– Written 25th July 2010
What makes a human life valuable? Well. God does.
Not only is it God who does, but it is only God who can make human life valuable.
Let’s slow down.
Let me tell you, there is no such thing as intrinsic value. That is to say that everything that has value only has it because there is something external to it that benefits from it in some way. Value is placed upon something. It is located in the mind of the valuer, not within the thing itself.
Let me prove it to you. Forget humans for a while and look at gold. Gold is valued across most cultures, so much so that it is its own literary symbol of value. But why do we all think it is valuable at all? Do we really believe that gold was valuable before humans came and found it to be so? If you think it was, then look at the Australian Aborigines. They knew about gold. They’d found some. But they just didn’t see any value in it, so they didn’t pay much attention to it. If you think gold’s value is inherent, then you have to say that these Aborigines were simply mistaken in this area.
So why didn’t the Aborigines value gold? Well they just didn’t really have any use for its conductivity, malleability and ductility, and at their stage of socio-economic development they were more concerned with survival than they were with shiny things. And that is the only difference between us and them. Gold is very useful to us. It is an excellent conductor, it can be moulded into any shape, stretched into wires, and it won’t rust. It is immeasurably useful for all these electronic things we like to make for ourselves. We also love the way it looks, so we shape it into rings, chains, statues, and whatever else we feel like at the time. Clearly this is the only reason why gold has any value.
So there is no such thing as intrinsic value? Well the cleverer ones among you might not be convinced yet because they’ll realise that there is a difference between gold and people. Gold isn’t conscious, and humans are. If gold was conscious of itself, you say, it would probably consider itself valuable, making its value intrinsic. Now hold on a second.
Let’s now forget gold now, and consider an inanimate rock. Imagine a rock so useless that you’d just rather it wasn’t even there. You can’t even sit on it, it’s that pathetic. Such a thing would not be valuable. But what if it was conscious, then it would value itself? Well yes. But if it was conscious, it would be valuable only unto itself. The rock would wish to persist only for itself, and would be the only thing that exists that wishes for the rock to persist. But if it is of no value to anything other than itself, is that true value? Any value it has is directed entirely inward and is of no consequence to anything external. Outside of itself its worth all falls apart.
But perhaps… we should value a thing (such as a human – since there aren’t any actual conscious rocks), simply because it wishes to be valued. Well let me stop you right there and say this. The moment you consider something’s wishes worth taking into account, you have already placed worth on the thing. If something was truly not valuable, then its wishes would be meaningless. It is utterly circular to value something solely because it values itself. This can only be done if it already has a prior value, validating its desires.
…where is human value coming from?
An atheist’s best bet might be that humans are all of instrumental value towards each other. This is true. It is very difficult for a person to survive on their own – and even more difficult for them to reproduce on their own. And since within humanity there is this mutual value, one for another, a human’s value is real and objective. There are three problems with this.
First, it is again circular. You are trying to prove every human’s value by saying that, for each one, there are several other humans who value this human. But something must first account for the value of all these other humans before their desires can be validated. If all their respective values have not been shown, what gives any weight to their respective claims that this person here is valuable?
Second, this doesn’t work in a situation where there is a person who is of no value to any other person out there. If there was a guy whose entire family was dead, and everybody just hated him, what gives him the right to go on living? Is this man’s life worth anything?
And third, it completely destroys itself when you look at humanity, the entity as a whole. Even if mutual human value is going on here, and each of us are of instrumental value to each other, what then can we say of our species? What makes the human race valuable? How can it be valuable if there is nothing external to it there to place such a value upon it? Someone tell me how the universe benefits from our existence. I know the whales don’t. Without God, the species of humanity is of no more objective value than a useless sentient rock. It values itself, but to what end? All it’s worth originates from within its object and is directed only into its object. Who cares?
I tell you, the only way a human life could be truly valuable is if it was created by God and if that God placed value upon it. Only if it was created for a divine purpose, and if it was worth something to this supreme God, would it have any true worth of any kind. I still wouldn’t call this intrinsic value, because the human’s value is dependent on the mind of its creator.
So why is God’s opinion meaningful? Apart from the fact that God is valuable unto us in the most absolute sense fathomable, He is the highest being that there is. He is the first, the last, and the creator of all things and there is nothing that exists that was not created by Him. He is the dictator over Truth. He tells the Truth what it is to be and it obeys Him. So the difference between something being intrinsically valuable and being valued by God is invisible.
We can say that if God thinks a person to be valuable, then they are. They are so valuable, even more than many of you might realise.
So you can continue to believe that this universe, and man, had no creator, but I double dare you to go and live as if it were the case.