NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Dr. Ben Carson the following question:
“You’re a famed neurosurgeon, the best — some say — the best pediatric neurosurgeon living in the world today. You’re a man of deep faith. Explain how science and religion, in your mind, co-exist.”
Chuck Todd should be asking how atheists can do science without God. I wonder if he would ask an atheist this question:
“How can an atheist account for the stuff of the cosmos, the complexity of the structure of DNA, the information needed to operate the human body and mind and the near impossibility of something coming into existence from nothing and evolving into what we are today which is contrary to all known science?”
Of course, Chuck Todd would never ask such a question of an atheist even though they are the questions that should be asked before any discussion of atheism and/or evolution takes place.
The Christian religion and science are not incompatible. There have been disputes among scientists who are religious. But that’s also true among atheists and scientists in general
When someone like Chuck Todd asks a question about science and religion, he must presuppose certain things. First, that he’s real. Second, his mind is trustworthy and his version of reason is reasonable while accounting for the origin of reason in a matter-only cosmos. Third, knowledge is possible. Fourth, there are moral absolutes.
How does he account for these “things” (only things are possible in a matter-only universe) in a world without God with only the instruments of science as his guide?
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
“If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists’ and astronomers’ as well as for anyone else’s [thought processes]. But if their thoughts — i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident would be able to give correct account of all the other accidents.”1
How can our conception of reality be trusted when we can’t really know if we “evolved” the right way? Darwin understood the dilemma. “But then arises the doubt,” he argued, “can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”2
Of course, given theistic assumptions, the ability to reason and the reality of morality are accounted for in the proposition that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” and “created man in His own image” (Gen. 1:1). We exist because God first exists. We reason because God reasons. We have a moral sense because God is a moral being.
Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), a key figure in the scientific revolution, wrote, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.”
The atheist recoils at such talk, but he actually needs these foundational premises to account for all the tools he uses to denounce the God he claims he does not need.
Chuck Todd is operating under the unproven assumption that what comes out of his mouth, prompted by electrical impulses that first bounced around in his brain, have real meaning, that he has real meaning. But there’s nothing in the atheistic evolutionary worldview where any of these types of assertions are absolute and viable.
Furthermore, science cannot account for morality. Scientists can only measure what people do. “Stuff happens,” and evolved biological entities do “stuff.” Ultimately, scientists, only using the tools of science, can’t say whether what people do is morally good or bad. At death, Adolf Hitler and the most compassionate caregiver will be “morally” equal since there won’t be anyone to make a moral judgment.
If religion and science are separate, what is the difference between Dr. Carson’s medical procedures as a neurosurgeon to save babies and the experiments that Nazi doctors did on Jews? Without God, both could claim they were looking for a “good” result. Who could say otherwise?
Consider the following. “God died in the nineteenth century and Nietzsche danced on his grave. The foundation of the external moral law was destroyed and, in its place, was a vacuum, soon gleefully filled by the narcotics of Nazism and Communism. It may not be possible to say that the death of God led directly to the death ovens; but equally, nobody can ignore the fact that the cruelest era in history was also the first to deny the existence of an external moral force.”
If this is true, and it is, “can we stop the long nightmare of the twentieth century from spilling over into the twenty-first?”3
Not if we follow the worldview of Chuck Todd and those who agree with him.
Consider the following:
“For decades, students in American public schools have read from textbooks that devalue human life. In the introduction to the unit on the animal kingdom in Holt’s 10th-grade biology textbook, students were taught: ‘You are an animal, and share a common heritage with earthworms…’4 A 1989 Earth Science textbook published by Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich alleged that ‘humans probably evolved from bacteria that lived more than 4 billion years ago.’5.
“In 2006, evolutionary ecologist Dr. Eric Pianka was named the Distinguished Texas Scientist of the Year. At his award ceremony, Pianka condemned ‘the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe’ and ‘hammered his point home by exclaiming, “We’re no better than bacteria!”‘”6
“In a 2008 New Scientist article titled, “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are,” environmentalist David Suzuki stated the following in an interview with Jo Merchant: ‘[W]e must acknowledge that we are animals…. We like to think of ourselves as elevated above other creatures. But the human body evolved.'”7.
There are social and moral implications to a worldview without God. “In truth, when people embrace the godless notion that human life and all other forms of life are equal, insanity prevails. Chaos rules the day. A biblical worldview, however, creates a rational order suitable for human existence.”
- C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 52–53. [↩]
- Francis Darwin, ed., Charles Darwin Life and Letters, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1887), 1:313. [↩]
- Bryan Appleyard, review of Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century in The Sunday Times (December 1999). Quoted in Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Design: Life as he Intends it to Be (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 27. [↩]
- Biology: Visualizing Life (Holt Rinehart Winston, 1994), 453. [↩]
- p. 356. [↩]
- Forrest Mims III covered the March 3, 2006 event in The Citizen Scientist (March 31, 2006). [↩]
- Jo Marchant, Issue 2678 (October 18, 2008), 44. [↩]