Lying—a survival strategy?
Published: 26 October 2010 (GMT+10)
Published: 26 October 2010(GMT+10), subsequently updated and published in Creation 35(4):35–37, 2013
In these heady post-modern days, it has become fashionable for Darwinian aficionados to ascribe human traits, both good and bad, to our alleged animal heritage. Of course, once God has been scrubbed from the picture of origins, everything is up for grabs—our aesthetic pleasures, highest aspirations, kindest gestures, and noblest actions are no more than a firing of neurons or the interactions of chemicals.1 This, claim the modernists, is a scientifically rational conclusion.
For instance, one recent undergraduate textbook purports to explain romantic love in this way: “It is true people choose their spouse because they loved him or her, but the likely reason that they have a propensity to fall in love … is because over thousands of generations, ancestors who had this emotional package left more offspring than those who did not.”2
Why be good?
But, evolutionary psychologists go much further than merely claiming to explain things like sexual attraction. Their ‘science’ can be pressed into service to explain not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly. In the aforementioned book, we read (emphasis added) that “The Darwinian world-view dislodges any divine scheme as an explanation of how we behave, and in its place puts the notion that we should perform such behaviours as maximized the reproductive success of our ancestors”.3 Notice the blatant rejection of God or Scripture, and the implied substitution of an historical Fall of man, with the naturalistic evolutionary scheme. To the discerning, this is a clear case of ‘experts’ fobbing off their readers with scientism, not science. Yet, how many readers of such things are sufficiently astute that they perceive what’s behind the claims? Referring to the inhabitants of ancient Nineveh, God told Jonah that this “great city” was populated by people “that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand.”4 Things are little different today.
Increasingly, such theorising is becoming part of the mainstream, and neuroscientists are becoming ever bolder in their claims to understand why we think and behave as we do. It’s really a case of, ‘moral relativism meets neuroscience’. Accountability is out of the window because “All we can ever know are the guesses or interpretations our mind creates about what is going on. … no two people ever interpret anything in exactly the same way.”5
So, what’s right for you is not necessarily right for me—it’s classic post-modern thinking. Logically, once this rationale for human behaviour is taken on board, nothing is sacred, nothing is profane—all is amoral and finds its cause in our animal origins.
Born to sin
We are all, in fact, “Born to sin”, though in the modernist’s mind, this has nothing to do with the biblical doctrine of ‘Original Sin’ and everything to do with our animal ancestry. According to that ‘fount of all knowledge’, the BBC—which would be more aptly named the Biased Broadcasting Company in view of its clear bias against biblical Christianity—the reason why you’re “Born to sin” is that “nature wants you to be bad”. They deemed this revelation important enough to plaster it across the front page of BBC Focus magazine earlier this year.6
The article to which this cover referred alleges to explain “The science of the seven deadly sins” and reaches the conclusion that our “darkest thoughts” are due to the way we were “wired for sin” during millions of years of evolution of humans from our animal ancestry.
Measuring sin scientifically?
Just how did the scientists ‘establish’ these truths? Imagine that you want to understand the ‘sins’ of wrath and lust? It’s easy—just wire up your willing subjects to a brain scan and watch what happens: “So psychologists and neurologists have been hurling insults and showing pornography to their volunteers to get those sin neurons firing.”7 You have to keep in mind that this article was not written as a spoof—this was not April Fools Day—and while the tone was clearly tongue in cheek, it was purporting to teach science, albeit that it was also a deliberate attempt to subvert the doctrine of Sin as taught in the Bible.
What this BBC Focus article does reveal is that the word sin is still in people’s vocabulary, in spite of attempts to expunge the word from society, such as the removal of sin from the Oxford Junior Dictionary in 2009—see the box at the end of this article! The authors of the BBC magazine article describe those who indulge in sin (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride) as “sinners” and “offenders”—but offensive to whom? And offending against what? It is obvious that the idea of sin being offensive to God, the Creator, and offending against His standards, is far from their thoughts.8
Why tell the truth?
In a similar vein, the author of an article in a recent issue of New Scientist purports to give us an explanation of lying. Remember, however, that the ‘divine scheme’ is now out of the window. Unsurprisingly, therefore, laws given by God to a sinful people are completely ignored—no mention here of “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”9 But if there are no absolutes—and lying is not a sinful act of rebellion against the explicit command of God—why do humans indulge in it? Answer: “ … we lie to ourselves … [b]ecause we fear that we do not have the strength and courage to face the truth of our situation. … We lie in our private and work lives, to friends and family and colleagues … because we need people to like us.”10 Do you see the self-serving nature of this ‘explanation’? Lying is something that helps us survive “the terror of being invalidated” and we do it to avoid facing the truth, and so that people will like us—and this, remember, is from one of the world’s most-read science magazines!
