Of Rats and Men

  A recent New York Times story described an experiment involving two colonies of rats: The first were bred for tameness. The second colony, “bred from exactly the same stock,” was wired to be aggressive. The results were described as the “sweetest cartoon animal” and “the most evil super-villain.” Whereas the tame rats poked their noses through the cage to be petted, the others “hurl themselves screaming toward their bars.” The researchers’ goal in breeding lovable and villainous rats was to understand how human beings domesticated previously wild animals like horses and cattle. They hypothesize that the characteristic that made domestication possible, tameness, is genetic in origin. Breeding tame and aggressive rat colonies is a step toward identifying what they call a “tameness gene,” which they presume is “the same in all species of domesticated mammals.” If the article had stopped there, it would have been interesting in a National Geographic sort of way. But they then went on to speculate that humans might possess such a “tameness gene,” and that this gene contributed to our “domestication.” The theory goes that those with the “tameness gene” “penalized or ostracized individuals who were too aggressive.” Let’s set aside the obvious objection that there’s no proof that such a gene exists in rats, much less humans. The bigger problem, as one science writer put it, is the idea that human civilization is the product of a hypothetical “nice rat, nasty rat,” or in this case, “nice human, nasty human,” gene. This experiment would have come as no surprise to the late philosopher David Stove. He would have regarded the idea that we are nothing but the sum of our genes and the dangerous belief that we can fix our race by genetic engineering as yet another one of Darwinism’s “unbelievable claims.” Stove’s critique of these claims was recently published in a book titled Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution. Stove, who called himself a man of “no religion,” acknowledged Darwin’s “great genius” and admitted that natural selection had great explanatory power when it came to “sponges, snakes and flies.” However, Stove regarded Darwinism as a “ridiculous slander to human beings.” Flesh-and-blood people do not act in any ways resembling what the Darwinian dogma says they should. For instance, natural selection dictates that “every organism has as many descendants as it can.” Stove asks, “Do you know anyone of whom that’s true?” Likewise, Darwin insisted that natural selection would “rigidly destroy” any variation that would hurt its possessor “in the struggle for life.” Stove replied, “start with the letter ‘A’: Abortion, Alcoholism, or even Altruism.” Are any of these “variations” being “rigidly destroyed”? These are two of the many ways Darwinism gets humans wrong. Yet, as the Times story illustrates, this dismal track record has not stopped Darwinists from slandering humans (whether by reducing our vices and virtues to genetic determinism or by comparing us to laboratory rats).
For Further Reading and Information
Today’s BreakPoint offer: Subscribe today to BreakPoint WorldView magazine! Call 1-877-322-5527. Nicholas Wade, “Nice Rats, Nasty Rats: Maybe It’s All in the Genes,” New York Times, 25 July 2006. David Stove, Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution (Encounter, 2006). Benjamin Wiker, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists (InterVarsity, 2002). William Dembski, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design (InterVarsity, 2004).


Chuck Colson



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