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Reason and Revelation Volume 31 #9

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

In November 2006, several of the world’s leading atheistic evolutionary scientists gathered in La Jolla, California for the first “Beyond Belief” symposium (see Lyons and Butt, 2007), which the scientific journal New Scientist called “an ‘atheist love fest’” (Reilly, 2007, 196[2629]:7). The conference was held to discuss science, religion, and God, and specifically whether science should “do away with religion” (Brooks, 2006, 192[2578]:9). New Scientist writer Michael Brooks summarized the overall attitude of the attendees in the following words: “science can take on religion and win” (p. 11). The participants were ready to roll up their sleeves and “get on with it” (p. 11). They were ready to put science “In Place of God,” as Brooks titled his article.

Fast-forward one year to 2007—to the “Beyond Belief II” symposium—where some of the participants apparently approached the idea of a Supernatural Being much more cautiously. Even New Scientist, who covered the conference for a second year in a row, chose a drastically different article title the second time around—from “In Place of God” to the more sober, “God’s Place in a Rational World” (see Reilly, 196[2629]:7, emp. added). Author Michael Reilly gave some insight into the meeting by recording what one attendee, Edward Slingerland of the University of British Columbia (and founder of the Centre for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture), openly acknowledged.

“Religion is not going away,” he announced. Even those of us who fancy ourselves rationalists and scientists, he said, rely on moral values—a set of distinctly unscientific beliefs.

Where, for instance, does our conviction that human rights are universal come from? “Humans’ rights to me are as mysterious as the holy trinity.... You can’t do a CT scan to show where humans’ rights are, you can’t cut someone open and show us their human rights.... It’s not an empirical thing, it’s just something we strongly believe. It’s a purely metaphysical entity” (p. 7, emp. added).

Although some at the conference had the naïve belief that “[g]iven time and persistence, science will conquer all of nature’s mysteries” (Reilly, p. 7, emp. added), it is encouraging to know that at least one person alluded to one of the greatest proofs for God’s existence—the moral argument.

OBJECTIVE MORALITY

Why do most rational people believe in objective morality? That is, why do people generally think that some actions are “right” and some actions are “wrong,” regardless of people’s subjective opinions? Why do most people believe that it is “evil” or “wicked” (1) for someone to walk into a random house, shoot everyone in it, and steal everything in sight? (2) for a man to beat and rape a kind, innocent woman? (3) for an adult to torture an innocent child simply for the fun of it? or (4) for parents to have children for the sole purpose of abusing them sexually every day of their lives? Because, as evolutionist Edward Slingerland noted, humans have metaphysical rights—rights that are “a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses” (“Metaphysical,” 2011)—and  “rely on moral values.” The fact is, most people, even many atheists, have admitted that real, objective good and evil exist.

Antony Flew

During the last half of the 20th century, Dr. Antony Flew, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading in Reading, England, was considered one of the world’s most well known atheistic philosophers. From 1955-2000, he lectured and wrote extensively on matters pertaining to atheism. Some of his works include, but in no way are limited to, God and Philosophy (1966), Evolutionary Ethics (1967), Darwinian Evolution (1984), The Presumption of Atheism (1976), and Atheistic Humanism (1993). In September 1976, Dr. Flew debated Dr. Thomas B. Warren, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Christian Apologetics at Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to this four-night debate on the existence of God, Warren, in agreement with the rules of the debate, asked Flew several questions in writing, including the following: “True/False. In murdering six million Jewish men, women, and children the Nazis were guilty of real (objective) moral wrong.” Flew answered “True.” He acknowledged the existence of “real (objective) moral wrong” (Warren and Flew, 1977, p. 248). [NOTE: In 2004, Flew started taking steps toward theism as he acknowledged the impossibility of a purely naturalistic explanation for life. See Miller, 2004 for more information.]

Wallace Matson

In 1978, Dr. Warren met Dr. Wallace Matson, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley, California, in a public debate on the existence of God in Tampa, Florida. Once again, per the agreed-upon guidelines, the disputants were allowed to ask up to 10 questions prior to their debate. Once more, Warren asked: “True/False. In murdering six million Jewish men, women, and children the Nazis were guilty of real (objective) moral wrong.” Like Flew, Matson answered “True:” “real (objective) moral wrong” exists (Warren and Matson, 1978, p. 353). Matson even acknowledged in the affirmative (i.e., “true”) that “[i]f you had been a soldier during World War II and if the Nazis (1) had captured you and (2) had given you the choice of either joining them in their efforts to exterminate the Jews or being murdered, you would have had the objective moral obligation to die rather than to join them in the murder of Jewish men, women, and children” (p. 353, underline in orig.). Do not miss the point: Matson not only said that the Nazis were guilty of objective moral wrong, he even indicated that a person would have the “objective moral obligation to die” rather than join up with the murderous Nazi regime.

