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Saturday, 13 October 2007

Does Evolution lead to Moral Relativism? Making the Bogeyman even Scarier.

Most bogeymen are dispatched well before childhood ends. However, for many evangelicals, the Evolution Bogeyman lasts much longer. Much like children nervously peaking under the bed each morning, many evangelical students (and their parents!) scan nervously through the course outline prior to stepping tentatively into that first high school or university biology classroom. Many, like I did myself, use various avoidance strategies. However, these strategies only help to solidify and strengthen the perceived threat.

When I stumbled across David Hill’s article “Who’s afraid of Biology 101?” I was optimistic that he would directly address the evangelical tendency to be intimidated by evolution. However, my optimism evaporated when I read the opening paragraph:

Students from Christian homes are often warned about the dangers of secular lifestyles in college, especially those relativistic worldviews rooted in humanism and evolutionary theory. Many parents sending their kids off to school are not only concerned with the temptations of the social atmosphere, but they also fear the potentially more damaging outcome from an intellectual culture hostile to Biblically-based perspectives.
Alarm bells start ringing any time I see “relativistic worldview” and “evolutionary theory” lumped together. On very rare occasions an author can astutely work through the various meanings of each of these phrases, show how they are related (or not related), and provide some wise guidance on how these systems or ideas should be approached by a Christian. Most of the time however, an author simply conflates the terms, pontificates on their evilness, and moves on to strategies for combating them. Although Hill’s tone is respectful and pontification is minimal, his approach is much closer to the latter.

A) Do not Avoid Science

First the positive. Hill does not say Christians should avoid learning about evolution. He acknowledges that Christians should examine modern scientific explanations, including biological evolution. Taking biology 101 will allow Christian students to
“… walk away four months later appreciating modern scientific theories about the universe and have their faith strengthened because they understand this conflict more deeply”.
Although I strongly disagree with the implication that evolution and faith are inherently in conflict, or that the majority of those teaching it are attacking a biblical worldview, I commend his advice to Christians that they seek to understand modern ideas and theories, even ideas and theories that are in conflict with a biblical worldview or are taught by those biased against a biblical worldview. As both Jesus and the apostle Paul demonstrated, we need to directly engage our culture, not run from it. And to properly engage, we need to first listen & understand.

B) Natural Selection and its Relationship to Moral Relativism

However, Hill’s second conclusion that we need to be wary of an evolutionary paradigm because “it results in a morally relativistic worldview” is completely unsupported in the essay (and I believe unsupportable). He states:
An evolutionary paradigm describing the result of competition and environmental stress within nature can be stated very simply: the fit survive, mutations arise and new species arrive. According to this mode of thought, humans are no exception to this rule, being an ordinary product of the machinery of natural selection, as much as daffodils, flounders, or pigeons. This indifference and utter accidentalness in the origination of living things is unnerving. It proposes that everything is relative, that nothing under the sun — least of all the human race — is special in any way.
I have commented before that humanity’s connectedness to all other life on planet earth does not contradict the fact that we are created in the image of God. What needs to be addressed is the contention that the mechanism of natural selection somehow leads to moral relativism. Briefly, the acceptance of natural selection should not lead us to accept moral relativism since first, it acts on populations not individuals, and second, it is descriptive not prescriptive.

1. Populations, not Individuals

Natural selection is a mechanism that operates on populations, not on individual organisms. (See here). Individual orchids, sheep, and hominids do not evolve – populations of orchids, sheep and hominids evolve over time (generally very long periods of time). Natural selection is unrelated to individuals or their choices. In fact, maybe a better term for natural selection is environmental sorting of heredity as indicated here.

