Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism

Mark Vuletic

Assertion

Evolution was the basis for slavery.

Analysis

I. Moral neutrality of science

Philosopher Philip Kitcher correctly points out that evolution, like all good scientific theories, is morally neutral:

Various people have appealed to the theory of evolution to lend respectability to their appalling moral views...But this fact says very little about evolutionary theory itself. Virtually any morally neutral, or even morally good, doctrine can be misused for evil purposes. (Kitcher 1982:196)

II. Argument form would undermine Christianity

Creationists, most of whom are fundamentalist Christians, should be able to understand the point by considering some of the horrendous moral doctrines others have justified with Christian doctrine, and asking whether or not this means that Christianity must therefore be evil or incorrect:

The most popular doctrine for use in rationalizing evil and immoral actions has surely been Christianity. There is a long record of brutalities and atrocities perpetrated in the name of Christ: the Crusades, the persecution of the Huguenots, periodic waves of anti-Semitism, sporadic witch burnings, the Inquisition, 300 years of Irish "troubles"; the list could go on and on. Add to this the explicit racism of some contemporary Christian sects, the repressive moral doctrines imposed by the Church at many times in the past, the denials of justice and human rights in the name of the "divine right of Christian princes."

Yet although the Christian Church has a checkered history, it is evident that Christians can claim—quite justifiably—that the evils result from perversions of religious doctrine. Evil or misguided men have twisted the Gospel to evil ends...But if charity ought to be extended to the Christian doctrine, then it is equally appropriate for evolutionary theory. Both the Bible and evolutionary theory can be misread and their principles abused. (Kitcher 1989:197-198)

III. Pennock sums it up nicely

Philosopher Robert Pennock explains that

The evil of slavery was perpetrated long before the theory of evolution ever arose. Certainly evolutionary theory itself does not justify slavery, and Darwin himself was an adamant abolitionist who wrote: "How weak are the arguments of those who maintain that slavery is a tolerable evil!" Sadly, among the most common proslavery arguments were those made by Christians who quoted Leviticus (25:44-46), 1 Timothy (6:1), and a variety of other scriptural passages to show that slavery was endorsed by the Bible. Indeed, creationists should know that it was once common to cite Genesis (9:27), in which the righteous Noah curses his son Ham and his descendants to be slaves, as the "creation story" of slavery. (Pennock 1999:315-316).

References

Kitcher P. 1982. Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Pennock RT. 1999. Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Last updated: 22 Feb 2016

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