Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism

Mark Vuletic

Assertion

Evolution teaches that people are just animals.

Analysis

I. Just plain false

Evolution teaches no such thing. The evolutionary history of life does reveal that humans are animals in the sense that they are a branch in the kingdom Animalia, but it is only creationists who add the "just." Our origin, whether the opulent origin of creationism, or the humble origin of evolution, does not change who we are now. Although many creatures have strange and fantastic abilities, humans possess the most sophisticated powers of all—powers that rest largely in our advanced ability to reason. The fact that a distant ancestor of ours walked on all fours, and that a very, very, very distant ancestor might uncharitably be characterized as mere slime, does not efface Shakespeare or Newton from the history of our world. Scientists do sometimes use the word "animal" in a paraphyletic sense that differentiates us from the rest of Animalia, but that reason has nothing to do with creationism, and everything to do with the abilities we have evolved.

II. Evolutionary psychology

What about evolutionary psychology, which tries to use our animal origins to explain our behavior? Christianity teaches that we are all unregenerate sinners from birth, even before we have made a single choice. To try to explain how this can be, fundamentalists refer to our supposed descent from Adam and Eve, who fell from grace. Our sin presumably is passed on in some loose spiritual analogy to genetics. Put aside for the moment whether this is a good explanation; the point is that although fundamentals claim that this story helps us to understand why people behave immorally, they do not think that it justifies immoral behavior. Likewise, even if evolutionary psychologists explain immoral behavior by appealing to our animal roots, they are not thereby justifying that behavior. If anything, they are providing information that will help us to discuss moral issues intelligently and find realistic ways for us to become better. Nothing in evolutionary psychology denies humanity the power to overcome its deep evolutionary history, since we are not creatures of instinct alone, but also have the ability to reflect and reason.

Last updated: 22 Feb 2016

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