2. Descriptive, not Prescriptive

Natural selection is an explanation for how things have changed over time. It is thus descriptive and is not meant to be prescriptive. The theory explains the paleontological, genetic, and morphological data, but does not in any way provide guidance on how humanity should act in the future. As Kyle Maxwell states:

The theory of evolution is merely an account of the mechanisms God has used to create us. It can no more be a guide to our moral choices than Newton's laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, or Boyle's law. Bear in mind, by the way, that scientific laws (of which evolution is one) are descriptive, not prescriptive or normative. That means that scientific laws describe what DOES happen in the universe; they do not tell you what moral choices to make. Many persons make a mistake here by confusing the different meanings of the word law. For example, they'll think that the law of gravity "punishes" a person for stepping off a cliff. That is not so. The law of gravity describes how an object moves in a gravitational field. The choice of how and where you place yourself in such a field is up to you. (Quoted from here - scroll to the 3rd post at the bottom).
C) A Christian Paradigm

Hill might include more than just the scientific evidence for natural selection in his “simple” definition of “an evolutionary paradigm” ; it is not clear from his essay. But based on his definition, the conclusion he reaches is not warranted. It is true that some paradigms might lead to moral relativism, even paradigms near and dear to the hearts of many evangelicals. One could try to make the argument that the economic theory of capitalism leads to moral relativism (“survival of the fittest” is certainly more applicable here than in biological evolution) or that the political theory of democracy leads to moral relativism, but both of those statements are obviously simplistic and can be debated. However, the contention that capitalism and/or democracy leads to moral relativism is easier to defend than the claim that natural selection leads to moral relativism. Both capitalism and democracy are at least partly prescriptive; natural selection (and the science of biological evolution) is purely descriptive.

In one sense Hill is right. Making an Evolutionary Paradigm (however it is defined) foundational for defining truth, making choices, and finding purpose is unacceptable for Christians. Our primary paradigm must be Christ-centered and biblically guided. If this approach is trumped by any other paradigm, whether a Democratic Paradigm, a Capitalist Paradigm, or an Evolutionary Paradigm, we have committed idolatry. Christians can of course hold democratic political ideas, capitalistic economic ideas, and evolutionary scientific ideas, but these ideas need to be secondary to, informed by, and measured against our primary paradigm, which is faith in Jesus Christ.

D) Still Promoting Fear of the Bogeyman

Although the title of Hill’s article seems to suggest that evangelicals should not fear evolution, I believe his argument will only make things worse. The impression one is given is that accepting the evidence for biological evolution inevitability leads to an evolutionary paradigm that is itself equivalent to moral relativism. Since moral relativism is incompatible with the Christian faith, the message is really “learn about the scientific ‘theory’ of evolution but hold your breath so that you don’t inhale its toxic ramifications”. This is equivalent to giving your fearful 6-year old a loaded gun when going to bed. Someone might get hurt, but it sure won’t be the bogeyman.

18 comments:

SFMatheson said...

Steve--
That's a superbly-reasoned response to Hill's article. Nothing to add but "amen," expect maybe this: let's hope that Hill's badly-flawed analysis is not widely read.
I wonder, by the way, if Christians are as worried about naturalistic explanations of human embryology, since the bogeyman should be just as fearsome in that arena. But funny thing: nobody's ever heard of "theistic embryology." Hmmm.
Nice work.

Tom said...

This seems to fall under what I dubbed Paley's moral compass. Evolution obviously affects behavior as well as physiology. Various animals show altruism. Why not let evolution lead to moral behavior? If you don't, I don't see how that is different from the intelligent design folks -- that we humans express behaviors that can only be attained through a designer.

Can you come up with a way of letting God use evolution to attain higher morals? If you can, you can follow the evolutionary paradigm without being idolatrous!

Martin LaBar said...

Well, to follow what Tom said, it seems easy enough to suppose that, say, at least some of the seven deadly sins would be selected against. I can imagine selection working against gluttony and sloth, at least.

However, it seems to me that the Christian faith (and that of the Old Testament) requires individual choices to be very meaningful, not just morality which is the product of generations of selection (although selection might be part of the reasons for Christian behavior).

Cliff Martin said...

Tom,

I think I am just "amening" Martin's comment, but here goes:

Would not the assigning of the task of moral development to evolution, whether from a secularist or faith-based view of evolution, reduce or even eliminate my need to make right choices. Does that not take away human responsibility? Humanist evolutionary optimism is no different in this regard than a strict Reformed view of divine sovereignty. I reject them both for their tendency to minimize human moral responsibility, in the NOW.

