Evolutionary Psychology

  Richard Dawkins, the flamboyant British biologist, has offered a genetic explanation for President Clinton's alleged foibles with les femmes. Our evolutionary ancestors were harem-builders, like seals, Dawkins explains, instead of monogamous, like Canada geese. Any male monopolizing power also monopolized the females, thus ensuring the survival of his genes. According to Dawkins, Clinton's behavior is simply a fossilized remnant from our genetic past. There you have it. Ken Starr can pack up and go home. After all, who can indict a man's genes? Well, Dawkins' "Just-So" story may be good for a chuckle. But reducing human behavior to genetics is serious business these days. The latest fad is an up-dated version of sociobiology known as evolutionary psychology, which seeks explanations for human behavior in the evolution of our genes. Evolutionary psychology has become popular because it promises to fill a gap in the Darwinist worldview: the need for a workable morality. Ever since Darwin, many have recognized that evolution leads to moral nihilism. For example, Cornell biologist William Provine, himself a loyal Darwinist, acknowledges that Darwinism implies "no free will" and "no ultimate foundation for ethics." But we all experience the angst of facing moral choices, and so evolutionists keep going back to the drawing board, hoping to fit morality into the picture. Evolutionary psychology is the latest attempt. It claims that by examining our evolutionary history, we can identify which behaviors have been selected for their adaptive value. These provide the basis for a genuinely scientific morality. Does this new theory succeed in rescuing evolution from moral nihilism? Not for a moment. For example, any behavior practiced anywhere can be judged to have survival value—after all, it has survived—including behavior widely considered immoral. Take a closer look at Dawkins' argument, where he explains "harem building" as a product of natural selection. Sensing that his readers might take this as justification for immorality, Dawkins confides that he himself has made the "un-Darwinian personal decision" to be "deliberately monogamous." But if the Darwinian process provides a moral guide, why should anyone need to make "un-Darwinian" decisions? Contradictions like these make hash of efforts to derive morality from biology—and Christians need to press the point in our classrooms and living rooms. In an era dogged by concerns about declining morality and social decay, it offers the soothing promise of a morality buttressed by the certitude of science. Make no mistake. The goal of evolutionary psychology is utterly radical: to replace traditional religious morality with a new scientific morality. The strategy is to debunk traditional morality by reducing it to genetic self-interest. Evolutionary psychology demonstrates that there is an inexpungable imperialism in Darwinian naturalism—a compulsion to reduce all society to material mechanisms. Just as Darwinist theory in biology aims to replace divine design with natural processes, so in ethics it aims to replace revealed morality with a naturalistic morality. One hundred years ago, Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper argued that Christians are not up against individual theories, we are up against comprehensive worldviews. The only sure defense is to frame Christianity as an equally comprehensive worldview. Only then will genetic "Just-So" stories be relegated to the story books, where they belong.  


Chuck Colson



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