Moral Implications of Creation/Evolution
From firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Isaak)
Many Creationist evangelists claim that teaching evolution promotes
a variety of evils, and that returning to the religion of creationism
is necessary to stem this trend. It is well past time that someone
examine such claims.
First, some disclaimers. I recognize that not everyone centers their
life around the subject of origins. Insofar as people look at other
things, this analysis won't apply to them. It deals only with the
influence of theories of origins on morals, however slight that
influence may be. In reality, the vast majority of people's morals
come from simply watching the people around them.
Also, I admit that my understanding of the Creationist position is
imperfect. It is based on the writings of Creationists in books,
newspapers, and USENET. These vocal Creationists probably aren't
representative of the lot, most of whom, I suspect, never give the
subject of origins a second thought.
ACQUISITION OF MORAL VALUES
Moral behavior requires, first, that you know right from wrong. This
is probably where the Creationists see their superiority. They have
the Bible, which, they claim, contains the inerrant answers to
questions of right and wrong. Even if the Bible is inerrant, this
claim rests on two unsupported premises--first, that moral values
don't change over time; and second, that their interpretation of the
Bible is inerrant. The first premise is questionable; the second is
obviously false, since different people use the same Bible to reach
opposing moral conclusions. [Slavery for instance--- d rice]
If you can't simply pluck ethics out of a book, then, where would
you get them? One might claim to get them from God himself. I've
seen many Creationists claim that evolution is evil because accepting
evolution is rejecting God. Perhaps they mean rejecting "the True
God," because there are obviously a lot of people who believe evolution
and accept God. Does getting ethics from the Creationists' "True" God
make one more moral? I've seen too many atrocities committed in the
name of God to give much value to that idea, and anyone who thinks
that their God is appropriate for everyone else is already displaying
an arrogance that makes me doubt the rest of their morals as well.
Any other method of deciding ethics will require making some
decisions. How can one be sure of making the right decisions? I
don't think anyone can do so perfectly. If we can't always be right,
though, at least we can head in that direction. This requires that
we examine our system of ethics and its implications, and that we
do so objectively. Such objective investigation is a hallmark of the
scientific method, not of Creationism. Creationism says that an
interpretation of the Bible is true and invariant; applying this to
morals would imply that bad values would never get corrected. (And
indeed, the Church has been notoriously slow in correcting its
abuses.) Over time, those people who have the scientific skills of
evolutionary scientists would tend to have the better values.
IMPLEMENTATION OF MORAL VALUES
Knowledge of moral values, however, is just part of the issue. The
more important part is one's behavior, i.e., how one puts that
knowledge into action. Regardless of how you think, it's how you
act that affects others. So now lets look at some of the things
required to put ideals into practice and to correct one's behavior.
* Belief that you can change bad habits;
Creationism implies that our moral nature is fixed. We were created
in God's image, and our sinfulness arose in the very first generation
of humans. Like our species itself, the nature of our species is
fixed. With such a belief, there is no reason even to think about
Change is basic to the theory of evolution, but that change applies
to species and not individuals, so I would say evolution is silent
on this issue.
* Awareness that some of your habits are "wrong";
The major obstacle which keeps people from recognizing their
weaknesses is ego, also known as pride or hubris. People don't
like to admit--even to themselves--that they are wrong.
Creationism is the belief that personal opinion, in the form of
religious conviction, is sufficient for one to declare how the
universe operates. To my mind, this is equivalent to saying that
one's opinions have precedence over the rest of the universe. This,
by definition, is hubris, and a great deal of it at that. Hubris is
a requirement for anyone who would knowingly accept Creationism.
Evolution, or rather science in general, concerns itself with
discovery and makes objectivity one of its ideals. Scientists must
always be aware that their answers come not from themselves, but
from the world around them. A good scientist constantly tries to
find holes in her/his ideas. These tools are the very ones you need
for honest self-judgment; these ideals are the antithesis of hubris.
* and, finally, Willingness to change.
Ego is also an obstacle in being willing to change bad habits. A
larger obstacle, though, is the fear of change. I don't see any
major differences between evolution and Creation affecting the
fear of change. Evolution talks about change more, but not in the
context of personal change. Creationists can assuage their fears
with trust in God and get social support from their churches, but
these benefits of religion have nothing to do with Creationism and
are available to evolutionists as well.
Creationism, in general, is morally inferior to a scientific approach
to origins because it gets its values from dogma rather than from an
open-minded decision-making process, because it discourages the idea
of personal change, and because it requires hubris in its adherents.
That's how I see it, anyway. I welcome other views.
Mark Isaak "There lives more faith in honest doubt,
email@example.com Believe me, than in half the creeds." - Tennyson