My view of God and evolution does allow for the possibility that he is not yet finished with his evolutionary work. But this I place alongside human moral responsibility. I don’t see one effecting the other. So for me, following the evolutionary paradigm as you suggest might be not only idolatrous, but a cop out.

Steve Martin said...

Stephen (SFMatheson): Thanks. On the “threat” of Theistic Embryology - very astute comment. Maybe I’ll do something with this and of one my favorite psalms – 139: verses 13 & 14:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Re: Various comments on evolution and relationship to human behavior. A few points:

1) My main point was that biological evolution does not imply moral relativism (ie. It implies that there is no such thing as good / evil or that we are free to define good /evil in any way that suits us). Actually, I think very few people outside the anti-evolution community reject this statement. (I could be wrong about this statement & am open to correction).

2) This contention does not mean however, that our evolutionary development has absolutely no influence on human behavior. I think it clearly does. However, I do not believe our evolutionary past determines our future behavior. I reject the idea of genetic determinism. In my view, the existence of Free-will is self-evident.

3) I do not see how the main contention (that biological evolution is not equal to moral relativism) is in the least like the ID God-of-the-gaps argument in biology. The main ID argument is simply a “no explanation, therefore God” statement. In fact, I don’t think my contention has anything to do with the theism / atheism discussion at all (although my theistic paradigm probably biases me towards this – not sure). Just as chemistry cannot be reduced completely to physics, nor biology to chemistry, I don’t believe psychology & related fields can be reduced to biology. Each higher layer contains emergent properties not explainable by the lower layers. So models of natural selection, which I believe plays a major role in the development of life, may be fruitful in helping to understand human behavior, but I think there are probably many other factors involved, factors that just don’t come into play at the level of biology. That’s why I’m not completely sold on what I hear from the field of evolutionary psychology. But I admit I know very little about the field, so again I’m open to hearing why natural selection is just as dominating a factor in psychology as it is in biology.

RBH said...

I watch these kinds of discussions with interest, since as an atheist I often get asked "How can an atheist be moral without a set of absolute moral principles?" Let me comment briefly on this post.

First, I'm glad to see the OP's clear distinction between a descriptive theory, like the theory of evolution, and a prescriptive code. The naturalistic fallacy is alive and well among us, and should be resisted at every opportunity. One could carry the OP's gravity analogy a little further, in fact: That Newton's laws of motion describe what happens when one steps off a cliff in no way implies that one should step off the cliff. In fact, understanding Newton's laws of motion allows us to devise ways of avoiding the consequences of the operation of those laws, by using safety belts in autos, requiring air bags, setting speed limits, and so on. Similarly, even if the operation of the process of evolution resulted in what we might consider to be 'bad' consequences, the solution is not to pretend that the process of evolution doesn't occur, but is rather to understand it in as clear and complete a way as possible so as to figure out how to mitigate those consequences. Richard Dawkins made that point very early in his writings on evolution, in either The Bllind Watchmaker or The Selfish Gene -- I've temporarily blocked on which it was.

Martin LaBar wrote

Well, to follow what Tom said, it seems easy enough to suppose that, say, at least some of the seven deadly sins would be selected against. I can imagine selection working against gluttony and sloth, at least.

And I can imagine selective circumstances in which gluttony is selected for, and in fact that hypothesis is pretty respectable. Briefly, since we evolved as hunter/gatherers in circumstances in which access to rich fatty food like meat was limited and means of transporting and/or preserving quantities of it were very limited, the best place to store such food when a band managed to kill a large animal was in their bellies. Hence gluttony in those circumstances would be selected for. Now, in current western society where such food is abundant, the same gluttony is disadvantageous.

