Cooking chicken or human – what’s the difference?
Last year I heard a dreadful story from Queensland of a man Marcus Peter Volke who is believed to have killed, dismembered and “cooked” his girlfriend Mayang Prasetyo in their Teneriffe unit. It is a really awful story and I don’t want to trivialise it in the slightest. But this incident brings out a serious problem in atheist moral systems.
The other day I ate a chicken sandwich. The chicken was killed, dismembered and cooked and placed on a bread roll that I had for lunch. Yet there was no outcry, no police enquiry, and no news reports. Millions of people eat chicken every day and it is completely morally acceptable.
Now my question: in the atheist universe, why is cooking a human different to cooking a chicken?
There appears no fundamental difference. A chicken is matter and energy and a human is matter and energy. Both are the same, neither has any intrinsic value. Hence it seems inconsistent and unjustified within an atheist system for there to be an outcry at the murder and cooking of human DNA.
I put a similar dilemma to an atheist recently where I asked him what the difference was between between cooking chicken and child abuse. He responded by saying that we feel more empathy towards children, but this answer is unfortunately inadequate. It fails to overcome the fundamental value problem. If a child is simply matter and energy, as are rocks, stars, chickens, computers and trees, there appears to be no rational basis for valuing human ‘matter and energy’ over chicken ‘matter and energy’. There appears no fundamental difference between cooking a human and cooking a chicken.
Atheism struggles to overcome the value problem precisely for the reasons Richard Dawkins outlines in some of his famous quotes. Firstly, that the atheist universe is amoral when he claims that:
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference
Secondly, he shows the indifference of DNA where he says that DNA doesn’t really value anything:
“DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”
Exactly! In the atheist universe things just are and that’s it! There is no essential difference between cooking a chicken or a human. There is nowhere written that cooking a human is wrong or that humans have value. Both are DNA, both are matter and energy, both just ‘are’ with no intrinsic value.
This is an offensive thing to say and I’m sure that some atheists reading this will vigorously disagree. But I’m keen to hear the rational reasons for disagreement. I can’t see a rational way of justifying human value in an atheist moral system.
Yet the Christian understanding of human value is very different. The Bible claims that humans are different and special – they are made in the image of God. Moreover human dignity and value is reinforced through the incarnation, God coming to dwell as a human amongst us. This reinforces the ultimate in dignity and value of people. Within the Christian framework there is a fundamental difference between a human and a chicken. Human dignity can be rationally justified.
I recognise that perhaps our care for humans may be something of empathy or solidarity, bur I wonder if it explains it all? I wonder if deep down we know that humans are special? Or is this simple wish fulfilment and I need to just ‘get over’ cooking humans for lunch?
So my questions, how can an atheist can assert and rationally defend human dignity and value? What is the difference between cooking a chicken and a human?