Causing no little consternation as of late is a recent article in the Science section of the Sunday Times Online which chronicles the apparent link between the evolutionary (and once revolutionary) ideas of Charles Darwin, and the propensity for violence among youth.
The article in question, Charles Darwin and the children of the evolution, by BBC journalist Dennis Sewell suggests that a number of high school killers, specifically Columbine killer Eric Harris, and Finnish shooter Pekka-Eric Auvinen were motivated by Darwin’s idea of natural selection, however twisted their understanding of this idea was.
Another recent link was made from Darwinism to violent behavior in the pages of the science journal Nature. There author James Pusey explains the foundational role Darwinism played in the mega-murderous regime of China’s Mao. Most of this isn’t particularly surprising; I have written myself about the direct connection between Darwin and the early 20th century ideas about eugenics that led to so many deaths.
And of course is the same sort of argument that got Ben Stein in trouble over a year ago when he made it in the Intelligent Design documentary ‘Expelled’, which generated heaps of derision on Stein from the atheist/evolutionist circles. And the anger over these current articles is coming from the same quarters. Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago Professor of Ecology and Evolution (and not surprisingly atheist apologist) bemoans the connection Sewell makes between Darwin and bad behavior , and points out atheists are capable of being moral too:
Apparently Sewell hasn’t heard about the secular origin of morality, or the fact that, as even many theologians admit, we cannot philosophically ground right and wrong on divine fiat. And what’s wrong with accepting one’s morality as “matter of personal choice”? Isn’t it more admirable to act out of reasoned principles of morality than out of fear of eternal immolation for disobeying the Sky Dictator?
All of this rather begs the question about whether or not evolutionary theory is true; obviously if that is the case, then it is what it is, whatever morality it provokes. This being said, if evolution does provoke such behavior, then it perhaps deserves a scrutiny that other scientific explanations, less directly related to human behavior, might garner. Whatever the realities of dark matter for example, its existence is highly unlikely to incite dark behavior.
Beyond this though I think evolutionists wrongly deny, or are simply don’t realize that evolution is more than a mere scientific theory, even while they utilize it as a basis for their own metaphysical beliefs in agnosticism or atheism. Coyne exemplifies this when he says sarcastically in his response to the article, “I hadn’t realized that Darwinism was a “world-view.” Silly me — all along I thought it was just a theory meant to explain the development and diversity of life.”
Of course even a casual observer realizes evolution is both, and as much as there is dispute over evolution between various interests, I think the primary dispute comes down to the worldview evolution seems to suggest.
On one hand, narrowly understood evolution is a comprehensive theory composed of various natural events – mutations, natural selection, adaptation, speciation, etc., some more readily observable than others. The totality of these events is believed to be responsible for the origination of all life on earth – however that is not all evolution says about us as humans.
Because of evolution’s presumed critical role in the origin of humans, and all that defines us – our minds, our societies, our behaviors, our concepts of right and wrong behaviors – evolution forms a metanarrative, or a comprehensive explanation of human knowledge and experience. In short it claims to tell us what we are and how we came to be what we are, and as much as it does this it forms a basis for acting according to that narrative.
The very fact that strong evolutionists so consistently cling to a particular metaphysic (agnosticism or atheism) and so consistently cite evolution as the foundation of that belief demonstrates how evolution serves as a metanarrative. So it isn’t a great leap to consider that behaviors provoked by strongly held evolutionary beliefs might in turn be consistent under similar circumstances.
In fact, one might say it is obvious as the beak on a Galapagos finch.