The very same behavior may be advantageous in one context and disadvantageous in another, and hence traits that we see now cannot be understood without understanding their evolutionary history. If we are to do anything effective about what we deem to be 'bad' traits, we have to understand their origin. Attributing them, say, to The Fall of Adam and Eve gains us precisely no traction in understanding and amelioration. So the larger lesson from evolutionary theory is that one can't pronounce on the selective value of some trait without considering the selective circumstances, and one can't design effective amelioration for what are judged to be 'bad' traits without understanding the origin of the traits.

That last remark may be in part what underpins the accusations of moral relativism against evolution -- one must take cirumstances into account in assessing the relative selective value of traits. But again, that's simply silly: understanding how traits evolved is quite different from arguing that those traits have moral value.

Finally, I've argued elsewhere that Christians must make exactly the same kinds of moral choices that atheists do, on much the same ultimate grounds. There is a wide array of religious traditions available in the world, and there is no objective or principled way of choosing from among them -- if there were such a way the range of traditions would converge on common elements, but instead we see a history of splintering among theists, Christian or otherwise. Hence theists must choose from the available array of traditions which they will adopt as "absolute", and that choice is no less subjective and no less "relativistic" than the atheist's direct choice of moral principles.

In fact, the theist has it worse: He must first pick a tradition (though most theists 'inherit' their particular sect), and then he must pick and choose from among the moral teachings within a religious tradition. Which is the absolute principle, "an eye for an eye" (retaliation in kind) or "turn the other cheek" (let it go and forgive)? Note that those are very compressed caricatures to illustrate a point in this brief comment, not completed examples.

If the theist is allowed by his religious tradition to choose which principle is applicable in a given situation, he is being precisely as morally "relativistic" as is the non-theist who takes circumstances and likely consequences of alternative choices into account in making moral decisions. The argument applies generally: theists have no more absolute or objective moral codes than do atheists; they just assign ultimate responsibility elsewhere, which I suppose makes it easier to make hard choices -- if if's God's responsibility then it's not mine.

RBH

Tom said...

Perhaps I have misused/misunderstood the term "moral relativism". Like Cliff, I believe evolution will continue to happen. (In fact, I wonder, as such an integral part of nature, how it cannot persist in heaven!)

To explain my definition, behaviors both individual and cultural, are also naturally selected for alongside physical characteristics. Like RBH explains, it's all relative. If you want to be pessimistic about it, you can say that there is no ultimate right or wrong.

One thing evolution shows is that without purposeful direction and only by allowing biases here and there in offspring, complex physical and behavioral characteristics emerge. In the view of the evolutionist-theist, this directionless force has allowed us to stumble upon (at least a portion of) universal truth. If we did not just stumble on it, then I think you start to get into problems with free will. Now if we did just stumble on it, then it seems universal truth is a static phenomenon still awaiting our further discovery, but through what means? Do we thank evolution for carrying us this far and proceed on our own?

I too, do not know about evolutionary psychology, but I can imagine culture, ideas, and ways of thinking will always be under evolutionary pressure, even though the digital world operates differently than the natural. I suppose survival of the fittest will be subject to the best marketing which is perhaps not the best way to illuminate ultimate truth.

Look at the blue whale. It was a fish, then a land-hunting animal with teeth, and now the largest creature to inhabit the earth living in the ocean sucking krill. Evolution was able to accomplish this through relative means. If truth is not static and was viewed on a relative yardstick, it might seemingly flip-flop, but you never know where it might lead.

Gordon J. Glover said...

I'm willing to follow the evolutionary trail as far as it goes, even when it comes to accounting for our impulses and tendencies. Since I believe God uses ordinary means to accomplish his divine purposes, I don't see any inherent conflict in pursuing evolutionary psychology as a model to help us account for why things are the way they are.

Where I draw the line personally, and it seems like everyone here would agree, is when we ascribe moral significance to these traits. That, I think, crosses a line that moves the discussion outside the boundaries of honest scientific inquiry.

Whether we are operating from within a theistic or atheistic framework, I think we would all agree that in order to exhibit socially "acceptable" behavior, we must find ways to "transcend" our biology and chemistry, rather than allow it to dictate what behavior is acceptable.

