‘Evolution made me do it!’
Making excuses for sin is as old as Eden. The 1960s American comedian Flip Wilson satirized a common (especially in the past) excuse with his trademark quip, ‘The devil made me do it.’
Today, as the new fad of ‘evolutionary psychology’ takes root, Flip might be saying, ‘Evolution made me do it.’ Evolutionary explanations are highly fashionable for all manner of sin. Not long ago, Time magazine’s cover story proclaimed, ‘Infidelity? It’s in your genes.’ The story purported to give ‘reasons’ why our alleged evolutionary history has programmed us to cheat on our spouses.
But it’s not just adultery. Cheating at school, or ruthlessness in business, is easy to ‘explain’ in evolutionary terms — survival of the most cunning and merciless ape-man or hunter-gatherer cave-dweller. But the problem for evolution’s ‘true believers’ is, it’s just as easy to find a story to explain the opposite behaviour. ‘Caring and sharing’ ape-men enhance the whole group’s survival, and so such genes are more likely to be passed on, even if only in one’s siblings or cousins.
Homosexuality is another area in which the fad for evolutionary explanations has taken root. The research work suggesting a so-called ‘gay gene’ is now regarded as suspect by just about everyone. But when it was fashionable, homosexual tendencies were regarded as hard-wired into our DNA.1 In our evolutionized culture, this meant that an evolutionary explanation for homosexuality had to be sought, too.
Finding one was a real brain-teaser — perverting the reproductive act is hardly likely to get your genes passed on. But never underestimate the ingenious ways in which reality can be moulded to fit a world-view. Someone soon postulated that in caveman days, having homosexual uncles meant that there were more unattached adults around to help grandparents raise the kids while Dad was off wrestling sabre-toothed tigers with the ‘regular guys’. Thus, the genes in that whole group were more likely to get passed on, including any ‘homosexual genes’ carried by non-homosexual relatives.
As has often been pointed out, however, a theory which is so flexible that it can be used to ‘explain’ almost any outcome, in reality explains nothing. That’s why this ‘evolutionary psychology’ fad makes some psychiatrists remember when their profession, and society’s intelligentsia, were in the grip of Freudian2 explanations for virtually all behaviour. The symptoms are the same: refusing to be guided by the Word of God, people sought an alternative, all-encompassing explanation for the discordant feelings and behaviour shared by humanity since the Fall.
Freud’s framework seemed all-powerful, explaining everything about behaviour; till some started to realize that this was in fact its weakness. Today, Freudianism is widely regarded as an example of pseudoscience. Like evolution, everything ‘seemed to fit’ because of the ‘world-view glasses’ through which all the evidence was interpreted.3
Rape is the latest and one of the most serious sins to be assigned an evolutionary explanation. Despite the protests of many (including definitely non-Christian objectors) the view that rape is ‘natural’ — to be avoided, certainly, but fully attributable to evolved instincts — is currently getting a strong world-wide hearing.
By undermining the idea of absolute standards for behaviour (nobody made us, so nobody owns us, thus nobody has a right to set any unchanging rules), evolutionary thinking has already had a devastating impact on our culture. Sadly, the rise of evolutionary psychology enhances this downward slide. What’s more, every time people see something ‘explained’ in evolutionary terms in a way that ‘makes sense’, they tend to see this as a further ‘proof’ for evolution itself. This becomes a powerfully self-reinforcing cycle of delusion.
Creation magazine is one of the most effective tools in a Christian’s armoury to help counter this trend. As it keeps spreading with your help, many people are seeing the fallacies of evolution. Many wake up with a jolt to the world as it really is; namely, that we are a fallen people, that sin is real — rebellion against a holy God — and that we desperately need the cleansing forgiveness of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
References and notes
- In a fallen world subject to mutational degeneration, there perhaps may be some genetic predisposition to certain types of sin (in preference to others). But even most ‘selfish gene’ enthusiasts stress that we are not robots in thrall to our genes. We may have impulses towards certain types of behaviour (childhood influences can also contribute to this), but we are ultimately responsible for the choices we make. Return to text.
- Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), a committed Darwinian, fathered ‘psychoanalysis’ with its heavy emphasis on sexuality, repressed unconscious drives, etc. Freudian terms include the Oedipus complex, id, ego, and superego. Return to text.
- Hunter gatherer blues, New Scientist 165(2227):50–51, February 26, 2000. Return to text.