Why Would Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins, or Stephen Hawking, Care About Racism In Charlottesville?

Once again, the hot topic of racism and bigotry in Charlottesville shows that people live as if they care about justice, equality, and human rights. Yes, people do seem to matter. But to someone like Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, or Stephen Hawking, why do humans matter so much and why would they be outraged over all these issues? Let’s look at their views of humans:

“Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast heat death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”-Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship,” in Selected Papers of Bertrand Russell (New York: Modern Library, 1927), 2-3. This essay was originally published in 1903.

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference”- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Basic Books. 1995), 133.

“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes.”- Stephen Hawking,  From an interview with Ken Campbell on Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken, 1995

Once again, we see the following: 

1.Most people know this world is not what it is supposed to be?  How do you know what the world should look like unless you have some clue as to what is just and unjust?

2. People complain that real evils — both moral and natural — take place in the world around them. 

3. People fight for justice as if they know how things ought to be, but are not. They assume a standard of justice and goodness. On a secular worldview, things just happen. There is no grand plan or purpose behind the evil/injustice we observe. Evil is just a social construct. 

4. On a biblical worldview, there is a design plan that has gone wrong because humans violated a standard of goodness and justice that has been established by God. To say something is evil in the world already points to a standard of goodness that’s being violated.

Bottom line: There are two views of humans:

Option #1: All humans are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27):  From a Biblical standpoint, all human beings enjoy the right to life and the resources to sustain it, for life is a gift from God. Thus, all humans have a right to human dignity (i.e. the right to receive respect irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity or rank or any other way). Because humans are made in the likeness of a personal God, they are essentially valuable.  Rights come by virtue of who we are by nature (or essence), not our function.

Option #2: Humans are the result of undirected natural processes:

All reality is reducible to matter and chance. Biological reductionism, materialism, and behaviorism says that impersonal/physical, valueless processes produce valuable, rights-bearing persons. Humans can assign people value by choice. They don’t appeal to any transcendent source. It is purely subjective.