Perhaps this is overly simplistic?

On a similar note, I would really like to know more about the eating habits of the early hominids (4.5mya - 200,000 BC). Sometimes I feel like our modern diet evolved much more rapidly than did our phisiology, and many of our problems can probably be attributed to technology (food processing) outpacing evolution by many orders of magnitude. But there is only so much time in the day!

-GJG

SFMatheson said...

RBH writes:

"...even if the operation of the process of evolution resulted in what we might consider to be 'bad' consequences, the solution is not to pretend that the process of evolution doesn't occur, but is rather to understand it in as clear and complete a way as possible so as to figure out how to mitigate those consequences. Richard Dawkins made that point very early in his writings on evolution, in either The Blind Watchmaker or The Selfish Gene -- I've temporarily blocked on which it was."

Here's the quote I think you had in mind -- the last few sentences of The Selfish Gene (1976):
"...even if we look on the dark side and assume that individual man is fundamentally selfish, our conscious foresight -- our capacity to simulate the future in imagination -- could save us from the worst selfish excesses of the blind replicators. We have at least the mental equipment to foster our long-term selfish interests rather than merely our short-term selfish interests. [...] We have to power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism -- something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators."

Gordon:
I'm with you. If evolutionary theory explains how humans came to be built the way they are, let's just think of the information as interesting footnotes in a commentary on Psalm 104. :-)

RBH said...

Yup, that's the one. Thanks!

elbogz said...

In the words of the Veggie Tales cartoon song, “God is bigger than the Boogie Man…”
It always amazed me how the God of the fundamentalist could be knocked off His stool by a book written by Charles Darwin. Is their God so small?

It is a false argument that says there is conflict between science and theology related to evolution. There is a conflict between fundamentalist Christians that state the word is not what we see, and those that see a world as it is and still believe in God. Science is an innocent bystander that got caught in a train wreck that occurred between the pews of the church.

The conflict is with Christian radio that preaches science is evil, and educated human beings that say, huh? The conflict is between those that say, you can not believe in evolution and believe in God and those that do not. Science didn’t bring a dog to the fight. They just are watching the “Church” make silly and untrue statements about the world and shake their collective heads in disgust.

Steve Martin said...

With respect to Tom’s earlier comment re: “letting God use evolution to attain higher morals”, I certainly think good moral tendencies can be selected (Martin L. provided one speculative example), but I would not want to restrict God to using only evolution (and, as RBH has countered, poor moral tendencies can also be selected). In fact, I think restricting God in this manner flies in the face of the biblical view of the God who reveals himself to (and interacts with) humanity. Evolution might help in developing moral tendencies in conscious beings over time, but I don’t think that is the sum of God’s purposes: God’s desire is to redeem humanity, not simply develop moral creatures. That is the point of the incarnation.

Now, I’m sure someone is going to say, “ah ha, Steve IS falling for the god-of-the-gaps fallacy”. I don’t think I am. My view of divine action is not one of constant divine intervention. (Ok. I do believe God can and does intervene. The incarnation & resurrection of Christ being the most salient examples). A better view of divine action, IMO, is one of cooperation rather than intervention. How this plays out is beyond the scope of a simple comment – so please be patient for this in a future post. Actually, you might have to be REALLY patient as it is still a little fuzzy in my own mind. If you want to get a jump on this though, you can read John Polkinghorne’s “Science and Providence” or George Murphy’s “The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross”.

RBH: Good points on the theist / atheist quandaries wrt to choosing the moral path. Maybe that’s why I don’t think that “moral relativism” is the number#1 foe for Christians to fight against. After all, the opposite of moral relativism is what? You can have lots of very BAD absolute moral systems too. And we will probably spin in circles trying to define semantics for “relative” and “absolute”. As Christians, our morality, our worldview, and our hope start (and end) with Jesus Christ. Why we have made that choice, or think that choice is a good choice, or a better choice than other systems, is another long discussion.

