Thursday, February 28, 2008

Evolution's Logical Conclusion

In this month's Breakpoint Worldview Magazine, Roberto Rivera has an article entitled "Playing God." In it, he discusses the recent difficulty encountered by Dr. James Watson, the Nobel prize winning scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA. Apparently Dr. Watson has encountered significant problems lately because he has clearly articulated the only logical conclusion possible for those who believe in evolution - that there is no reason to believe individuals and races are actually equal in intelligence or in worth.

The article clarifies some of what got Watson into trouble:

The furor started with an interview Watson gave to the Sunday Times (UK). Watson told the paper that he was “inherently gloomy” about the future of Africa because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.” While we want to believe in human equality, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

Similarly, in the book that he was promoting in the Sunday Times interview, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science, Watson writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.”

You see, if you believe in evolution, there is no way to justify the belief that humans are of equal worth. If evolution is true, why shouldn't one person be smarter, or wiser, or "further evolved," than another? In fact, the inequality of people would seem to be a logical conclusion of evolution - of course some people are further evolved than others. This helps to explain why so many early evolutionists advocated eugenics ("the proposed improvement of the human species by encouraging or permitting reproduction of only those people with genetic characteristics judged desirable" - MSN Encarta dictionary), sterilization of those considered "unfit," and even euthanasia. Those who believe in evolution are hard pressed to explain how people are equally valuable, since the theory of evolution requires improvement over time; thus some people would naturally be of more worth than others. (Please understand: I'm not saying that all evolutionists are prejudiced; I'm saying that if they are intellectually consistent, there can be no other conclusion for them.)

If people were created by one Creator, it makes sense that we should be outraged by Dr. Watson's statements; African humans are just as human - and just as intelligent - as anyone else. But for those who believe in evolution, why shouldn't Dr. Watson be right? Why should we "anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically"? I personally find Dr. Watson's statements offensive, but I must give him credit for being intellectually consistent. He believes evolution has continually led to improvement over time; the logical conclusion that some people are better ("further evolved") than others is inescapable.

The only logical basis for concluding that all people are of equal value is the theory of special creation. If in fact, we were all created by the same Designer, and we all came from the same original human being, then we are all one kind, and we all have equal worth. Skin color, facial features, cultural preferences - all these are just superficial differences, and have nothing to do with the inherent worth created in all of us by our Creator.

13 comments:

Shawna said...

Try reading THE LANGUAGE OF GOD written by Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project. He is a world leading scientist and a man of unshakeable faith. He paints a brilliant picture of how a person of faith can also believe in evolution.

Melinda S. said...

One should of course point out that in that case, there is no reason to suppose that white Europeans are at the top, either. Asians used to say we were further down the evolutionary scale, as evidenced by the fact that we grow far more hair, eg.

Also, intellectual honesty would lead one to conclude that there is no basis for supposing that random chance would lead to real REASON, either, nor the ability to actually be able to figure things out properly.

Marcy Muser said...

Shawna,

I'll look into that book. I understand how people of faith can believe in evolution, at least in "theistic evolution" or Intelligent Design. What I don't see is how an evolutionist who is intellectually honest can justify the belief that all humans are equally worthy, or that all races are equally capable or intelligent. Evolution makes those things extremely unlikely; if things have always been moving from disorder to order, and living things have been progressing to ever higher orders of living things, it stands to reason that some humans will indeed be superior to others.

Renae said...

Yes, each individual is valuable because he is created by a loving God. However, I'm don't think we all have the same intelligence. Webster's 1828 defines intelligence as "understanding, skill" and "a spiritual being; as a created intelligence." (I'll have to think about the second definition. In that sense, perhaps, we do have the same intelligence. We are all created as spiritual beings.)

I'm *not* agreeing with Dr. Watson that because of someone's skin color they are less intelligent. Individuals have different skin color, talents, and interests. Individuals think differently. We are not all equal in every sense of the word. We are however all valuable. And I agree that evolution cannot answer that foundational truth.

