Evolution and morality
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|The divine comedy
Several creationists (and other anti-evolution advocates) have raised two related arguments:
- That teaching evolution leads to immorality, and
- That, if evolution was true, then morality wouldn't exist
These arguments branch out into other related arguments, all of which argue that evolution somehow prevents morality.
Evolution and immorality
“”The theory of evolution is a satanic theory.
|—Rev. Sun Myung Moon
- Evolution is not a religion and does not say anything about any morality. Evolution is descriptive (talking about what is), not prescriptive (talking about what should be). Almost all moralities are prescriptive. Evolution can be immoral only if all attempts to describe the universe are immoral.
- Morality derived from evolution would have to recognize the fact that humans have evolved to be social animals. In a social setting, cooperation and even altruism lead to better fitness. The process of evolution leads naturally to social animals such as humans developing ethical principles such as the Golden Rule. If such principles are immoral, then so are the vast majority of moralities.
- Some moralities considered to be bad, such as eugenics and social Darwinism, are based on misunderstandings of evolution. Therefore, it is important that evolution be taught well to negate such misunderstandings.
- Creationism has its own problems, given that it is founded on religious fundamentalism, which correlates highly with religious bigotry. The foundation of creationism, by most standards, is immoral (and idiotic).
- Scientists are generally very cautious about sweeping and destructive moral actions. They have developed codes of ethical behavior, such as the precautionary principle, designed to prevent scientific oversteps. Creationists have nothing similar.[note 1]
Evolution and crime
“”All crime is a result of sin, and of course there was crime before Charles Darwin promoted evolution, but as the theory increased so did the crime rate. Today Creation is not taught, even as a theory, in our schools, therefore children have nothing to base their morality upon. As God has been removed from the classroom, so all kinds of evil has multiplied on our streets. Remove the Bible and you take away the conscience of the nation.
|—The Living Word Bible Church
- There does not appear to be a positive correlation between crime rates and teaching evolution. The United States was generally more violent in the years 1870-1910 before evolution was taught, especially given the low population density of the time. In recent years, crime rates have been dropping since 1989. Regional trends show a negative correlation between crime and teaching evolution. Other developed democracies accept evolution to a far greater extent than the United States and have lower homicide rates, juvenile and early adult mortality, sexually transmitted disease infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion rates. In the United States, southern states tend to emphasize creationism more, but they also have generally higher crime rates.[note 2]
- Correlation does not imply causation. Since the teaching of evolution, death rates from most cancers have decreased, air travel has increased, and the earth's temperature has risen, but we do not attribute any of those to teaching evolution.
- In the United States, at least, most people do not believe evolution. If social ills follow from belief about origins, creationists deserve more of the responsibility.
- "Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this." (Ecclesiastes 7:10.)[note 3]
Evolution says humans are only animals
|—Henry Morris (paraphrased)
- Animals are defined as heterotrophic (eats food), motile (able to move), multicellular eukaryotes lacking cell-walls. Whether they have other characteristics (such as a concept of ethics, ability to fly, purple scales, fur etc) is completely irrelevant. Therefore, humans — because we meet the definition — are animals. It is true that a certain animal may have characteristics that are not found in any other animal, but that does not mean they are not in the same group — it simply means that animal is unique within that group.
- Following this, the fact that humans have evolved a linguistic and cognitive capacity to label behaviors as moral, aesthetic, idealistic, or religious only makes them unique in comparison to other species which have not evolved this capacity. It does not make humans a separate group.
- Evolution does not, in fact, say that humans are animals — simple biology determined that. The fact that humans are animals was recognized (by creationists, such as Linnaeus) centuries before Darwin ever put pen to paper. The closest thing the theory of evolution says to this is that humans are related to other species of animals, and indeed all other species of life.
- Animals do have social institutions, as can be witnessed in primates, canines, corvids, cetaceans, termites, wasps, and others.
- It's not possible to state that animals do not have moral, esthetic, etc. traits. Though many animal behaviors might be considered otherwise, many others match what humans consider moral, aesthetic, etc. Many birds (famously jackdaws, magpies, and bowerbirds) place trinkets around their nests, making them "pretty", at least to potential mates. Many social animals display morals like "don't kill your neighbors" at least as much as humans do. It would be virtually impossible to define a behavior as "idealistic" in any way that conclusively rendered it impossible for non-human animals to display. The same applies to religious traits; you'd almost have to be able to interview the animal as to its motivations to determine if something as simple as eating was religious or not — celebratory feasts for harvests and other momentous events form a common thread among human cultures, and communion as practiced by many Christians holds the consumption of particular food under particular circumstances to be holy. If you claim that these behaviors are "instinctive, not choices", as many creationists have attempted to do, then you have to admit that many human morals have an instinctive element, and the whole argument boils down to the non-issue of humans having relatively high intelligence — if morality only exists in the presence of conscious choice, then animals couldn't have morality, ethics, and so on without higher intelligence, and the evolution of higher intelligence solves the supposed problem.