On why the bible says both “an eye for an eye” and “turn the other cheek”, I see this as God’s progressive revelation to humanity - see my comments on one of Cliff’s theodicy posts at http://cliff-martin.blogspot.com/2007/10/interlude-is-god-good.html.

Gordon: Good point. I don't think you are being overly simplistic. We have to start somewhere.

Gordon J. Glover said...

On God's progressive revelation: We see many strange expressions of the Law in the OT - slavery, concubines, laws regulating polygamy, descrimination against disabled persons, the bloody and seeminly arbitrary sacrificial system, the ability of a husband to divorce his wife for any reason, the list goes on...

I think the principle of accommodation, which we evolutionary creationists should all be familiar with when it comes to the type of science expressed in the Scriptures (ANE science), can also help us here. We see in the NT that Christ continually opposes the religious estabmishment's use of the law. He says things like, "you've heard it said... but I tell you...". If the princicple of accomodation has any practical application outside of science/faith issues, I think it can help here.

In the strange socio-political melieu that was the ANE, the standards of what constituded socially acceptable behavior were nothing like what we expect today. But whether we like it or not, this is the culture that God called his people out from, and the journey of moral evolution from "eye for an eye" to "turn the other cheek" was long and slow.

Christ confirmed this "upward" trajectory of God's revelation by clarifying many of these difficult passages from the OT. For example, look at his attitude toward divorce and polygamy compared to that of Moses.

All of this is to say that if we hold to an incarnational view of scripture (fully inspired by God and yet fully written by men), then we have no choice but to accept some "progression" of the moral law and understand the trajectory that takes us from "ancient standards" (code of Hammaurabi and ANE wisdom literature) to a more Christ-centered (do unto others) application.

On a political aside (and I haven't put a whole lot of thought into this) this view has already effected my attitude towards abortion. While I absolutely agree that abortion is as morally repungnant to God as slavery, I also have to recognize that if God was willing to tolerate (and even regulate) slavery to allow his people to develop morally to a point where they can set aside such "primitive" behaviors, then what does that mean for Roe v. Wade today?

If Abortion was outlawed tomorrow, then what? Does anybody think it would stop? Of course not. The problem is not the law, but people's hearts. As long as we live in a society where people put themselves in situations that result in unwanted prgenancies and feel they have no other way out but to murder the only innocent party involved in the situation (the fetus), abortions will take place whether they are legal or not.

Making it illeagal at this point only complicates the situation. Are we really prepared to throw teenage mothers and doctors in jail over this? Do we want an underground abortion market? If all of the pro-life energy and resources spent on trying to effect political change was diverted into actually helping unwed mothers out of difficult circumstances, we could really start to turn things around.

At this point, I would rather see to it that Roe V. Wade becomes the most useless law on the books than to drive the abortion problem underground where self-rigteous Christians can pat themselves on the back after Church on Sunday for winning hollow political victory that didn't help save even one unborn child.

-GJG

Steve Martin said...

Hi Gordon,

Excellent comment. Thanks. I appreciate your candor. Hope it doesn’t negatively affect your book sales :-).

Your comment actually reminds me of the sermon our pastor preached this past Sunday on the Syrian commander Naaman being healed by the prophet Elisha. After being healed, Naaman decided to worship the God of Israel. But before leaving he made 2 requests of Elisha (see 2 Kings 5: 17-18)

17 "If you will not [take my gifts]," said Naaman, "please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD.

18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master [the king of Syria] enters the temple of Rimmon [the Syrian god] to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this."

He was asking that:

a) He be allowed to take soil from Israel so that he could properly worship Israel’s God. In the ancient near east, all gods were local, political gods that ruled their own lands. Naaman didn’t (yet) understand that the Hebrew God was no local god, and that his new God couldn’t care less where you were when you worshiped him.

b) That he be forgiven for attending the temple of the Syran god with his master the King and go through the rituals required of his office as commander.

