Without God, what is outstanding about man?

I see that New Scientist magazine is advertising the newest issue of their anthology series, New Scientist: The Collection. This one is titled “The Human Species” and, as they describe it, it is…

“A compilation of classic New Scientist articles, The Human Story explains how an ordinary ape evolved into the most remarkable species the Earth has ever known.”

Mmm hmm. OK. Sure it does.

Actually, it doesn’t. As a subscriber to New Scientist, I actually enjoy each issue, but I also recognize that the magazine is rampant with unjustified underlying assumptions and anti-theistic bias. I’ve touched on some of that before here in the blog, such as this post about an article from the recently-late Victor Stenger. (Key sentence in the post: “Stenger likes the pretensions of an untainted commitment to truth, but his words reveal that his ‘commitment’ plays second fiddle to his personal bias and inclinations.”) It’s sort of a given for the editors and authors of New Scientist, and you will often find Darwin-of-the-gaps and Multiverse-of-the-gaps comments in their writings. (Actually, an article I recently wrote about the multiverse concept will be in the next Tomorrow’s World magazine, I believe.)

To expect the articles in this compilation to be any different would be silly. Still, that’s actually not my point in this post. I’m used to such things in New Scientist, but what got my attention was this statement in the e-mailed advertisement:

“A compilation of classic New Scientist articles, The Human Story explains how an ordinary ape evolved into the most remarkable species the Earth has ever known.”

The linked-to online ad expanded:

“We are a truly remarkable species. In the space of a few thousand years we have transformed the planet, created a technological civilisation the likes of which has never been seen, and even begun to explore space.”

[For those worried that my spell checker is broken, “civilisation” is spelled in the British manner.]

I don’t mean to assume that no one can give an answer, but really: Apart from God’s existence and purpose for him, what is remarkable about man?

By evolutionary standards, we aren’t necessarily the most successful species on the planet. (Though, the meaning of “successful” and the other such descriptors is a question, and I will get to that.) As this io9.com article starts off:

“As the most intelligent and technologically advanced species on Earth, we humans like to think that we own the place. But evolutionary success can be measured any number of ways. As evolutionary biologist Stephen G. Gould once noted, complexity, intelligence, and ferocity don’t count for much in the long run — adaptability and reproductive success matter more.”

The article then goes on to describe eight non-human organisms (bacteria, beetles, et al.) who, from an evolutionary perspective, might easily be considered more successful than mankind.

“Successful” is only meaningful to humans defined in terms we care about.

Still, the advertisement said man was “the most remarkable species the Earth has ever known,” not the most “successful.” However, I think the difficulty still applies.

I take that being “the most remarkable” means having qualities that are most worthy of being remarked on. Dictionary.com defines “remarkable” as “notably or conspicuously unusual; extraordinary” or “worthy of notice or attention” but it would seem to me that from a materialist, Darwinistic perspective it’s sort of begging the question to say that mankind has qualities that make it the “most remarkable species” according to mankind. Maybe not really question begging, but a little–I don’t know–meaningless?

I mean, really–what makes mankind so remarkable?

Don’t get me wrong–I certainly think mankind is the most remarkable species! But the things I value most and find most worthy of noting are things I value because God’s revealed values give them meaning: our intelligence, our ability to create, our culture, our different religions, etc. And not all of those “remark-worthy things” are good. Some of man’s qualities are quite remarkable because they are very, very evil. Yet, even that–our capacity for moral or immoral action only truly has meaning in an existent God who gives real, objective meaning to morality.

The advertisement mentions the (perhaps debatable) relative speed at which we have “transformed the planet”; our creation of an advanced, technological civilization “the likes of which has never been seen [(1) It should say “never been seen before” since we are, currently, seeing ours, and (2) to which species’ technological civilization are we comparing it? The great technological civilization of the horseshoe crab?]; the fact that we are now exploring space (don’t many theorize that earth was seeded by microbes from Mars or elsewhere?); our culture and other items.

But from the (unjustifed) value-free point of view of modern evolutionary thinking, what makes any of these truly “more remarkable” than the extreme attributes of other species? Nothing, really. In fact, when one embraces the nihilism that is the logical end of God-less, materialist, evolutionary thinking — especially when the science-destroying “all things happen somewhere” multiverse is thrown in — very little, at all, is worthy of remark. There is nothing to be truly valued over anything else, and why should one actually appreciate any attribute in any species at all? Even the supposedly evolution-programmed instinct to reproduce can be ignored when nothing at all has any real meaning or value that isn’t merely imagined.

