Saturday, October 31, 2009

Evil, Human Flourishing, Internal Fizzing, and the Existence of God

There are lots of ways to try to explain away God. The problem is, once you explain away God you also have to explain away any standard of right and wrong. Morality is meaningless in a godless world.

Evidence for a standard of morality is everywhere: we see it in every culture, age group, and time in history. Even some of the most staunch moral relativists cannot deny the presence of a standard of morality--they openly criticize the evil we see in the sex trade, holocaust, slavery, child abuse, domestic violence and genocide that wreak havoc on our world.

The presence of this evil points to the existence of good; without good "evil" is a meaningless concept, just like the term "dark" only makes sense because we have experienced something we call "light". Now, if "good" and "evil" are meaningful ideas in our world then we must ask the question, who determines what is good and what is evil?

Obviously we can't attribute this standard of morality to past presidents, kings, or dictators who somehow convinced the entire world to jump on their moral bandwagon. Some people argue that morality has evolved over time to promote human flourishing. But one has to wonder, if the origin of morality is a desire for human flourishing, from where does our concept of human flourishing originate? Not only that, how do we explain values like justice, love, diligence and responsibility that transcend time and culture?

Others appeal to science to rationalize our knowledge of good and evil. The strict materialist tries to explain away moral convictions as the movement of particles or chemical reactions in the brain. With this explanation our moral sentiments and convictions are no more meaningful than the convictions a fizzy cup of vinegar and baking soda might have. Hence, the materialist reduces humans to nothing more than bodies full of internal "fizzing".

The problem with the scientist's explanation is it ultimately explains away “true” and “false” statements. Thus, the scientist explains away his own explanation, for even his explanation of morality must be nothing more than the movement of particles or the "fizzing" of chemicals in his brain.

That leaves us with the presence of widely recognized evil which points to good, and nothing to explain our understanding of good and evil--except God.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34:8


  1. As you mentioned (in reference to "moral relatavism," I believe), one of the hard things to explain about morality and the definition thereof is that everyone seems to have a different standard. In the 19th century American South, it was considered "moral" to beat the tar out of (or murder) someone on the grounds that they reportedly insulted a relative. In the well-known example of the Holocaust, Hitler (presumably) thought killing 11 million people was "moral." Muslim extremists beheading journalists and soldiers think they are being "moral", just like environmentalists decrying the deforestation policies feel they are being "moral," or Christians feeding the homeless feel that they are being "moral." While I agree with you that a universal CONCEPT of morality and immorality is evidence of a Creator that instilled these concepts into each of us, being "moral" is not what matters. One of the things that I think is so sweet about the Gospel is that it renders our attempts at "morality" in itself absolutely WORTHLESS (Isaiah, Galations, among others.) What is important is the evidence of Jesus and the Spirit that proves his existence in our lives and allowing the Spirit to govern our actions as Christians. Sorry, probably took that in a different direction than you intended.

  2. Thanks for your insight, Brandon. I totally agree that we are all guilty of breaking God's moral law, and as a result are in desperate need of a savior. Praise God for putting on flesh and making a way for us to be righteous through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit! The role of the law in our Christianity is a great blog topic, I think! The purpose of this blog was merely to show the way in which the existence of moral law points to the existence of God. :)

  3. When I read this I got the impression that you value belief in invisible and unprovable things over scientifically supported theories. Do you think resisting rationality is good for society?

    If there were no religions or holy books today, how could you come to the conclusion that there is a supernatural being that loves you? This should be a simple question to answer if it were true that God exists. In fact, you should only be able to come to a belief in the Christian God. However, there are many examples of humans developing their own set of moral values. The Chinese came up with Confucianism and it seemed to work well for them.

    I can give you a better theory on the science of morality off the top of my head. Think of the human race (society) as an organism made up of billions of individual working units, in the same vein as the human body is made up of billions of individually operating cells. The organism may have cells that are bad that form or infiltrate, but the immune system destroys them. This happens because of evolution via natural selection. At some point in the past, one of its ancestors mutated a white blood cell. Then in the more recent past, an infectious disease decimated the organism's population. An overwhelming majority of the survivors were descendants of the organism that had white blood cells. Morality could have evolved similar to this. Morality might simply be the human race's evolved "immune system". It could be something that is innate in us because it is programmed into our genes, that connect our neurons in a certain way, influencing our behavior and increasing our chance for survival by helping the human race to work together.

