Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Argument for God from the Violence of Nature

More from Tim Keller's The Reason for God:

"Why would we know this? To sharpen our focus on the significance of this indelible knowledge of moral obligation, consider the observations of writer Annie Dillard. Dillard lived for a year by a creek in the mountains of Virginia expecting to be inspired and refreshed by closeness to “nature”. Instead, she came to realize that nature was completely ruled by one central principle – violence by the strong against the weak.

“There is not a person in the world that behaves as badly as praying-mantises. But wait, you say, there is no right or wrong in nature; right and wrong is a human concept! Precisely! We are moral creatures in an amoral world...Or consider the alternative...it is only human feeling that is freakishly amiss...All right then – it is our emotions that are amiss. We are freaks, the world is fine, and let us all go have lobotomies to restore us to a natural state. We can leave... lobotomized, go back to the creek, and live on its banks as untroubled as any muskrat or reed. You first.”

Annie Dillard saw that all of nature is based on violence. Yet we inescapably believe it is wrong for stronger human individuals or groups to kill weaker ones. if violence is totally natural why would it be wrong for strong humans to trample weak ones? There is no basis for moral obligation unless we argue that nature is in some part unnatural. We can't know that nature is broken in some way unless there is some supernatural standard of normalcy apart from nature by which we can judge right and wrong.

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