Can Naturalism Account for Human Dignity and Value?
by J Warner Wallace
In my latest book, God’s Crime Scene, I examine eight pieces of evidence in the universe by asking a simple investigative question: “Can I explain the evidence ‘in the room’ (of the natural universe) by staying ‘in the room’?” This is a question I ask at every death scene to determine if I actually have a crime scene. When evidence in the room can’t be explained by staying in the room, I’ve got to consider the involvement of an intruder. If the evidence inside the universe can’t be explained by staying “inside” the natural realm of the universe, we must similarly consider the involvement of a cosmic intruder. One critical piece of the evidence in the universe is the existence of moral obligations. Can we explain these obligations by staying “inside the room”? Can naturalism account for the human dignity and value necessary to ground moral obligations?
Why do we, as humans, feel obligated toward other humans when we don’t recognize moral obligations toward other forms of life on the planet? We seldom hesitate to exterminate the rodents and insects in our homes and we feel no moral obligation toward the weeds growing in our garden. What, from a naturalistic perspective, gives us the right to consider humans differently? Can we stay “inside the room” of the universe to explain why humans ought to be honored with dignity and value when we don’t afford these considerations to other species or forms of life?
If humans are simply the product of blind physical and chemical laws, there is no reason to believe we are anything more than the accidental consequence of an evolutionary process. If this is the case, there’s nothing special about us when compared to other species or forms of life in our environment.
To make matters worse, humans often behave badly, yet we treat humans as though we are somehow different than other species and worthy of moral obligation…
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