Evolution has indeed been used as an excuse for many philosophical ideas with substantial negative effects on humanity. However, two important points must be made. Firstly, the claim to derive philosophical principles from scientific data is invalid. Not only is this an invalid way of deriving morals, but also I have never encountered such a claim that accurately represents current biological views. Secondly, the true root of the error is in atheism. Some of the more poorly-done young earth propaganda makes it sound as though the fall of man occurred in 1859.
The true ethical problem of biological evolution is not that it leads to bad morals, but that it does not lead to any morals. Trying to rely on it, rahter than God, for guidance is thoroughly inadequate.
The foolishness of deriving moral principles from scientific ideas becomes obvious if you substitute another theory. How many people claim to base their morals on gravity? Biological evolution is an attempt at describing natural processes and cannot tell us if something is morally good or bad. One could declare "Everyone should promotes one's own evolutionary success", but this statement, not the biology, would be the basis for the morality. Either cooperation or outcompetetion could theoretically promote evolutionary success, so this principle gives me wide rein. However, this principle also allows others to promote their success at my expense. Such an equal opportunity approach is unpopular, so most purportedly evolutionary moral systems actually assert "Everyone should promote my evolutionary success". This is the basic idea of social Darwinism, Marxism, Nazism, etc. This directly conflicts with evolutionary self-interest unless you happen to belong to the privile!
dged group. Similarly, abortion advocates sometimes claim evolutionary justification. Killing your own offspring is evolutionarily extremely stupid, unless it results in a higher probability of multiple other offspring surviving. (Additionally, I have seen some pro-abortion evolutionary claims that clearly indicate biologicla ignorance.) "You and me baby ain't nothing but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel" errs on two counts evolutionarily. First, the precise reproductive behavior of other mammals is not likely to be what the speaker wants, if it is even possible to emulate. Secondly, if he is so keen on the example of other mammals, why does he not eat, walk, sleep, etc. like they do on the Discovery Channel? Will Provine's determinism likewise is derived, ironically, from rejecting highly Arminian views of mainline Presbyterians and not from evolution. It is also inconsistent-the criminals are rehabilitatable, yet they could not help com!
mitting the crime.
Dr. David Campbell
Saint Mary's College of Maryland
18952 E. Fisher Road
St. Mary's City, MD 20686-3001 USA
firstname.lastname@example.org, 301 862-0372 Fax: 301 862-0996
"Mollusks murmured 'Morning!'. And salmon chanted 'Evening!'."-Frank Muir, Oh My Word!
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