The events of the past week in Israel have left the civilized world reeling. Hamas has killed more than 1,200 Jewish innocents in the most violent eruption of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust, and it seems likely a war will follow that will soon kill thousands more innocent people. As we ponder and pray over this mass slaughter, it is worthwhile to reflect for a moment on what these events tell us about the ideological and scientific dogmas of the 21st century — about atheism, determinism and Darwinism. Are these dogmas true, and do they provide a meaningful understanding of man and of moral action?
If atheism is true and there is no God, there is no Moral Lawgiver. The concept of good and evil become merely individual human preferences — e.g., we condemn killing of innocents, where as Hamas advocates it. Without objective moral law, by what standard can we say that Hamas is morally wrong? We can’t point to facts, because facts are not values, and moral judgment based on facts still presupposes a moral standard by which facts are judged. Even if all facts were known equally to all parties, different moral judgements can and will be made. Hamas knows babies are innocent in a factual sense (babies obviously haven’t done anything wrong), but they have very different moral judgments than we do about protecting them. Without the existence of real objective moral law — one that we discover rather than invent — the good or evil of raping, kidnapping, and killing women and children becomes a mere matter of personal opinion — different strokes for different folks. Yet when we condemn Hamas’s slaughter of innocents as a moral atrocity, surely we are not talking about mere personal opinions. By denying God’s existence — by denying the existence of a Moral Lawgiver to whom we are all responsible — atheists deny the validity of our moral arguments even against genocide.
What About Determinism?
If determinism is true, then we have no free will. We are nothing more than meat machines, a bizarre argument many atheists have made with stridency. Yet if we have no free will, then the Hamas terrorists didn’t freely choose to rape and murder Israeli women and children. It was their neurotransmitters, not their hate, that set them to action. So how can they be held morally accountable for something they didn’t freely choose? In light of the slaughter of Jewish innocents, determinism and denial of free will are revealed as bizarre and untenable dogmas.
If Darwinism is true, then Hamas’s actions can be explained simply as nature red in tooth and claw. After all, what could be more Darwinian than copulating with a flourish (half of the population of Gaza is under the age of 15), pausing only to cross the border to rape competitors’ women and kill their babies. The math is inescapable — by the evening of the slaughter, there were (at least transiently) more Hamas genes than Israeli genes in circulation. That is a damned effective way to spread selfish genes.
So if Darwinism is true — that is, if natural selection accounts for human nature — then all of the accomplishments of humanity, including our benevolence, our decency, our self-sacrifice, our art, our music, our philosophy, our science, our mathematics — were created in the same cauldron of hate and rivalry as the murders committed by the terrorists who paraglided into kibbutzim to rape and slaughter Jews. In keeping with the more anodyne preventative approach of eugenic Darwinism, Hamas might have paraglided contraceptives, rather than gunmen, into the kibbutzim. “Nip competitors in the bud” seems a more efficient, and less sanguinary, Darwinist stratagem.
Darwinism and the Human Race
If Darwinism is true, our acts of benevolence toward our less fortunate neighbors — when soldiers protect the defenseless, when food kitchens feed the hungry, when doctors and nurses heal the sick — are destructive of the human race, because it enables the less fit to survive and procreate. This conceptual glitch in Darwinism haunted many eugenicists, who justified the involuntary sterilization of “defective” human beings because, in the words of Darwin himself:
…the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
If we accept Darwin’s theory of natural selection as true, then Hamas’s rape and slaughter of Jews is just the reenactment of our creation myth, the true story of how we became human.
Do You Believe That?
As we grapple with the moral issues involved in this cataclysm, we are offered a tragic moment of clarity. The evil of Hamas and the courage and tenacity of the Jewish people are revealed for all to see. It is also clear that moral law is real and objective. It is not merely something each person invents for himself. Different-strokes-for-different folks is no moral law at all, and such moral relativism is odious when applied to the mass slaughter of innocents. Objective moral law — standards by which actions are good or evil — necessarily implies a Moral Lawgiver. Morality presupposes a Mind, and morality that transcends mere human opinion presupposes God as its source.
It is equally clear that determinism, if taken seriously, leaves us incapable of morally condemning this slaughter, because if determinism is true, Hamas terrorists have no moral agency at all. If it’s all physics and chemistry, without free will, then Hamas has done nothing morally wrong, any more than their bullets or their parasails have done anything wrong. If there is no free will, heroes who risk their lives to save innocents have the same moral culpability as the terrorists who slaughter innocents. Without free will there is no moral culpability at all. If human beings lack free will, then they cannot be condemned for their choices, because there are no choices.
How We Became Human
And if the Darwinian explanation really accounts for this atrocity, then we must admit that all of man’s benevolence and greatest accomplishments are the consequence of much the same kind of horror Hamas wreaked on Jewish women and children. The Darwinist paradigm offers only natural selection to explain Shakespeare and Einstein and Raoul Wallenberg. For the Darwinist, we are just apes evolved by natural selection — the same ugly process of nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw on display in last week’s rape and slaughter. Is Hamas the paradigm of how we became human?
The real test of a worldview is not merely what it explains, but what it makes us deny. Atheism makes us deny objective moral law, even the moral law that it’s wrong to rape and kill innocents. Determinism makes us deny moral culpability of any sort, even moral culpability for genocide. Darwinism makes us deny that there is a spiritual aspect of man that gives us the capacity to choose good over evil. If Darwinism is true, then we are created solely by natural selection and driven by selfish genes. These bizarre materialist ideologies are inadequate to explain humanity and inadequate to understand atrocities like the Hamas attacks on innocent Jews.
As we mourn the lost and pray for their souls and pray for the for the safety of Israeli soldiers and for the safety of all hostages and innocents caught up in this growing cataclysm, let us not overlook this moment of clarity.