As Easy as 2 + 2

Although objective morality may be outside the realm of the scientific method, every rational person can know that some things are innately good, while other things are innately evil. Antony Flew and Wallace Matson, two of the leading atheistic philosophers of the 20th century, forthrightly acknowledged the existence of objective morality. Though at times atheist Michael Ruse has seemed opposed to the idea of moral objectivity (see Ruse, 1989, p. 268), evenhe admitted in his book Darwinism Defended that “[t]he man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children, is just asmistaken as the man who says that 2 + 2 = 5” (1982, p. 275, emp. added). Indeed, one of the many reasons that “religion (i.e., God—EL) is not going away,” to use Edward Slingerland’s words, is because moral values are a metaphysical reality (cf. Romans 2:14-15). Philosophers Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl said it well: “Those who deny obvious moral rules—who say that murder and rape are morally benign, that cruelty is not a vice, and that cowardice is a virtue—do not merely have a different moral point of view; theyhave something wrong with them” (1998, p. 59, emp. added). 

THE MORAL ARGUMENT

The moral argument for the existence of God has been stated in a variety of ways through the centuries. One way in which the basic argument has been worded is as follows (see Craig, n.d.; Craig and Tooley, 1994; Cowan, 2005, p. 166):

Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

Premise 2: Objective moral values exist.

Conclusion: God exists.

Thomas B. Warren worded the argument in a positive, more detailed manner in his debates with atheist Antony Flew (p. 173) and Wallace Matson (p. 285).

  1. If the moral code and/or actions of any individual or society can properly be subjects of criticism (as to real moral wrong), then there must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized.
  2. The moral code and/or actions of any individual or society can properly be subjects of criticism (as to real moral wrong).
  3. Therefore, there must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized.

The “society” that Warren used as a case study in his debates was Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. In the 1930s and 40s, Nazi Germany committed state-sponsored genocide of so-called “inferior races.” Of the approximately nine million Jews who lived in Europe at the beginning of the 1930s, some six million of them were exterminated. The Nazis murdered approximately one million Jewish children, two million Jewish women, and three million Jewish men. The Nazis herded them into railway cars like cattle, shipping them to concentration camps. Sometimes the floors of the railway cars were layered with quicklime, which would burn the feet of the prisoners, including the children. The Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on like animals. Hitler slaughtered another three million Poles, Soviets, gypsies, and people with disabilities (see “Holocaust,” 2011 for more information).

So were the Nazis guilty of “real (objective) moral wrong”? According to atheist Antony Flew, they were (Warren and Flew, p. 248). Atheist Wallace Matson agreed (Warren and Matson, p. 353). Whether theist or atheist, most rational people admit that some things really are atrocious. People do not merely feel like rape and child abuse may be wrong; they are wrong—innately wrong. Just as two plus two can really be known to be four, every rational human can know that some things are objectively good, while other things are objectively evil. However, reason demands that objective good and evil can only exist if there is some real, objective point of reference. If something (e.g., rape) “can properly be the subject of criticism (as to real moral wrong) then there must be some objective standard (some ‘higher law which transcends the provincial and transient’) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized” (Warren and Matson, p. 284, emp. added).

DOES ATHEISM PROVIDE A LEGITIMATE OBJECTIVE STANDARD FOR MORALITY?

Recognition by atheists of anything being morally wrong begs the question: How can an atheistlogically call something atrocious, deplorable, evil, or wicked? According to atheism, man is nothing but matter in motion. Humankind allegedly evolved from rocks and slime over billions of years. But who ever speaks of “wrong rocks,” “moral minerals,” “corrupt chemicals,” or “sinful slime?” People do not talk about morally depraved donkeys, evil elephants, or immoral monkeys. Pigs are not punished for being immoral when they eat their young. Komodo dragons are not corrupt because 10% of their diet consists of younger Komodo dragons. Killer whales are not guilty of murder. Black widows are not exterminated simply because the female often kills the male after copulation. Male animals are not tried for rape if they appear to forcibly copulate with females (cf. Thornhill, 2001). Dogs are not depraved for stealing the bone of another dog.

