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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The glory of Evolution

Everything has been said about Neo-Darwinism and Christian Creationism/"Intelligent Design" from the scientific and political standpoint. However, my specialty of sorts on this blog is individualist morality. And very little is being said about morality in this debate. It is clear to me that both sides have a lot to say about morality - and I am definitely not talking about Social Darwinism.

This idea was first introduced to me by an article in Tech Central Station, "The Darwinists Are Back", on some policy consequences of the truth of evolution, such as the fact that non-genetic parents are much more likely to harm or kill children in their care, men's innate need for power, and what we can learn from the natural diet of homo sapiens in regards to obesity. These issues show that all areas of life should be informed by science. But they are not necessarily moral issues.

Perhaps a more interesting moral discussion is the consequence of both positions on human purpose and values. And this comes from their position on the origin and nature of human beings.

Neo-Darwinism teaches us that human beings are part of the animal kingdom, and that all forms of life come from a common ancestor - that there is a fundamental unity of all life. This implies epistemically that we are able to understand our origins and our development as a species. This is, of coure, a natural consequence of it being a scientific question, as science assumes that we are able to understand reality and arrive at the truth through a rigorous process. It is, therefore, affirming of the human intelligence and our capacity to know.

It also tells us that, to the extent that our mental life and behaviour is genetic, we are able to undertand a large part of ourselves and adapt to it. This means that we can be happy with ourselves, instead of living in a repressed state, which leads to neurosis, violence and unhappiness. Neo-Darwinism also highlights the beauty and elegance of natural processes.

But most importantly, all of this makes a very strong stance for self-directed purpose. The knowledge we gain from Neo-Darwinism about our own nature gives us the impetus we need to direct our own purpose as individuals. It tells us that we are nothing more, nothing less than individual organisms that are the result of a natural process that has been going on for billions of year, and that only the individual can give himself purpose and meaning, using the tools that morality gives us. Neo-Darwinism gives the greater context to our lives which used to be the province of religion.

What about Christian Creationism, or its mealy-mouthed equivalent, "Intelligent Design" ? What does it teach us about morality ? Well, for one thing, it tells us that although we look like animals, we are not animals at all but rather something entirely incomprehensible called a "soul", which is unnatural and unknowable. The lesson here is that our origins and development are completely outside of our reach. It teaches us that the individual alone is completely epistemically impotent, and must depend on religious authorities or God to feed him untestable answers. It is a denial of human intelligence.

Christian Creationism teaches us that our lives are in the hands of a violent, unpredictable, unjust deity, which condemns people for the crimes of their ancestors, and imposes moral orders which go counter to human nature. Trying to follow these rules lead to neurosis, violence and unhappiness. This also tells us that self-directed purpose is pointless, and that our lives are outside of our control.

Should we be so surprised that American schoolchildren have an elevated rate of teen pregnancies, and that 23% use hard drugs compared to 6% in Europe, according to the World Health Organization ? Seems to me that these children have learned their lesson. Maybe the finger should be pointed at Creationism and religion in the schools, not at the study of science !

The Creationists are therefore correct on one point : Neo-Darwinism and Creationism are not just biological positions but also have important moral repercussions. On what those repercussions are, however, they have it completely backwards. They see themselves as the righteous liberators of our science-burdened youth, re-establishing order in a troubled world. In reality, they are poisoners of the youth, pushing away individualism and rationality in favour of mindless, destructive belief.

To even believe in "theistic evolution" (insofar as such a thing makes any sense at all) is to give up on being honest. An honest person would say "okay, we figured out evolution, now let's figure out this whole emergence of life thing". A "theistic evolutionist" gives the pretense of being reasonable by accepting the obvious truth of Neo-Darwinism and yet refuses to shine the same light on the emergence of life, because he is unwilling to concede his religious beliefs. Both the Creationist and the theistic evolutionist are dishonest.

Neo-Darwinism has been hijacked by liberal fanatics as their standard against right-wing lunacy. Let's rip it from their hands and reclaim it for what it really is : a scientific truth, which requires a commitment to reality, and the only proper context to reclaim the purpose of the individual against all belief systems.

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3 Comments:

At 3/29/2006 12:30 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

An excellent point. Too often theists claim that "in an evolutionary worldview, morality is impossible." As is typical with theist positions, it's actually the opposite that is true.

 
At 3/29/2006 1:14 AM, Blogger BlackSun declaimed...

I think morality comes with sentience. That is to say, getting high enough on the evolutionary ladder to see that another life form has a utility beyond being your next meal.

Once this happens, we recognize that reciprocity, social structure, and respect for other individuals will earn a greater reward than cannibalism/ barbarianism ever could.

This knowledge then forms the basis for a morality based on long-term self-interest.

No god is needed to reach this conclusion.

 
At 7/17/2006 10:51 PM, Blogger My Bubble Life declaimed...

The point of view most certainly changes the way two people interpret the same event. You said that, "The lesson here is that our origins and development are completely outside of our reach." It seems that the Bible offers a complete account of man's origins, which are completely knowable, while evolution offers man's linking of seemingly related data without a full understanding even after thousands of years of study.

On another point, "It teaches us that the individual alone is completely epistemically impotent, and must depend on religious authorities or God to feed him untestable answers. It is a denial of human intelligence." Many truths were written in the Bible before scientists even considered them. For example, the theory of relativity was plainly presented in 2 Peter 3:8.

You certainly get the God that you desire. You mentioned a God that is "violent, unpredictable, unjust deity". My God is loving and wants the best for us. I hope that you will discover the God that I know, Jehovah.

 

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