Secular Evolution as an Accessory to School Violence
No morals, no purpose, no consequences – the evolutionary view is just asking for trouble.
Ideas are not the only cause of violence; sometimes brain defects can be at fault. In the wake of another planned massacre that was stopped in time (5/2/14), though, it’s fair to look at what schools are teaching kids that may factor into their decisions to kill parents, teachers, and fellow students.
No future, no morals: According to a press release from the University of Texas at Dallas, youth who fail to envision a future commit more crimes. Dr. Alex Piquero found that “having little hope for the future leads to more offending over time.” 16-year-old youth were asked how long they thought they would live. Among those who thought they probably wouldn’t make it past age 21, the number willing to break laws and “live for the here and the now” increased dramatically. Some said if they were going to die next week, why would they care?
No God, no bother: New Scientist argues that the rise in “God-not-botherers,” people who don’t “do God,” is a good thing. Increasing secularism does not preclude having a moral code, the article claims. Shockingly, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was upset that the Prime Minister in the UK, David Cameron, argued that people should become more evangelical and “more confident of our status as a Christian country,” because otherwise people “fail to grasp… the role that faith can play in helping people have a moral code.” New Scientist denies that, saying the fear is groundless. “Morality arises from the workings of our social brains,” the anonymous author writes. “And our exploration of the world around us helps us frame moral codes that reflect the world as it is, not as we imagine it to be.” This is “a position many biologists would agree with.” The Archbishop claims that “The era of widespread worship is over.” The USA is following UK’s lead in downplaying religious involvement, the article says.
Help others, help your happiness: Science writer Marcia Malory, writing for Medical Xpress, writes that “Teens who gain pleasure from helping others could be less prone to depression.” She summarizes a paper in PNAS, entitled, “Neural sensitivity to eudaimonic and hedonic rewards differentially predict adolescent depressive symptoms over time.” Eudaimonia means the good life (“the pursuit of happiness”), providing a sense of fulfillment and meaning. Hedonism, by contrast, is self-centered pursuit of pleasure. “Although optimal well-being may be achieved through eudaimonic activities (meaning and purpose), individuals tend to orient toward hedonic activities (pleasure seeking), potentially placing them at risk for ill-being,” the authors write. “We find that reward-related neural activation during eudaimonic decisions predicts longitudinal declines in depressive symptoms, whereas reward-related neural activation to hedonic decisions predicts longitudinal increases in depressive symptoms.” It’s noteworthy that news reports about John LaDue, the captured student planning a mass shooting at his school, said nothing about the boy helping anyone. It was all about his anti-God music, his hobbies, his TV shows – me, me, me. Would a happy young person experiencing fulfillment in helping others be prone to plan mass murder?
The evolution of self-control: No less than 58 authors from 33 institutions and departments, from America to China, signed on to a paper in PNAS called “The evolution of self-control.” The first sentence reads, “Since Darwin, understanding the evolution of cognition has been widely regarded as one of the greatest challenges for evolutionary research.” Despite that challenge, they proceed to explain the appearance of self-control as really a manifestation of evolutionary forces. The only resources they consider are non-mental: “Cognitive evolution has been explained at the proximate level by shifts in absolute and relative brain volume and at the ultimate level by differences in social and dietary complexity,” the second sentence reads. Then, they proceed to explain self-control only with reference to those factors: “However, no study has integrated the experimental and phylogenetic approach at the scale required to rigorously test these explanations” – which they proceed to do, treating their subjects as lab rats (Koestler’s “ratomorphic fallacy”). Basically, the difficulty of foraging for food caused “selective pressure” for large brain size, which might have added new “cognitive networks,” one of which might have been self-control. One wonders why wildebeest didn’t think of this; “it remains an important question whether dietary breadth will have similar explanatory power in other orders of animals.”
Well, if it’s phylogenetic, the “self” is an illusion. A prospective student shooter is just a product of his evolutionary past, e.g.– “This result corroborates recent advances in evolutionary neurobiology and illustrates the cognitive consequences of cortical reorganization through increases in brain volume.” Those, presumably, were products of survival of the fittest. It’s all evolution. “Our results implicate robust evolutionary relationships between dietary breadth, absolute brain volume, and self-control,” they crow triumphantly, even though a complete explanation is a long way off. “These findings provide a significant first step toward quantifying the primate cognitive phenome and explaining the process of cognitive evolution.” Would this paper not give a student’s lawyer an “out” for any crime? It’s just his diet or brain volume, not his “self” doing it, because he’s just an animal: the authors attempt to “reveal the major forces shaping cognitive evolution across species, including humans.” It can happen. Clarence Darrow used this defense in the famous Leopold and Loeb case in 1924 (John West, Darwin Day in America, ch. 3). What Darrow and the 58 PNAS evolutionists forgot is how impersonal evolutionary forces should have molded their own arguments. That would have undermined their truth claims.
