Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Moral Defense of Evolution; Or,
Why Creationism is a Highly Immoral Stance on Life in General...

I would first like to apologize for this not happening on Saturday as was originally proposed: I was dealing with--well, let's just say a "stomach thing" and spare you all the details, shall we?
First off, let me be clear on this: What I want to do is make a positive argument for evolution, not necessarily against creationism. After all, it is hard to do the one without doing the other, but I am going to make a concerted effort to keep this about evolution's positives, not creationism's severe lack.

With that said, we must first lay out what it is exactly that I mean by "moral." "Morality" is usually tied into a religious frame, the underlying rationale being "all good things come from god." Hence, for anything to be labeled moral or immoral, it must automatically be framed by and for (and sometimes against) religion. Morality, of course, has no such qualms--it need not be a "religious" thing than a "nonreligious" thing; morality, simply put, is a set of rules or norms for the "right" way of behaving in a society of human beings (underlined words are key). In other words, when speaking of anything in moral terms, it must be viewed as that for which it is: What we decided, as a society, was best for the society, and the individual inhabitants of that society. And while "moral concepts" could be wedded to religious tenants and doctrines, it is not necessary nor is it fundamental to the concept.

What then could I possibly mean by a "moral defense" of evolutionary theory? you may be wondering. What does a science about the diversity of life on the planet have to do with "doing the right thing" in "a society of human beings"?

Well, I'm glad you asked... And if you didn't ask, take the above as what you should have asked... Moral arguments are not relevant to the historical evidence of evolution, nor to the predictive power of the theory of evolution, but by suppressing or undermining knowledge of biology with "creationism," medical progress is impeded, as you will see below. And that means death, suffering, and disease that might have been prevented; thus, creationism should be judged as morally evil.
Evolutionary theory, as noted above, is the science devoted to the diversity of life on the planet, and how that diversity came to be, nothing more, nothing less. (And before you go off on a tangent about the meaning of "theory" and how it relates to science, see here) It does not speak to origin of life at all, nor does it speak to "creators" in any way, shape or form (that is strictly for philosophical and quasi-philosophical circles...). Be that as it may, many rabid bible readers like to force upon evolution much more than it is in the hopes of waylaying the theologically inconvenient facts about evolution, so far as to try to equate a lack of scientific study, scientific research, and scientific facts known as "Intelligent Design" or "Creationism" with an overwhelming host of scientific study, scientific research, and scientific facts known as "The Theory of Evolution," so much so that they demand it be taught in American classrooms during science and biology classes. And we must ask, is that right? Is that moral?

The short answer is: No! Creationism shouldn't be given equal time and attention in school as, not only is it a horse of a different color (not to mention world), but it's not science, and it would be completely immoral to pretend it was so.

The long answer goes like this: No! (Don't worry--long answer continues in next paragraph...)

The long answer goes something like this:
  • ID'ers and creationists say that evolutionary science is dangerous, and leads to all kinds of immorality, and that it should not be taught in schools (or taught in such a way as to make it seem like "a guess" and watered down to nothing more than "maybes" and "far-flung" possibilities). In effect, this would mean not only less children going into the scientific fields of biology and medicine, as well as other evolutionary-based sciences, but that the public at large will grow up ignorant of the basics of science and biology.
  • DNA and genome-based treatments and medicines rely on the facts of evolution--its methods, practical applications, and its general knowledge--to fight infectious diseases, develop vaccines, new therapies and treatments... This list could go on forever! DNA mapping sequences don't just happen, you know. And neither do vaccines and medicines. All of the research and time spent on developing these medicines to save lives are based on the very real, very factual evolutionary sciences. Thus, evolutionary science (and by default, the theory of evolution) are moral sciences taking moral actions, saving human lives, treating human problems, making human lives better.
  • To deny and prevent the use of the evolutionary sciences will prevent and harm humanity as a whole, not only knowledge-wise, but in the very scary realm of disease, pestilence, and death--a very immoral position which places humanity in jeopardy from future problems and issues relating to virus's, bacterium, and genetically destructive mutations.
  • Therefore, if we reduce the ability of sciences to cure, prevent, or treat human causes of suffering over "theologically important" views, an immoral and deadly position has been staked.
  • Ergo, to support evolutionary facts and discoveries, and opposing false sciences based on theological criteria, is the right and moral thing to do.
Arguably, the only thing creationism has brought to bear in the realm of disease-fighting is prayer--prayer which has lead to the deaths of hundreds of people throughout history, most recently a poor 11-year-old Wisconsin girl, who's parents decided she didn't need a doctor for her diabetes, just prayer. (From the article: [Everest Metro Police Chief Dan] Vergin said an autopsy determined the girl died from diabetic ketoacidosis, an ailment that left her with too little insulin in her body, and she had probably been ill for about 30 days, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness. The girl's parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, attributed the death to "apparently they didn't have enough faith," the police chief said. They believed the key to healing "was it was better to keep praying. Call more people to help pray," he said...) You won't find the term "diabetic ketoacidosis" in any book of the bible, and we can certainly see that prayer doesn't do people a lot of good when it comes to the moral implications of this story: You simply cannot rail against the evils of science and modern society without creating very dangerous ignorance.

Evolution is the central underpinning, the central truth of which all biology is understood and revealed (and by which all of medicine is based upon). To remove evolution from classrooms--indeed, to say creationism is somehow equal to or greater than evolution--would be like saying that biology itself is somehow unimportant, or even false! It would be much like if creationists got upset about the way math works, especially in regards to addition (but claimed no real issue with subtraction, multiplication, or division) all because of a passage in which god claimed he made two plus two equal five: Whether or not they had a problem with the other three basics of math wouldn't matter, because they would in effect be rendering all of mathematics as somehow "false" because it was theologically inconvenient! And while we could take the time to explain how an engineer builds an automobile based on certain premises, the least of which includes two plus two equaling four, not five, but I think you get the picture: Saying that math is false based on the bible is a stupid thing to say, just like saying evolution is false for the same reasons.

The truth of evolution is what has kept most of them alive today (a moral quandary of sorts, if you ask me), and to try to somehow negate facts to suit your "religious freedom" not only is insulting to all science and medicine as we know it today, but an injustice to any type of "moral stance" religion tries to make. After all, it was not a god or a devil which came up with cancer, AIDS, or polio: just an algorithm known by us as evolution. And it was evolution which also allowed us to fight, prevent, and sometimes cure these very ailments, plus many more.

And that is a very moral thing indeed.


Lui said...

That was superb.

Kel said...

Sorry...I don't have the energy to read your post right now. Too many words for my tired mind. BUT I did just get "The God Delusion" which is new to paperback. I think you'd love it, if you haven't read it yet. You should just start referring others to pages in that book and you'd have more free time to post about ghosts. :)

Sylvia said...

(Merge Mom, Merge!!!) Blog Ja, Blog!
Love ya
ps post new blog for my reading pleasure, please

Lui said...

That was superb.