The Ethics of Evolution 

Cannibals Eight Cousins
Genghis Khan Social Darwinism
Guess That Author Summum Bonum
What is to be Done? Richard Dawkins
William Jennings Bryan

Thrice Holy Radio!


Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer wondered whether creatures oozing up out of the slime have any motive to good behavior:

  • “If a person doesn't think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what's the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That's how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as the truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing, and I've since come to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God, and I believe that I, as well as everyone else, will be accountable to Him.”

  • (Jeffrey Dahmer, quoted on, NBC Dateline program, November 29, 1994)

It should be apparent that the choice between blind evolution and creation in the image of God makes a difference to morals. The post-Christian societies of Europe are living on the inherited moral capital of centuries of Christianity. Once it dawns on them that they don't believe any of that stuff any more, where will they go? We do not call the police when we see our neighbor behead a chicken, only when we see him behead his wife. The evolutionists complain, that ". . .philosophy 'has not given up Christianity's cardinal error — the belief that humans are radically different from other animals.'" (John Gray, quoted in John C. Lennox, Seven Days that Divide the World, p. 68). Once they develop the self-confidence to give up that "error," will we want to live in the brave new world they create?


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Eight Cousins

At various times in the history of this error of evolution, it has been posited to work on various levels: the species, locked in a struggle for survival with other competing species, or the small group, or the individual, or the selfish gene. The theory that species are in competition and that natural selection works at the group level goes back to Darwin, but has very little utility in explaining extinction; wooly mammoths did not become extinct because another animal species came along which was better at doing what the wooly mammoth did and so won the competition. In fact science has quietly gone back to the earlier 'cataclysm' model in explaining large-scale extinctions, for example suggesting that impact with an asteroid did in the dinosaurs. From the start of evolutionary theory, proponents have been in the business of 'saving the hypothesis,' so upon discovering that this theory was of no utility in predicting the dynamic balance of different animal groups, they retreated to the next level, noting that, after all, it is individual organisms who struggle to survive and prevail or perish. But traits like altruism run into a road-block at the individual level.

Evolutionists run a little race with themselves, rushing from one of these guard-posts to the next, because none of these ideas actually works very well. While scaling down to the 'selfish gene' answers some questions, it leaves behind gaping holes; organisms are not bundles of traits, many genes must work together in harmonious concord to produce a functioning organism, a miracle left unexplained by the 'selfish gene.' Organisms live or die as individuals, but altruism, or unrewarded assistance to others, benefits the group, not the individual sacrificing his own well-being on behalf of others. A perfectly selfish individual, seeking to extend his term of life and maximize his reproductive opportunities, can have little motive for altruism. Laying down his life for the good of the tribe leaves him a loser in the evolutionary sweepstakes. And so the Darwinians have retreated to what they no doubt hope will be their final redoubt, the 'selfish gene;' natural selection operates upon traits, not groups nor individuals. For the 'selfish gene' altruism can be a winning strategy, as J. B. S. Haldane pointed out:

  • “I'd lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.”

  • (— J.B.S. Haldane, Quipped in a pub conversation. 'Accidental Career', New Scientist, 8 Aug 1974, 325.
    Science quotes).

Enough of the altruist's genetic material is left behind in these surviving brothers and cousins to make the transaction worthwhile, or so Haldane believed. Here is a completely new idea: that one might display altruism, not in favor of others or of the group as a whole, but towards one's own genetic material, and hold its well-being above one's own! There is a double benefit, and it is the unthought-of one which is determinative. So a tendency toward altruism, which might be feared to destroy its carrier, can be chosen by natural selection. Students of Darwinian evolution are familiar with these 'Just-So' stories, that explain the most disparate, even diametrically opposed, features of animals by invoking their fitness for survival. The Darwinians do not predict what features an animal will have. If a structure is flat, that's because flatness promotes survival; if in another animal the same structure is arched, what reason could there be than that rotundity promotes survival? In any case, in this paradigm, the evolutionists believed they have advanced an adequate explanation for why some people some of the time behave in an altruistic way.

