The Impossibility of “Evolutionary Sense”
It’s time to deconstruct a rhetorical myth that always
gets an easy pass in the uncritical pro-Darwin media.
Have you ever had a “Well, duh!” moment when somebody’s statement distracted you temporarily until you thought about it some more and realized it was stupid? Maybe it was the riddle that goes, “Why do you always find something in the last place you look?” At first hearing, you might remember experiencing the frustration of searching the whole house before finding a lost object. You might have been led to believe that nature is being perverse to do that to you so often. The moment of “Well, duh!” comes when the riddler gives the answer: “Because when you find it, you stop looking for it.” The object is obviously going to be found in the last place searched. The riddle turned out to be a truism, something obvious that conveys no information.
Today we are going to deconstruct a line from a news article that says, “That makes evolutionary sense,” and explain why it is a similar type of vacuous statement. It’s already a prime contender for Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week. The fallacy is not as obvious as the above joke, but soon should become apparent. We label it a sophyxymoronic statement, as defined in the Darwin Dictionary. Astute readers will want to learn how to identify these kinds of statements so as not to be fooled by them.
The perpetrator of today’s blunder is Stephen Wooding, at the University of California, Merced. He’s not a nutrition scientist; he’s an assistant professor of anthropology [elite alert], but he has come forward to explain why people enjoy sweet things. The Conversation printed his article January 5th without blushing, “A taste for sweet – an anthropologist explains the evolutionary origins of why you’re programmed to love sugar.” There’s the thesis. You are programmed to love sugar. It makes evolutionary sense. He begins,
I’m an anthropologist who studies the evolution of taste perception. I believe insights into our species’ evolutionary history can provide important clues about why it’s so hard to say no to sweet.
We always try to give a writer a respectful listen, so go ahead and read the article now if you like.
His argument rests on several premises:
- Everything about human beings is a reflection of their evolutionary history.
- Sweet things provide easy calories, and our ancestors struggled to get enough to eat.
- Natural selection assisted by genetically associating easy calories with pleasant sensations in the brain.
- Natural selection also helped humans develop an aversion to bitter things, which might be toxic.
- Nature rewarded the hunter-gatherers who were most successful at foraging.
- The genes for sweet sensing are found in almost all other mammals. “The two genes have been in place for hundreds of millions of years of evolution, ready for the first human species to inherit.”
- The “use-it-or-lose-it theory of evolutionary genetics” says that traits that aid survival tend to be preserved.
- Evolution has not kept up with society’s rush to add sugar to everything, so we’re in trouble.
So what do you think? Is this sensible, or sophoxymoronic? Try your own analysis as an exercise before continuing.
Anyone who decides they want to reduce their sugar consumption is up against millions of years of evolutionary pressure to find and consume it. People in the developed world now live in an environment where society produces more sweet, refined sugars than can possibly be eaten. There is a destructive mismatch between the evolved drive to consume sugar, current access to it and the human body’s responses to it. In a way, we are victims of our own success.
He calls sugar attraction an addiction worse than nicotine.
I believe it is worse than that. From a physiological standpoint, nicotine is an unwanted outsider to our bodies. People desire it because it plays tricks on the brain. In contrast, the desire for sugar has been in place and genetically encoded for eons because it provided fundamental fitness advantages, the ultimate evolutionary currency.
Sugar isn’t tricking you; you are responding precisely as programmed by natural selection.
How did you do? Think along on some questions that might be raised about Wooding’s very typical evolutionary explanation.
- To assume evolution is circular; it’s not the only explanatory cause. A designer could have made sweetness desirable.
- Do evolved beings have free will to go against their programming? How did free will evolve?
- If almost all animals have the same genes for sweetness, who’s to say human beings aren’t fit?
- Bears like sweet berries. Why didn’t evolution stop with them?
- What is evolutionary pressure? Is it like physics? What are the units? How is it measured?
- Why isn’t evolution fast enough to adjust human sweetness attraction to the current glut of sweet calories available?
- Are food manufacturers defying their evolutionary programming by adding sugar to their products? Is that bad?
- If natural selection favored sugar, why didn’t all the hominid toolmakers make grape-gathering tools and learn to plant grapes? Why are their bones not found in vineyards? Why did it take hundreds of thousands of years to learn this shortcut?
- If protein was better for hominid diets, why didn’t natural selection make mammoth meat taste sweet to hunters?
