Evolution vs human behaviour

Human behaviour belies evolutionary explanations for our existence


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If you subscribe to news feeds, read the newspaper, or watch TV, you could be forgiven for thinking that we modern humans have been behaving very badly. In recent years, we have variously been blamed for causing: global cooling, global warming, famines, floods, mass extinctions, plagues, deforestation, landslides, earthquakes, and much, much more. All the problems on planet Earth are apparently our fault, and it’s only supposed to get worse. Naturalist and evolutionist Sir David Attenborough summed up this thinking well: “Humans are a plague on earth.”1 But this raises an interesting question: if naturalistic evolution is true, why does it matter that we’re a “plague on earth”?

My intent in this article is not to examine the truth, or otherwise, of these media reports (there are plenty of articles on this website that do just that (see Ecology and Environmentalism Questions and Answers for more information). Rather, I want to highlight the glaringly obvious disconnect between the headlines and the evolutionary beliefs subscribed to by many of these same media outlets, their correspondents, and the environmentalists they quote.

If evolution is true and man is nothing more than a highly-evolved primate, the result of random mutations and natural selection over millions of years, then we humans are just another part of nature. Anything we do is simply nature in action. If a species becomes extinct because of human intervention, it's just natural selection. If the burning of fossil fuels causes a runaway greenhouse effect that cooks the planet, it will be a natural occurrence. If the world is one day obliterated by a nuclear holocaust, it certainly won't be an unnatural event. Why? In the atheistic, evolutionary worldview, everything is natural. If atheistic evolution is true, the word ‘unnatural’ can have no meaning!

But this is not the reality we experience. We mourn the loss of biodiversity, agonize over the size of our carbon footprint, protest the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we are rightly horrified by acts of cruelty to animals. I'm not saying that all humans behave like this, but since many of us do, all of us can. For some reason, we humans are held to a higher moral standard than the rest of nature.

Evolutionists have to believe mankind has evolved to a point where we can understand the natural process that has made us what we are but, at the same time, we are not bound by the logical ramifications of that same natural process.

The enigma of purpose

Ask an environmentalist why they do what they do and they will likely tell you they want to 'leave the planet in better shape than they found it,' or something similar. In his closing remarks for the 2000 BBC Natural History Unit documentary State of the Planet, Attenborough says;

Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy, inhabitable by all species.2

Apparently, our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to purposefully plan for the future of planet Earth. These are admirable intentions! But they’re not what we would expect given evolution. As Richard Dawkins makes absolutely clear in his book The Blind Watchmaker:

Natural selection, the blind unconscious automatic process, which Darwin discovered and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life has no purpose in mind. It has no mind, no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all [emphasis added].3

But somehow this blind, purposeless, natural process has managed to produce human beings that have foresight and can purposely plan for the future (see Can atheists know meaning and purpose?Evolution = atheism, no purpose, and Monkey minds for more information). Sir David exhorts us to use this foresight to manipulate the natural order so that we can achieve his purposes. In doing so we are often purposefully engaging in behaviour that, whether we realise it or not (and most do not), is exactly the opposite of what we would expect if evolution were true.

Environmentalists will work tirelessly to save animals from extinction, even animals such as lions and tigers that potentially compete for food with us. Animals that, given half a chance, would not hesitate to drive us to extinction. This flies in the face of the evolutionary narrative where survival of the fittest is supposedly a main driver of behaviour. Apparently, Tennyson's "Nature, red in tooth and claw" doesn't apply if the tooth is brushed twice daily and the claw occasionally painted.

But it is in our behaviour toward ourselves and our fellow humans that the evolutionary disconnect is both most obvious and, at the same time, most studiously ignored. We care for our sick, allowing potentially genetically inferior individuals to survive (using up valuable resources) and reproduce (reducing population fitness). We medically intervene to enable infertile couples to reproduce and pass on their (likely inferior) genes. At the same time, seemingly healthy individuals will use contraception to limit their offspring and many will even undergo medical procedures to abort the offspring they have already conceived.

We actively choose lifestyles that limit our likelihood of procreation (celibacy, same-sex relationships, or just choosing never to have children). We encourage our young to delay sexual activity. We even legislate with the intention of limiting sexual partners (anti-polygamy laws and marriage itself). (Interestingly, those who would advocate for multiple partners will often point to examples in nature to support their belief that monogamy is unnatural. On the surface this might seem reasonable until you realise that in nature the result of multiple partners is more offspring, whereas in humans, more offspring is usually the last thing the practitioners want.)

We engage in warfare with the intent of annihilating those who disagree with us while at the same time enacting rules to ensure that this is done humanely. When we capture an enemy, our focus must immediately change from trying to kill them to treating them with dignity, knowing full well that they would probably not hesitate to kill us given the opportunity to escape. We often adhere to these rules despite knowing that our enemy likely will not.

So many of our intentions, good and bad, seem anti-evolutionary in their execution.

Evolutionists have, of course, devised explanations for this behaviour. But the necessarily contradictory nature of these explanations only serves to reinforce the absurdity of evolution as a scientifically plausible reason for our purposive behaviour. As respected chemist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences, Philip Skell pointed out:

Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive—except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed—except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.4

The Bible gets it right (as usual)

Only the biblical account of Creation and the Fall can provide a logically consistent explanation for human behaviour. Our best intentions are a natural outworking of the fact that man was created in the image of God and given dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:26–30). Our worst intentions are a direct result of Adams rebellion (Genesis 3:14–19). The evolutionary worldview fails to make sense of so many of our intentions because, as the Bible clearly teaches, we are not the result of evolution.

Next time you read or hear of something mankind has supposedly done to jeopardize the future health of our planet, remember that these reports are (in most cases) unwittingly reinforcing the biblical account of Creation and the Fall.

“For from him, and through him and to him are all things: to him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
Published: 16 May 2017

References and notes

  1. Gray, L., David Attenborough—Humans are plague on Earth, telegraph.co.uk, 22 January 2013. Return to text.
  2. State of the Planet, BBC Natural History Unit, Part 3, 2000. Return to text.
  3. Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, USA, 1986. Return to text.
  4. Philip Skell, ‘Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology’, The Scientist 19(16):10, 29 August 2005. Return to text.

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