God’s Not Dead, Chapter 3 – Darwinian Ethics? (pt33)
Let’s for a moment look at the primary scientific story of our existence and major alternative to believing in a divine Creator, Darwinian evolution.
Just to be clear, evolution is not a science or theory that says anything about the origins of life; evolution only becomes relevant after life has arisen. The author makes no mention of this distinction but I want it to be explicit.
Elements of this theory are unquestioned and verified from a scientific standpoint, yet the real question remains: Is that the whole story; is there no other law or influence at work in our midst?
Hopefully you have heard of Occam’s Razor; Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate. Plurality should not be posited without necessity or better understood as the simplest answer is usually the best. Why should we assume something more is at work if a well defined, perhaps in some minds ‘simple’, explanation is available?
If life arose spontaneously from random chemical processes, we would have no more moral obligation than a bowl of soup.
The fact is that we are a communal species that has learned that the best outcomes, usually, arise by working together. In working together we learn what actions are beneficial and which are harmful to the society. “Moral obligation” has been bred into us, by nature and by nurture, to ensure the survival of homo sapiens (and its predecessors).
Thomas Huxley, known as “Darwin’s bulldog,” tried to say that this instinct of survival of the fittest should be resisted. “The ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it. but in combating it.” Combating it? That would mean denying our evolutionary instincts programmed into our DNA.
The author once again has made a mistake in interpretation. Huxley speaks of combating our instincts of survival of the fittest. We are no longer animals where survival of the fittest is best for society; we are now communal, societal, civilized hominids.
The author will no doubt make an argument against atheism and/or evolution by bringing up Eugenics. This is what I immediately thought of when I read this quote from Huxley. We as an evolved society are no longer subject to the survival of the fittest and need not take Eugenic-like actions. The author then quotes Richard Dawkins explaining how bad a civilization based solely on the fittest of the fit mentality (Eugenics based society) would be.
This attitude seems to be in direct contrast to the emphatic statements that our purpose is simply to propagate our DNA, and our DNA doesn’t care, and the universe doesn’t care.
Three people now, Huxley, Dawkins, and myself (ooh what a group to be a part of), have explained that we may have gotten here by evolution but we are beyond that now. We need not guide our lives by those principles anymore. Yet the author seems to think we can’t say that. That our position, that we are beyond the simplistic thinking of survival of the fittest, would be “in direct contrast” to being confident that evolutionary means got us to where we are. It is not.
Our morality and obligations to each other have evolved beyond the single-celled survival of the fittest. To quote Dawkins:
I have often said that I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to explaining why we exist. It’s undoubtedly the reason why we’re here and why all living things are here. But to live our lives in a Darwinian way, to make a society a Darwinian society, that would be a very unpleasant sort of society in which to live.