The only entity which can survive or fail, whose fitness is tested, which might serve as anvil upon which the hammer of 'natural selection' can pound, is an individual organism. Since this doesn't work out for altruism, which might mean death for the host organism, we retreat to the 'selfish gene.' But as is often pointed out, people can behave in a self-sacrificing manner towards those of other families and other races, with whom they share comparatively little genetic material. . .or even other species:  "How often do we hear about a person who jumped into the icy water of a lake to save the life of a dog, or a fireman who returned to a burning house to rescue a cat? Neither will be beneficial to the 'colony'. . ." (Amir D. Aczel, Why Science Does Not Disprove God, pp. 203-204). Think of Jesus, who came down from heaven to save us, taking on our nature in the process; it was not previously His own. Nothing adaptive here: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." (John 10:11). We can be a little like that sometimes, though without any plausible evolutionist explanation.

Haldane's 'just-so' story, of how altruism came into the world, is no better and no worse than the other 'just-so' stories of the evolutionists. Evolution lacks any independent criterion of fitness and so, if a creature is fat, they will tell you he is fat because fat is fit, but if he is thin, they will tell you he is thin because that, too, is a helpful adaptation. Due to the absence of an independent criterion, the theory's predictive value is nil. If the evolutionists like this 'just-so' story of how altruism came to be, then telling it is their privilege. However, the astute reader should guard against any effort to wrest altruism from its actual place in the system,— as a means to an end, the end being differential replication of the 'selfish gene,'— to becoming the foundation of its own independent altruism-based system of morals. Making that switch makes the foundation to rest upon the roof, an impossibility. Evolution gives no warrant to any such system of morality, because its ultimate moral sanction is selfishness. When altruism conflicts with selfishness, which wins out? Under evolution, it can only be selfishness, the entire basis of the system.


Genghis Khan

Different questions can be asked about human behavior. 'Why do people do that' is a question a psychologist might ask. 'Why ought I to do that?' is a question an ethicist, or a wondering human being, might ask. If you talk to many atheists, you will find they have a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between these different kinds of questions, and are very prone to substitute one for another. If you ask the 'ought' question, 'Why ought I to do that?' they may respond with an answer which might satisfy the anthropologist's question, 'Because people do that.' To be sure, sometimes people sacrifice their own well-being for that of others, but often enough they do not. Why should they ever do so? Atheism lacks any answer to this question.

They seek an answer at the well of evolution. But from this polluted spring comes nothing suitable. Just as water does not rise above its own level, the 'ought' of evolution cannot rise above its founding principle. That is 'good' according to evolution which secures the propagation of the genetic material which encodes it. And in some cases, one might imagine, altruism does so; though if Haldane's fable were true, one would expect this behavior to track more closely than it does with kinship cues. People can display kindness and generosity towards those who are neither their cousins nor their brothers; why? More to the point, why should they? Our behavior is not programmed so minutely as that of bees; we weigh, we ponder, we deliberate, fully conscious that we can do the altruistic thing, or the self-interested one. Which should we do?

If altruism is ever useful to the 'selfish gene,' so is much else that no one living in a once-Christian land can stomach. The highest and best value of evolution is to succeed in replicating one's DNA. Some people have been wildly successful at doing that, Genghis Khan for example.


  • “Based on chromosome research, it is estimated that about one man in twelve in the territories he [Genghis Khan] conquered is a direct descendant. Although he was incensed when his own wife was ravished, Genghis had no objection to rape in principle. He said: 'The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him. To ride their horses and take away their possessions. To see the faces of those who were dear to them bedewed with tears, and to clasp their wives and daughters in his arms.' The Mongols would frequently rape the women of their defeated foes, and the most beautiful would be reserved for the great khan himself.”

  • (John Withington, 'Disaster! A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes,' p. 177).

Recall, altruism was preferred, not for its own sake, but for the sake of something else, a higher goal to which it stood in the posture of the means to an end. That higher goal was replication of DNA. Here we have found a very efficient way to accomplish this. Poking along in our altruism buggy was getting us to our destination, but not very fast. Why not trade her in for the 'genocide-rape' Maserati, which replicates the conqueror's DNA with sublime efficiency? "But I don't mean to denigrate male fighting, which serves a useful evolutionary purpose for a man: to gain wives and to secure resources for his children and his tribe, at the expense of other men and their children and tribe." (Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, p. 133).

So, why? Because it's wrong? Because it's murder? Because it's unprovoked aggression? But those are the kinds of thing a Christian would say!

