Morals decline linked to belief in evolution
Published: 5 July 2000; republished 21 October 2009(GMT+10)
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For years, many people have scoffed at any suggestion that the evils in society could be linked with the teaching of the theory of evolution. But new research has confirmed what Bible-believers have known all along—that the rising acceptance of Darwin’s theory is related to declining morality in the community.1,2
The research survey of 1535 people, conducted by the Australian National University, revealed that belief in evolution is associated with moral permissiveness. Darwin himself apparently feared that belief in evolution by the common man would lead to social decay. The survey showed that people who believed in evolution were more likely to be in favour of premarital sex than those who rejected Darwin’s theory. Another issue which highlighted the contrast between the effect of evolutionary ideas and that of biblical principles was that Darwinians were reported to be ‘especially tolerant’ of abortion.
In identifying the primary factors determining these differences in community attitudes, the author of the research report, Dr Jonathan Kelley, said: ‘The single most important influence after church attendance is the theory of evolution.’
While the newspaper report of the results referred to the moral influence of Darwinian theory on society as being surprising, the findings should not surprise Bible-believing Christians. However, many Christians may find disturbing Dr Kelley’s observation that, in relation to ‘the age-old conflict’ with evolution, the church and theologians ‘have made their peace with this issue much more than ordinary people have’.
The survey showed that about 45% of Australians doubted, or were not sure, if humans evolved via natural selection, as opposed to about 55% who thought this was definitely or probably true.
Addendum (21 October 2009)
Hong Kong correspondent Paul C. wrote:
I was wondering if I could get the link to the actual paper if you have it. This would be great to show some skeptical friends who refuse to acknowledge any link between darwinism and atheism. By the way I find your site a great inspiration for my Christian faith. Keep up the good work.
CMI’s Dr David Catchpoole responds:
When writing this article in 2000, I drew upon information provided in a brief report in The Australian newspaper (publication details provided in Footnote 1 in our article) which gave an overview of the researcher’s findings. The researcher, Jonathan Kelley, who was at that time stationed at the Australian National University, published his findings in this paper:
Kelley, J., Australians’ views about the theory of evolution, Australian Social Monitor 2(5):114–119, 1999.
I was unable to find any accessible copy online today. However, one can access online pdf scans of pp. 81-90 from a 2002 book by M.D.R. Evans and Jonathan Kelley, Religion, morality and public policy in international perspective, 1984-2002, (Federation Press, Leichhardt, Australia) in which the survey findings are discussed in a section: “6. Australians’ views about the theory of evolution”.3
E.g., some key extracts from dot points on pp. 89 answering the question “What about personal conduct — does acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution have any implications for personal moral beliefs?”:
“On pre-marital sex, Darwinians take a substantially more permissive view than do otherwise similar Australians who reject the theory of evolution.”
“As all prior research on the topic would lead us to expect, atheists and agnostics are more tolerant of abortion than are strong believers, and, even aside from the strength of their beliefs, church-goers are more opposed to abortion than are the unchurched. But, even aside from their religious views, Darwinians are especially tolerant of abortion.”
The section then ends (p. 90) by saying that “acceptance of a scientific [i.e. evolutionary] view of man’s origin does, as Darwin as well as many of his critics feared, have real implications for moral beliefs”.
And in the overall summary (p. 90) it says that “conflict over the theory of evolution is not just a simple issue of acceptance or rejection of a scientific thesis—as scientists generally view it—but also a dispute with a moral dimension, with implications for sexual morality, abortion, and similar issues.”
Some readers’ comments:
TM, Australia, 30 October 2009
Last time I read Gertrude Himmelfarb, she also indicated that the motor car is related to a decline in morals. But I don’t hear you calling for its abolition. Likewise, Kelley does not draw a causal relationship between evolution and morals. I’m not sure Dr Catchpoole has really understood the papers from which he quotes. It does not follow from the papers that reversing people’s views on evolution will effect an ascent in morality. This article is either simplistic misunderstanding or verging on the dishonest. Not what I’d hope to get from my CMI, especially when trumpeting the importance of morality.
Michelle J., Australia, 31 October 2009
This article highlights some very good points! I study at Charles Darwin University, and I agree, it is startling how evolutionary theory causes moral decline. Examples I’ve come across: people have literally scorned the Government for not promoting euthanasia! And they’ve scorned God for saying it’s a sin! Plus there’s this real but horrible, acceptance that divorce and abortion is ok, because it means we’ve got more of a choice on how we can live our lives? Well, here’s another even more horrible thing evolutionists tolerate: They tolerate putting one’s faith in the evolutionary scientists who are supposedly so accurate about their methods of showing how old things are, or how far back our past goes, yet try to use the same arguments towards Jesus being accurate and you get cut off! So … the worst moral decline because of evolution is that it’s ok if an evolutionist voices his/her opinion at any time and whenever they want, but don’t you dare voice yours if you reject the theory and especially if you’re a Christian. How about that?
Keith B., Australia, 5 November 2009
Bringing the comparison of cars and morals into the debate is a classic straw man construction. Unlike evolution, cars are not a theory. In any case, even if cars and morals were linked, who is it that makes the decision to be immoral? I never thought a car could be immoral of itself, only the person driving it.
- The Australian, February 1, 2000. Return to text.
- Himmelfarb, G., Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, Chatto & Windus, London, 1959. Return to text.
- Pdfs last accessed on 21 October 2009 at http://books.google.com.au/books?id=QwuLhMDUKdkC&pg=PA81 Return to text.