases. I am not alone in this. Everyone has them. Including the scientists. What I have found in listening to many ideas regarding the beginning of the universe, is that that at some point the theorist begins to use language that sounds more meta-physical than physical. There are often attributes of the universe described using deistic qualities or, nonsensical descriptions of time before time began.
The difficulty of the Big Bang for many is that it necessitates a beginning. But, this beginning is very different than anything ever witnessed or experienced. This would be the beginning of time, space, matter, and mass, EVERYTHING in the physical universe. There are innumerable difficulties for the thinker who believes that the physical universe is all there is. One difficulty is what, or Who caused the beginning. The attributes of the cause/Cause would necessarily transcend time, space, matter, etc. To state that affirmatively, one would say that the Cause would be immaterial, timeless, and infinitely powerful. One could also argue that the Cause would be personal as it/He chose to create something from nothing. The ability to choose an action versus inaction, or to actualize the potential universe, seems like it would require a mind. I have my biases. I get it. But, I’d encourage you to read some of the science that seeks an explanation apart from a cause like the one I describe. You will quickly see that there are biases throughout as well.
Earlier today I read excerpts from a recent interview with Stephen Hawking in which he was seeking to describe time before time and the universe before the universe. Professor Hawking has a brilliant mind and has contributed much to science particularly in the fields of quantum mechanics, physics, mathematics, and cosmology. Still, there are times when I read the ponderings of his gifted mind and wonder what pushes him past the simple yet astonishing truth that an Infinite, Powerful, Timeless, Loving Creator brought this all in to being. I’ll close with a couple of quotes by Robert Jastrow, the former Dartmouth Professor, physicist, astronomer, and NASA scientist.
"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." God and the Astronomers (Norton 1978)
Jastrow, who referred to himself as an agnostic and a non-believer, concluded in a 1982 Christianity Today interview:
"Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact."
Until next time when we’ll discuss the appearance of life in our universe.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.