Psalm 68:30

The Darwinian logic of the infanticidal gorilla is impeccable: "It may sound utterly repugnant to do a cost/benefit analysis of murder, but such analyses nevertheless help one understand why murder appears to characterize only some animal species. . .Recent discoveries about apes suggest, however, that a gorilla or common chimp stands at least as good a chance of being murdered as does the average human. Among gorillas, for instance, males fight each other for ownership of harems of females, and the victor may kill the loser's infants as well as the loser himself. . .The typical gorilla mother loses at least one infant to infanticidal males in the course of her life." (Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, pp. 290-291). To express our revulsion at such behavior, in apes or in humans, requires us to step outside the Darwinian paradigm.

The Romans were accused of making a desert and calling it peace: "To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace." (Tacitus, Agricola, Chapter 30, speech by the Briton Galgacus). But the Romans never lost sight of the fact that in killing a provincial, they were killing a future tax-payer. It was not their deliberate policy to depopulate their territories. It was Genghis Khan's. His Mongol hordes destroyed the male population of great cities and piled their skulls in pyramids before the ruined city gates. The 'selfish gene' is the beneficiary of these policies, the service of which is the atheists' entire concept of nature. If they do not endorse these policies, then why not? If they do, we'd better keep an eye on them!

There is a contradiction involved in endorsing altruism because it is imagined to provide an advantage in the 'selfish gene's' struggle to replicate itself, but then condemning a very efficient rival strategy that obviously works as well or better; it did for Genghis Khan. In fact atheists have not really internalized the fundamental ethical imperative of their own system. They are less likely than theists to form families and leave offspring. They show in their own case that 'is' is not 'ought,' because evolution has no higher moral imperative; that is the fount from which all the subsidiary strategies, like altruism, flow. They are the means to an end under evolutionary theory, not an end in itself. Atheists are a people with a very high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. They remind one of the youthful French radicals of the 1960's, who longed to breathe free from the chafing demand to make sense: "The student movement that took place in France in 1968, with the youth  no doubt choking under the weight of years of having to sound intelligent and coherent, produced, among other jewels, the following demand: 'We demand the right to contradict ourselves!'" ('Fooled by Randomness,' Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Kindle location 3731).

But they in their turn hurl accusations. Is God guilty of the crime of genocide in His judgments against the nations?:


Social Darwinism

The contemporary effort to find a morality in Darwinism is not a new thing. Charles Darwin himself, his contemporaries, and the following generation devised a detailed, coherent and consistent set of ethical and political principles out of Darwinian evolution called 'Social Darwinism.' It was a horror. The guiding idea is that the poor should not be allowed to breed, or else they'll just make more poor:

  • “A most important obstacle in civilised countries to an increase in the number of men of a superior class has been strongly insisted on by Mr. Greg and Mr. Galton, namely, the fact that the very poor and reckless, who are often degraded by vice, almost invariably marry early, whilst the careful and frugal, who are generally otherwise virtuous, marry late in life, so that they may be able to support themselves and their children in comfort. . . Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: 'The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts — and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal 'struggle for existence,' it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed- and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults.'”

  • (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter Five).

By Chance Complex Versus Simple
Alien God Ancient Error
Declaration of War Hero-Worship
The Binding of Isaac Thomas Jefferson
Judge of the World Retention Rate
Absence of Belief Edgardo Mortara
The First Amendment Adolf Hitler
False Advertising Bigger is Better
Secondary Causes Thy Neighbor
Gospel of Judas Joseph Atwill

This vicious and ungodly ideology underlies the killing fields of the twentieth century. For some decades after the Second World War, the Darwinians prudently kept their thoughts on morality to themselves; but as these events recede in history, Darwinian thinking on ethics is blooming again.

It is less blatantly racist than before, less concerned with the fitness of the breeding stock, but really in the end just as bad. There is a parent-child relationship between Social Darwinism and National Socialism. Although other strains also entered into Adolf Hitler's ideological witches' brew, including nature paganism and Friedrich Nietzche's atheist amorality, the Nazis' concern with eugenics and racial purity was textbook Social Darwinism. This should not be surprising, as Darwinian evolution started as a bleak theory in political economy, advanced by Thomas Malthus; it was only returning to its roots in becoming political again after its borrowing by Charles Darwin. Darwin took Malthus' 'don't feed the poor it will only encourage them to breed' thinking out into the wilds for a stroll. Social Darwinism was an uncharitable, heartless and cruel school of politics. It is not compatible with Christianity; the miser Scrooge expresses Social Darwinist views in Dickens' 'Christmas Carol.' It was a given in classical Darwinism that human groups are in competition with one another, and that only the fittest groups will survive this competition. The inescapable racism of this paradigm was one of the drivers,  as racist talk became politically unpopular, in narrowing evolution's focus down to the individual and thence downward to the 'selfish gene.' The adoption of this way of thinking as part of the Nazi program was not a harmless error; its progress left piles of bodies littering the plain behind.

