Moral Implications of Creation/Evolution From isaak@aurora.com (Mark Isaak) MessageID 1993

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Moral Implications of Creation/Evolution From isaak@aurora.com (Mark Isaak) Message-ID <1993Aug25.172201.19757@aurora.com> 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 personal change. 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. CONCLUSION 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, isaak@aurora.com Believe me, than in half the creeds." - Tennyson

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