Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of Vermont
“Our actions should be based on the ever-present awareness that human beings in their thinking, feeling, and acting are not free but are
just as causally bound as the stars in their motion.”
“Everything is determined…by forces over which we have no control.”
I introduce this essay with the determinism I share with Einstein, a determinism that is implicit in the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis (PEH). Those who are unable to accept our shared determinism need read no further, because they will not be receptive to what I have to offer.
It is my hope to be able to place next to the Christian ethic a similar model for human behavior that does not require a living personal God but can theoretically be just as effective in promoting a benevolent, virtuous society which is of course what the Christian ideal has always represented. This does not mean that I have rejected a personal God because that is quite impossible. Gods are like that. It is precisely because Gods are not subject to characterization in any certain way that belief in them requires a departure from reality in order to justify their existence. That departure is called “faith.” The point I want to make here is that “faith” is no longer a necessary prerequisite for the acceptance of a planned, purposeful, goal directed universe as the evidence now overwhelmingly pleads for that interpretation.
Whether we like it or not, there is not a shred of direct verifiable evidence for the existence of a personal God. I also don’t believe there is any experimentally verified support for the power of prayer. Of course that does not mean that prayer does not work. It only means that it is not subject to verification through the methods of experimental science.
It is difficult to imagine a more magnificent model for human behavior than that provided by the life of Christ. It has served to provide the basis for all of Western Civilization. It was the Catholic Church that kept Greek science alive all through the middle ages as documented in “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas E. Woods Jr., a book I recommend for Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
It is especially important today to offer an alternative model for social harmony when religious institutions are losing potency in regulating an affluent society which has obviously abandoned the Christian ethic, the very ethic which made its existence possible.
There is a price which must be paid for this alternative model however, a price which some will find unacceptable. That price is accepting the position that Einstein has so unambiguously declared as a preamble to this essay.
Is it possible that we really are not free as Einstein declares? If so, there should be concrete evidence supporting that position. Since such evidence exists, I will now turn my attention to it.
One of the most significant contributions of recent times are the studies on monozygotic (identical) twins which were put up for adoption as infants and then reunited years later to be interviewed and studied with respect to the extent to which their development had been influenced by their environment. The results of several studies have been summarized in William Wright’s book “Born That Way” which, as the title suggests, supports a heritable, genetic basis for every character which was examined. I have presented this evidence elsewhere, notably in my essay, “The Age of Denial” and will not repeat it here except to say that it remains in perfect accord with Einstein’s dicta with which I introduced this essay. Specifically, I emphasize that one of those innate features was whether or not one believed in a Creator. Some of us do and some of us do not and, if we were, as I believe, “born that way,” is there anything that can be done for us? Judging from the intractable positions held by the extreme elements concerned with our origins, I answer with an unqualified NO! Does anyone think that rabid atheists like P.Z. Myers, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are capable of conversion into believers in a planned, determined universe, the only conceivable alternative to an evolution driven by chance? There is just about as much chance of that happening as there is of Pope Benedict XVI becoming an atheist!
Most significant is the opportunity the determined paradigm presents to simulate the Christian ideal - “Love thy enemy.” It is hard to hate an adversary who is not intellectually responsible for his intractable convictions, convictions beyond his capacity to alter through reason and objective dialogue. In my opinion, that is precisely the reality with which we are presently being confronted, a reality which is eroding the basis of Christianity, the greatest model for human behavior ever conceived.
Rather than trying to reason with those who reject a planned and purposeful universe, it might prove to be more effective to shun them, to ignore them, to isolate them, perhaps even to feel sorry for them as the incurable intellectual lepers which I believe they have proven themselves to be.
Now, one might ask, what has this to do with the Christian ethic? Actually it was anticipated by Christ himself with -
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
St. Luke 23:34
Isn’t that statement in accord with Einstein’s lifelong determinism? Wasn’t Christ determined, predestined to appear when and where he did?
Is there really any conflict between a determined universe as postulated by the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis and Christianity? I answer NO once again. Everything in the Christian ethic pleads for a purposeful universe. Nothing in atheism does - absolutely nothing.
It is interesting that Christ offered another comment that also is in accord with my conviction that organic evolution is finished. He even used the same words -
“It is finished.”
St. John 19:30
And so I will end my attempt to unify the Christian ethic with the findings of experimental and descriptive science. I hope this may serve to clarify my position without further antagonizing either the Christian Fundamentalists or the equally fanatical atheists. Just as I introduced this essay, I will now end it with the words of Albert Einstein, in my humble opinion the greatest mortal mind thatever existed. His deep understanding of the human condition was every bit as important as his physics, perhaps even more so, because relativity was incipient and would have emerged even if he had never lived.
“Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics and it springs from the same source…They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres.”