[And, as an aside: I note that it is possible that by “remarkable” it is meant by the magazine’s marketers to (effectively) mean “remarkable to the sensibilities of most humans, regardless of the lack of actual, objective value of the ‘remarkable’ characteristics.” But that is just as unsatisfactory. That humans would be the most remarkable species to… other humans? Duh. Gary Larson nailed that schtick when he drew the “Far Side” cartoon where one dog in a car is totally fixated on another dog outside as the most interesting thing in the world, all while the city around the car is in chaos, a nuclear explosion is going off, and people are running for their lives. “Humans are the species that humans find most remarkable” seems the least revelatory statement I’ve heard in a long time. (UPDATE: Might be able to see that cartoon here.)]

Interestingly, other science articles here and there are busy selling themselves to us based on how unremarkable mankind is (sort of a biological “Copernicus Principle,” perhaps) and how we’re just another animal, yet this one attempts the opposite, claiming that we are super remarkable, while embracing the same materialist philosophy that drives the others. Well, there are magazines to sell, you know, and dollars to be collected. (Sorry: pounds, in this case.)

A bit of a rant, today, I know. Don’t mean to be cynical, but after wading through so much God-less gobbledygook that tends to come out of folks such as the editors and writers of New Scientist, comments like those in the ads just strikes me as philosophically dishonest. I don’t know. Might just be me.

End of rant.

7 thoughts on “Without God, what is outstanding about man?

  1. obeirne

    I’d sooner have your ” rants ” any day than Godless gobbledegook of the New Scientist articles or advertisements, Mr. Smith. I and a friend – a brother in Christ – were talking to Mr. Rand Millich at the Feast of Tabernacles just gone in Great Malvern, England and the subject of evolution was raised. A remark was made which may sum up the difference between those of us who know God created all things and the evolutionists who think everything that is came out of nothing without a first cause. Summarized, the statement observed that it is amazing how people who have studied at the highest institution of learning and who possess IQ’s astronomically higher than [ the speaker ], actually say they believe in this unproven and unprovable theory. I am now looking forward to reading your article in the November-December issue of the Tomorrow’s World magazine. 🙂 And please do keep on ranting! 😉

  2. Norbert

    The one thing that stands out about man in my view is the ability to know of eternity. That awareness in our present mortal condition and the fear of the unknown provide motivation to find meaning in this life. I believe it’s one of the most important things that separate us from the beasts of the field. Not only do we look for answers, but numerous groups also advertise theirs; be it the truth or selling snake oil in the form of scientific fables.

  3. Yes, ironic, isn’t it, Norbert? Animals admittedly know; we know that we know. That same faculty is what enables us to consider metaphysical questions like this – which, for me, is as strong an evidence as any that God exists. How can “just chemicals” have such a discussion as this, anyway? The First Cause of such meta-consciousness must be pretty “meta” Himself. 🙂

    Dr. Henry M. Morris Sr. had a pretty good list of First Cause indicators which were published in a book in my library (don’t laugh, anybody, the title was put this way for a reason), Scientific Creationism. I’ll have to see if I ever reprinted that list in my personal blog (though I will not repost it here unless there’s an overwhelming desire to see it)..

  4. Thomas

    Modern academia seems torn between the desire to eradicate God by saying that life and humanity are nothing special: just the inevitable outcome of blind natural forces yet, on the other hand, they feel the need to congratulate ourselves as remarkable for having boot-strapped ourselves up to being the masters of the planet – thus proving that we are superior in terms of “only the fittest survive”. Take God out of the equation and all that I have achieved is due to the mighty “I” and my superior pedigree. Instant ego-boost. If you’re a scientist then you may regard yourself as being at the cutting edge of the human experience. A superior example of a superior species. Double ego-boost!
    (A bit uncharitable, but in some extreme cases perhaps not so far off).

  5. Thomas:: Well, since the plurality of scientists temperamentally value knowledge and competence (and the rest who have other primary temperaments still have to make use of those cognitive functions which grant one knowledge and competence), it’s not surprising that vanity in the perhaps “classic” sense – pride in knowledge and competence – characterizes their brand of ego-boosting.

    The rest of us, of course, have to be satisfied with boosting our egos with jealousy, lust or greed (the other temperament-based forms of pride).

    And yes, I’ve met some extreme cases such as you describe, in which their vanity dictates what they think are the highest possible human aspirations, throwing aside all others as irrelevant. But again: the rest of us – we “merely” jealous, lustful and greedy folk – do the same thing on our own grounds, so we don’t exactly get off scot-free in God’s eyes either.

  6. Pingback: Short Stories Anthology 2014 | The Claire Violet Thorpe Express

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