- Have you faced the philosophical issue of qualia, i.e. why our conscious experience of sweetness makes it seem sweet? Or is sweetness purely a chemical reaction?
- Is sugar bad? On what moral standard would a Darwinist judge it to be bad?
- Would extinction by obesity due to excess sugar be bad? Again, by what moral standard?
- What is a “destructive mismatch” in evolutionary theory?
- If sugar was bad for hominid fitness, why didn’t evolution make sugar taste bad?
- If sugar is bad, why didn’t natural selection fix human metabolism to use it for better health? Hummingbirds do it.
- Isn’t the “use-it-or-lose-it theory of evolutionary genetics” a form of discredited Lamarckism?
- Is the argument using natural selection like a magic wand? (i.e., whatever happened, it evolved.)
- Who is playing tricks on the human brain: mindless impersonal natural selection, or Stephen Wooding?
Now we are not suggesting that consuming excess sugar is good for health; we just want to analyze his evolutionary explanation. That’s just a quick list of questions for starters. The worst and most obvious absurdity is contained in the phrase “evolutionary sense” itself!
A perfect example is another taste, bitterness. Unlike sweet receptors, which detect desirable substances in foods, bitter receptors detect undesirable ones: toxins. And the brain responds appropriately. While sweet taste tells you to keep eating, bitter taste tells you to spit things out. This makes evolutionary sense.
It’s impossible for anything to make evolutionary sense, because evolution is senseless. It’s not just a personification fallacy to ascribe sense to evolution, it’s a contradiction in terms (a sophoxymoronic statement). Evolution is not about sense. It’s about chance (the Stuff Happens Law). It’s about matter in motion, without a care in the world how things turn out. Think of all those major extinctions the Darwinists talk about. Evolution shed no tears over it. Evolution couldn’t care less. Evolution is incapable of caring.
The common Darwinian comeback to that realization is the line, “Well, since we are here to talk about it, evolution must have favored the trait. That’s why we have sugar genes and rational brains.” That’s no help. It suffers from the same fallacies. Embedded within the evolutionary mindset is a mystical notion of struggle for existence. Darwinists imagine some undefined inner urge to survive, to improve, to climb up Mt. Improbable. Nonsense. Extinction is a perfectly satisfactory consequence for an amoral, material process. What is this mystical Promethean urge to climb an evolutionary ladder? Where are the genes for it? Where is the rational mind to even conceive of such an urge?
What we have is just-so story from a rational man so steeped in his Darwinian training he cannot see outside his own fogma. He puts on a Yoda costume, and standing on his elevated plane in a Yoda Complex trance, he acts as the Darwin Shaman of the day, telling the tribes people how they evolved. He can’t do that. He’s programmed by evolution, too (in his worldview). From where is he going to take hold of reason and logic? Those are not in the evolutionary toolkit. Where can he grab onto non-evolved immaterial principles that are universal, timeless, certain and necessary? He can’t step out of his hominid skin and use such concepts. In his view, he is a programmed animal. To make any sense out of “evolutionary sense” – indeed, even to talk about evolution on a rational level – he would have to deny evolution and become a theist.
Here’s a gentle rebuke to the dear anthropologist: It’s impossible to believe you. According to your own theory, you are programmed by evolution to pass on your genes. You don’t mean a word you say. You just are trying to get sex. Your selfish genes are using you to propagate themselves for no reason. You wrote this article to deceive your competitors and get an advantage over them. We can therefore dismiss everything you say as self-serving and irrational. Sorry. Good day.
The only explanation that does make consistent sense is that Dr Wooding is a created being with a conscience and rational nature that is un-evolved and immaterial. His conscience is aware of truth and knows it is good to tell the truth, but the truth escapes him because of years of indoctrination into the oxymoronic non-entity he calls “evolutionary sense.” It’s a fake religion offering fake blessings. There is such a thing as sense, but it is derived from our Creator, and becomes nonsense when out of alignment with our Creator’s eternal standard. There is also a Deceiver who led our first parents into sin, and is at work corrupting human minds and consciences to deny their created reality and believe in myths like evolution.
According to Romans 1:18-23, Wooding knows this deep in his heart but has learned to suppress it in unrighteousness. Pretending to be wise, he is acting like a fool. We hope that some day his like “may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (II Timothy 2:25-26). See our Site Map for guidance out of the bramble. If you have been freed, help those still trapped.