Atheism, Evolution and Worldview Consistency

12 Nov

by Pastor Vocab

Many of the New Atheists tell us science can explain everything – except when it can’t. They rely on empiricism – except when they can’t. Both happen more often than you might think. For example: on evolution, what’s the proof that there are other values besides survival for the surviving evolved? We don’t need more descriptions of human behavior from atheists, we need paradigm consistent answers.

Press the atheist on this and you will quickly receive what amounts to a quasi-admission that evolution has no explanatory power for the way real people actually live. Sam Harris often refers to ‘moral emotions’. What are ‘moral emotions’ – from a biological standpoint? Can you measure them and tell us their place among the laws of physics?

Likewise, I always shake my head when I see that Dawkins quote about rebelling against the tyranny of our genes – right after he talks about how we’re programmed by our DNA. It almost sounds like Romanticism or Existentialism; I don’t know what to call this brand of whimsy. But what is Dawkin’s evolutionary reason for stating we can conquer our evolutionary reasons?

Either way, I’m not sure if Daniel Dennett (see his ‘evolution as acid’ motif) or Stephen Hawking (Mr. ‘Philosophy-is-Dead’-so-now-I-can-do-bad-philosophy) got the memo about the limits of science – or most atheists when they are debating Christians. What’s the point of Sam Harris’ book on morals, anyway? Science can answer moral questions. 

If an atheist tells me science is not the only way to know things, then I ask: can you give a list of your other authoritative inputs, then? Do you have a bullet-point hierarchy, perhaps? Just boil it down; maybe one or two words for each authoritative category. I want to know: what are your other, non-scientific epistemological venues and your other, non-empirical knowledge tools. Why? To better understand what you claim. And it just may help you work out some very knotty knots in your non-systematized ‘system’.

As I discuss this with folks, I keep running into atheists who resist the idea of worldview. Why? It seems their reason is they don’t want to be pegged down. Why? I guess so they can remain inconsistent in applying their axioms. But don’t atheists need to apply what they believe in a rigorous manner? I ask you: if you think evolution is irrelevant for your moral decisions, than what role does it play in how you, as a product and believer in it, live? If it does not factor in, then it has no real application to human behavior and is powerless. 

Worldview is your philosophical construct. For the Christian, the concept may be a rough corollary to the Biblical concept of “heart” (Hebrew ‘leb‘ or ‘lebab‘, which occurs 855 times in the OT). Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) first used ‘worldview’ (Weltanschauung) in Critique of Judgment (1790). Others explored it: Wilhelm Dilthey, G.F.W. Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michel Foucault, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, James Olthuis, Albert M. Wolters, and John H. Kok. Kiekegaard says a ‘life-view’ (his word instead of worldview) results in one understanding one’s life backwards through the idea retrospectively. It makes no sense to say people don’t have ways in which they view the world. 

I have yet to meet the consistent atheist. Or consistent evolutionist. Or consistent empiricist. Or consistent rationalist. Or consistent secular humanist. Most modern atheists seem blissfully unaware of the trail blazed through modernity to land them in the cultural and epistemological milieu they sit in so comfortably. It seems too facile, this atheism. Too non-reflective. Too easy.

I just want more. An axiomatic-aware atheism. A robust rationalism. A self-conscious secularism.

Where is it?

‘It is the transfer of broken elements of the imago-content into secular ethics which actually leads to the major inconsistencies in those systems. Not even the ethics of self-conscious revolt against God and objective morality can fashion its system of morals without borrowing something, even if inadvertently, from the ethics of creation. And the spokesman for anti-God and anti-morality lives closer to the imago than does his system of ethics. For the imago is a subjective phenomenon of human life and can nowhere be totally pulled out by the roots.’

-Carl F. Henry, Christian Personal Ethics (p 159).

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 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone is a semi-retired hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing a D. Min at Talbot. He has been married for 10 years and has adopted three boys. Vocab and his wife enjoy going to Comicon in full cosplay. He can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ. Follow him on Twitter @VocabMalone
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9 Responses to “Atheism, Evolution and Worldview Consistency”

  1. williamfrancisbrown November 14, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Excellent. Thanks.

  2. clbirch November 16, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    Excellent, Vocab. We’ve come a long way, baby. Yours truly, Casey Birch, aka the Beat Rabbi.

  3. cogitatingduck November 17, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    Maybe Bertrand Russell was the closest to being consistent, when he said that on atheism, we must build our lives on a foundation of unyielding despair. Nice post, very information rich!

  4. SLIMJIM December 7, 2013 at 3:08 am #

    Good piece Vocab

  5. Dan Courtney December 10, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    “Press the atheist on this and you will quickly receive what amounts to a quasi-admission that evolution has no explanatory power for the way real people actually live.”