In the case of the other major ideological malformation of the twentieth century the situation is more complex. Friedrich Engels was greatly impressed by Darwinian evolution; and yet the Russian Communists under Josef Stalin felt so aggrieved and threatened by the triumph of this 'science' that they felt they had to advance an alternative. Trofim Lysenko offered a 'biology' not amenable to racism or elitism:

"'Broadly, very broadly speaking, these debates have seen the defeat of the ideas that in matters of heredity, of the transmission of acquired characters, of the evolution of species, of the direction of these changes by man, constitute before and after Hitler the basis for all the doctrines of racism.'" (The Lysenko Affair, Dominique Lecourt, Proletarian Science?, p. 19, quoting article by Jean Champenoix in Les Lettres franšaises.).

In other words the only fire-break the Communists could see between the modern 'science' of Darwinian evolution and Nazism was to discard Darwin altogether, along with the attendant sciences of Mendelian genetics and cytology. This was a bad choice, but not because it 'politicized' science. Darwinian evolution was political from the cradle; it was Malthusian population economics projected out into the realm of nature. Engels himself saw this origin very clearly and astutely: "‘The entire Darwinian teaching on the struggle for existence merely transfers from society to the realm of living nature Hobbes’ teaching on bellum omnium contra omnes and the bourgeois economic teaching on competition, along with Malthus’ population theory.’" (Friedrich Engels, Letter to Lavrov. November 12th-17th 1875, quoted p. 28, The Lysenko Affair, Dominique Lecourt, Proletarian Science?) Fortunately human beings are capable of believing at once contradictory principles, and most modern evolutionists are neither racists nor eugenicists.

Lysenko astutely observed that conventional genetics is idealist not materialist. Indeed it is. We all believe, having been taught, that there are little programs and blueprints in our cells, encoding our design. These are not epiphenomena thrown up by a fundamentally materialist process; they direct the process. This is not classical materialism but neoplatonism. His own system sought to reclaim biology for materialism, an effort doomed to failure because materialism does not conform to reality. Soviet agriculture from thenceforward was condemned to bear the twin crosses of a sullen work-force which had never accepted collectivization, and quack methods in agronomy.


Guess That Author

Our first author sounds almost nostalgic for the good old days, when small-pox kept up the vigor of the race:

  • “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

Our second author shares these concerns:

  • “Under certain circumstances, in periods of distress or under bad climatic condition, or if the soil yields too poor a return, Nature herself tends to check the increase of population in some countries and among some races, but by a method which is quite as ruthless as it is wise. It does not impede the procreative faculty as such; but it does impede the further existence of the offspring by submitting it to such tests and privations that everything which is less strong or less healthy is forced to retreat into the bosom of the unknown. Whatever survives these hardships of existence has been tested and tried a thousand-fold, hardened and rendered fit to continue the process of procreation; so that the same thorough selection will begin all over again. By thus dealing brutally with the individual and recalling him the very moment he shows that he is not fitted for the trials of life, Nature preserves the strength of the race and the species and raises it to the highest degree of efficiency. The decrease in numbers therefore implies an increase of strength, as far as the individual is concerned, and this finally means the invigoration of the species. . .For as soon as the procreative faculty is thwarted and the number of births diminished, the natural struggle for existence which allows only healthy and strong individuals to survive is replaced by a sheer craze to 'save' feeble and even diseased creatures at any cost. And thus the seeds are sown for a human progeny which will become more and more miserable from one generation to another, as long as Nature's will is scorned.”

Our first author is Charles Darwin, writing in the fifth chapter of The Descent of Man. Our second author is Adolf Hitler, writing in Mein Kampf. (Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (Kindle Locations 2229-2248). Kindle Edition.) Let's now start our little dance: natural selection operates, as you please, on the level of the race or other group, the level of the individual organism, who after all is the unit which lives or dies, or the gene, whose rather abstract quality hopefully will lift us out of the racialism otherwise inextricably intertwined with this despicable system. Charles Darwin saw no need to choose and allowed his wondrous invention to operate on all levels, but the racism which flowed from that repels decent people. So let us say, 'gravity selects for certain blue-prints, because well-designed buildings are less likely to collapse.' But the only function of the blue-print is to specify a building; were there no buildings, who would ever bother to draw one? It seems that we are just running in a circle here, but let's keep running, because otherwise we run into Mein Kampf.