- Many of the "morals" of humans are not natural or instinctual, for they are not born with them, but are taught by religion and other various cultural influences. Homophobia is one major example of this, as is normative monogamy.
Fallacies contained in this argument
- Cherry-picking (social institutions in animals are ignored)
- Equivocation (defines animals as amoral, defines humans as moral, then defines humans as animals)
Evolution says we are all products of chance, with no purpose
“”If man arose by chance, life would have no purpose or meaning.
- The goal of science is to explain the workings of the world. It makes statements about what happens and what causes those things to happen. Statements about what should happen and why those things should happen belong to the fields of philosophy and religion. Answering these types of questions is not a scientific endeavor.
- Science alone cannot provide a meaning to life. Criticizing a scientific theory for failing to provide ultimate meanings is to miss the point of science entirely. If this criticism was valid, then one could just as easily criticize the incompetence of Christianity because the Bible does not contain recipes for cheesecake or instructions on how to do physics homework.[note 4]
- Evolution does not rely entirely on random causes, but also features selective processes. Exactly how many random causes in human history does the creationist imagine disproves ultimate meaning? What percentage of events must be random before our lives become purposeless? Could it happen tomorrow in the lottery?
- Even if evolution were composed entirely of random causes, how would that necessarily make life meaningless?
- Even if evolution were composed entirely of random causes, and even if this somehow did devalue human life and meaning, these negative consequences wouldn't disprove evolution. Luckily, neither situation is the case.
- Why does life need to be justified with a meaning? People might want their lives to have meaning, but this does not mean that they do. Life may in fact be meaningless, or we may have to (God forbid) give our lives meaning ourselves.
- Even if man did not arise by chance, and even if life has some definite meaning, it is not necessarily the meaning you think it is, or the meaning you want it to be. It is impossible for you to deduce the honesty of your deity unless you catch Him in a lie, and if you never do, that might just mean He's a good liar. If the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination is correct, the meaning of your particular life may be to become a serial killer and be sent to Hell just as easily as it may be to spread the Gospel and go to Heaven.
- By this same train of logic, the cash prize of a lottery is worthless because the winning numbers are chosen at random.
- By this same train of logic, genetics must be false because the genetic makeup of an individual is a matter of chance mutations and chance mixing of the genes of the parents.
- What does "life" mean in the assertion that life would have no purpose or meaning?
- If "life" means biological life — then humans have as much purpose as any other life-form: an imperative to survive, grow, and reproduce. Plus the task of dealing with society, just as bees must deal with their society.
- If "life" means human existence — then why does that need purpose or meaning? Such an abstract concept as "life" seems like moralists and priests invented it to foster self-control, obedience, and submission.[note 5] One need not think of oneself in terms of "life".
Fallacies contained in this claim
- Argument from adverse consequences ("I want a purpose, so I don't want evolution to be true")
- Naturalistic fallacy (drawing conclusions about purpose or meaning from what exists)
- Straw man (evolution does not equal chance)
- Randomness and life's meaning, Talk Origins
- Evolution is the foundation of an immoral worldview, Talk Origins
- Claim CA610, Talk Origins
- Preface IX: Evolution & Ethics and Other Essays, Aldous Huxley
- Evolution and crime, Talk Origins
- "Morals, esthetics, idealism of animals", Talk Origins
- Parents day and I. unification.net, 27 March 1990.
- Wedekind, C. and M. Milinski. 2000. Cooperation through image scoring in humans. Science 288: 850-852. See also Nowak, M. A. and K. Sigmund, 2000. Shrewd investments. Science 288: 819-820.
- Rotblat, Joseph. 1999. A Hippocratic Oath for scientists. Science 286: 1475.
- The Result of Believing Evolution. Archived from lwbc.co.uk, 10 September 2012.
- Paul, Gregory S. 2005. Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies. Journal of Religion and Society 7: 1-17.
- Morris, Henry M.. 1974. Scientific Creationism. Master Books. Arkansas.
- Well, technically, they do, but as with everything else about creationism, it wasn't thought out very well. Specifically, they have
blind belief in God's omnibenevolence a moral code that has barely been updated in the past 2,000 yearstheir religion itself, which is supposed to prevent them from behaving like assholes, and admittedly was pretty sensible for the time and place it was formulated in, but has been warped over time by flaws and bad influences such as misinterpretation, faulty premises, ambiguity, the aforementioned bigotry, rationalization of immorality, narcissism, dogmatic stasis, disconnection from reality, leaders who are more interested in seducing suckers, hoodwinking them, and robbing them blind than providing effective moral guidance, and hubris to the point where it is no longer effective at promoting ethical behavior.
- This is probably not specific to the failure to teach evolution; it is a failure of the education system in general, causing young people to lack skills, not be employable, and end up having to turn to crime to survive.
- That's right, creationists. Your own God is saying you're stupid.
- It is also worryingly silent on some moral issues, such as the ramifications of rape.
- The first of those three is admittedly a virtue. The latter two can be virtues, but only if the authority figure they are directed towards doesn't abuse it.