    In the context of ethics, not only is this false, but ironically faith based ethics make no attempt at explanation at all. We’re told that God has written our morals upon our hearts. Presumably this is metaphorical, and we don’t actually have letters inscribed across our ventricles. But where evolution answers the “how” question, faith simply shrugs. Faith’s appeal to mystery in this regard directly undercuts the two key aspects to explanatory power – prediction and falsifiability.

    No, the last place a Christian should be planting their flag is on explanatory power. That hill was conceded long ago.

  6. truthunites November 8, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    “As I discuss this with folks,I keep running into atheists who resist the idea of worldview. Why? It seems their reason is they don’t want to be pegged down. Why? I guess so they can remain inconsistent in applying their axioms.”

    Yep. I’ve run into the same phenomenon.

  7. De Ha August 22, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    “Atheism, Evolution and Worldview Consistency”

    This is gonna be full of straw-men, isn’t it?

    “on evolution, what’s the proof that there are other values besides survival for the surviving evolved?”

    That’s like asking, “on gravity, where is the proof that there is beauty other than weight and mass?” Gravity has nothing to do with beauty and is ALL about weight and mass so WTF are you talking about?

    “Press the atheist on this and you will quickly receive what amounts to a quasi-admission that evolution has no explanatory power for the way real people actually live.”

    PSYCHIATRY explains human behaviour not Evolution you idiot!

    “Sam Harris often refers to ‘moral emotions’. What are ‘moral emotions’ – from a biological standpoint? Can you measure them and tell us their place among the laws of physics?”

    Neurology. That’s neurology.

    “Likewise, I always shake my head when I see that Dawkins quote about rebelling against the tyranny of our genes – right after he talks about how we’re programmed by our DNA. It almost sounds like Romanticism or Existentialism; I don’t know what to call this brand of whimsy. But what is Dawkin’s evolutionary reason for stating we can conquer our evolutionary reasons?”

    So… YOU are incapable of learning? Wow.

    “Either way, I’m not sure if Daniel Dennett (see his ‘evolution as acid’ motif) or Stephen Hawking (Mr. ‘Philosophy-is-Dead’-so-now-I-can-do-bad-philosophy)”

    Steven Hawking. You’re badmouthing Steven Hawking. You honestly expect anyone to listen to you after you bad mouthed Steven Hawking. Your confidence to even conceive of the hypothetical possibility that anyone in the multiverse would EVER listen to you after you so much as implied that you could possibly ever hypothetically match wits with Steven Hawking is impressive, actually.

    “what are your other, non-scientific epistemological venues and your other, non-empirical knowledge tools.”

    You are way too condescending for someone who is unaware that Steven Hawking is smarter than you. But to answer your question: Humanism.

    “As I discuss this with folks, I keep running into atheists who resist the idea of worldview. Why?”

    Because I have yet to hear ANY theist use the term “worldview” without immediately lying to me about myself.

    “if you think evolution is irrelevant for your moral decisions, than what role does it play in how you, as a product and believer in it, live?”

    That question doesn’t even make sense. Evolution is just one field of Science. I believe in aerodynamics, but I am not a pilot, therefore Aerodynamics does not affect my day-to-day life.

    “If it does not factor in, then it has no real application to human behavior and is powerless.”

    Again, you’re thinking of psychiatry.

    “Worldview is your philosophical construct.”

    And philosophy is the subject Atheists disagree on more than anything, therefore, by that definition, “worldview” has nothing to do with atheism.

    “It makes no sense to say people don’t have ways in which they view the world.”

    If you get all of your religious, philosophical and political beliefs from a single thing, if you are a Christian, Republican AND a presuppositionalist, if you are a living cookie cutter cliche, I feel sorry for you. If you are a unique human being in some small way, if you’re a republican who likes gays, a liberal who hates drugs, an anarchists who likes things tidy, a communist with an ax pensive computer, ANYTHING, the slightest thing that varies from a given doctrine, I will respect you. If your opinions are nuanced in some small way, at all, then I will recognize you as being a unique human being. However, if you have this “worldview” brainwashed bullshit where EVERYTHING you believe is based on one thing, you have my pitty.

    “I have yet to meet the consistent atheist.”

    Heeeere we go

    “Or consistent evolutionist. Or consistent empiricist. Or consistent rationalist. Or consistent secular humanist.”

    It’s because your “worldview” bullshit is contradicted by the fact that Atheists VARY ON OPINIONS BECAUSE WE ARE THINKING HUMAN BEINGS, isn’t it?
    It’s because your “worldview” bullshit is contradicted by the fact that Atheists VARY ON OPINIONS BECAUSE WE ARE THINKING HUMAN BEINGS, isn’t it?

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