ISIS Atrocities: Does Outrage Evolve?
What will it take to turn outrage into action, if genocide won’t? Destruction of antiquities? What would Darwin do?
80 years after a decade of appeasement empowered genocidal dictators, it seems to be happening once more. Many countries, including America, have given half-hearted attention to genocidal actions by ISIS: mass beheadings, crucifixions, population displacements, enslavement, and more. The Islamic terrorists have also been on a Nazi-like campaign to gain territory, with only a tepid response. But now, they’ve really got the UN upset because of the videotaped smashing of antiquities in Iraq, and more recently, the bulldozing of the ancient city of Nimrud. Megan Gannon reports on Live Science that the destruction of antiquities has been declared a “war crime” by the UN. But what are they going to do to stop it? Other priceless antiquities throughout ISIS-controlled territories are now at immediate risk.
Meanwhile, National Geographic (an organization one would think would be outraged the loss of priceless artifacts) published a surprisingly lukewarm description of the destruction, as if to say, “How sad, too bad.” (Compare with statement from the Oriental Institute.) No one seems willing to attribute the blame to Islamic ideology, although Nat Geo’s article by A. R. Williams does mention “Islamic militants” a couple of times. If there was ever a justification for the UN to intervene and put a stop atrocities, why not now?
Update 3/09/15: Science Magazine published an update about the destruction of antiquities by ISIS, but offers little hope for relief. “The ancient city of Hatra fended off two Roman emperors and repulsed Persia’s powerful Sassanid dynasty,” Andrew Lawler writes. “But late last week, local people near the ornate ruins about 110 kilometers south of the Iraqi city of Mosul heard massive explosions that likely marked the demise of the 2000-year-old city and its spectacular, well-preserved sculptures and stone architecture.” All outsiders can do is watch from satellites, unable to hear details about how much has been lost. Hatra was blown up, Khorsabad was demolished, and Assur may be next in the two-week rampage. The U.N. has done nothing. Because of the “growing spiral of despair” over the losses, some are trying to organize a march in Washington, but what will that do? “Thousands of years of history are being smashed by the hammers of ignorance,” the organizer laments. “For Near Eastern archaeologists, the news provoked both outrage and a sense of helplessness,” Lawler writes. “Many say they are at a loss about what they could do to reverse—or even assess—the damage.”
Darwinian Outrage: An Oxymoron
The question brings up a deeper quandary: how could Darwin-soaked western intellectuals respond with moral outrage? Darwinian ideology views humans as mere animals, and societal actions as evolutionary strategies. Altruism is a biological thing; birds do it (Nature); monkeys do it (Nature); even altruistic bacteria share their food (Nature). For all science knows, global warming caused the Syrian terrorism (PNAS). Such beliefs undermine moral outrage; it’s not an ideology that is turning these radicals into murderers and destroyers of history, they would say. It’s just their evolutionary strategy.
Religion, to Darwinians (who most often are also politically left-leaning), is a strategy as well. Science Magazine has a piece entitled, “To foster complex societies, tell people a god is watching.” Writer Lizzie Wade and her editorial bosses at the AAAS are not about to grant even white space to the notion that there might actually be a God (certainly not a moral Lawgiver). In the Darwinian mindset, if tribal leaders have been successful at keeping underlings behaving by telling them a moral and powerful “god” is watching, then that has been a useful evolutionary strategy. PhysOrg echoed this “research” that Australian Darwinians put out in a Royal Society paper. The abstract makes the Darwinian connection clear: “Supernatural belief presents an explanatory challenge to evolutionary theorists—it is both costly and prevalent,” they say, but then they proceed to explain it in Darwinian terms: “Our results show the power of phylogenetic methods to address long-standing debates about the origins and functions of religion in human society.” It’s all an evolutionary game (see BBC News); it occurs spontaneously among human populations as naturally as it does among bacterial colonies. Both sides are morally equivalent.
Accordingly, who can oppose ISIS with courage and conviction? At best, the “cooperators” band together to oppose the “cheaters” – but those labels only apply to the majority and minority in the population. The ratio can change at any time. ISIS has, indeed become the majority against the Christians, Jews, and Yazidis in the region. As Christians who have lived in Syria and Iraq for two millennia are wiped out, the Darwinian can only watch dispassionately from the sidelines and remark, “natural selection in action.”
Incidentally, Philip Ball says in Nature that complex societies have evolved without belief in an all-powerful deity. In the short article, he used the word “evolution” or its cognates 10 times. Since evolution yields opposite outcomes with equal facility, it shows itself to be, once again, a restatement of the Stuff Happens Law.
We live in ominous times, with evil rising and few statesmen to oppose it (Netanyahu being an outstanding exception). We learned nothing from the 1930s, when appeasers let dictators get out of hand, costing tens of millions of lives in World War II. Atrocities on the level of the worst committed by the Nazis and communists in the last century are now, in our time, being committed by Islamic terrorists. But what is uglier: the torture and murder of innocents by ISIS, or the evolutionary ideology that robs the righteous of their moral foundation to oppose it? We could be on the verge of World War III, with suicidal, genocidal maniacs having fingers on the buttons of ICBM launchers tipped with nuclear warheads. God help us! Pray for those captured, sold, and displaced, who are in fear for their lives. See Proverbs 24:11-12 and Hebrews 13:1-3.
As an aside, let’s pre-empt an argument some Bible-haters might make by comparing what ISIS is doing to antiquities to what Josiah did against the idols in his day (2 Kings 23). There’s a big difference. People still worshiped those idols in Josiah’s time; they were a huge snare, drawing people away from the true God. The northern kingdom of Israel had just suffered a catastrophic defeat by the Assyrians because of their idolatry.* What Josiah did was an act of love in his time, because it drew people back to the truth, and delayed Judah’s judgment. Nobody today bows down to the winged bulls of Nimrud or thinks Hercules was divine. Idolatry today is intellectual. We need, in fact, a modern Josiah to smash the world’s biggest idol: Darwin. No; we’re not talking about Darwin’s statue in the British Museum. Our weapons are not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4-5); today, we “cast down arguments” with the sledgehammer of truth, using intellectual and moral arguments that cannot be opposed, because of our clarity, integrity, and strong foundation in the timeless word of God.
*Nimrud was the capital of Assyrian kings mentioned in the Bible. Sennacherib was the king who documented his siege of Lachish in Judah with a monumental relief now housed in the British Museum. If that relief had been in situ this month, it might have been lost to history forever because of ISIS’ destructive actions. Antiquities such as those in Iraq are valuable (actually, priceless) because they provide context and evidence for historical studies that can help the world understand ancient peoples and their beliefs. Jews and Christians value the intellectual study of history, even of belief systems that differ from their own; this is evident everywhere, from the Israeli Antiquities Museum in Jerusalem to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter project that will feature a Tower of Babel.
Afterword: Don’t call them ISIL, but ISIS (or just IS). ISIL, with the L for Levant (the coastal region including Lebanon and Israel), grants them verbal legitimacy to consider Israel part of their “Islamic State.” Better yet, don’t even legitimize their claim to statehood. Call them terrorists, radicals, extremists, usurpers, or murderous evil beasts.