“Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest.”[i]
Hawking is onto something about people, and about what we are. He celebrates a yearning that defines what it means to be human. We are stargazers, not looking for prey, but seeking for meaning. How puzzling this would be in a godless world, and yet how sensible in a world fingerprinted by God. “The truth shall set you free” is a theistic belief, but it is not an evolutionary motto.[ii]
Truth calls for transcendence, and we hear its echo. Like a stranger pulling us from the danger of an impassible walkway or the voice of a father calling us home. The stars may be made of matter and energy, but they make wonderers of all people.
Perhaps this marriage of truth and depth is the “more” we yearn for. If not, we are evolved and yet deluded. We live as if the quest is real, but the voice is an illusion. Our chief end is getting fed and making babies. Without “more”, we simply struggle for life and the replication of our genetic code.
Concepts like truth and survival can be very abstract, until you have babies. Especially if you have lots of babies, very quickly. Trust me, I am speaking from experience. My oldest girls - Suzy and Elsie - are identical twins who just turned three, while June - my youngest - is one. If you are keeping track, we have three children, aged three and under. Once again, trust me, you do not really understand what I am telling you. Words cannot capture psychological warfare with a one year old. I live in a kind of baby Guantanamo.
Perhaps you can relate: I thought I’d be a good parent, until I became a parent. Since my wife is often busy with the youngest, some of the traditional mommy work has fallen to me when it comes to our identical twins. I change them into their pajamas and put them to bed each night in their small room down the hall (It is actually an office, because I ran out of space and my septic system is not meant for a four-bedroom house. Yes, I have that many children already). They sleep in a small room without a closet, like something out of the movie “Annie.” In little wooden cribs, side-by-side, they sense my every weakness. They detect it, like a Tyrannosaurus detects the movements of its victims. My life is a scene out of Jurassic Park.
Recently, I was getting up around three to four times a night to meet their insatiable, tyrannical needs. I was afraid of going to sleep at night, not knowing when and how I would be woken by, “Water!” “Snuggle!” Or often just screaming. Not normal screaming, but the kind you would expect during an exorcism. Then, my wife and I spent thirty dollars on the greatest invention of modern man, aside from the Keurig machine: it is called the cow clock. It is a clock with two displays: on one display, the cow is asleep in her bed, and on the other display the cow is dancing in the sunshine, wearing a pink dress. One of these pictures is always lit up, and I can program the clock to determine which one it will be, and when.
The clock works in mysterious ways. Somehow, the children obey it. I tell them they cannot call for me or wake me up until “it is morning time,” which is – always – when the picture of the cow in the pink dress lights up. Every morning I now wake up to the words, “the cow‘s awake!” but my nights are long and sweet. Yes, I program it to wake them up at 6:30 each morning.
Yet, one night, something horrible happened. I heard them celebrating at 3:00 AM down the hall. “We’ve made it!” “That wasn’t long at all!” “Good job!”
They like to congratulate themselves.
I had set the clock for the wrong time. It was pitch black darkness all around, but they were convinced it was morning. Everything about their environment told them it was not time to wake up, except for an over-priced piece of plastic with a picture of a lit-up cow. Regardless, they trust the picture not because it is correct, but because it is simple – more simple than the truth. The relationship between morning and the picture of a dancing cow is completely artificial, but their belief that this relationship is real – despite reality – keeps my wife and I (and our marriage) intact. They follow the clock not in spite of truth, but because the complexity of truth can be a liability in the struggle for life.