    Also, when you say, "they openly criticize the evil we see in the sex trade, holocaust, slavery, child abuse, domestic violence and genocide that wreak havoc on our world." you must realize that those are bad things for society on many levels. Humans aren't the only species on the planet that base their actions on what is best for their population. There are numerous species on the planet that understand there is power in numbers. That is why they don't eat or kill their own kind normally.

    So, what exactly is evil? It seems like you are implying that it is more than just an adjective. Couldn't you use the word detrimental instead? Either things are detrimental to society, or they are beneficial.

    Try to think of it this way. "Good" and "evil" are ideas that were created by man. If you look at "evil" and "good" things objectively, you see that they are basically beneficial or detrimental to our human race "organism".

    I look forward to your responses.

  4. "Good" and "Evil" are words that have conviction. Moving to "beneficial" and "detrimental" seems to water down or even completely change the definition of the two concepts. Something that is "beneficial" for one person might be "detrimental" for another. However, something "good" (in this blog's context) cannot be "evil" at any point. It seems like the more time marches on, the world seems to want to throw away Conviction, and words that would suggest any "either/ or's". There is something so refreshing, and so right about a conviction - it just suggests that there is a Truth to be heard!
    I love your blogging, Sarah, you make me think so much.
    I also appreciate every comment made by others. They are very thoughtful as well. Every comment seems to point me more towards Christ and wanting to follow even harder after Him.

  5. Hi Rachel!

    Welcome to the conversation. I would love to hear more from your point of view.

    What are your definitions of good and evil? Looking back through history, you can see that the definitions have been constantly changing, even within the Christian religion. What may have seemed good at the time has turned out to be evil. I'm sure you noticed I was implying that the definitions of good and evil are subjective. I was also trying to show how society's definition of good and evil could be dynamic and evolve over time. You can use the bible to support this idea. One of God's ten commandments was, "You shall not murder," yet he also commands murder. Jesus denounces "eye for an eye" and commands to "turn the other cheek."

    So, where does your sense of conviction come from? Is it possible that most of your convictions were instilled in you by your parents and from reading the bible? Just look around the world and you can see how many different definitions for good and evil there are. Do you think everybody feels guilty for the same things that you do?

  6. Hi Matt,
    It's good to hear from you! Thanks for your ideas. Here are my thoughts regarding your first response to this blog.

    I am not resisting rationality. In fact, I am employing reason to support my argument that the materialist’s attempt to scientifically explain conscience and conviction is self-refuting. And, as we both know, reason is invisible.

    I do think that science can help us to understand truth, but I refuse to divorce scientific empiricism from rationalism. We must use reason as a guide to help us to assess the validity of a scientific argument, and if a scientific argument is logically self-refuting, we must disregard it.

    The existence of moral law, the scientific law of irreducible complexity and the grandeur of nature are just a few things that point to the existence of God. You are right, however in pointing out that we cannot know the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply by studying irreducible complexity or moral law; we need more specific revelation of God’s character. Thankfully, we live in a world in which God has revealed himself specifically through the Bible, personally in the person of Jesus Christ, and progressively through the work of the Holy Spirit.

    I agree with you that different cultures have developed differing moral codes. However, these different moral systems are all an attempt to express love, justice, responsibility etc, the expression of these values just differs among cultures. Thus moral law does transcendent time and culture.

    You talk about cells that are “bad”, actions that are “best”, and things that are either “beneficial” or “detrimental” for society. Do you realize that your language is morally charged? Something cannot be “bad” unless it doesn’t live up to a standard of “good”; something cannot be “best” unless there are other things that are objectively not as good; and something cannot be “detrimental” or “beneficial” unless there is some standard of human flourishing. Your reasoning is circular: you are referring to a standard of morality to prove that there is no such thing as a standard of morality.

    Do you have any ideas to explain away moral law that aren’t logically self-refuting?

    Furthermore, you wrote about the possibility of morality being "programmed into our genes." How can something "be programmed" unless there is a programmer--someone doing the programming? Who is this programmer, in your opinion?

  7. Thanks for your input Rachel! Love you times one million trillion kajillion.