According to the Bible, Man was created in God’s image. It is upon this basis that Jesus makes His statement about the second greatest commandment which is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
What about those who are not Christian and do not hold to the authority of the Bible? In those cases, how is human value determined? In fact, how is it even recognized as being valuable? If we are here as a mere result of matter, motion, time and chance…what in that makes us think that humans have any more value than any other creature in the universe?
Now, before any non-Christians start getting up in arms about that, let me clarify something that I am not saying. I am not saying that one must believe in the Christian God in order to place value on human life. One would have to completely disregard such overwhelming evidence to the contrary that it would be tantamount to intellectual suicide. It is quite obvious that human life is valued by Christians, Muslims, atheists, etc.
My question is more based on the source of this value. Based on discussions I’ve listened to from atheists, the most common thing that I hear is essentially a type of “herd” mentality or something about it being based upon a sort of “communal” benefit. In other words, it is beneficial for us to not kill one another, so we see that as being immoral. It is beneficial to value people, and so we do.
However, if we are derived from the same evolutionary process as all other living creatures, I’m not sure that this explanation has the appropriate explanatory power or scope. After all, there are other communal animals who have certain “social rules” in order to benefit the community. Yet, the if one of these animals kills another, it does not seem to have any morality attributed to it. With humans, we call it immoral to kill another human because of this value we place on human life. Animals do not have this morality.
So, if we are essentially animals, where did these morals come from? Where did the idea of human value come from? If we stick with the “communal benefit” argument, it doesn’t explain this concept. Some might feel that it explains a certain aspect of our moral code, but other animals are not being immoral if they kill one of their own community. They don’t get angry with one another for killing one of their own. Humans do this because it’s “immoral” and it’s immoral because human life is understood to be valuable.
Also, if one were to study the dynamics of various social animals, one might be able to discern some sort of purpose for why one animal might kill another of its own “family” or “tribe” or “herd” or whatever the appropriate term might be. Perhaps the animal is sick or weak or lame. Yet, there seems to be no such justification for humans.
In the case of the animal kingdom, we often call this type of thing “natural selection.” It would seem, though, that as humans (with respect to other humans, anyway) we deliberately go against natural selection with medical science and other methods. We fight against the idea of allowing even the most weak and sickly human perish and do everything we can to keep human beings alive. We understand that they are too valuable to let them die if we can prevent it.
Again, the issue is not that one must believe in God to place such value on humans. The main question is, what is the basis for the value? Why do we believe that human life is so much more valuable than any other animal’s? Why do people fight so hard to protect the rights of other people? Where does this value come from?
If we were truly a result of evolution by process of natural selection, this value on human life seems as though it has no source. And the only explanations for it do not seem to work if you swap out “human” for some other animal or creature. If this “social norm” or “community benefit” source was true, why wouldn’t it hold true for other animal groups?
As a result of evolution, it seems to me that humans should have no more value than any other creature. The very fact that we are able to perceive a difference in value between human beings and other creatures, to me, is evidence of the idea that this value was somehow made known to us through many, many generations with its origins going all the way back to a particular couple who lived in a very nice garden some time ago.
Grace, love and peace.