Are we just serving our genes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In this chapter, Humphrys makes a list of heroic people and why they did what they did. An atheist like Richard Dawkins will write that we are living in service of our selfish genes. It’s a reversal of sorts of the Christian view. In our view, we are doing what we do in service of God, but in the atheist view, it is in service of ourselves. (Not sure how aborting your children works with that considering they can’t pass on any more genes for you or sterilizing your children through “gender-affirming care”, but that’s another point.)
But Humphrys doesn’t think this works. He talks about the Virginia Tech shooting as one example. Liviu Librescu, a 76 year-old math teacher, held the door shut so his students could escape through the windows knowing this would lead to his death. On another aside, it is disappointing that in these cases, many of us can bring to mind the shooter, but not the heroes that held back the shooter to some extent. Was Librescu doing this to serve his genes?
Humphrys doesn’t find this credible, and again, I agree. In a sense, genes have become a sort of god for Dawkins and others who go this route. Whatever the genes are commanding, this must be obeyed. This is not to say that we don’t have base desires that we all fall prey to. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be a problem with obesity, broken marriages, STDs, etc. in our world today.
Humphrys goes on to list a number of heroes and it’s worth reading this chapter just to hear what their stories are. Too often when we think about evil, we ask what is it that makes evil people do what they do? Could it perhaps be better to ask “What is it that makes good people do what they do?” and then find ways to make that far more likely to happen? Just a long shot here, but maybe we should consider the virtues that lead to people doing that and celebrate those virtues and condemn the vices that go the other way.
However, there is an unfortunate statement in this chapter in that Humphrys concludes that atheists have the best arguments. What they don’t have is a grasp of what it is that makes human beings what we are. I agree with the latter, but I definitely disagree with the former.
On the latter point, could we not consider that if atheists don’t have that, could that lead to the idea that man is more than just a material being? Could it lead to the idea of essences and substances? Could it lead to a soul, a spirit, or something of that sort? Would this not be a problematic position for atheism to explain anyway? If human beings are just material objects and we have been studying matter for so long and have personal experience with this matter, shouldn’t we have a good idea of what we are?
However, throughout this book, there has been little attention paid to theistic arguments. Even in the chapter featuring Craig, the only response given was that it was nonsense, all of it, and then Humphrys goes on to criticize Craig instead of asking his side how they can better answer Craig. I don’t see the Thomistic arguments ever dealt with nor do I see the philosophers used that have taken on the problem of evil.
Humphrys then is too dismissive. It seems that evil is just something that controls his thinking and that is the real draw. How can a good God allow evil? The problem is this is often a much more emotional argument than a rational one. We see this when Humphrys says that when a cab driver murders his wife and four children, that overpowers an argument.
Could it be atheists actually have the more emotional opinion?
(And I affirm the virgin birth)