Re: Social Problems and evolution

Russell Maatman (
Fri, 27 Feb 1998 17:15:03 -0600

David wrote on Wednesday, February 25, 1998 2:30 PM


> As far as the relationship between "speciesism" and evolution goes, the
> are not directly related. The validity of "speciesism" is a
> or religious question. Only after one accepts a principle such as "a
> of qualitative differences between humans and other species means that
> have equal value" can the scientific evidence be relevant. From a
> Christian viewpoint, there is an important qualitative difference between
> humans and non-humans. The former are made in God's image, the latter
> not. Whether the physical aspects of humans were created via evolution
> not is irrelevant to this aspect.

In my original article, posted in five parts (A to E), I was using the
complaints about species-ism as only one example of what can arise when one
accepts human descent from animals. Other bad things can flow from assuming
human evolution. My family observed this when we lived in Mississippi in
the late fifties and early sixties. I taught at the University of
Mississippi. The University students were radical--but not today's kind of
radical. They were radical racists. And so it was no particular
surprise--although extremely upsetting--to read (citing a nationally-known
anthropologist) in the student newspaper that blacks evolved several
hundred thousand years after whites, and so of course blacks were inferior.
I cannot demonstrate it, of course, but I have a strong suspicion that over
the world racism rests on the perception of different levels among human
beings, and that teaching human evolution has (unwittingly, I am sure)
reinforced that idea. I am NOT saying that your average racist is a
conscious evolutionist. But this average racist has some unexamined
assumptions, and it seems to me that were opposition to human evolution "in
the air," instead of the opposite, fewer people would have those bad
unexamined assumptions and, as a result, we would have less racism.

> A line of argument that may carry weight with non-Christians is why is it
> better to be a "phylumist" or "kingdomist" than a "speciesist"? Why
> animals have the right to eat plants? Are you more important than the
> potential offspring of a mosquito or other biting fly? [Even if you shoo
> them away rather than squashing them, you deprive them of food that is
> especially important for reproduction.] A conflict of interest soon
> arises-are the organisms that benefit from your being in good health
> [yourself, dependents, "friendly" bacteria, etc.] more valuable than
> that would benefit from your sickness or death [pathogens, competitors (a
> broad category if one considers those organisms that might use habitiat
> that currently is used to grow human food, build houses, etc.),
> etc.]? There are plausible arguments for drawing a line at certain
> but some justification is needed.

One philosopher who faced the same problem drew the line at "conscious"
life. So you could eat a shrimp but not a cow. Please don't ask me to fuss
with his line-drawing!


Russell Maatman
Home: 401 5th Avenue
Sioux Center, IA 51250