Why is the topic of origins important? Does it truly matter whether we evolved by random, non-directed processes over long periods of time or whether we were created by God? Is God even relevant to the subject of science? The fact remains that origins are important and God is relevant to science for the same reason: God is Himself the origin of truth.
Part I of this series compared neo-Darwinist evolution, the Intelligent Design movement, and biblical creationism and their presuppositions regarding the origin of the universe, the age of the universe, and the origin of life. Part II compared these regarding death, the fossil record, and the origin of man. We will now compare how these scientific presuppositions explain the origin of morality and purpose.
Evolution adheres to materialism, not in the sense of “I want a Lexus and a million dollars” but in the sense that existence is solely explainable by molecular processes. In other words, there is nothing beyond matter and energy. Life and death simply are; they imply no value judgments. Regarding living things, there is only successful and unsuccessful; that which we call “right” and “wrong” is an arbitrary construct that has been adopted by evolutionary means in order to aid in the survival of the species. In nature, there is no real moral absolute beyond survival.
In human terms, we have passed laws and developed ethics solely as a means of aiding in the survival of the human race. Any sense of morality is seen only in the context of how we relate to one another as a species, as a group. That which we call “love” is merely a matter of pheromones. We reject incest because it is detrimental to the health of the species; we embrace euthanasia and abortion because they aid in managing our unsustainable population and perhaps weed out the useless or unfit in order to “strengthen the herd.”
Similarly, war can both manage a population and aid in the survival of a particular breed of our species. The most successful party in war can be called “good,” and the unsuccessful can be called “bad.” Since war is seen in terms of successful or unsuccessful, there is no moral component by which it can be judged. Society, then, is the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes that which we label “right” and “wrong.” Philosopher and theologian Francis Schaeffer succinctly phrased this worldview by writing, “If there are no absolutes by which society can be judged, then society is absolute.”
In this sense, we have adopted “right” and “wrong” merely as intellectual constructs of convenience, with no more value judgment than a virus or a tsunami. According to evolution, primitive man added value judgments, along with the construct of the supernatural, to aid in his understanding of the forces of nature, and so we have the birth of religion and ethics, but its origins, according to evolution, are merely attempts to shape society rather than any sort of universal moral law. Perhaps modern man is much too sophisticated for these antiquated notions, and so he discards the inconvenient ethics in the name of survival, and perhaps a good night’s sleep.
It’s a cute theory, but it has no basis in reality. Humans throughout history have acted as if morality existed beyond themselves. The definition of cowardice, for instance, may vary from culture to culture, but it is universally despised, even when it aids in survival. No one embraces cowardice. Morality is often inconvenient, so few have held true to their moral foundations, yet we all have the desire to be courageous, to stand against adversity for our beliefs. History shows that millions upon millions have suffered profound disadvantage and even death for moral reasons; how can this be if morality is merely a human construct to aid in survival? Where is the evolutionary advantage in persecution and martyrdom? There is none.
Evolution cannot account for this phenomenon except to say that it may be some sort of genetic glitch, a gene that causes some to act abnormally. That breaks down rather quickly, for evolution can only produce fatalism, the belief that all events are predetermined (in this case by biological and environmental factors) and thus inevitable. Free will cannot exist in a merely biological universe, for the will transcends the brain to the areas of soul and spirit. Moral causes are decisions, not instinctual reactions; they require discipline and resolve rather than reaction, often working against instinct and survival. Evolution is thus insufficient to explain the origin of morality.
Since Intelligent Design does not give any specifics as to who or what may be the designer or designers of “life, the universe, and everything,” it has little to say on morality. “Let the priests, the poets, the philosophers, and the politicians muddle about with morality,” they might say. The Deist notion that “god” may have created, but may or may not interact with earthlings is about as far as science can take the subject. They may adopt the situational ethics of the materialists, or they may adopt a supernaturalist’s ethic based upon the “god hypothesis,” but since ID doesn’t go into specifics, then the matter is solely the choice of the individual. There is no established universal moral compass, and so there is no definitely established origin.
Creationism has the strongest arguments for the existence and nature of morality. Since its scientific foundations lie in revelation from a living God who is the Ultimate Authority and the source of truth, there is a universal moral compass, an absolute by which nature and society can be judged. That which aligns with God is called “right,” and that which does not is called “wrong.” If there is no absolute by which God can be judged, then God is absolute. Whether we humans agree or disagree is irrelevant; we have no say in the matter.
Creationism alone explains the dichotomy of human nature by explaining that man is created in God’s image and thus has a capacity and a desire to do what is right, but since he has rebelled against God and exists in a fallen state, he is incapable of meeting these moral standards in his own power.
Since Darwinism relies exclusively upon random, non-directed means for the origin of life, the universe, and everything, then the notion of purpose is absurd. Evolution has attempted to explain how function can come from randomness by means of natural selection and advantageous mutations, but this is altogether different from purpose. Purpose inherently implies a predetermination by force of will. Purpose cannot come from randomness. If life is merely the result of a series of beneficial accidents, then life has no meaning beyond survival. In fact, if life is indeed an accident, then survival itself has no real meaning, either; the universe doesn’t care.
If this seems to be less than comforting, what’s to be done? Humans have a profound drive to survive, and a profound thirst to search for meaning. If randomness is at the core of reality, how then can meaning come from the meaningless? How do we account for the thirst for meaning beyond survival? How do we account for purpose? Evolution is silent.
Intelligent Design is not entirely silent. In their fascinating book and DVD, Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards make a compelling case for the universal implication of purpose by comparing the factors needed to sustain complex life and the factors that allow humans to discover the universe. Says Richards, “What if those things that make a planet habitable also make that planet the best place for making scientific discoveries? That is, what if those rare locations in the universe that are compatible with observers like ourselves, are also the best places, overall, for making observations?” He continues, “In the book we detail more than a dozen examples of the correlation between life and discovery. And they’re not quirky, marginal examples. Each treats a condition critical to its respective scientific field. Some deal with remote things, like the nature of galaxies. Others are much closer to home.” Scientific discovery may not be the ultimate purpose of humans, but it certainly legitimizes the question of purpose. This points to something beyond human experience, some cosmic hand guiding students to discovery.
Again, Creationism is able to delve into specifics, precisely because it doesn’t rely on human understanding but upon revelation from God, the same One who designed the universe and placed us in the best spot to make discoveries, who placed within us the thirst for knowledge and the determination to discover. He also revealed His ultimate purpose for us: fellowship with Him. This is an entirely different answer than the meaninglessness of an impersonal universe that doesn’t care if we survive or not!
The origins of morality and purpose are perhaps the strongest arguments against evolution, for there are moral laws that exist just as surely as the laws of nature, and there is compelling evidence of purpose in the universe, and a profound need for purpose built into the heart of every human. Evolution can sufficiently account for neither morality nor purpose. Intelligent Design does better at bringing these concepts into the realm and relevance of the scientific arena, but it provides no tangible explanations as to why. Science seeks to discover truth, but truth cannot be limited by the confines of scientific inquiry. Truth transcends the human capacity of intellect and discovery. Ultimately, it requires the revelation and authority of God.