Marcy Muser said...

Renae,

I never intended to say - and I hope I didn't come across as saying - that all individuals are equally intelligent. Rather, what I meant to say was that no one race is more or less intelligent than any other race. Race, in fact, has nothing to do with intelligence - because all races were created originally in the image of God. Evolution, on the other hand, not only suggests but practically demands that some races and people groups be superior and others inferior.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Kimmer said...

"some races and people groups be superior and others inferior"

Two issues I have here.
#1. Inferior and superior at what, particularly? People in general (a race of people, if you will), develop the skills that they need in their lives.

#2. Race. Is "American" a race? Do people who live in a certain geographic area (and have for many generations) have more in common with each other than with those that they share a distant racial heritage?

I have to say, this post has been excellent brain fodder--it's gotten me thinking!

~ Lisa said...

Marcy, I just found your blog and have really enjoyed what I've read so far! What an encouragement you are! Thank you!

Marcy Muser said...

Kimmer,

I'm sorry to have been so long getting back to my blog. I'm afraid it's been a rather busy month. I appreciate your sticking with me, and I hope you will eventually see my response here. :)

"Inferior and superior at what, particularly? People in general (a race of people, if you will), develop the skills that they need in their lives."

As a creationist, I believe God created all people of equal worth. Individual people have different abilities and skills, of course; but ultimately a black person is just as valuable as a white person, and people with dark skin generally have intelligence and capabilities just as great as those of people with light skin. In fact, if you took any random group of black people or Hispanic people and tested them against any random group of white people or Asian people, it's my belief that you'd find their intelligence and abilities, overall, to be roughly equivalent.

Evolutionists are hard pressed to explain in evolutionary terms how human beings could be of equal value, because evolution demands that some characteristics have more value for preservation than others. Why, from an evolutionary perspective, shouldn't black people be of less value than white people? If "survival of the fittest" holds true, why wouldn't it be good for the white people, who have the intelligence to develop technologies to destroy those of "lesser intelligence," in fact wipe out black people? (This is precisely the perspective taken by Hitler.) Why shouldn't the "superior" people (primarily prosperous white people) encourage birth control, abortion, and forced sterilization among the "inferior"? (This was the position held by Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.)

Obviously I don't hold those positions, because I believe God created one man and one woman, and we are all descended from those two original people; thus we all have equal value.

"#2. Race. Is "American" a race? Do people who live in a certain geographic area (and have for many generations) have more in common with each other than with those that they share a distant racial heritage?"

You know, I can't answer that, because I believe we are all from one race - the human race - descended from the original two human beings created by God. Generally speaking I would agree with you - I think shared experience is far more significant than shared racial heritage. But I don't know how an evolutionist would answer that, given the importance of genetics to the evolutionary perspective. If in fact the worth of a person depends on their genetic ability to survive, as it does in an evolutionary scheme, then I think an evolutionist would have grounds say that your genetic heritage is what's really significant.

I recently ran across a quote from a prominent evolutionist (I believe it was Stephen Jay Gould, but I could be wrong), to the effect that he would fight strongly for survival of the fittest as our origin, but he would fight strongly against it as a moral basis. I think that illustrates the problem an evolutionist faces; he thinks it has been positive to this point in our evolution, but he is in a quandary when he considers what would happen if we tried to behave as if evolution would result in further progress now, especially in terms of human development.

I'm glad I got you thinking - that's one of the reasons I write. :)

Marcy Muser said...

Lisa,

Thanks so much for your kind words. Hopefully my prolonged absence hasn't kept you from checking in once in a while - sometimes I just get so busy I have to get my priorities back in line at home before I can blog again.

I hope to see you here again.

midmull said...

Hi Marcy,
Came across this post when following the link in one of your comments.

