Does Character Count?
Evolutionists try to make everything about human nature a product of an unguided, naturalistic ancestry. Then why have sermons or seminars on doing the right thing?
It matters that we help others: The BBC News asked if it matters that we help others, launching into the history of George Price and J.B.S. Haldane who “evolved” altruism as “self-interest in disguise”. Price even wrote an equation for the evolution of altruism that “underpins a lot of modern evolutionary biology research” today. Price recognized, though, that an equation renders compassion meaningless: “If altruism was simply an attempt to ensure the survival of one’s own genes, could it be considered altruism at all?” Thinking about that depressed George Price so much that he turned to Christ and devoted his life to helping others. He suffered from depression, though, and allegedly committed suicide (see 7/16/10). The rest of the article gave views of experts who deny that humans are genetically determined. They did not address, though, how evolution could explain the non-biological parts of human nature:
“If we want to understand behaviour, biology is part of it – it has to be by definition. But that’s never an entire and complete explanation for the complexity and grandeur of the human condition.” – Oren Harman, biographer of George Price
You can choose not to indulge: According to Science Daily, “Mindful individuals [are] less affected by immediate rewards.” What is mindfulness, though, if not choice to go against one’s natural inclinations?
The Good Samaritan chose to be compassionate: Live Science asked, “Is being a good Samaritan a matter of genes?” Richard Dawkins famously advocated the “selfish gene” theory, describing compassion for members of a group as really disguised selfishness. Ohio State psychologists stated, “Dawkins’ view fails to account for the many instances in which humans have helped others to whom they were not closely related, and have done so with no apparent genetic benefit to themselves.” The article left the causes of prosocial behavior a “widely-debated question.”
Even scientists recognize the need for ethics: Science Magazine praised a program at the University of Minnesota that helps “Students Propose Genetic Solutions to Societal Problems.” Their “Essay on Science and Society” says about the program, “Instructors coach the teams throughout the semester on experimental design and resources, as well as on data analysis, presentation strategies, team work, and research ethics.”
Altruism must extend beyond kinship: In Nature, Daniel Sarewitz wrote an essay entitled, “Science’s rightful place is in service of society.” Sarewitz writes about “the public good,” a nebulous category that certainly would extend beyond one’s immediate evolutionary kin. Sarewitz criticized “the isolation of the conduct of science from its use in society.” He is appalled when basic science does not help with economic prosperity, helping the poor find jobs, etc. He wants science to move “in the right direction — away from an obsession with how much money is spent on science, and towards a consideration of how best to ensure that science investments turn into public value.”
Yet evolutionary explanations still dominate: In Nature, John Whitfield reviewed two books that account for human nature as a product of evolution. Whitfield himself thinks that way: “Morality is an appetite for certain types of behaviour in oneself and others,” he states. “Like tastes in food and sex, it is rooted in biology, shaped by culture and imperfectly controlled by reason.” (He did not explain where reason came from). The first book, Just Babies by Paul Bloom, treats morality as an instinct (this is supported by an article in New Scientist that shows newborns can recognize good and evil at an early age). The second book, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene, also views morality as the instinctive product of an evolutionary process. Greene, however, thinks morality arrives as a mimic of the pragmatic philosophy of utilitarianism (“the greatest happiness for the greatest number”). Argued using reason by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century and by John Stuart Mill in the 19th, utilitarianism is typecast by Greene as the product of an evolutionary process. In another review of Greene’s book, Thomas Nagel in New Republic recognizes that a blind process like evolution turns morality into an illusion:
The most difficult problem posed by Greene’s proposals is whether we should give up trying to understand our natural moral intuitions as evidence of a coherent system of individual rights that limit what may be done even in pursuit of the greater good. Should we instead come to regard them as we regard optical illusions, recognizing them as evolutionary products but withholding our assent? Greene’s debunking arguments add an empirical dimension to a venerable utilitarian tradition, but they certainly do not settle the question.
Nagel, an atheist, famously denounced Darwinism and opened the door to intelligent design last year (see Evolution News & Views), earning himself scorn from other atheists and evolutionists (ENV Dembski, ENV Klinghoffer). It appears that the explanatory power of Darwinism to account for human nature is part of his critique. His latest book is called Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.
These articles all skirt the main issue. The evolutionists want to subsume all of reality into their Darwinian mechanism, turning altruism, morality and character into epiphenomena of materialism. The others, fearful of the subjective relativism that would result, cannot bring themselves to embrace such reductive ideas. Once it dawns on enough people that reason itself cannot be employed to argue the truth of evolution, Darwinism will be seen for what it is: a self-refuting proposition. You can’t use reason to argue that reason is an optical illusion! Once the deck is cleared of such nonsense, those who can account for reason will remain to employ it in the defense of “a coherent system of individual rights that limit what may be done even in pursuit of the greater good” (Nagel). Logic (which sees coherence as a good thing) will further push them to the realization that rights, to be coherent, must have a Source that is timeless, universal, and unchangingly righteous. Name One.