Essay:The Moral Force of Special Creation

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Essay.svg This essay is an original work by AmesG.
It does not necessarily reflect the views expressed in RationalWiki's Mission Statement, but we welcome discussion of a broad range of ideas.
Unless otherwise stated, this is original content, released under CC-BY-SA 3.0 or any later version. See RationalWiki:Copyrights.
Feel free to make comments on the talk page, which will probably be far more interesting, and might reflect a broader range of RationalWiki editors' thoughts.


An argument often advanced by young-earth creationists is that creationism endows humanity with a special purpose: since humans are made in the image of the creator, Man is inherently a being capable of morality, and required to pursue morality, on account of its unique provenance. Therefore, if humanity is not "specially created," humanity loses its essence, and its moral force. The argument strikes me as fallacious on multiple levels.

Must an Origin Story Contain Morality?[edit]

First, I discount the argument that an origin story must teach a moral lesson. The scientific goal of learning human origins, to further human understanding and make scientific predictions, is fundamentally distinct from the religious goal of deriving meaning from life; the two need not conflict. Whatever the answer to human and universal origins, the philosophical goal of defining morality is distinct from the scientific goal of uncovering natural explanations to natural phenomena. In short, even if evolution fails to teach a moral lesson, it's still valid science, like it or not.

The Biblical Origin Story Does Not Contain a Sufficient Moral Lesson[edit]

However, the argument that an origin story must teach a moral lesson, a requirement that is only met when the origin story is one of special creation, fails at the second premise. Specifically, creationism does not teach a moral lesson.

The argument that special creation teaches a moral lesson depends upon the authority scripture acquires by being divine, and the idea that divinity is the only fount of morality. This argument fails, because it begs the question. In the search for morality, anchoring oneself to a the teaching of a God, or gods, is only "moral" if the deity itself is moral. Otherwise, obedience to the deity's code of honor is nothing more than empty submission; there is no morality in cowardice. Abraham's blind supplication is not enough. It is not enough to say that "God is love; therefore, God is moral," without asking what love is. Thus, we're left with the same question: if we must only adhere to a moral God, by which standard do we judge a moral God? Reliance on scripture for morality, then, doesn't even solve the underlying problem.

Further, instrumental reasons demand rejection of scripture as the sole source of morality. While recourse to divine morality ensures the presence of an objective morality, the presence thereof depends upon subjective belief in divinity; thus, scriptural morality fails as an adequate moral compass in a society of religious pluralists. No; if an origin story must be moral, the Biblical one is lacking indeed (at least on its own), as either subjective, or logically incomplete.

The Evolution "Story" Does, However, Contain a Sufficient Moral Lesson[edit]

Conceding arguendo that the science of human origins is indistinguishable from the "story" of human origins, the latter of which must teach a moral lesson, I think that, objectively, non-special creation teaches a better moral lesson. Evolution, abstracted to a philosophical level, is the story of the transition of life from a common point, to a specific (if ever-receding) temporal destiny. While there may be no Omega Point, as Teilhard would argue, evolution still proceeds across linear time, a "story" in which all of Earthborn life participates.

Along this linear "story," it cannot be denied that human civilization is something special. We are unique, even evolutionarily speaking, by virtue of our intelligence and our commitment to progress, discovery, and expansion. These three value shave been at the center of the human experience, and will continue to be. Our uniqueness ought to be defended: intelligence and the survival and prosperity of our species, in line with these three values, is a good upon which all of humanity can probably agree. In furtherance of this good - although here, greater explanation than a 23-year old dude would probably be in order - life, liberty, and the pursuit of mutual happiness certainly emerge as touchstones, and means towards the end of the collective good, and are strong enough bedrock principles upon which a moral fabric can be built.

In sum, if science need tell a moral story, there we have it. This is what humanism means to me: that by virtue of our uniqueness, and joint commitment to each other through the very process of associating and creating a civilization, morality emerges of its own accord. I realize that this isn't the only answer; that's precisely the point.