A few things I'd like to point out (as someone who believes in evolution, a libertarian atheist;)):

1) Biological evolution really doesn't play that big a role today anymore - it's just too slow. Let's look back a thousand years and compare that time to today - huge differences but in terms of biological change nothing much happened. Way too short. So really, "intelligence" as it is understood today doesn't have all that much to do with biological evolution. Eating lots of red meat, inventing technology, "education" - those all played significant roles rather than biological evolution.
2) I may be wrong here but I seem to remember that black skin is actually superior to white skin - not in the environment that white people "originally" live but in more general terms - able to absorb more sun rays, or something along those lines.
3) "n fact, if you took any random group of black people or Hispanic people and tested them against any random group of white people or Asian people, it's my belief that you'd find their intelligence and abilities, overall, to be roughly equivalent."
You'd be mistaken - as far as I remember, Asians score an average IQ of 105, white people 100 and black and Hispanics 95 and 90 respectively (don't know in which order). Obviously, that raises the whole question of whether or not IQ accurately reflects "intelligence".

4) Finally, the problem here really is what you define as "valuable". Ignoring for a moment that "race" really is a bad term to start with (outdate and such), it is accurate to assume that there might be differences in certain areas between different groups - e.g. in the average "IQ" - but that really doesn't say much about "value" as far as I'm concerned.

Apart from all that, I find the whole concept of "race" appalingly collectivist - and, as you rightly pointed out, the consequences drawn can be rather unpleasant.

Marcy Muser said...

Midmull,

Welcome - I'm glad you stopped by. Let me see if I can address some of your thoughts.

1) Keep in mind the reason that I started this post at all was the original article quoting Dr. James Watson. Apparently there are prominent scientists who would disagree with you about the significance of biological evolution today. In fact, if the human race has been around for 10,000 years or more, then evolution has been playing a part. If you believe in evolution, you simply have no grounds for believing that humans have not developed in such a way that some are inherently better than others. As for the invention of technology, wouldn't that automatically make the inventors "smarter" (and therefore, by evolutionary standards, better - more likely to survive) than those who didn't invent such technology?

2) I agree with you there. Black skin at least is less likely to sunburn, thus conferring some minor advantage in evolutionary terms, right? On the other hand, I think Dr. Watson is suggesting that other characteristics that go hand-in-hand with the skin color render white people better than black - a ridiculous assumption, to my way of thinking.

3) When I talk about "their intelligence and abilities," I'm not referring to IQ tests here. I realize that Asians and whites score better on IQ tests than black and Hispanics. But it's been fairly well established that IQ tests measure only certain aspects of intelligence. I specifically mentioned "intelligence and abilities" because I wanted to include much more than simply IQ tests. Physical ability, creativity, intellectual flexibility, abstract thought, ability to apply what is learned, artistic and musical ability, mechanical ability, agility, strength, and so much more should be included in what I'm discussing here. I just don't believe that any one racial group is superior overall to any other.

4) You're right - what is value? I started out my post by saying that the only logical conclusion possible for those who believe in evolution is "that there is no reason to believe individuals and races are actually equal in intelligence or worth." I believe the worth of a human being comes from their having been created in the image of God; thus all humans are equally valuable, whether they are unborn or healthy adults or elderly, whether they are handicapped or whole, whether they are strong or weak, whether they are Asian or white or black or Hispanic or Pacific Islander . . . OK, you get the idea. Our worth is intrinsic because we were specially created by God. As an atheist, you obviously don't believe that - thus, you must find a different way to define worth, whether intelligence or fitness to survive or physical strength or beauty or ??? And that is the struggle for all evolutionists, as far as I can see - you want to believe that all people are valuable and worthy (thus discrimination on the basis of race is wrong, for example), but you have no real basis for coming to that conclusion. You have the gut feeling that Dr. Watson's comments are unethical (and thus you agree, most likely, that he should indeed have lost his job), but you have no foundation from which to argue, because you've rejected the one foundation that establishes definitively that we are all equal.

Amber said...