The fact that humans even contemplate morality testifies to the huge chasm between man and animals. Atheistic evolutionists have admitted that morals arise only in humans. According to Antony Flew, man is a moral being, yet “value did not exist before the first human being” (Warren and Flew, p. 248). Flew believed that morals came into existence only after man evolved, not beforehand when allegedly only animals existed on Earth. Though George Gaylord Simpson, one of the most recognized atheistic evolutionists of the 20th century, believed that “man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind,” he confessed that “[g]ood and evil, right and wrong, concepts irrelevant in nature except from the human viewpoint, become real and pressing features of the whole cosmos as viewed morally because morals arise only in man” (1951, p. 179, emp. added). Atheists admit that people (i.e., even “atheists”) have “their own innate sense of morality” (“Do Atheists…?, n.d.). No rational person makes such admissions about animals. As evolutionist Edward Slingerland stated, “Humans,” not animals, “rely on moral values” (as quoted in Reilly, 2007, 196[2629]:7).

Atheistic evolution cannot logically explain morals. Real, objective moral right or wrong cannot exist if humans are the offspring of animals. Young people (who are not allowed to act like animals at school) are frequently “reminded” in public school textbooks that they are the offspring of animals. According to one Earth science textbook, “Humans probably evolved from bacteria that lived more than 4 billion years ago” (Earth Science, 1989, p. 356).

When I graduated from high school in 1994, millions of public high school students in America were introduced to a new biology textbook by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. What sort of amazing things did they learn? For one, they were informed, “You are an animal and share a common heritage with earthworms” (Johnson, 1994, p. 453, emp. added). Allegedly, man not only descended from fish and four-footed beasts, we are beasts. Charles Darwin declared in chapter two of his book The Descent of Man: “My object in this chapter is solely to show that there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties” (1871, 1:34). More recently, evolutionary environmentalist David Suzuki was interviewed by Jo Marchant of New Scientist magazine. Suzuki proclaimed: “[W]e must acknowledge that we are animals.... We like to think of ourselves as elevated above other creatures. But the human body evolved” from animals (as quoted in Marchant, 2008, 200[2678]:44, emp. added). One has to look no further than Marchant’s title to know his view of humanity. Allegedly, “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are” (p. 44, emp. added). The fact is, as Thomas B. Warren concluded in his debate with Antony Flew, “[T]he basic implication of the atheistic system does not allow objective moral right or objective moral wrong” (1977, p. 49).

ATHEISM: CONTRADICTORY AT BEST, HIDEOUS AT WORST

Atheists cannot logically condemn the Nazis for objective moral evil, while simultaneously saying that we arose from rocks and rodents. They cannot reasonably rebuke a child molester for being immoral, while at the same time believing that we evolved from slime. Reason demands that objective good and evil can only exist if there is some real, objective reference point. As Warren stated: “[T]here must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized” (Warren and Matson, p. 284).

Atheists find themselves in a conundrum: (1) They must admit to objective morality (which ultimately means that a moral lawgiver, i.e., God, Who is above and beyond the provincial and the transient, exists); or, (2) They must contend that everything is relative—that no action on Earth could ever be objectively good or evil. Rather, everything is subjective and situational.

Relatively few atheists seem to have had the courage (or audacity) to say forthrightly that atheism implies that objective good and evil do not exist. However, a few have. Some of the leading atheists and agnostics in the world, in fact, understand that if there is no God, then there can be no ultimate, binding standard of morality for humanity. Charles Darwin understood perfectly the moral implications of atheism, which is one reason he gave for being “content to remain an Agnostic” (1958, p. 94). In his autobiography, he wrote: “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones” (1958, p. 94, emp. added). If a person has the urge to suffocate innocent children, like a snake may suffocate its victims (including people), then, if there is no God, there is no objective moral law against suffocating children. If a person impulsively drowns a kind elderly person, similar to a crocodile drowning its prey, then, if atheism is true, this action could neither be regarded as objectively good or evil.

