Did This Famous Atheist Do Anything That is Morally Wrong?

Lawrence Krauss is a world-renowned theoretical physicist. He led Arizona State University’s Origins Project for nearly a decade. Because of allegations inappropriate comments and behavior from multiple women, he will no longer head up the initiative any longer.

Krauss has denied the allegations.

The BuzzFeed News story detailed an account from a woman who met Krauss in 2006 at an event.

She told Buzzfeed News that Krauss was one of her “intellectual idols.” He flirted with her at the event and made plans to meet up at his hotel’s restaurant, she said.

He asked her to first come to his hotel room, where he tried to force himself on her, Buzzfeed News reported. She managed to leave the room.

The news outlet said the incident was just one of many allegations against Krauss, “including groping women, ogling and making sexist jokes to undergrads, and telling an employee at Arizona State University, where he is a tenured professor, that he was going to buy her birth control so she didn’t inconvenience him with maternity leave.”

Krauss said the encounter with the woman at the event was consensual.

You can read Krauss’ response to the BuzzFeed Article here. I don’t understand why Krauss has made such a spirited defense. Given the underlying assumptions of atheism and Darwinism, why is it wrong to do the things he’s accused?

In a talk based on his book A Universe From Nothing, Lawrence M. Krauss said the following:

Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements — the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life — weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.1

Arizona State University does not have a case if they take the teaching of Krauss seriously. Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for Krauss’ evolutionary worldview have no regard for morality. Science is not about morality. The first chemically formed life that supposedly emerged from Charles Darwin’s “warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity … present” had no regard for morality. After reading Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Herbert Spencer described “natural selection” more accurately as “the survival of the fittest.”2

While Krauss denies the charges leveled against him, there is no need for him to do so.

Evolution advances as the strong dominate the weak, and that includes sexual advances. Sex is the means by which genes perpetuate themselves.

Krauss could bolster his defense with a great cloud of evolutionary witnesses. For example, atheist William Provine (1942-2015), who stated in a debate with Christian author Phillip E. Johnson at Stanford University, April 30, 1994, the following:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

Krauss could also call on biologist Randy Thornhill and anthropologist Craig T. Palmer, authors of A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (2000), “which maintains that human males are by nature rapists, murderers, warriors and perpetrators of genocide, and The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of male Violence (1999), in which the authors argue that rape is an adaptation to increase the reproductive success of men who would otherwise have little access to women.”3 Rape was good for evolutionary progress with no consideration of morality. A person’s genes were doing what genes do to propagate the species.

Michael Ruse and E.O Wilson believe that “we humans are modified monkeys, not the favored Creation of a Benevolent God on the Sixth Day.” Instead, they claim,

Morality, or more strictly our belief in morality, is merely an adaptation put in place to further our reproductive ends. Hence the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will…. In an important sense, ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate. It is without external grounding…. Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference. This is the crux of the biological position. Once it is grasped, everything falls into place.4

Evolution, as taught by Krauss and others and approved by Arizona State University, does not regard sexual harassment, assault, and even rape as moral issues since materialism cannot account for morality. “Ethics is illusory inasmuch as it persuades us that it has an objective reference.” DNA (something that evolution also cannot account for) neither knows nor cares except to advance the genetic makeup of a species forward come hell or high water. “If evolution is the source of morality,” Frank Turek writes, “then what’s to stop morals from evolving (changing) to the point that one day rape, theft, and murder are considered moral?”5

On what basis, then, do officials at Arizona State University believe they are justified in investigating charges of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature against Dr. Krauss? Certainly not based on materialistic assumptions of evolutionary science.

When it comes to morality, rarely does one find a consistent atheist. The officials at ASU must leave the materialistic confines of evolution and look elsewhere to borrow moral capital. And where is that moral capital found? “[W]ithin the Western tradition [that] follows the pattern set by … religious teachings,” as the evolutionist and atheist James Rachels admits.6 And what is the source of morality in the Western tradition? Christianity.

Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer said in a 1994 interview with Stone Phillips that he was influenced by the theory of evolution, “that we all just came from the slime, and when we died … that was it, there was nothing–so the whole theory cheapens life…. If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it in acceptable ranges?” Nine months after the interviews with Dahmer were conducted, a fellow-inmate bludgeoned Dahmer to death.

Arizona’s state motto is Ditat Deus, Latin for “God Enriches.” According to atheist Richard Dawkins, “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.’” 

  1. A shorter version of the quotation can be found in his book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing (New York: Free Press, 2012), 17. []
  2. “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection,’ or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.” Principles of Biology (1864): 1:444. []
  3. Denis Alexander, Rebuilding the Matrix: Science and Faith in the 21st Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 369. []
  4. Michael Ruse and E.O Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics” in Religion and the Natural Sciences: The Range of Engagement, ed. J.E. Hutchingson (Orlando: Harcourt and Brace, 1991), 310-311. Also see Michael Ruse, “Evolution Ethics: A Phoenix Arisen,” in Issues in Evolutionary Ethics, ed. Paul Thompson (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995), 225. []
  5. Frank Turek, “Evolution Cannot Explain Morality,” Cross Examined Blog (July 1, 2008). []
  6. James Rachels, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 87. []
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