What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

Atheism as manifest in the West is an odd phenomenon – in many ways, it’s very much an off-shoot of Christianity. It’s essentially the result of taking Christ out of Christianity and trying to hang onto the rest if it. So we see widespread support for the “loving your neighbour as yourself” commandment, but a willful disregard for its other half (loving God with your all). There is plenty of acknowledgement of Jesus as a teacher, but not as Lord. “He said some good things, but he’s was just this guy, you know?”

The best description that I’ve heard for this condition is “cut-flower morality”. We think that we can remove the teachings and the wisdom from the divine root and still enjoy their beauty. We deny that humans are made by God, and still expect that humans have intrinsic value.

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Dr. Manhattan (courtesy Legendary Pictures)I’ve heard the phrase “lucky mud” used to describe humans – it’s a description born from a rigidly materialist mindset that sees us as the current phase of a random and unguided evolutionary process. But the “lucky” part still acknowledges that there is value in human life, and yet the materialist worldview has no place for such value. If we are arbitrary evolutionary byproducts then we are no more special than the coal that we use to heat our homes or the rocks that we crush to make roads. Being alive has no value in such a mindset: how can it? Life is just a temporary arrangement of some chemical elements which displays certain unusual properties.

To quote Dr Manhattan, “A live human body and a deceased human body have the same number of particles. Structurally there’s no difference.”

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Of course, this causes conflict. To actually deny the value of human life is quite literally psychopathic, so instead we try to justify the value of human life from a materialist worldview. So we see silly ideas from people like Richard Dawkins (in The Selfish Gene, for instance), claiming that we have a moral imperative to fight against evolution, even though evolution is the only thing that Dawkins seems to hold sacred. Despite the fact that all of humanity (other than the truly psychopathic) accept the existence of good and evil, in a materialistic worldview these words are meaningless.

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King David, writing in about 1000BC, asked:

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:4, NIV)

In a materialist worldview, there is no answer to the first question. But the missing piece is hinted at in the second part: in Jesus, God became man to reconcile us to Him. The title “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favourite way of referring to himself, and it strongly emphasises the unique place that we have in God’s creation.

There is value in an artistic work because it was created with purpose. We too were made purposefully, and our continual and universal acknowledgement of our worth bears a powerful testimony to our Creator’s handiwork.

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Related posts:

The timidity of New Atheists

Seeing the gardener

Non-moral nature

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11 thoughts on “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

  1. Love the post. Good to see you back.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the contention–if all we are is matter, why should we consider on arrangement more valuable than another?

  2. Consider the following examples of human violence:

    1. A four-year-old boy was playing with his father’s gun and killed a young woman. The gun had been kept loaded and unsecured in a dresser drawer.
    2. A twelve-year-old boy, who had been the victim of continuous physical and emotional abuse, took his father’s gun and intentionally shot and killed a young woman because she was teasing him.
    3. A twenty-five-year-old man, who had been the victim of continuous abuse as a child, intentionally shot and killed his girlfriend because she left him for another man.
    4. A twenty-five-year-old man, who had been raised by wonderful parents and never abused, intentionally shot and killed a young woman he had never met “just for the fun of it.”
    5. A twenty-five-year-old man, who had been raised by wonderful parents and never abused, intentionally shot and killed a young woman he had never met “just for the fun of it.” An MRI of the man’s brain revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball in his medial prefrontal cortex (a region responsible for the control of emotion and behavioral impulses).

    When you consider these examples, you are thinking about each one differently… in spite of a young woman dying in each. The reason why you do this is because what you’re judging is the intention behind the killing. You are evaluating the result not for its own sake but whether or not the death was accidental, intentional, and done with malice. No belief in god nor some amount of theological training is necessary for you to do this. You automatically assign value not just to the materialistic results (a dead young woman) but to the intention of actions that lead to such a result. That’s why your values undergo constant fluctuations based on you.

    If you have no value for a particular rock then that rock has no value to you. Seems rather obvious, yes? If another person has value for a particular rock then that rock has value to the other person. It can be the very same rock, which Sentinel pretends must be magically imbibed with with some supernatural purpose through its creation in order for it to house this ‘thing’ called value. That’s absurd. The ‘value’ we exercise as humans is assigned, based entirely on the person doing the assigning and not the thing itself. Whatever ‘purpose’ lies behind any explanation for assigning a value properly belongs to the person assigning it.

    Value for others comes in part from our biology, but it also is assigned and, because of this, we can train people to overcome their biological tendency to grant value other human lives. That’s how we train military and security personnel. They can kill very efficiently and that’s what combat training is all about. Many religions have a long and bloody history of doing the same thing, training people to think differently and assign value based on affiliation, of treating those outside the faith differently and often brutally compared to those within, of assigning a different value to people based on their religious affiliations. To suggest otherwise is simply not true, and it has absolutely nothing to do with people had to be created for a purpose, any more than the rock to have value must have been created for a purpose.

    • When you consider these examples, you are thinking about each one differently… in spite of a young woman dying in each. The reason why you do this is because what you’re judging is the intention behind the killing. You are evaluating the result not for its own sake but whether or not the death was accidental, intentional, and done with malice

      That does not challenge objective moral values and duties, however, as they too always involve context. Killing may not always be morally wrong, but it may always be wrong in a specific context (e.g. revenge).

      To suggest that value is only in the eye of the beholder seems very dangerous indeed.

      • Because as a species we tend to first recognize and then value consciousness… the closer to human consciousness we get, the more we tend to value it. There are a veritable host of reasons and explanations for this, but it is interesting how we utilize different criteria dependent on the situation, and one of the major criterion we use has to do with personal involvement. Hauser’s Trolley studies reveals this cross-cultural, cross-linguistic, cross-religious similarity, meaning that as a species we have a common baseline that is then only partly affected by environmental development.

      • I understand that we value consciousness. The original post is questioning why we do so, and whether that value is logically defensible.

        I know that there are plenty of proffered explanations (such as supposed evolutionary advantage), but logically they tend to be very question-begging.

      • Because, like all social animals, we come equipped with mirror neurons, which allow us to experience in our brains what another is experiencing in their bodies. This is the root of what we call empathy, which can be understood to be materialistic evidence of why (and how) we care about another.

  3. Because we share a common biology, we share a common morality and the values that inform it. But it is a mistake to think these values come from somewhere else or reside beyond us. In this sense, our morals and ethics and values are materialistic, meaning they come about by our assignment to whatever and not from whatever.

  4. Hi, I am from Melbourne. I think I have been here before.
    But what is Man?
    And what did Saint Jesus of Galilee teach and demonstrate while he was alive?
    [edit – marketing links with no discussion removed]

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