According to Richard Dawkins, one of the early 21st century’s most famous atheists, “[L]ife has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA” (1995, 273[5]:80):

So long as DNA is passed on, it does not matter who or what gets hurt in the process. Genes don’t care about suffering, because they don’t care about anything…. DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music…. This universe that 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 pitiless indifference (p. 85, emp. added).

Although Dawkins could never prove that life’s sole purpose is to perpetuate DNA, he is right about one thing: if there is no God, then there is no good and no evil, only “pitiless indifference.” “It does not matter” to atheistic evolution “who or what gets hurt.”

Like Darwin and Dawkins, atheistic evolutionary biologist William Provine implicitly acknowledged the truthfulness of the first premise of the moral argument as stated by philosophers Craig and Cowan (“If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist”). In 1988, Provine penned an article for The Scientist titled, “Scientists, Face It! Science and Religion are Incompatible” (2[16]:10). Although true science and Christianity live in perfect harmony with each other, Provine, in so far as he was referring to evolutionary science and its implications, was exactly right: evolutionary science and religion are incompatible. According to Provine,

No purposive principles exist in nature. Organic evolution has occurred by various combinations of random genetic drift, natural selection, Mendelian heredity, and many other purposeless mechanisms. Humans are complex organic machines that die completely with no survival of soul or psyche. Humans and other animals make choices frequently, but these are determined by the interaction of heredity and environment and are not the result of free will. No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life (1988, p. 10, emp. added).

Provine went on in the article to accuse evolutionists who fail to take their theory to its logical conclusion of suffering from the “trying to have one’s cake and eat it, too” syndrome. He supposed that they may be acting out of fear or wishful thinking or may just be intellectually dishonest. Why? Because they do not boldly admit what he does: atheistic evolution is true. Therefore, “No inherent moral or ethical laws exist.”

Atheistic philosopher Jean Paul Sartre summarized atheism well in a lecture he gave in 1946 titled “Existentialism is a Humanism.” Sartre stated, “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist…. [H]e cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself ” (1989, emp. added). “If God does not exist,” Sartre recognized that we have no “values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse” (1989).

Though few they may be, atheists such as Provine, Sartre, and others refuse to walk down the road of contradiction. That is, rather than deny the premise: “If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist,” they acknowledge it: “[e]verything is indeed permitted if God does not exist” (Sartre, 1989). Yet, if atheists refuse to admit that real moral objectivity exists, then they are forced to admit that, for example, when the Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on “like the animals” they reportedly were (cf. Marchant, 2008), the Nazis did nothing inherently wrong. They were, to borrow from Provine, merely complex organic, meaningless mechanisms that chose to follow the orders of the Fuhrer. Or, to apply Dawkins reasoning, how could Hitler be guilty of wrong doing if he was simply trying to perpetuate the survival of the “best” DNA possible? “[I]t does not matter who or what gets hurt in the process,” right? “So long as DNA is passed on” (Dawkins, 273[5]:85). Should we not just react with  “pitiless indifference” since atheism implies that objective good and evil do not exist (p. 85)?

What about most of humanity’s condemnation of rape as an objective moral evil? Is it really an inherently evil act? Although evolutionist Randy Thornhill, co-author of the book A Natural History of Rape, “would like to see rape eradicated from human life” (Thornhill and Palmer, 2000, p. xi), he touted in a 2001 speech he delivered in Vancouver that rape is actually “evolutionary, biological and natural…. Our male ancestors became ancestors in part because they conditionally used rape” (2001). According to Thornhill and Palmer, “Evolutionary theory applies to rape, as it does to other areas of human affairs, on both logical and evidentiary grounds. There is no legitimate scientific reason not to apply evolutionary or ultimate hypotheses to rape…. Human rape arises from men’s evolved machinery for obtaining a high number of mates in an environment where females choose mates” (2000, pp. 55,190). If God does not exist, and if man evolved from lower life forms, in part because they “conditionally used rape,” then even rape cannot be called an objective moral evil. In fact, that is exactly what atheist Dan Barker admitted.

