By CHRISTIAN LEDFORD, Staff Writer
In 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origins of Species, his magnum opus and the foundation of evolutionary biology, and changed the world. While many point to the publication of Origins as the point at which religion and science began to collide, it was merely a sign of the times; humanity’s descent into naturalism began earlier, in the Enlightenment of the 1700s in which scholars and scientists began to reject millennia-old Aristotelian and Biblical knowledge. Whereas, anachronistic thinkers like Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Pascal, and too many others to name were devoutly religious, this age of naturalism saw a departure from theism in efforts to explain the world around us, and the universe as a whole, outside of intelligent design and outside of God.
Today, after centuries of secular scientific thought on biology, geology, and cosmology, science has left religion behind. Those who express skepticism in unproven theories of modern science are looked down upon as unintelligent. Those who advocate belief in intelligent design or even (gasp) creationism are seen as worse than unintelligent; as mentally-unsound deniers and haters of knowledge. In the wake of this abandonment, we’ve seen a rise of something peculiar called New Atheism, contrasted with the deistic atheism of Enlightenment men like Voltaire. This atheism couples itself directly with modern science in militant anti-theism, dedicated literally to the eradication of religious faith. This movement heralds champions like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, men who’ve made it their lives’ purposes to angrily persuade the world that life has no purpose.
I’ve never understood atheism. I was admittedly raised in a devoutly Christian home and educated in church all my life, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve gone without my doubts and moments of existential crisis. However, every time I’ve lapsed in faith or doubted God, I’ve always come back to my core belief that there is a God who both created the universe and guides its fate. Nothing else makes sense. Atheism, coupled with theories like evolution and geological uniformitarianism, has always been an ideology of meaninglessness. Under Atheism, life, as well as every single other aspect of existence, is a combined result of chance, pure random, lucky chance.
It’s by pure chance that the planet we live on exists perfectly in our sun’s habitable zone, which allows liquid water, an utter necessity for life, to exist abundantly on Earth’s surface. It’s pure chance that our moon exists in the perfect location to secure Earth’s axial tilt and guarantee our necessary day-night cycle. It’s pure chance that life, something we haven’t observed anywhere in any form in the entire observable universe, exists on Earth at all. It’s pure chance that humans, intelligent life, exist and are capable of not only speech but species consciousness and advanced thought, things not seen in any other species. For all the talk of Earth as a privileged planet and humanity as a privileged species, there’s equally as much equating this all to nothing more than a roll of the interstellar dice. At a certain point, does it not make more sense to attribute our monumental existence to some intention, some design, rather than pure luck? As Thomas Aquinas eloquently said long ago in Summa Theologica, “Whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another…Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other [than]…God.”
However, it isn’t the scientific atheism’s reliance on chance that disturbs me, but rather the natural denotation of this ideology. Specifically, if our understanding of truth in the universe can rest only on nature and its laws (i.e. gravity, thermodynamics, etc.,) then what does this implicate for decidedly non-natural phenomena, most importantly morality? It means that there is no absolute moral truth; it means that existence, deep down at its core, has no purpose, and in a universe where there is no meaning, nothing can have a meaning, least of all our short, insignificant lives. As far as I’m concerned, this is the fundamental problem of atheism.
If there is no God, no absolute judge of right and wrong, no designer of our lives, no scribe of our purpose, then we’re all governed simply by nature, and, in natural governance, anything goes. Per the theory of evolution, the weak will suffer and the strong will survive, with no guilt or ethics required from either. Per atheism, in what position would we be in if we even attempted to ascribe some ethical judgement on the actions of either? What I’m saying here’s controversial; any self-respecting atheist would argue ethics developed as means to achieve communal unity to propel our species forward or that morality stems from our status as “social animals.” However, while perhaps making some sense on a base level, none of these attempts at explanation come close to explaining our uniquely-human species consciousness, instead only serving to promote tribalism. For example, a man in America may be implored to care for his neighbors or countrymen, but why should he care about those suffering in North Korea or Syria? A woman in Tokyo may care for her family, but why should she care if Congolese Africans starve to death? What evolutionary incentive is there in either case for compassion of the distant?
Finally: death, the great unifier. In atheistic science, death is nothingness; our deaths are but a slide into eternal oblivion, a complete failure to exist. In this sense, what hope does atheism have for children being blown apart in Aleppo? What hope is there for those forced into brutal, unending labor in Pyongyang? Under atheism, what hope is there for the downtrodden, brutalized, or broken? Their lives will not only be short but meaningless and insignificant as well.
In the end, there is no hope for man in detached atheistic science; therein lies only meaninglessness and despair. For all their vast knowledge, scientists like Richard Dawkins miss the painfully obvious, the fact that humanity needs truth and purpose, things that come only from one place: God.