There is no way to define “further evolved” since there could be more than one measure (intelligence, athleticism, social skills, artistic ability etc as well as less obvious traits such as disease immunity, fertility, and longevity). Eugenics is undesirable for an evolutionist because in the long run it would produce a less flexible population. Eugenics would do to humans what humans have done for centuries to our domesticated plants and animals. It would drastically decrease the variation in our population, making us more susceptible to disease and dangerously dependent on the current environment; we would be the best individuals for the current environment and thus unable to adapt to any changes. Because of the problem of defining what makes a superior individual, eugenics would necessarily ignore certain characteristics in favor of others. Thus it would be highly probable that we would inadvertently select out traits that could be useful to us in different circumstances than we are currently in. Natural selection on a large population works slowly enough that a truly homogeneous population is never achieved, and this is a good thing. In order for a population to adapt to a changing environment, it needs to have variation in its individuals. A population that is too uniform or specialized for its environment has a harder time coping with changes in that environment.

To an evolutionist, each individual is a unique combination of its parents’ genes and possibly a carrier of important new mutations. This unique genome could encode any number of advantages for the individual, most of which could be all but invisible without extensive testing. Thus there is no way to judge such an individual in evolutionary terms unless the individual is allowed to live its life and “try his luck” so to speak, and thus we are all equal in potential. Since science will never be able to predict a person’s contribution to society based only on their genome and since bacteria, viruses, and other aspects of the environment itself are all constantly changing (thus changing the environment we are trying to be best at), then any ideal that eugenics selects will almost inevitably lead to a less evolutionary fit population.

Marcy Muser said...

Amber,

You have given the best information I've seen yet on how an evolutionist deals with this issue. However, there's a problem with this logic, and it demonstrates that in fact you, like most other modern Americans, really don't believe in Darwinian evolution.

If evolution is true, then natural selection automatically "results in the survival of individuals or groups best adjusted to the conditions under which they live." Thus, if we select out the less well adjusted ones (meaning the ones who can't survive our selection process), then whatever is left over must of necessity be the best adjusted. You see, natural selection is a tautology: the fittest are those who survive and leave the most offspring, and those who survive and leave the most offspring are the fittest. This means eugenics couldn't possibly select out the less fit, because the ones who survive must (based on the definition of natural selection) be the fittest.

And incidentally, eugenics has historically NOT been undesirable for an evolutionist. People like Margaret Sanger (the founder of Planned Parenthood), Sir Francis Galton (Charles Darwin's cousin), Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and more recently Peter Singer (professor of bioethics at Princeton), have based their approval of involuntary sterilization, forced abortion, and infanticide on their belief in evolution.

"Eugenics is undesirable for an evolutionist because in the long run it would produce a less flexible population." But how can this be bad, according to your theory? The fact that a wolf is more likely to eat a black bird against the snow than a white one also results in a less flexible population - meaning the "less well adapted" one is eliminated - and according to evolution, that's good. So if we decide to sterilize the developmentally delayed, thus resulting in a less flexible population, but eliminating the less well adapted ones, that should also be good, right?

Besides, from an evolutionary standpoint, there is no difference between a human being and a blade of grass. Stalin, for example, used to say that killing 10 million Ukrainians was no different than mowing his lawn (since if evolution is true, both are only complex sets of chemicals which have assembled themselves by chance). Why should we differentiate between killing an unwanted or defective newborn baby, having a ham sandwich, and chopping down a tree?

You see, as good as your explanation sounds, it doesn't really hold water. I contend that killing humans is wrong because we are made in the image of God, not because it "reduces the flexibility of the population." After all, my chicken dinner also reduces the flexibility of the chicken population, and I don't believe that's wrong. And the paper I used to print a birthday card for my mother-in-law reduced the flexibility of the tree population, and I don't believe that's wrong either. There is something about human beings that is different and special, and THAT'S what makes eugenics wrong - and racism as well (which your argument doesn't address, since the way we treat those of other races - providing we don't kill them - doesn't reduce the flexibility of the population.)