Chapter 7


Today Biology, Tomorrow the World

What is in our genes’ interests is what seems “right”–morally right. -Robert Wright
  • The central reason Christians have not been more effective in the public square, Schaeffer says, is that we tend to see things in “bits and pieces.” We worry about things like family breakdown, violence in schools, immoral entertainment, abortion and bioethics–a wide array of individual issues. But we don’t see the big picture that connects all the dots. And what is that big picture? All these forms of cultural dissolution, Schaeffer writes, have “come about due to a shift in worldview”.  Schaeffer continues to say that if in your worldview you start with impersonal forces operating by chance, in other words, naturalistic evolution, then over time (even if it takes several generations) you will end up with naturalism in moral, social, and political philosophy.
  • One of the fastest growing disciplines today is the application of Darwinism to social and cultural issues. It goes by the name of evolutionary psychology (an updated version of sociobiology), and its premise is that if natural selection produced the human body, then it must also account for all aspects of human belief and behavior.
  • The literature of evolutionary psychology is full of “cocktail party” speculation devoid of any real data from genetics or neurology. Some critics have dismissed the theory as “Darwinian fundamentalism”–a provocative phrase implying that Darwinism itself has become a rigid orthodoxy.
  • An example of applying Darwinian explanations to human behavior: The book The Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion, its authors two university professors, makes the rather inflammatory claim that rape is not a pathology, biologically speaking. Instead it is an evolutionary adaptation for maximizing reproductive success. In other words, if candy and flowers don’t do the trick, some men may resort to coercion to fulfill the reproductive imperative. When one of the authors, Randy Thornhill, appeared on National Public Radio, he found himself deluged by angry calls, until finally he insisted that the logic is inescapable: if evolution is true, then “every feature of every living thing, including human beings, has an underlying evolutionary background. That’s not a debatable matter.”
  • Based on the above example, Thornhill was saying that evolution and evolutionary ethics are a package deal. If you accept the premise, then you must accept the conclusion. And if you don’t like it, you may as well join the “religious right” and challenge evolution itself. It’s just as Schaeffer said: All the dots connect back to your view of origins.
  • Ultimately, the fatal weakness of evolutionary psychology is that it is so elastic that it can explain anything. Evolution is said to account for mothers who kill their newborn babies–but if you were to ask why most mothers do not kill their babies, why, evolution accounts for that too. A theory that explains any phenomenon and its opposite, too, in reality explains nothing. It is so flexible that it can be twisted to say whatever proponents want it to say.
  • Biologist William Provine of Cornell travels the lecture circuit telling university students that the Darwinian revolution is still incomplete, because we have not yet embraced all its moral and religious implications. What are those implications? Provine lists them: “There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will.”
  • Peter Singer was a proponent of sexual relations between humans and animals, claiming that humans are not made in the image of God as Christianity states, as evolution states, we are just animals as well.  A culture is driven by a kind of logic: It will eventually begin to express the logical consequences of the dominant worldview. If evolution is true–if there really is an unbroken continuity between humans and animals–then Singer is absolutely right about what he calls “sex across the species barrier” Once again, all the dots connect back to your view of origins.
  • In the past, most social scientists tried to limit the implications of evolution by erecting a wall between biology and culture. Evolution created the human body, they said, but then humans created culture, which is independent of biology. This conviction was a key plank in defending against biological determinism. Today, with the rise of evolutionary psychology, that wall is crumbling. Scientists realize they can no longer put any arbitrary limit on the logic of evolution. Consistency requires that they apply it across the board–to religion, morality, politics, everything.
  • There is no way to cordon off politics or morality or whatever you happen to care most about, and say, This is immune to the implications of evolution. Once you accept the Darwinian premise, there is logical pressure to be consistent, applying it to every aspect of culture.
  • Darwinists are connecting all the dots, tracing everything back to origins. And that’s why Christians had better connect the dots as well. If they offer “universal Darwinism,” then we had better offer “universal Design,” showing that design theory gives scientific support for an all-encompassing Christian worldview.
