Evolution: The Big Gamble—Chance and Dignity

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999
If man is only an animal, an accident of nature, a collection of chance mutations, the question logically arises, where does he then derive ultimate meaning, dignity, or absolute values? In this article Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon explain why the answer to this question is important.

Chance and Dignity

If man is only an animal, an accident of nature, a collection of chance mutations, the question logically arises, where does he then derive ultimate meaning, dignity, or absolute values?

According to naturalistic evolution, a trinity of basic factors—matter, time, and chance—has created the entire universe and all that lives within it. Nobel prize winning biologist Jacques Monod echoes the sentiments of many when he comments in his Chance and Necessity, “[Man] is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged by chance…”[1] and, “…chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, [is] at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution….”[2]

As noted evolutionist J. W. Burrow writes in his introduction to The Origin of Species:

Nature, according to Darwin, was the product of blind chance and a blind struggle, and man a lonely, intelligent mutation, scrambling with the brutes for his sustenance. To some the sense of loss was irrevocable; it was as if an umbilical cord had been cut, and men found themselves part of “a cold passionless universe.” Unlike nature as conceived by the Greeks, the Enlightenment, and the rationalist Christian tradition Darwinian nature held no clues for human conduct, no answers to human moral dilemmas.[3]

This depressing view of man as a “lonely intelligent mutation” and of the chance origin of all life is sharply contrasted with the Judeo-Christian tradition which views the universe not as the purposeless product of blind forces but as the intentional product of an infinite-personal God who created man in his own image, giving him inherent dignity and value far above that of the animals.[4]

Unfortunately, the picture of mankind given by modern evolutionary science is one of cosmic isolation. God not only doesn’t exist for us; He never existed. He never will. Reli­gion is just an opiate for those troubled by this fact. Man lives alone within a truly massive but terribly impersonal universe—a universe which endlessly piques our awe and curiosity but which, strangely, cannot provide us with a final justification for the things we seem to value most deeply—faith in God, purpose in life, love, caring for others.

As professor William Provine of Cornell University argues, “The implications of modern science, however, are clearly inconsistent with most religious traditions….No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there absolute guiding principles for human society.

The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life.”[5] Thus, as Monod concludes, for good or ill, “…our system of values is free for us to choose.”[6] And, people everywhere today are indeed choosing their values, often with little regard for the welfare of others and often with great consequences.

Regardless, not surprisingly, in a universe so large and uncertain, millions of men ponder the meaning of their existence. When all is said and done, was there any real purpose in life? As Leslie Paul once observed, “If no one knows what time, though it will be soon enough by astronomical clocks, the lonely planet will cool, all life will die, all mind will cease, and it will all be as if it had never happened. That, to be honest, is the goal to which evolution is traveling, that is the benevolent end of the furious living and furious dying….All life is no more than a match struck in the dark and blown out again. The final result …is to deprive it completely of meaning.”[7]

J. D. Bernal, a professor of x-ray crystallography gave the following evolutionary defini­tion of life: “Life is a partial continuous, progressive, multiform and continually interactive, self-realization of the potentialities of atomic electron states.”[8]

If we really are mere brothers to the flatworm and mere potentialities of electron states, the implications are hardly insignificant. They go to the heart of how we see ourselves, how we live, and how we treat our fellow man.

Logically considered, the materialistic view is not highly flattering to us. After death, in the cosmic perspective, men and women are, in the ultimate sense, little more than ephem­eral 70 year conglomerates of atoms coalescing for one brief second in eternity.

Contrasting Worldviews

In the West there are two basic worldviews which have dominated modern thinking. The first is the naturalistic worldview we have just discussed, which may also be termed “secular humanism” or “scientific materialism.” As noted, this view assumes man is the end product of the chance workings of an impersonal cosmos. The “noble” human animal must face his meaningless existence courageously and live and die with dignity. But individually and cosmically, when it is over, it is really over. Little, if anything, ever finally matters.

The second view is represented by the Judeo-Christian worldview. It teaches that men and women are the product of divine creation, beings who are endowed with dignity and eternal value because they are created in the image of an infinite-personal God who loves them sacrificially.

Whatever position we adopt, few would argue that the consequences are incidental. As we will seek to show, our answer to the question of origins makes a great deal of differ­ence. For example, consider just a few contrasts between the materialistic and Judeo-Christian worldview in the chart below.

 

Materialistic View Christian View
Ultimate Reality Ultimate reality is impersonal matter. No God exists. Ultimate reality is an infinite, personal, loving God.
Universe The universe was created by chance events without ultimate purpose. The universe was lovingly created by God for a specific purpose.
Man Man is the product of impersonal time plus chance plus matter. As a result, no man has eternal value or dignity nor any meaning other than that which is subjectively derived. Man was created by God in His image and is loved by Him. Because of this, all men are endowed with eternal value and dignity. Their value is not derived ultimately from them­selves, but from a source transcending themselves, God Himself.
Morality Morality is defined by every individual according to his own views and interests.

Morality is ultimately relative because every person is the final authority for his own views.

Morality is defined by God and immutable because it is based on God’s unchanging character.
Afterlife The afterlife brings eternal annihilation(personal extinction) for everyone. The afterlife involves either eternal life with God (personal immortality) or eternal separation from Him (personal judgment).

Perhaps it is the magnitude of difference between these worldviews, as well as their respective implications, which has led thinking people to increasingly concede the impor­tance of origins in public discussion. Our view of origins affects and even determines our attitudes toward the most important matters of public policy, including criminology, sex education, and religious freedom, to name a few. Not surprisingly, polls consistently reveal that most Americans wish to see the theory of divine creation taught in addition to the theory of evolution:

A massive majority (86% to 88%) of the national public supports teaching the theory of creation in public schools rather than just evolution (AP-NBC News Poll), including nearly equal super majorities of Protestants and Catholics…more than two-thirds of lawyers nationally agree (66%-26%) and find dual instruction constitutional (63%-26%) (American Bar Association Commission Poll); majorities (80% at Ohio State, 56% at Oberlin) of university students at secular institutions agree…two-thirds (67%-25%) of public school board members concur (American School Board Journal poll); and a substantial minority (42.3%-53.7%) of even public school biology teachers favor the theory of creation over the theory of evolution (Austin Analytical Consulting poll).[9]

Notes

  1. Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1971), p. 112.
  2. Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), pp. 112-13).
  3. J. W. Burrow, introduction in J. W. Burrow, ed., Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1974), p. 43.
  4. Cf., Francis A. Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (Old Tappan, NJ: Flemming H. Revell, 1979).
  5. William Provine, “Scientists, Face It! Science and Religion Are Incompatible,” The Scientist, 5 September 1988, p. 10 from Henry Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1989), p. 112.
  6. “Interview with Jacques Monod,” John C. Hess, New York Times, March 15, 1971, p. 6 from Francis Schaeffer, Back to Freedom and Dignity (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 13.
  7. Leslie Paul, The Annihilation of Man (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1945), p. 154 from Arthur Custance, Doorway Paper #29, “A Framework of History: (Ottowa, Canada: 1968), III. Dr. Custance’s series was published in ten volumes titled The Doorway Papers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers).
  8. J. D. Bernal, The Origin of Life (New York: Universe Books, 1967), p. xv, cf., p. 168, cited by Donald England, A Christian View of Origins (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1972), p. 35.
  9. W. R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited: The Theories of Evolution and of Abrupt Appearance, Vol. 1 (New York: Philosophical Library, 1989), p. 8.

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