"Let me explain: Man must not fall into the error of thinking that he was ever meant to become lord and master of Nature. A lopsided education has helped to encourage that illusion. Man must realize that a fundamental law of necessity reigns throughout the whole realm of Nature and that his existence is subject to the law of eternal struggle and strife. He will then feel that there cannot be a separate law for mankind in a world in which planets and suns follow their orbits, where moons and planets trace their destined paths, where the strong are always the masters of the weak and where those subject to such laws must obey them or be destroyed. Man must also submit to the eternal principles of this supreme wisdom. He may try to understand them but he can never free himself from their sway."

"Man has multiplied so rapidly, that he has necessarily been exposed to struggle for existence, and consequently to natural selection. He has given rise to many races, some of which differ so much from each other, that they have often been ranked by naturalists as distinct species. His body is constructed on the same homological plan as that of other mammals. He passes through the same phases of embryological development. He retains many rudimentary and useless structures, which no doubt were once serviceable. . .If the origin of man had been wholly different from that of all other animals, these various appearances would be mere empty deceptions; but such an admission is incredible."

The first quote is from our old friend Adolf Hitler: (Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf (Kindle Locations 386o-3865)). The second is from Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter VI. Both authors wish to stress man's subjection to, not his exception from, the course of nature which they define as the eternal struggle for existence and subsequent survival of the fittest. Both are opposed to the human exceptionalism which has become the refuge of modern Darwinians. This eternal struggle was not a closed chapter: "There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring." (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, Chapter XXI.) One can't well blame the Darwinians for wanting to rejoin the human race, but they should check their baggage prior to re-entry. It should scarcely be surprising that these ideas should come full circle, given that they started with Thomas Malthus' concerns that feeding the poor of England would induce them to breed like rabbits. Projecting his own uncharitable reflex onto the skies, the woodlands and the seas, and from thence putting the project back into practice in the human community on a large scale, led to scenes of horror of a magnitude which the world had never yet seen. The atheists' reaction to this fact ought to be sober reflection, not frantic finger-pointing. And at all costs, they must be prevented from trying it again:


Dan Brown
Lawrence Krauss
Ex Nihilo
Deep Europan Sea
Pray and Do Nothing

Summum Bonum

Under evolution, the highest moral good,— the summum bonum,— is the achievement of differential reproductive success. Given all the sorrows this round world has seen in its various revolutions, this directive actually has been adopted by some people as their goal in life. Just as the rancher mates his two best specimens, so a woman who wanted to marry an SS-man had to produce a certificate showing her fitness. In some ways, Nazi 'morality' tended to mirror either 'bourgeois morality' or even the old fashioned Christian morality, but it was built upon quite a different basis:

"In free love, in which the mutual impulse to union is contained exclusively in erotic feelings, the confluence of the germ-plasma endowments of both parents is left exclusively to chance, whereas monogamy, through the elaboration of perceptible biological hereditary stocks, enables human reason to bring together high-grade hereditary stocks for human breeding and to exterminate hereditary stocks of inferior grade." ('Marriage, Morality, and Property,' by Hermann Paull, quoted p. 35, George L. Mosse, Nazi Culture).

Water cannot rise above its own level. The highest evolutionary good is differential reproductive success,— leaving lots and lots of offspring. Every other moral good hangs upon and depends from this fixed point. But stating this as one's mission in life sounds absurd; even the livestock mated so as to secure this outcome do not internalize this goal. It is hard not to laugh at these SS-men and their gullible girl-friends. It far from obvious why such a thing should be a moral good at all, any more than success at amassing money or hitting the target at a carnival game or guessing the number of jelly beans in the jar. So any entire moral system built upon this base suffers from natural skepticism about the soundness of a foundation. If the foundation is sound, why does stating it in plain words make people laugh? Even the atheists who try to foist evolutionary morality upon the rest of us do not themselves generally bother to leave numerous offspring.