Elisha’s answer was “Go in Peace”. Elisha didn’t try to correct him on his understanding of the Hebrew God & where he could be worshiped. And he didn’t condemn him for not abandoning the pagan religious functions required of him. Many times the Israelites were condemned for just this. But somehow, God meets us where we are, and doesn’t necessarily demand the same “morals” from everyone. Our God seems downright relativistic at times.

Gordon J. Glover said...

Steve, that's why I posted it on your blog and not mine! Like I said, I haven't put near enough study into this idea.

But I really liked your example! I hadn't considered that one before. Or what about how God repeatedly makes reference to other gods, not as in "these other god's are not real..." but as in "do not put these other gods before me..." Or when Moses is facing Pharoah, he doesn't try and convince him that the Hebrew god is the only God, but that he is more mighty than the Egyptian gods and they are trivial compared to Yahweh. Of course, we know from the bulk of Scripture that there is only one God, but it is interesting even here how God uses the polytheistic lexicon of the ANE to set himself apart from the "other gods".

Now back to your original topic: I just got a newsletter from an organization that I used to support called the Chalcedon Foundation (R.J. Rushdoony). Here is the Title:

"It is a modern heresy that holds that the law of God has no meaning nor any binding force for man today. It is an aspect of the influence of humanistic and evolutionary thought on the church, and it posits an evolving, developing God."

Apparently we are part of the problem. The first sentence of the text is:

"For the Bible-believing Christian, evolution is nearly a form of profanity. Since we begin with God as creator, the idea of evolutionary development for creation is heretical."

Well, I too begin with God as creator, but then I look to the creation itself to figure what process he used to carry out this incredible task, and evolution wins that contest by a long shot. I wonder if these people ever go outside?

-GJG

Thomas Booher said...

It seems to me that this article for the most part does not address the issue that it supposedly sees in Hill's article, at least based on the citation given from that article:

"This indifference and utter accidentalness [of natural selection] in the origination of living things is unnerving. It proposes that everything is relative, that nothing under the sun — least of all the human race — is special in any way."

I don't see Hill arguing in the cited statement that the evolutionary process of natural selection in and of itself leads to moral relativism. It is rather that the nature of evolutionary processes, regardless of what bearing they have on the moral outlook of its product, if any, contain premises that leads to moral relativism. It is not that natural selection makes humans morally relative beings, but that the (evolved) human takes a look around and concludes that natural selection as a mechanism has in fact made him a product that is at bottom no different from daffodils, flounders, and pigeons.

As such, it IS alarming and provides no philosophical reason to accept one's moral beliefs over another's. If we are accidentally the product of non-personal forces that have no moral agenda, regardless of whether it is possible or not for those forces to produce anything with a moral conscience, the fact of the non-personal character and accidental activity of those forces must drive the human product to conclude that he is no more or less important or significant than anything else in the universe. The question then is, Who is right and who is wrong about how I behave? And that is not even a relevant initial question because the human product has to first ask, Is there any right or wrong at all, because if there is, evolutionary theory doesn't point it out? From there it is any easy step, if not a logical one, to conclude that from the perspective of morality, it just doesn't matter, it's all relative.

Thomas Booher said...

I realize also that if one is a theistic evolutionist, he does believe there is a personality behind natural selection, and that there is no accidentalness involved. At that point, it is a question of biblical hermeneutics of Genesis. But it is not a hermeneutical issue related to Genesis only but other parts of the Bible, most notably Paul's view of the two Adams and their roles as representative heads and the nature of their union with those whom they represent (Romans 5). It is the sin of the ONE man which leads to condemnation for all whom he represents (i.e., the WHOLE human race) that is contrasted to the obedience of the one Man which leads to justification for all those whom he represents (i.e, those chosen before the foundation of the world, Eph 1:4). This affirms both the historicity of Adam as well as the unity of the whole human race with him. Evolution contends that the human race has not descended from a single human, such as Adam. A theistic evolutionist may hold to the historicity of Adam, but not likely the descent of all humans from Adam.

Gary said...

I do not understand how Christians can claim that the Bible's morality is superior to evolutionary humanism. Have they read the first five books of the Old Testament?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i3mX0YRrjM