The Evolution of Pride: Psychology Trumps the Bible?
“The Bible got it wrong,” announced a subtitle on Science Daily: pride doesn’t come before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). A proud look and haughty eyes may be the first two of the Bible’s seven deadly sins (Proverbs 6:16-19), but psychologist Jessica Tracy (U of British Columbia) begs to differ. She says pride can be a good thing, as long as it is not excessive. It evolved as a normal, healthy part of human expression.
Tracy, “whose research is among the first to explore the different facets of this emotion,” tried to distinguish between healthy self-esteem and arrogant hubris. And where did pride come from? “What particularly fascinates Tracy is how this emotion has evolved through time and continues to shape human social dynamics,” the article stated. “For example, the darker side of pride may have evolved out of the age-old human desire for status.”
To test her theory, she interviewed natives in the rural African village of Burkina Faso, and observed their responses to pictures of body expressions Westerners associate with pride. They all immediately recognized a proud look. “We saw that recognition of the pride expression does cut across cultures,” she said, working with UC David psychologist Richard Robins.
An article about their research on EurekAlert adds to the explanation of the source of pride:
Tracy and Robins argue that the primitive precursors of pride probably motivated our ancestors to act in altruistic and communitarian ways, for the good of the tribe, and the physical display of pride both reinforced such behavior and signaled to the group that this person was worthy of respect. So individual pride, at least the good kind, contributed in important ways to the survival of the community.
Tracy claims that the “dark side of pride” comes from trying to short-cut the good side. When someone tries to gain respect without earning it, they turn pride askew: “Social cheaters puffed themselves up because deep down they did not have what it took to succeed in their world.”
These articles qualify as “dumb” on several levels. First, they quibble about definitions. Even the Bible distinguishes between a feeling of confidence, joy or hope that is warranted (such as confidence in God’s promises) and selfish arrogance. So no, the Bible did not get it wrong. Tracy and Robins acknowledge that pride is not always good. Hubris and selfish arrogance can be harmful.
This leads to the second flaw: she stole worldview presuppositions from Christians to make value judgments. Evolutionary theory cannot say that anything is beneficial (even survival), or that anything is “dark” or “puffed up” or “hubristic,” because she has no standard by which to judge such things. Evolution is what evolution does. There is no basis on which she could claim that a prideful tribe that crushes and decimates a group of peaceful neighbors is doing a bad thing. Her inability to restrain value judgments is a tip-off that her God-given conscience is speaking.
To be consistent, she can only say that pride “is”. There exists a set of biochemical processes, characterized by people who puff out their chests and force their way on others, that we call by a group of five letters, p-r-i-d-e, a word totally devoid of moral content. Christians, by contrast do have such a standard: the character of God and His commandments. We forbid Tracy to plagiarize the Bible. It’s unconscionable that she should do so, then turn around and say her source got it wrong.
Last, Tracy’s work contributes nothing. As so often is the case in evolutionary literature, her explanation is mere storytelling. She invented a Star Wars myth about alleged primitive people, some of whom were tempted to the Dark Side of Pride. The tribespeople in Africa she interviewed are – guess what? – 21st century moderns. They exist in the present, not tens of thousands of years ago in an evolutionary galaxy far, far away. To associate them with primitives is de facto racism. The villagers of Burkina Faso, who are every bit as modernly human as the professors at the university, should be incensed.
Could Tracy and Robins possibly know what primitive humans (even if there were such beings) were doing when some genetic mutation invented pride? Does her model actually contribute anything to understanding of human character? Is it not an imaginary fable? Does it not work to rationalize one of the deepest character flaws in the human soul, the cause of so much evil in the world?
Evolutionary psychology is a deceptive, self-refuting, phony religion set in opposition to the Bible. In their vain attempts to psychologize and evolutionize pride (and everything else), its practitioners exhibit the worst kind of hubris themselves: an appearance of scientific knowledge with no foundation. The cultists cannot make bricks for their temples. They rely on thieving from those who have the raw materials and the means of production.
Instead of wasting government money on psychological fluff that does no one any good, Tracy needs to quit her cult and go get a real job. Everything she needs to know about pride was written in the Word of God from the beginning. Someone take this poor, confused lady by the hand and invite her to church – preferably, one of the Christian mission churches in the village. Wouldn’t that be an appropriate education in humility.