  • The logical flaw in evolutionary psychology is this: if all our ideas are products of evolution, then so is the idea of evolutionary psychology itself. Like all other constructs of the human mind, it is not true but only useful for survival. Daniel Dennett may call Darwinism a “universal acid” that dissolves away traditional religion and ethics, but it is the height of wishful thinking for him to presume that the acid will dissolve only other people’s views, while leaving his own views untouched. Once the very possibility of objective truth has been undermined, then Darwinian evolution itself cannot be objectively true. In short, if all ideas are products of evolution, and not really true but only useful, then evolution itself is not true either. And why should the rest of us pay it any attention? To use philosophical labels, a statement that undercuts itself is self-defeating or self-referentially absurd. Other examples would include using logical arguments to refute the validity of logic; or stating (in English) that you can not speak English; or arguing that there are absolutely no moral absolutes; or saying “My brother is an only child.” Discovering that a philosophy is self-referentially absurd is a sure sign that it is fatally flawed.
  • As ever-greater areas of life are absorbed into the lower story of Darwinian determinism, the only way to defend any concept of moral freedom is to leap into the upper story–no matter how self-contradictory and irrational it renders the resulting theory.
  • Evolutionary psychology fails the practical test: no one can live by it. Since universal human experience confirms the reality of moral choice, evolutionary psychologists cannot actually live on the basis of their own deterministic theory. They may try to, but when the contradiction between theory and life grows too pressing, they suddenly abandon the theory and proclaim their autonomy from the power of the genes.
  • Dawkins jumped on the bandwagon explaining that Clinton’s various escapades were simply a fossilized remnant from our genetic path. He seemed to grow uncomfortable about offering a genetic excuse for immorality. So he confided to the readers that he himself had made the “un-Darwinian personal decision” to be “deliberately monogamous.” But think about that for a moment–if we really are programmed by our genes through Darwinian selection, how could anyone make an “un-Darwinian” decision? In fact, how could anyone make free moral decisions at all? The notion that we are free to act in un-Darwinian ways is completely irrational within the Darwinian worldview.
  • At some point, even the most adamant scientific materialists find that their own humanity resists the deterministic implications of the Darwinian worldview–that human nature stubbornly refuses to remain within the cramped confines of any mechanistic philosophy (the lower story). When that happens, they simply issue a declaration of independence from the power of the selfish genes, and take a leap of faith to a traditional concept of moral freedom and responsibility (the upper story), even though it is completely unwarranted within their own worldview.
  • Critics often dismiss Christianity as irrational–yet it does not require any irrational, self-contradictory leap of faith. Because it begins with a personal God, Christianity provides a consistent, unified worldview that holds true both in the natural realm and in the moral, spiritual realm. The biblical doctrine of the image of God gives a solid basis for human dignity and moral freedom that is compatible with the compelling witness of human experience.
  • Singer finds no basis for morality and altruism within the Darwinian worldview in the lower story–so he takes a leap to a hypothetical upper-story realm far beyond the constraints of “our evolved nature.” Somehow the evolutionary process has produced a power that liberates us from the evolutionary process. Singer has cut humanity completely loose from its Darwinian anchor in biology, and set it free to soar to dizzying heights. But his philosophy is left behind in a hopeless crumple of contradictions.
  • Leo Strauss took Darwinian evolution to be an irrefutable fact, and he tried to work around it by grounding morality in the realm of Platonic ideals. Yet that was not “an adequate solution to the problem,” as he himself recognized, because it implied a two-story view of knowledge–the “fundamental, typically modern, dualism of a non-teleological natural science” (in the lower story), along with “a teleological science of man” (in the upper story).
  • The liberating message of Design theory is that we don’t have to take Darwinian evolution as an irrefutable fact, nor resign ourselves to the “typically modern dualism.” Design theory thus provides the scientific basis for the recovery of a holistic, teleological worldview. It releases us from the modern dualism, making it reasonable once again to speak of morality as a form of objective knowledge.
This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.

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