Summit Lecture Series: Can We Be Moral Without God? with Frank Beckwith, part 3

Summit Lecture Series: Can We Be Moral Without God? with Frank Beckwith, part 3 May 12, 2015

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Before the Covenant of Noah, in the Old Testament, Cain killed Able. But, how did Cain know that it was wrong to kill his brother? God punished Cain, but there were no Ten Commandments, written law, nor covenant between man and God.

Yet, he knew that it was wrong, without any “special revelation”.

The point is that the natural moral law resides within each of us. The Bible assumes – from Cain and Able through Paul’s letter to the Romans, and even in Jesus’ teachings – that we all innately have this moral law within us. And it seems that the new atheists take it for granted, since part of their criticisms of Christianity is that everyone assumes that certain things are right or wrong.

In Richard Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion”, he wrote about paleontologist Kurt Wise. Now, one thing that makes Kurt interesting is that he did is PhD work at Harvard under the great paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. Gould was an evolutionist who was brave enough to criticize Darwin and actually suggested something called “Punctuated Equilibrium”, where the changes in species did not happen gradually like Darwin described, but instead happened suddenly in “big jumps”. This kind of thinking drew the positive consideration of many creationists, which drove Gould crazy, since he was an atheist and proponent of evolution. So, Kurt Wise entered into his studies under Gould as a “young earth creationist” and actually was still one when he graduated. Because of these beliefs, Wise realized that he would most likely never be hired at a major research institution, despite the fact that he had earned a PhD from Harvard.

Dawkins says this about Wise’s story and how it reinforces Dawkins’ theories:

“I find that terribly sad . . . the Kurt Wise story is just plain pathetic – pathetic and contemptible. The wound, to his career and his life’s happiness, was self-inflicted, so unnecessary, so easy to escape . . . I am hostile to religion because of what it did to Kurt Wise. And if it did that to a Harvard educated geologist, just think what it can do to others less gifted and less well armed.”

So, his argument is, “Look, this is why I hate religion: It indoctrinates people like Kurt Wise to believe false things, and it destroys their careers.”

Setting aside the question of which side of creation is correct, we need to consider the question of: “How is it that Richard Dawkins can issue that judgment?” Dawkins harshly criticizes Wise for embracing a religious belief that resulted in Wise not treating himself and his talents, intelligence and abilities in a way that was appropriate to their full flourishing. In other words, according to Dawkins, Wise was gifted and wasted his gifts because of his religious convictions.

So, what would Dawkins say would be the appropriate way for Wise to treat his talents, intelligence and abilities appropriate to their function?

And remember, Dawkins doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as intrinsic purposes. He doesn’t believe that the universe is designed.

In fact, Dawkins said, “Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design have evolved by slow gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design of living creatures is just that – an illusion.”

Yet, in order to make any of these assertions about Wise or religion, one would first have to have a conclusion to how humankind was designed and what the purpose, or end, of a human being is.

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