The hamster that was not to be: A Thought Exercise

Here’s a thought exercise for us to try.

Picture the universe a billion years ago.  Estimates are it is about 13.5 billion years ago, so it would be fairly well established by this time.  Let us suppose a small, earth-like planet is orbiting a medium sized, yellow dwarf star, not unlike our own.  And on this tiny little planet, we find a primitive microbial life form.   Our little microbes are thriving quite well in their safe, warm, biosphere.  Suddenly, an asteroid a mere half a mile wide slams into our happy little planet, completely wiping out all our poor little microbes.

Now, here’s a question for you:  Would anyone consider this cosmic tragedy to be “evil”?  I would hazard a guess that no atheist would likely describe this event as evil.  After all, we slaughter millions of bacteria every time we wash our hands with anti-bacterial soap.

So, let’s carry the though exercise a bit further.  Let’s suppose this asteroid strike didn’t actually happen a billion years ago.  Instead, we assume (big assumption) that these microbes were somehow able to evolve into higher life forms.  Through the course of hundreds of millions of years, through some mysterious process, our little microbial life evolves into a variety of small, rodent, hamster-like animals.  Now we’ve got a planet teeming with millions of cute little hamsters, scampering through the primitive forests of this tiny little planet, orbiting an obscure G-type main-sequence star in some far-flung recess of the galaxy.  But sadly, due to the laws of physics and orbital dynamics, our half-mile size asteroid does eventually collide violently with our tiny planet.  Tragically, our little hamster creatures are wiped out in a cataclysmic explosion of fire, dust, and debris.  And those few our tiny little buddies who managed to survive the initial collision suffer and die of starvation as the planet’s plant life dies off in a matter of weeks due to the cloud of dust obscuring all sunlight.  So now what?  Is this an evil act?  I would guess the atheist would probably say no.  After all, it’s just physics.  And even though our little hamster friends are cute and cuddly, we exterminate similar creatures by the millions here on earth.  In Ecuador, and other South American countries, they even eat hamsters!

Our atheist friends often complain about the problem of evil.  The fact that there is so much unmitigated evil proves the Christian “god” is either unable or unwilling to do anything about it.  Therefore, he probably doesn’t exist.  The Christian answers, “But so much evil in the world is due to the free actions of human beings.  God gives us free will.  Free will logically requires that one has the choice to do good or evil.” 

"Ah!” but the atheist counters, “what about natural evil?  Earthquakes, floods, tornados, and such.  Surely those are not caused by human free will, so why doesn’t your so-called ‘god’ stop those kinds of things from happening?”

But here’s the problem.  Under the atheistic, materialist worldview, humans just happen to be on planet Earth through random chance.  We’re nothing more than the next couple of evolutionary steps from our little rodent ancestors, not unlike the poor hamster-like creatures above.  If an asteroid wiping out microbial life forms, rodents, or any other “primitive” life forms on some far distant planet isn’t an act of evil, then why are we humans so arrogant to think that we are special?  On a cosmic scale, if a disease, flood, tsunami, earthquake, or even an asteroid strike, were to kill some (or even all) of us, why is that is considered “evil” to the atheist?  Under the materialistic, evolutionary model, in a hundred million years the humans of today will be positively primitive compared to humanity of the future.  Humanity of the future may very well consider us to be as primitive as we consider hamsters today.

On atheism, there really is no good or evil.  It’s all just physics.  Molecules in motion.  If the God of Christianity isn’t real, what is the atheist complaining about?