This a profound concept, but to miss it is to overlook the nature of the evolutionary model. As evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers notes:
If (as Dawkins argues) deceit is fundamental in animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray - by the subtle signs of self-knowledge - the deception being practiced. Thus, the conventional view that natural selection favors nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naive view of mental evolution.[iii]
We are used to seeing things, “as they are”, but nothing is more presumptive in Darwin’s world. As if groups of animals - whether showing altruistic behavior like certain baboons, or cannibalistic behavior like praying mantis females who bite off and eat their lovers’ heads after or even before copulating - ever think about what is good or bad for their gene pool or their nearest kin.[iv] No, under naturalism these behaviors are both equally the results of struggle and cooperation at the genetic levels that have gone on for hundreds upon (possibly) millions of generations. Genes compete, survive, evolve, and over ages of time they mold us. Even us. And each step of the way, we have been formed, not to know or understand truth, but to advance our gene pool. As atheist professor John Gray writes:
“The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals. ...Darwinian theory tells us that an interest in truth is not needed for survival or reproduction. More often it is a disadvantage.”[v]
In light of this grand conspiracy of gene survival, we are a flash of light at the end of the ancient dance of nature. As Dawkins famously puts it: “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”[vi]
If this is true, if this is all there is, all beliefs in God are excess baggage: “promiscuous teleology,” some will say; the results of a “hyper agency-detection mechanism”.[vii] Our morality? The result of genes oriented towards certain moral behaviors, the outcome of cultural memes or conditioning. Religion, morality, and truth must go. This has been confirmed for some on the quantum level. We cannot understand it, because we are not evolved to understand it.[viii] The snowball of naturalism rolls, and it grows, and it consumes our beliefs one-by-one. Hawking says, “philosophy is dead,” and the atheist scientist Peter Atkins: “I’m not interested in the ‘why’ questions.”[ix] We are animals prone to self-deception, and even more-so, are products of it. As Gray notes, “Deception is common among primates and birds… Truth has no systematic evolutionary advantage over error.”[x] Yes, naturalism must do away with philosophy too. Away with religion. Away with right and wrong, and transcendence. Away with speculation. What it boils down to is this: away with “more.” Darwin himself faced this challenge with integrity. In all sincerity, he writes the following words to his children:
“A source of conviction in the existence of God impresses me…this follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. But then arises the doubt – can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us, and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.” [xi]
Darwinism must cut the ties between truth and depth. Monkeys make poor philosophers. Our speculations can never justify our firmest conclusions - and these conclusions cannot ground our firmest convictions.
But what is naturalism?
It is nothing less than the resolute conviction that our moral beliefs are no more real than a monkey’s need to itch. It is the presupposition that sacks of atoms can measure out meaning. It is the faith that consciousness can spring up from cold, dead unawareness and life emerge from the pools of The Land Before Time – and that all the cosmos burst forth out of nothing, towards no end, by no One.
Is there anything more speculative than naturalism itself? G.K. Chesterton’s words come to mind: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
To assert the naturalistic belief is to pull a rabbit out of a hat without a magician, a hat, or a stage. No reason for this belief is given but the skepticism that it fails to justify. No reason can be given. In fact, if it is true, there is by definition no reason. If there were a reason, this would imply purpose. And purpose would imply agency. But this is what naturalism denies.
Naturalism is magic. And if it undermines our most precious and basic beliefs – our intuitions about right and wrong, our beliefs about God and truth – it does this at the cost of its own foundation. Naturalism is itself a children’s clock. It gets people through their lives, perhaps, but it makes no connection to what it real. It must assume that truth is irrelevant and possibly even counterproductive in the struggle for life. It cannot make an inference worth waking for. It is a cow in a frilly pink dress, lit up at 3am, trying to convince us it is morning.
Gray states: “modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth – and so be free. But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true this is impossible.”[xii]
 Promiscuous teleology refers to the human tendency to attribute purpose or design to objects.
 A meme is trait or feature that is not passed on genetically. Examples include language, taboos, and religion.
[i] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (London: Bantam Press, 1988), 13.
[ii] John 8:32.
[iii] Robert Trivers, in foreword to The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), xx.
[iv] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 5.
[v] John Gray, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007), 26.
[vi] Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 131-32.
[vii] Daniel Dennett discussed various theories on the origin of religion from a naturalistic perspective in his book, Break the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Penguin Books, 2006). On pg.108 he lists some common cognitive factors entertained by various evolutionary biologists: “Boyer lists more than half a dozen distinct cognitive systems that feed effects into this recipe for religion—an agent-detector, a memory-manager, a cheater-detector, a moral-intuition-generator, a sweet tooth for stories and storytelling, various alarm systems, and what I call the intentional stance.”
[viii] The atheist philosopher Peter Millican, in a 2011 debate with William Lane Craig, says: “Everything we know about modern physics suggests that at the very small and very large scale our intuitive notions of what makes sense are very unreliable guides to truth… We are finite physical animals evolved to live within and perceive a world of medium-sized objects. There is no reason whatever to suppose that our animal faculties will be adequate to fathom the origins or possibly of the infinite history of worlds.” Find the transcript at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/transcript/does-god-exist-craig-vs-millican#ixzz4Fv0OYJMG.
[ix] Richard Dawkins retells an anecdote of Peter Atkins’ remark in a 2009 lecture titled “the Purpose of Purpose.” Available at: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-purpose-of-purpose/.
[x] John Gray, Straw Dogs, 27.
[xi] Charles Darwin, the Autobiography of Charles Darwin (Originally published in 1887. Republished in New York: Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2005), 70.
[xii] John Gray, Straw Dogs, 26.