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Unnatural behavior does not exist?

You are an image bearer, not an instinct factory

Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Harari Associated Press/Photo by Oded Balilty

Unnatural behavior does not exist?

Occasionally, statements get made by important figures that, for individuals like me, a Christian ethics professor, do a great service. They just accidentally say what they truly mean with little possibility of confusion or misinterpretation. They reveal their underlying worldview. They do not disguise their beliefs. In an act of intellectual transparency, some say the unvarnished truth out loud, even if by accident. This is an act of public service.

One such example comes from the Twitter/X account of the world famous intellectual, Yuval Harari. Harari is an Israeli professor well known for forecasting the future of scientific and human advancement.

In a tweet posted last week, Harari showed the reality of a worldview that neglects God as the foundation of morality. In Harari’s own words, he stated: “From a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural. A truly unnatural behavior, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition.”

Now, be patient as I try to explain Harari’s philosophical gobbledygook. A statement like this may at first appear impenetrable and dense. But careful Christian observers should hear their worldview alarms blasting at the highest decibels. What Harari offers his readers a rare insight into the worldview of a postmodern materialist. According to Harari, morality is a façade that we attach to naturally occurring realities. Because all we are is just our biology, whatever occurs within us is, by definition, natural, and presumably, in Harari’s understanding, good. If it is natural, it cannot be immoral because whatever occurs, occurs in accordance with nature. So, it must be okay.

We must understand Harari’s statement as an ideal reflection of how modern moral philosophy functions when emptied of any transcendent categories. To do this, we must go back to one of the great ethical debates over the last 400 years, and that’s the question of whether you can derive a moral ought from an “is” proposition. Or, to put it a bit differently, whether there are any “values” arising from pure “facts.”

The naturalistic positivism Harari stands for is just another way of saying “listen to your heart.” Anything is permitted, Nothing is morally wrong. 

Now, what is interesting is that in typical atheistic accounts, the argument is always made that oughts cannot be derived from descriptive facts. Since we are just carbon atoms that gained consciousness, there’s no more moral substance existing within human beings than there is moral substance residing within a Coke can. In this paradigm, ethics is just a pragmatic discipline helping us sort out the irreconcilable conflicts that emerge among human persons. It’s a dreadful outlook.

What are the practical implications of statements like Harari’s? Well, for one thing, it means that moral judgment is impossible. If things that happen just happen, there is no moral reality.

If whatever occurs is just natural and therefore, presumably, good, it becomes impossible to criticize anything as immoral. If the only standard is what is, then there are no moral guardrails to prohibit moral evil. In this accounting, Adolf Hitler’s genocidal mania is, well, just natural. Harari’s statement is moral nonsense.

Harari’s statement is a reminder that the world of ideas has far-reaching moral consequences. And we dare not miss the implications of his worldview, for it reveals a worldview that cannot be reasonably kept without destroying civil society.

As a friend of mine replied on X (formerly known as Twitter) in response to my criticism of Harari, the human heart will supply an ought one way or another. Everyone is going to assume some moral principle somewhere. That is just how God made us. We will get our morality from God and His Word, or we will devise one of our own. The naturalistic positivism Harari stands for is just another way of saying “listen to your heart.” Anything is permitted, nothing is morally wrong.

Brothers and sisters, you are not just a collection of carbon atoms, dopamine sensations, and raw instincts. You are an imager bearer of God, a rational person who can differentiate right from wrong by the design of a benevolent and holy God who created you (Romans 2:14-15). As Christians, we are not the morally blind leading the moral blind. God’s Word—revealed in Scripture and in creation order—is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. So, follow the light.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.

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