What is truth?
But if there is no such thing as truth, in an absolute sense, on what basis can a lie be defined anyway? For the Darwinian neuroscientists who are investigating humanity’s propensity to lie, we can’t really know what the truth is. “Unlike lies, truths require evidence to support them. But no matter how much evidence we accumulate, our truths will always be approximations and absolute certainty will exist only in our fantasies.”11 Interestingly, opinions of this nature pose an intractable problem for theistic evolutionists who claim that we don’t have to choose between God and evolution.12 The attitude of mind exhibited by the author of the last quotation is something which the Apostle Paul deplored when he bemoaned people that were “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”13
However, once absolutes are denied, lies are merely aberrations of the mind that help us mitigate our most destructive tendencies. “Lying gives us the temporary delusion that our personal and social worlds are intact, that we are loved [whatever that really means!], that we are safe … ” And while the author of the New Scientist article acknowledges that lying to ourselves and others may actually be damaging our brains, she offers the following advice to her readers: “In our personal, professional and collective social lives it looks as if we may have no choice but to confront uncertainty [by lying] if we are to survive—and survive well. So we will need to be very careful in future about choosing the situations in which we lie. All lies have networks of consequences we did not expect or intend.”14 In other words, ‘don’t worry yourself about whether it’s wrong to lie (it isn’t) but be careful lest you damage yourself in the process’!
A moral compass?
Ironically, the last sentence of our last quotation is more profoundly apt than the author intended or realised. Put simply, a lie is a sin against the Lord God, so “be sure your sin will find you out.”15 Earlier, we saw that there was an acknowledgement that sin was offensive in some way. The Bible reveals that this is because men and women live in defiance of the laws and person of God—transgressions of thought, word and action are violations against our Creator, one who is supremely Holy and Righteous and who must and will judge all sins—His perfect justice demands this.
Without a moral compass, the maverick scientists who purport to ‘explain’ sin, and those who have written about their work, are completely clueless. They’ve cast themselves adrift on an ocean of illogicality, without any landmarks by which they might get their bearings. Not only do they flatly refuse to acknowledge the port from which they set sail (i.e. their true origins), they have no idea where they are heading (heaven or hell), neither do they seem to care! They and those who follow them are madly oblivious to the dangers and perils of such an attitude.
But for those who will acknowledge their personal sin against God and turn from it (repentance), the prospects couldn’t be brighter. “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”16 Sin is serious and lying to ourselves about this is foolish—lies will not help you survive! Rather, Jesus Himself said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”17 This is good news and it is based on the certain promise of God, not the whims of fickle human beings. If God sets a person free, they’re free indeed! Do you, dear reader, know Christ as your Saviour? Have you confessed your sins to God and gratefully thanked Him for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to pay the price for those sins, thus reconciling you to Himself? If not, I exhort you to read more about the problem with you and me and God’s rescue plan.
- See, for example, Statham, D., Are we nothing more than a bag of chemicals? Return to text.
- Chapter 16, Darwin in the Mind, in: 99% Ape: How evolution adds up, Silvertown, J. (ed.), The [British] Natural History Museum in association with the Open University, 2008, p. 174. Return to text.
- Chapter 17, Why be good?, in: 99% Ape: How evolution adds up, Silvertown, J. (ed.), The [British] Natural History Museum in association with the Open University, 2008, p. 184. Return to text.
- Jonah 4:11, King James version. Return to text.
- Rowe, D., Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies … , New Scientist 206(2765), 19 June 2010, p. 28. Return to text.
- ‘Born to sin: Why nature wants you to be bad’ is the prominent cover—together with an apple with a bite taken out of it (an obvious allusion to Genesis 3)—of BBC Focus magazine, issue 212, February 2010. Return to text.
- Ref. 7, p. 28. Return to text.
- “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts” Psalm 10:4, NKJV. Return to text.
- Exodus 20:16 KJV; also Deut. 5:20. Return to text.
- Ref. 6. Return to text.
- Ref. 6. Return to text.
- See Anderson, D., Viva la evolution? A response to Dennis Alexander. Return to text.
- 2 Timothy 3:7, KJV. Return to text.
- Ref. 6. Return to text.
- Numbers 32:23, KJV. Return to text.
- 1 John 1:9, KJV. Return to text.
- John 8:32, NKJV. Return to text.