Biblical vs evolutionary perspectives on attraction
Published: 23 February 2013 (GMT+10)
Today’s feedback discusses physical attraction, comparing and contrasting biblical and evolutionary viewpoints. J.P. from the United States writes:
I watched a television show a while ago that was about, in summary, the science of human sexual attraction. Throughout the program it explained the sociological and physiological aspects, such as selecting a partner, and the defining of physical beauty. All these theories were based on evolutionary assumptions. I will admit most of these theories made sense; then again it is nothing but speculation. Does CMI have an alternate theory about sexual attraction, and for that matter human behavior in general? Evolution is present in every and any field these days, but it is gaining a monopoly especially in explaining why people do the things they do (or even justify the things they do). Thanks
Thanks for writing in. Psychological and sociological explanations are almost always flawed, especially when they try to over-generalize. And evolutionary influences on these theories only make things worse. For instance, evolutionary psychology can explain why men are promiscuous, or why they’re faithful. It explains why women choose ‘good guys’ who are stable fathers and providers, or why they choose ‘bad boys’ who are strong and dominant.
I’m not sure there’s a full-blown creation-based theory of sexual attraction or human behavior, but I think it would have to address these points, for starters:
- Human beings were designed by God for monogamous marriage. God commanded Adam and Eve to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ before the Fall; monogamous heterosexual marriage is the created norm, and was part of God’s ‘very good’ creation.
- The Fall marred every aspect of human relationships. After the Fall, sexual relationships, like everything else, were marred by sin. Many people now seek sex outside of God’s designed purposes, and some even see God’s marriage design as undesirable. And even within marriage, broken relationships due to the Fall mean that this gift of God can be misused and abused.
- In Christ, we experience a partial reversal of the Fall. The New Testament strongly affirms God’s created design of marriage between one man and one woman for life, and gives instruction about how husbands and wives are to relate to one another.
Note, too, that there is often little practical difference between an explanation that attributes selective/survival value to something (and thus implies it was ‘designed’ by natural selection) or the creationist explanation that something was in fact designed, and helps a person to survive.
To explain further, take two examples from so-called ‘evolutionary medicine’: the diarrhea response to bowel infection, and the cough reflex when a foreign body gets into the airway. Some evolution-believing writers on these topics acted as if something terribly profound had been discovered when they wrote that by expelling the invader in both instances, these physiological responses clearly aid survival, thus anything tending in that direction would be ‘selected for’. That is totally true, but a Creator designing something for a fallen world would also have the same end—survival—in mind, and thus it would be a rational design feature. And selection would help to ensure that mutations that destroyed these responses would be less likely to be passed on, as the people that had such mutations would be less likely to survive and thus pass them on.
The same reasoning can be applied to aspects of sexual functioning; selection will favour things that help people pass on their genes. But also, God’s purpose for humanity was for us to multiply and fill the earth, so things that favoured this goal would not only be good design features, but here, too, selection would tend to fine-tune and conserve such functions. [After all, selection is a real phenomenon; it’s just that it cannot result in ‘goo to you’ evolution since it cannot produce new, or novel, biological information, but can only ‘select’ from what information already exists within the genome.]
These are only some preliminary thoughts—whole books could be written (and have been written) about this issue, so we’ve barely skimmed the surface. We hope these thoughts are helpful.
Dr Carl Wieland and Lita Sanders