In his 2005 debate with Peter Payne on Does Ethics Require God?, Barker stated: “All actions are situational. There is not an action that is right or wrong. I can think of an exception in any case” (emp. added). Four years later, Kyle Butt asked Barker in their debate on the existence of God, “When would rape be acceptable?” (2009, p. 33). Although Barker tried to make his response as palatable as possible, he ultimately admitted that rape would be permissible if, for example, it meant saving humanity from certain destruction (pp. 33-34). [NOTE: One wonders how Barker can logically say that no actions are right or wrong, but then claim that situation ethics is right? Such a claim is a self-defeating statement. “Nothing is right. But situation ethics is right!?” Furthermore, on what basis does Barker think it is “right” to save humanity? His entire answer ultimately contradicts his already contradictory contentions.] Barker went on to admit (and even disturbingly joke) that it would be acceptable to rape two, two thousand, or even two million women, if, say, it resulted in saving six billion people from hypothetical alien invaders (p. 34). [NOTE: Alien invaders are not really all that imaginary in the world of atheism. After all, since life supposedly evolved on Earth, according to atheistic evolutionists it had to have also evolved in one form or another on some other distant planets in the Universe.] Do not miss the point. Dan Barker admitted that rape would be acceptable given certain circumstances. One obvious question is: who gets to decide the circumstances that warrant the rape of innocent women? Who is Barker to say that a man would be wrong to rape a woman for revenge, say, because she crashed into his new car? Or, who is Barker to say that it would be wrong to rape a woman for stealing $1,000 from him, etc. The fact is, once Barker (or any atheist) alleges that (1) God does not exist, and (2) therefore, “[n]o inherent moral or ethical laws exist” (Provine, 1988, 2[16]:10; a logical deduction if God does not exist), then no one can logically be criticized for anything. As Sartre put it: “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist” (1989). Rape, child abuse, multiple murder, pedophilia, bestiality, etc. cannot be condemned as objective evil, if God does not exist.

What happens when atheistic evolutionists take their godless philosophy to its logical conclusion, at least theoretically? They unveil the true, hideous nature of atheism. Consider, for example, the comments evolutionary ecologist Eric Pianka made in 2006 in Beaumont, Texas where he was recognized as the Distinguished Texas Scientist of the Year. According to Forrest M. Mimms, III, Chairman of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy of Science, Pianka condemned “the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe” and “hammered his point home by exclaiming, ‘We’re no better than bacteria!’” (Mims, 2006). Pianka followed up this comment by expressing his concerns “about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth” (Mims). According to Mims, 

Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.... His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population is airborne Ebola (Ebola Reston), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years (2006; for more information, see Butt, 2008, 28[7]:51-52).

Although most people (a good 90% anyway) find Pianka’s suggestion appalling, if atheism is true, and humanity really “evolved from bacteria” (Earth Science, 1989, p. 356), there would be nothing inherently wrong for a man to attempt to murder billions of people, especially if he is doing it for a “good” reason (i.e., to save the only planet in the Universe on which we know for sure life exists). [NOTE: Again, such a  reason that is deemed “good” can only exist if God does.]

CONCLUSION

The moral argument for God’s existence exposes atheism as the self-contradictory, atrocious philosophy that it is. Atheists must either reject the truthfulness of the moral argument’s first premise (“If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist”) and illogically accept the indefensible idea that objective morality somehow arose from rocks and reptiles, or (2) they must reject the argument’s second premise (“Objective moral values exist”), and accept the insane, utterly repulsive idea that genocide, rape, murder, theft, child abuse, etc. can never once be condemned as objectively “wrong.” According to atheism, individuals who commit such actions are merely doing what their DNA led them to do. They are simply following through with their raw impulses and instincts, which allegedly evolved from our animal ancestors. What’s more, if atheism is true, individuals could never logically be punished for such immoral actions, since “no inherent moral or ethical laws exist” (Provine, 1988, p. 10).

For those who refuse to have God in their knowledge (Romans 1:28), life will forever be filled with the self-contradictory, unreasonable, inhumane lies of atheistic evolution. Indeed, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1a). When atheists actually follow through with their godless philosophy and let it complete its journey of indifference, they peel back the phony charming façade of atheism and reveal it for what the psalmist said that it actually is: corrupt and abominable, where no one does good (Psalm 14:1b). On the other hand, when theists follow the evidence to the Creator (cf. Psalm 19:1-4), they discover a benevolent God Who is good (Psalm 100:5; Mark 10:18) and Who demands that His obedient followers “do good to all” (Galatians 6:10).

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Valor & Virtue (Issue 3)

Throughout the course of human history, some of God’s most valuable and courageous servants have been teenagers. V2 is a new resource designed to provide teens with exciting evidences that will strengthen their faith.

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