But there’s an issue with Coyne’s question. This is it: I believe in God, and as such the question, "Why is there evil?" is a natural question for me.
But what warrant has Coyne to ask that question? Coyne is an atheist, and therefore he believes that there is no transcendent purpose in the world. And Coyne is a Darwinist, so he believes that there is no purpose in the origin of man. And Coyne is a materialist, so he believes that the human mind is, in some way, merely the brain — evolved meat.
Does it make sense for an atheist to ask, "why is there evil?"
Atheism of Coyne’s sort entails materialism and Darwinism, which are the denial of such categories as "good" and "evil." Atheism merely posits "is"; matter stripped of teleology provides no "ought." Why would Jerry Coyne, a purposeless amalgam of atoms, lie in bed at night contemplating events that occur to other purposeless amalgams of atoms? Whence the "ought"? It will do no good for Coyne to assert that somehow he and his species has transcended (due to his large brain, no doubt) mere matter. One cannot obtain that which does not exist. If there is no "ought" in existence itself, then our sense of "ought" is merely an illusion.
If Darwinism were true — if man were the product of mere purposeless variation and natural selection — then there would be nothing "evil" about catastrophes that afflicted genetically unrelated competitors. A child in Coyne’s daughter’s class dies of cancer? Bingo: more time the teacher can spend with Coyne's kid. A Tsunami kills hundreds of thousands in the Indian Ocean? Score! They won’t be competing with Coyne’s kid for jobs in the global economy.
So what is "evil," in the Darwinist understanding of man? "Evil" is if Coyne’s daughter delays childrearing in order to attend college and start her career, and thereby gives birth to two children in her lifetime, instead of three. Because of her obstinate un-Darwinian desire to get an education, Coyne’s genomic posterity is diminished by a third. Wicked. "Good" and "evil" necessarily take on very different meanings if the Darwinian understanding of man is true.
The Problem of Evil, as described by Coyne, is a theist’s problem. Atheists lack standing to ask it. If the Darwinian understanding of man were true, "evil" wouldn’t be a problem, and evil suffered by others who don’t carry our genes wouldn’t be perceived as a problem. The vast majority of "evil" afflicts others, and such "evil" to others would be of benefit those of us who are unafflicted in the struggle for life.
And, of course, the best answer [to the Problem of Evil]: there isn’t a God, much less one who’s omnipotent and beneficent.
But just the opposite is true. The fact that Coyne is a compassionate man who asks, "Why is there evil?" — and I’m sure feels the angst inherent in that question no less than I do — mitigates powerfully against Coyne’s own belief in atheism and materialism and Darwinism. Why bemoan unfairness if there is no Source of fairness? Why care about the bereaved as long as your own genes are replicating — in fact, flourishing because of another’s loss? Why bemoan evil when man himself is the product of evil — a Hobbesian struggle for survival? If atheism and Darwinism and materialism were true, why would we see "evil" as a problem, rather than as an opportunity?
The problem of evil is a problem for theists. If atheism and Darwinism and materialism are true, there is no "problem of evil." There is no good and there is no evil. "Good and evil" is merely a trick that our evolved-meat-computer-brains play on us. We just survive, or we don’t survive. Except there’s not really a "we." "We" are merely selfish genes, sometimes replicated, sometimes not. And "selfish" genes aren't really selfish. They have no motives.
If atheism and Darwinism and materialism are true, there’s no good, there’s no evil, there’s no point to anything. To paraphrase Chesterton in a slightly different context, if you believe in atheism and Darwinism and materialism, that’s fine, but that’s all you can believe, because if you’re right, there’s nothing more.
Yet the Problem of Evil is a real problem; it is perhaps the root problem of man. Only theists have anything meaningful to say about it. Atheists have no standing to even ask why there is evil; they’ve abdicated on the question, "Why is there anything?" and in doing so they abdicate on any questions about good and evil and meaning in life.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Hey, Wait A Minute, Atheists. Get Your Own Evil!