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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

CMI’s Dr Carl Wieland and Lita Cosner reply:

Dear J.,

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.

Human beings were designed by God for monogamous marriage.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

There is often little practical difference between an explanation that attributes survival value to something, or the creationist explanation that something was in fact designed.

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 Cosner

Helpful Resources

Body By Design
by Alan L Gillen
US $17.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

D. W.
In a life given to the Lordship of Christ, His guidance can be enjoyed, and His grace given to elevate the whole issue - with teaching from the Scriptures. The first question should relate to celibacy or marriage.
Richard A.
Along these lines, the following comments are much more sensitive in their sexual nature, but nevertheless fascinating in their implications. From an evolutionary perspective, why do human females enjoy sex so much? There is little to suggest that female cats, dogs, monkeys, or others in the animal kingdom do. In fact, why are women potentially multi-orgasmic, and why do they even need to have orgasms? While this is easily explained under the thoughtfulness of the Creator, human reproduction would certainly occur whether or not there was any joyful experience for the woman in an evolutionary perspective. This is evidenced by the many cultures that seek to absolutely deprive the woman of any sexual joy and pleasure but proliferate regardless. God did not need to make sex the mutually pleasureable experience it is for husband and wife, but He did, and this says something about His attitudes towards us.
Anthony S.
In terms of the injunction to go forth and be fruitful why do you think that Adam, and Noah, had so few children. Given that they lived very long lives I would have thought Noah would have had more children by the time of the Ark. Wondering whether you have any wisdom on this?
Carl Wieland
Actually, the Bible says they had 'other sons and daughters', without specifying the number. Given the long lifespans, the Jewish tradition of 70 might even be feasible.
M. J.
In regards to the previous comments on whether the word for desire in the passage in Genesis reveals a desire of control or sexual attraction, I do not see why it must be an either/or issue and not a both/and. It is also a bit misguided to reason because the same phrase was used in a different passage to illustrate control that it must mean the same thing or must always mean the same thing. And the AMP version of this verse does not automatically rule out sexual attraction.
J. C.
"The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (1 Corinthians 6:13 NIV). As so many songs and poems other romantic works of art attest, and as most of us know deep within our heart: there is a powerful longing for a true and all-consuming ever loyal love, the love of a lifetime, a strongly knit marriage and family life: a "happily ever after" love. Song of Songs 8:6 -7: "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned" (NIV). Is it not a "very good" aspect of our being made in the image of God, with the first woman made from the first man, even as Scripture reveals? That sort of profound love teaches us about "Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:32 NIV) -- God's profound and passionate love for us, His desire to knit us together in love in His family, forever.
Jennifer P.
I think George from Canada is on the right track re.Genesis 3;16. From the Amplified Bible ; Post Fall and the Curse on women;

' To the woman He said ; I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing ; with spasms of distress will you bring forth children. Yet your desire and craving will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. '

The consequences of sin and the Curse would destroy the God given role of women and men or rather husband and wife and the way they responded and reacted to each other. We reap the evil fruit to this today in man hating feminism, sexual perversions, domestic violence, abortion and the breakdown of famillies and the moral structure of Western society. The following paragraph is from an article called ; ' Hating Valentines Day ' by Jamie Glazov.

Today, Thursday, February 14, is Valentine’s Day, the sacred day that intimate companions mark to celebrate their love and affection for one another. If you’re thinking about making a study of how couples celebrate this day, the Muslim world and the milieus of the radical Left are not the places you should be spending most, if any, of your time. Indeed, it’s pretty hard to outdo jihadists and “progressives” when it comes to the hatred of Valentine’s Day. And this hatred is precisely the territory on which the contemporary romance between the radical Left and Islamic fanaticism is formed.

Without a proper Biblical Creation Christian foundation for relationships people are truly lost. The evolutionary Leftist feminist and Islamic scenarios will consistently led to destruction. Thank God for our Saviour and Redeemer our Lord Jesus Christ.

Clint K.
To add to George H's comment, the same phrase "its desire is for you" in Gen. 4:7 indicates to me that it is a "control" thing.
George H.
I don't believe Gordon H. is correct to connect sexual attraction to Genesis 3:16. What God is saying is that though He created man and women to cooperate in their roles with the female as a helper, she would no longer accept her position but try to usurp the male role while the male rules. We see this in male domineering on one hand and feminism on the other. The answer in restoring a right relationship is in a new life received by grace through faith in Christ.
Nathan S.
I'm currently a master's student in criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. I see evolutionary dogma cross so many aspects. To answer Chuck J. They do have a theory in regards to killing including infanticide. The theory is called Human adaptaton theory that states that humans have "evolved" methods to kill based on when it is advantageous such as when it protects resources. Like many evolutionary theories the use adaptation and evolution interchangeably.
Tim M.
A good point is raised in the question. Unbelievers are much more prolific than believers in setting forth "explanations" for why things happen. When these go unchallenged, there's tends to be a by-default perception it's the only game in town. It will be profitable for more Christian writers, scientists, apologists, etc., to be me more prolific in these same areas.
Chuck J.
I have yet to hear the evolutionist explanation for our species support of killing our unborn children simply for the sake of our own pleasures. Nor have I heard their explanation for our support for a single parent household. Nor have I heard their explanation for the value in supporting gay relationships. If it's all biology, then how do these positions advance our species? Just on a common sense level, they do not advance our species. Our God, as our Heavenly Father, does not support these positions in order to lead us to do what is best for us as advocated in the Bible.
Hans G.
Isn't it amazing how enthusiastically atheists, evolutionists and anti God people look forward to keep one of God's command: be fruitful and multiply.
"That's the evolutionary force to sustain the species", I can hear. Ok, we agree there is a desire to multiply but where there is a desire there has to be a way to satisfy this desire.
So, the first living cell had to have this desire and the ability to copy and divide between the copies and pass it on. Where did those programs came from? From the creator of course. He outlined the marriage and reproductive issues and provided for every "pot a lid" as he provided for Adam a woman even if he had to make one..
Now for male/female couples, ideally he and she are virgins at marriage, none is defiled. And as they come together their covenant is sealed with a bit of blood and they become one flesh in form of their offspring. And this sealed covenant is to last.
Same sex couples can't do this, they don't make it to the next generation, even evolution provide for it. Here is pure lust and not the desire to sustain the species.This highly selfish behavior even doesn't stop to force an innocent child to grow up without knowing a Dad or a Mum.
Every aspect of a relationship and attraction outside of God's guidelines is less and sometimes
But the life instructions book of the creator is freely available to be read.
Gordon H.
From the biblical point of view, there is Genesis 3:16, where God tells Eve: "Your desire shall be for your husband". This verse not only supports created sexual attraction, but emphasises the role of husband rather than promiscuous lovers.
Jason C.
Thank you for your thoughts on the matter of attraction, which is, as you say, a big subject.

In asking about the evo psych explanations for attraction JP forgets that (like most evolutionary explanations) they consist of observing a phenomena and creating an "evolutionary scenario" that explains it.

I have read articles that suggest there is a link between good health and physical attractiveness. Good health being important to producing healthy children, that is a useful feature when access to a doctor's checkup is unavailable.

Likewise, if women find a man with social status attractive, that is because status (and the attendant financial advantage) is helpful in ensuring their children have the necessities of life growing up.

These don't require any evolutionary explanation. They would simply be mechanisms that allow the command to, "be fruitful and multiply," to best be fulfilled.

Of course, the fall and curse may well have corrupted those mechanisms, turning the natural attraction into an obsessive focus on those points, leading to the sad state of today's sexual marketplace.

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