Using Natural Selection as an Excuse

This lesson involved a lot of ideas about morality and how it’s affected by our origins. (This is a reaction to the January 31 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

This quarterly has mentioned a few times that some people do cruel things and justify their actions by saying that they’re imitating natural selection. We saw that especially with the Nazis, but some other people must still hold that view.

But it doesn’t make sense. It’s just an excuse for people with power to dominate those who are less fortunate. Why? Because natural selection doesn’t directly support cruelty. It just says that those who are able to reproduce pass on their genes; it doesn’t say “be cruel.” Since humans have free choice, a cruel person is choosing to hurt those who don’t have the means to defend themselves. People can choose to dominate and hurt and exploit, whereas Nature can’t make those choices.

And when people do that, there’s no natural selection involved, since many immoral actions have nothing to do with anyone’s genes being passed on. So it’s just an excuse. People can say, “Look at Nature doing that brutal stuff, so I’m going to do the same thing.”

But is that even logical? How do we know that we should imitate Nature at all? We don’t. There’s no logical reason why people with free choice should imitate Nature.

Morality from every culture all around the world is based on the idea that benevolence comes first. Benevolence means being good toward other people, seeking to benefit other people. That’s been agreed upon as the foundation of morality for millennia, and suddenly people think that because of natural selection we should just throw that all away?

Also, the logic of saying that you should imitate Nature admits that there are shoulds in life. If that’s true, then humans are called on to follow certain rules or ideals. And it makes sense, then, to follow the rules that work the best, that have the most wisdom in them.

And doing good to other people, no matter what their status or their power to defend themselves, has been accepted for millennia in every culture as the first rule. It makes a lot more sense than being cruel to less fortunate people. That has no good support. What successful culture puts cruelty first?

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

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