In March, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) decided to fund only trials that refer to “neurobiological roots” of mental illness (Nature). Since neurobiology is a product of evolutionary biology, according to the current consensus, this means decisions based on rational choice cannot be considered. Three European scientists comalained in a letter to Nature. “There is no consistent biological evidence to support the idea that all mental disorders are due to brain dysfunction,” they say. “Mood and anxiety, for example, are multifactorial and depend on biological, psychological and environmental factors.” Unless “psychological” (soulish) factors fall outside the grab of natural selectionists, though, their “multifactorial” stew reduces to primordial soup.
The evolution of school shootings: Live Science attempted to placate readers that the increase in school violence is an illusion. In “School shootings: what does science say?“, Marc Lallanilla (see 4/20/14) claims that school violence is on a decrease. His headline seems to brag, Step aside, peasants; science is here, but he uses mostly statistics, not science, for support. He merely describes patterns like a police report would, providing no scientific explanation for shootings – whether or not they are on the decrease. Even if they are on the decrease, he did not consider other factors that could be responsible, like stricter monitoring and preventive law enforcement (like the actions that caught John LaDue before he committed his crimes). When he got around to explaining shooters’ motivations, he listed things like broken homes, substance abuse and sadism. Other than brain-based disabilities, these factors beg the question of what led to those behaviors in the first place; evolution?
Status quo is bad: The situation may be worse than Lallanilla says. Disruptive behavior in UK schools is underestimated, a press release from the University of East Anglia reports. While not mentioning the situation in USA schools, the article explains how optimistic government statistics about order in the schools can seriously misled the public into thinking there’s not a big problem. A ten-year study involving 360 teachers and over 700 pupils found many cases where “learning is severely limited by pupil disruption,” contrary to government reports. These incidents cannot be accounted for merely by inadequate teachers or administration. Professor Terry Haydn includes “cultural and ‘out of school’ factors” as part of the problem, such as “many pupils who are not perfectly socialised and are not wholeheartedly committed to learning.”
Prof Haydn calls for stronger support for teachers from parents, governors and policymakers, to help instil a culture among parents and young people that no pupil has the right to spoil the learning of others. Acknowledgement of the difficulties teachers face in working with difficult pupils, and higher levels of respect for teachers and schools from politicians and the media are also needed.
Maybe the 58 authors in PNAS should write a paper on “the evolution of respect.”
Causes of violence are often complex; we are not trying to oversimplify, nor are we blaming evolutionists directly for the John LaDue incident. Many students who trust the evolutionary tenets they are brainwashed with at school turn out fine. Church kids sometimes do terrible things. One has to be honest, though, about contributing factors in a person’s view of the world. Put the proverbial angel and devil on John’s shoulders. While the angel is trying to stir the boy’s innate conscience, the devil is saying, “You’re just an animal. There is no God. There are no consequences. Morality is an illusion. Self-control is an illusion. Truth is an illusion. Might makes right. Natural selection is the only good; survival of the fittest makes you the man. Assert yourself. You need to smash others to succeed in this world. Everything is meaningless. Get high. Get mad. Get guns and bombs–might as well go out with a bang and make a statement. You can do better than Harris and Klebold. Come on, do it— it’s all about Natural Selection.”
Oh, but evolution is just a “scientific” theory that is “neutral” on matters of morality. Evolutionists just want to explain how morality evolved, not whether it is right or wrong. “Morality arises from the workings of our social brains,” New Scientist said. “And our exploration of the world around us helps us frame moral codes that reflect the world as it is, not as we imagine it to be.” Isn’t that sweet.
Get this straight, and get it good: there is no “moral code” worth obeying if it evolved. If that were true, what is moral today could be immoral tomorrow. What North Korea is doing to its prisoners is moral to them. New Scientist, don’t tell us that we theists are imagining things, and you are not. What will you say when the next street mugger takes your anonymous author’s money and leaves him bleeding on the sidewalk? Your view is self-refuting. You think you can see “the world as it is” with evolved eyes and an evolved brain. That’s impossible; you’re only seeing what evolution made you see. You don’t know if it’s real or not. You’ll learn about truth and moral absolutes the next time you cry out in protest over something you think is wrong. We’ll just laugh, and say, “Don’t get so uptight. Challenges with foraging in your unseen ancestors developed neural networks where moral feelings emerged, giving you a sensation of righteousness that is reducible to neurons, which are reducible to atoms, which are reducible to subatomic particles bouncing around.” If you didn’t know in your conscience that God is real (Romans 1:20), your high-sounding words of vaunted wisdom would collapse into nothing more than monkey screeches of a particularly elaborate type.
There are things in life science cannot improve on. The Bible offers a young person forgiveness, meaning, purpose in life, and empowerment to attain it. “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,” the wisest man of antiquity said (Ecclesiastes 12). “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Let’s review the opening of the Proverbs of Solomon:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.