The Moral Implications of Darwinism: Why Does Natural Selection Seem So Unnatural To Us Morally?


Recently EvilBender [don’t you just love this guy’s name?] was playing the whole “Creationists just quote mine” game, meaning that he thinks we quote things out-of-context if they don’t support his views or, more to the point, that we just Google quotes and search for those that fit what we want to say. [Now anyone who makes an argument which includes a quote will not include one that defeats his own argument, but we’ll pass over further commentary on the execution of rhetoric for the present].

In this case, he was accusing Creationists of quote-mining Darwin to make him say things that he did not truly believe. Nevermind that he did exactly that to me once, quoting me entirely out-of-context and attributing beliefs to me and other creationists that we simply do not hold. I love this guy’s consistency!

Anyway, he reminded folks that despite the evil eugenics things Darwin wrote down in books like Descent that he also talked out of both sides of his mouth and advocated philanthropy.

Darwin was in fact a philanthropist…

…which makes him a hypocrite as far as the implications of his theory are concerned.

Dawkins has the same sort of cold feet about embracing the cold, harsh moral implications of evolution [much to his credit].

But if it’s true, why shouldn’t our morality have evolved in such a way that we do not find these moral implications morally repugnant? Why does “survival of the fittest [and by implication the elimination of the weak and undesirable]” seem so unnatural to us? I’ll go out on a limb: Why does it seem so antithetical to the sense of morality and justice common to man?

Science has implications for morality. Naturalistic science says that morality is a product of evolution, not that it came about by some other method [you know: God].

So why are the moral implications of evolution so morally repugnant? Shouldn’t our common morality be more in synch with the process that produced it?

Now, EvilBender just responded with a rather typical Well,you’rejuststoopidtounderstand evasion, but someone else commented and mentioned altruism. He had an interesting spin on the situation, but I wasn’t satisfied.

When a man throws himself in front of a bus to save some kid, he isn’t doing it for the species. He’s doing it for the kid. Not his kid. Not his cub. Not his tribe. Not his genetic material. He’s doing it because he believes life is precious. Not just human life. He’d do it for a dog as well as a kid.

Evolution teaches the opposite. Life is not precious. It is meaningless. There is no point other than survival until something better comes along to replace us.

Even if we throw in altruism and social concessions implemented to help us all get along, we are still posed with the problem of why altruism and social dynamics should be so antithetical to natural selection, which ultimately must have produced them. Or again are they admitting to a creator where altruism is concerned?

Why are the moral implications of Darwinism so unnatural to its products that they would adopt altruism [we include animals here] in defiance of survival of the fittest and elimination of the unfit? Why would we come up with social concessions so antithetical to the laws of nature if we’ve come about by nature?

These are interesting philosophical questions.

I think you will find that your worldview will determine how you approach answering them. They are by no means unfair questions.

–Sirius Knott

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Geoff says:

    You and I are on the same wavelength.

  2. Nicholas says:

    Thank you for dealing with this absolutely pertinent subject.
    In an era where the Catholic church embraces evolution this must be dealt with.
    I have been in the moral wilderness as far as trying to reconcile the implications of evolution with an approach to life that I find palatable.

    I would like to put these questions to you.
    If evolution is a fact, as supported by the Catholic church and the vast and ever mounting evidence, if the church were to proclaim that all human life is equally valuable how would this change the consequences of evolution?

    In my opinion it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever. Evolution would still run its cruel and callous way. Those males unable to compete with others would still not be given a chance to mate, as females would not be prepared to carry their offspring – regardless of the dictates made by the church. Consequently the weaker males would have to go through the cruel pain of knowing that they were about to be eliminated from the gene pool.

    For individuals that have to go through this cruel culling, the pain is almost unbearable as it is for other creatures in the animal kingdom.

    The zebra that cannot run fast enough to escape the lion and conversely the lion that endures starvation because it cannot run fast enough to catch the slowest of zebras; both must suffer untold emotional pain.

    Any proclamation, by the church, that all humans are of equal worth, cannot possibly put an end to the pain felt by those that are to be culled from the species; the pain inflicted on the weak is itself a necessity for life to continue it cannot be avoided. Whatever proclamations the church makes, woman will still choose who they want to mate with, the only alternative would be if the church dictated who’s child a woman should carry and in doing so carried out its own form of “inverted eugenics”

    Hence although it might appear, on the face of it, that religion can deliver us from the painful consequences of evolution, at most it can only marginally, artificially, change the criteria for selection it can NEVER eliminate selection. Unfortunately, on earth, selection, along with mutation, is necessary to the mechanism of life itself and is not optional.

    So can humans ever be rid of this terrible suffering?

    There is renouncement; for those who can rise above the desire to have children a blissful state of detached happiness can be attained.

    But what of the majority of us who are just incapable of renouncing, are we sentenced to a life of struggle, forever jostling for a place in the hierarchy terrified of falling away from the pack.

    Only now does there seem to be the glimpse of a chance of release from this cycle.

    Redemption may come from the unlikely discipline of genetic engineering. For those of us destined for genetic culling, as dictated by female sexual selection, it may soon be possible to have our genes tweaked to eliminate our genetic weaknesses. An adjustment for a better memory, less physical defects, more unselfishness whilst still retaining our basic core.

    Could we, through science, cheat evolution of of its pound of flesh?
    Could we remove the necessary component of suffering by applying our intellect? Why not?
    We have controlled evolution in other species, selectively breeding and modifying food materials, why not control the forces of evolution within our own species?

    Our motivation for control would not be to improve the genetic make up of the human race but rather to eliminate human suffering.

    After all we know that striving to improve is futile – right?

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