These SS-men were of course viewing the unit of natural selection as the individual organism, which is what, after all, lives or dies. Charles Darwin found natural selection such a handy process that he offered it as a universal prescription, working equally well upon every level, macro or micro. Pushing it back into the closet of the 'selfish gene' might mask some of these processes, at least enough to make this thesis seem respectable. But you cannot get away from the problem that, if the highest good is not truly a moral good, then nothing which follows from and depends upon it can be assumed to be such either. This ethical system produces, not goods, but the simulacrum of good.


What Is to Be Done?

We are fretful and indecisive creatures. When the majestic tiger pounces, he thinks no more on the matter. By contrast, we fret and fume, weighing 'on the one hand' this, and 'on the other hand' that. What is to be done? Contrary impulses war within our breasts, and yet we are not playthings of our impulses. Just because the sight of a slow-moving Recreational Vehicle impeding my car's progress may impel me to day-dream about installing a bazooka on my car roof, in no way does this innate impatience at blocked progress impel me to install, much less fire, the bazooka. It is likely this reaction is innate and not learned, it is part of our inheritance from the old Adam, along with other tendencies to be combated.

This is the dilemma of ethics: of the various courses of actions which present themselves to our consideration, which is to be preferred? And to this purpose, the various theories of evolutionary ethics pretend to give an answer, yet in the end their answers are worthless. At best, these theories pretend to explain why we feel one of the impulses we have noticed rising within us: the impulse to act altruistically, perhaps. These theories give us no reason to act in accordance with that impulse rather than the others.

In fact they do not even deliver what they promise. For a theory to be useful it must be capable of disproof, as evolution is not. The theory predicts that the animal will be adapted to its circumstances because if it is not it will not survive. And what criterion do we employ to ascertain that the animal is well-adapted? The fact that it survives! There is no independent criterion; the theory will venture no prediction as to what concrete animal will rise to fill which niche, and thus it cannot be disproven. If the creature is red, we make up a story explaining why redness confers survival value; if yellow, our story changes color. If people behave altruistically, we make up a story explaining why altruism has survival value; if a mob loots a Wal-Mart in the wake of a flood, well then. It turns out not altruism, but grabbiness, has survival value. You see, the primitive hunter-gatherer who grabbed the most mammoth-meat and squirrelled it away survived, while the others perished. Anyone can make up these stories, they are without end.

Let us examine one concrete moral dilemma: suppose that you are part of a mob looting a Wal-Mart in the aftermath of a flood. Another looter grabs the big-screen TV you have in your hands and starts tugging on it. What do you do? Do you kick him, or let him take your prize? Our new theory is that 'grabbiness' confers survival value; and that tells us how to act? How? Is it right or wrong? By pretending to 'explain' where 'grabbiness' comes from, or 'altruism' for that matter, evolution has shed no light on the subject at all.


The Whale's Pelvis Useless Excrescences
Periodic Table Rewind Button
The Author of Life

LogoRichard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins has expressed various opinions on these topics, presumably according to the rubric that it's harder to hit a moving target. His system as propounded in The God Delusion runs as follows:

Like most of these authors, he substitutes etiology for ethics, substituting the question 'Where do our good impulses come from?' for the ethical questions, 'What are we to do? Why should we do good? What is the good?' Christians answer the first question: our good impulses come from the conscience implanted within us, our bad impulses being our inheritance from the old Adam. But etiology, while part of the information database upon which ethics works, is not the whole, and the etiological mythology the Darwinians propose does not answer the question.

One thing you will notice about these people is that they hate questions,— we are to sit still and not ask them. Simple questions have upon them the effect of a cross on the vampire of folklore. Try it: ask 'Why is there nothing rather than something?' and they deride you, ask 'Why are we to do good?' and they will try to shame you into silence. See:

"If there is no God, why be good?
"Posed like that, the question sounds positively ignoble. When a religious person puts it to me in this way (and many of them do), my immediate temptation is to issue the following challenge: 'Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment?'" (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 259).

Dear Reader, do not let these know-nothings tell you that any sincere question is "ignoble." One doubts he has ever actually posed this question to a Christian, or it would have been explained to him that, no, we are not to do good to obtain a reward, but from love of God. This author avoids debating Christians, presumably aware than in any environment where he has to do something more than giggle, he is not going to do too well. Notice, please, the effort to shame the questioner into silence. In fact 'why be good?' is a perfectly legitimate question, to ask it is justified, doing ethics is no crime. He pretends that the questioner who asks 'why be good?' finds himself in the uncomfortable situation of the traveller who asks directions because he is lost; the lost traveller asks because he does not know the answer. In fact, the "religious person[s]" who ask him this, if indeed he communicates with any such, ask him not because they do not know the answer; they have a very good answer to the question. They merely wish to draw attention to the fact that he has none, as he is here admitting.

And do not ask how blind, meaningless nature comes to write her sonnets in meaningful, symbolic language. It is striking that atheists today are not able to talk about the realm of living things without using noumenal, intentional words like 'code:' "These instructions can be effective only in a molecular environment capable of interpreting the meaning in the genetic code. The origin question rises to the top at this point. 'The problem of how meaningful or semantic information can emerge spontaneously from a collection of mindless molecules subject to blind and purposeless forces presents a deep conceptual challenge.'. . .They are dealing with the interaction of chemicals, whereas our questions have to do with how something can be intrinsically purpose-driven and how matter can be managed by symbol processing." (Anthony Flew, There is a God, quotation of Paul Davies, pp. 128-129). Irreducibly mental activities like naming and translating are built into the biological realm at its most basic, fundamental levels.

Recall, he first tries to substitute etiology for ethics. His etiological myth explaining good behavior offers these four survival factors:

  1. Kindness to relatives, "the special case of genetic kinship," directly benefits the 'selfish gene.'
  2. Reciprocity: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, i.e. log-rolling, a strategy that yields benefits.
  3. "[T]he Darwinian benefit of acquiring a reputation for generosity and kindness" (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 251).
  4. "[C]onspicuous generosity," as showy as a peacock's tail.

Realizing that all these people have to do is make these stories up,— there is no verification mechanism,— it's striking that he can't think up any etiological myth to account for kindness to strangers, and so he leaves it as an unlooked-for by-product of the four listed reasons, as if the programmed instinct which can instruct a bird how precisely to construct a nest down to the last detail of twig placement somehow here fails to be able to specify anything more fine-grained than, 'Uh, be kind to, uh. . .somebody.' That vague imperative was the best evolution could do in achieving its goal, which was to get people to be kind to blood-relatives and those who could be of benefit to them, and impressing potential mates.

But being kind to blood-relatives or those who can benefit us is not enough to satisfy some people,

"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?" (Matthew 5:46-47).

As any cat lover wondering how to dispose of the dead mouse without being seen to do so knows, even our animal friends can do a kindness, in gratitude for past favors and in expectation of future ones. But our feline friends cannot be counted upon, any more than the tax collectors, to do a kindness to strangers passing by, much less to invite to dinner adversary mice and birds for the sheer pleasure of watching them enjoy themselves. Kindness to strangers breaks out of their paradigm. It is a "misfiring," you see. And why should we follow in the path of this "misfiring"? They can't tell us, so they try to shame us into not asking the question. If that fails, they frankly explain. . .it's a matter of religion! That's how the "lust to be generous and compassionate" plays out today:

"Such rules of thumb influence us still, not in a Calvinistically deterministic way but filtered through the civilizing influences of literature and custom, law and tradition — and, or course, religion." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 254).

Having conceded the point, he goes on to explain that religious people are dumb and dress funny.


William Jennings Bryan

This three-time Presidential candidate closed his career with a crusade against the teaching of evolution in the public schools; he died five days after the conclusion of the Scopes trial, in which he served as honorary prosecutor. An old earth creationist, he objected strongly to the presence of theistic evolution in the church:

"First, the preachers who are to break the bread of life to the lay members should believe that man has in him the breath of the Almighty, as the Bible declares, and not the blood of the brute, as the evolutionists affirm." (William Jennings Bryan, In His Image, The Origin of Man, p. 121).

His objections to evolution were primarily ethical; realizing it was the Social Darwinists who had drawn the logically consistent conclusions from this animal dogma, he recoiled in horror at the prospect that the strong must, indeed ought to, prey upon and crowd out the weak. Readers curious as to his argumentation might enjoy reading the book, 'In His Image,' and the closing statement he prepared for use in the Scopes trial. This was not delivered at trial; under the applicable law in Tennessee, the prosecution could not offer a closing argument if the defense deferred, and the defense were not stupid enough to offer this stirring orator a soap-box:


In His Image
Closing Argument in the Scopes Trial

William Jennings Bryan