Richard Dawkins has expressed various opinions on these topics,
presumably according to the rubric that it's harder to hit a moving
target. His system as propounded in The God Delusion runs as
Like most of these authors, he substitutes etiology for ethics,
substituting the question 'Where do our good impulses come from?'
for the ethical questions, 'What are we to do? Why should we do
good? What is the good?' Christians answer the first question:
our good impulses come from the conscience implanted within us, our
bad impulses being our inheritance from the old Adam. But etiology,
while part of the information database upon which ethics works, is not the
whole, and the etiological mythology the Darwinians propose does not
answer the question.
One thing you will notice about these people is that they hate
questions,— we are to sit still and not ask them. Simple questions
have upon them the effect of a cross on the vampire of folklore. Try it: ask
'Why is there nothing rather than something?' and they deride you,
ask 'Why are we to do good?' and they will try to shame you into
"If there is no God, why be good?
"Posed like that, the question sounds positively
ignoble. When a religious person puts it to me in this way (and many
of them do), my immediate temptation is to issue the following
challenge: 'Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to
be good is to gain God's approval and reward, or to avoid his
disapproval and punishment?'" (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p.
Dear Reader, do not let these know-nothings tell you that any
sincere question is "ignoble." One doubts he has ever actually posed this question to a Christian, or it would have been explained to him that,
no, we are not to do good to obtain a reward, but from love of God.
This author avoids debating Christians, presumably aware than in any
environment where he has to do something more than giggle, he is
not going to do too well. Notice, please, the effort to shame the
questioner into silence. In fact 'why be good?' is a perfectly
legitimate question, to ask it is justified, doing ethics is no
crime. He pretends that the questioner who asks 'why be good?' finds
himself in the uncomfortable situation of the traveller who asks directions
because he is lost; the lost traveller asks because he does not know the
answer. In fact, the "religious person[s]" who ask him
this, if indeed he communicates with any such, ask him not
because they do not know the answer; they have a very
good answer to the question. They merely wish to draw attention to the
fact that he has none, as he is here
And do not ask how blind, meaningless nature comes to write her
sonnets in meaningful, symbolic language. It is striking that
atheists today are not able to talk about the realm of living things
without using noumenal, intentional words like 'code:' "These
instructions can be effective only in a molecular environment
capable of interpreting the meaning in the genetic code. The origin
question rises to the top at this point. 'The problem of how
meaningful or semantic information can emerge spontaneously from a
collection of mindless molecules subject to blind and purposeless
forces presents a deep conceptual challenge.'. . .They are dealing
with the interaction of chemicals, whereas our questions have to do
with how something can be intrinsically purpose-driven and how
matter can be managed by symbol processing." (Anthony Flew, There is
a God, quotation of Paul Davies, pp. 128-129). Irreducibly mental
activities like naming and translating are built into the biological
realm at its most basic, fundamental levels.
Recall, he first tries to substitute etiology for ethics. His
etiological myth explaining good behavior offers these four survival
- Kindness to relatives, "the special case of genetic
kinship," directly benefits the 'selfish gene.'
- Reciprocity: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, i.e.
log-rolling, a strategy that yields benefits.
- "[T]he Darwinian benefit of acquiring a reputation for
generosity and kindness" (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p.
- "[C]onspicuous generosity," as showy as a peacock's tail.
Realizing that all these people have to do is make these stories up,— there is no
verification mechanism,— it's striking that he can't think up any
etiological myth to account for kindness to strangers, and so he
leaves it as an unlooked-for by-product of the four listed reasons,
as if the programmed instinct which can instruct a bird how
precisely to construct a nest down to the last detail of twig
placement somehow here fails to be able to specify anything more
fine-grained than, 'Uh, be kind to, uh. . .somebody.' That vague
imperative was the best evolution could do in achieving its goal,
which was to get people to be kind to blood-relatives and those who
could be of benefit to them, and impressing potential mates.
But being kind to blood-relatives or those who
can benefit us is not enough to satisfy some people,
"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?"
As any cat lover wondering how to dispose of the dead mouse
without being seen to do so knows, even our animal friends can
do a kindness, in gratitude for past favors and in expectation
of future ones. But our feline friends cannot be counted upon, any more than
the tax collectors, to do a kindness to strangers passing by, much less to invite to
dinner adversary mice and birds for the sheer pleasure of
watching them enjoy themselves. Kindness to strangers breaks out
of their paradigm. It is a "misfiring," you see. And why
should we follow in the path of this "misfiring"? They can't tell us, so they try to shame us
into not asking the question. If that fails, they frankly
explain. . .it's a matter of religion! That's how the "lust to
be generous and compassionate" plays out today:
"Such rules of thumb influence us still, not in a
Calvinistically deterministic way but filtered through the
civilizing influences of literature and custom, law and tradition — and, or course, religion." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 254).
Having conceded the point, he goes on to explain that religious people are dumb and dress funny.
William Jennings Bryan
This three-time Presidential candidate closed his career with a crusade against the
teaching of evolution in the public schools; he died five days after the conclusion of the Scopes trial, in which he served as honorary prosecutor.
An old earth creationist, he objected strongly to the presence of
theistic evolution in the church:
"First, the preachers who are to break the bread of life
to the lay members should believe that man has in him the breath of
the Almighty, as the Bible declares, and not the blood of the brute,
as the evolutionists affirm." (William Jennings Bryan, In His Image,
The Origin of Man, p. 121).
His objections to evolution were primarily ethical; realizing it was the Social Darwinists
who had drawn the logically consistent conclusions from this animal
dogma, he recoiled in horror at the prospect that the strong must,
indeed ought to, prey upon and crowd out the weak. Readers curious
as to his argumentation might enjoy reading the book, 'In His
Image,' and the closing statement he prepared for use in the Scopes
trial. This was not delivered at trial; under the applicable law in
Tennessee, the prosecution could not offer a closing argument if the
defense deferred, and the defense were not stupid enough to offer
this stirring orator a soap-box: