|Feature Article - February 2006
|by Do-While Jones
On past Valentine’s Days we have looked at the difficulty evolutionists have in explaining sexual reproduction. This year, we look at the problem love presents to the theory of evolution.
Evolutionists might be painting themselves into a corner. In recent years, their argument has followed this outline:
This means that science must be able to explain such things as the origin of life, the origin of sex, and the origin of love, without resorting to a supernatural explanation. Attempts to do this have failed miserably. The evolutionists’ excuse for this failure is that these are difficult problems, and the natural explanation hasn’t been discovered yet; but given enough time, (they believe) a natural explanation will be found. In the words of Judge Jones (who wrote the decision against the Dover school board),
Expert testimony revealed that just because scientists cannot explain today how biological systems evolved does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow. 1
Wishful thinking isn’t science. As time drags on, this fable becomes less compelling.
Suppose someone claims that money does, in fact, grow on trees through some natural process. After all, coins are made of minerals found naturally in the ground; and some leaves have patterns as intricate as portraits on paper money. Complex monetary instruments can certainly arise from these simple elements through a poorly understood process called “emergence.” Just because scientists cannot explain today how money naturally grows on trees does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain it tomorrow.
Sooner or later, one must become discouraged by all the failures and discard the theory that money grows on trees.
The theory of evolution fails to explain many things. Evolutionists have faith in future discoveries, but we live in the present. If one can prove it now, it’s science. If one wishes for a future fulfillment of a prophecy, it’s faith.
If the evolutionists are right and everything in the material world can be explained by natural processes (without resorting to theological explanations), and given that there are lovers in the world, what is the natural process by which love came about?
An evolutionist will tell you that, like everything else, love evolved. It had to. It would be unscientific to think that some supernatural force put love in the human heart. Therefore, love had to have evolved through random genetic changes filtered by natural selection.
But love is clearly contrary to natural selection. Natural selection involves competition for resources, with only those best able to obtain them surviving. Selfishness is a virtue because only the strong and selfish survive. Love is unselfish. People sacrifice, and even die, for other people they love. It isn’t the behavior natural selection would reward.
Hurricanes hit the southeastern United States in 2004 and 2005. Americans reacted by unselfishly giving time and money for relief efforts. If we really are the products of evolutionary forces, we should have taken advantage of the opportunity and finished off what nature started. Those of us who are strong and healthy should have taken everything we could from those people who were too weak to survive the strong winds and flooding. Nature was doing us a favor by eliminating the weak from us. People who aren’t fit enough to survive have no business using up the resources that are needed by those who are strong. We are highly evolved people. We are the master race. We didn’t get to where we are today by letting the underdog win!
But we do help people in need. Why do we do that? Evolutionary scientists look for selfish motives behind unselfishness. That’s why we see articles like this one (which was inspired by the remarkable outpouring of relief aid in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami):
Charity begins at Homo sapiens
Evolution has given human nature an unexpected twist
Humans are different, for we cooperate with complete genetic strangers—workmates, neighbors, anonymous people in far-off countries. Why on earth do we do that?
For several decades, researchers have had a possible explanation: apparently selfish acts are nothing of the kind, but are instead a clever way of promoting individual self interest.
… Some researchers are starting to have their doubts.
Over the past decade, experiments devised by Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, among others, have shown that many people will cooperate with others even when it is absolutely clear they have nothing to gain. A capacity for true altruism seems to be a part of human nature. It is a heartening discovery, yet one that has also touched off a firestorm of debate. 2
Generosity really puzzles evolutionists.
Natural selection is conventionally assumed to favour the strong and selfish who maximize their own resources at the expense of others. But many biological systems, and especially human societies, are organized around altruistic, cooperative interactions. How can natural selection promote unselfish behaviour? 3
But when it comes to explaining the origin of altruism, matters get a whole lot more contentious. In evolutionary terms it is a puzzle because any organism that helps others at its own expense stands at an evolutionary disadvantage. So, if many people really are true altruists, as it seems, why haven’t greedier, self-seeking competitors wiped them out? 4
If there is a genetic predisposition for soldiers to die for their country, or firemen to rush into a burning building, or people to engage in any other heroic but dangerous occupation, there is a good chance that individuals with that gene will die before they have a chance to mate. Why hasn’t evolution eliminated that gene? If a tribe values self-sacrifice, why hasn’t that tribe been annihilated by another more selfish tribe? What is the purely naturalistic explanation? How could this have evolved? Evolutionists propose reciprocity as the answer.
Some people love dogs. That’s understandable. Dogs can guard your house, help you hunt, or pull your sled. It makes sense to feed a dog. You will get something in return. That’s direct reciprocity.
Some people love to feed the birds. This is a little bit harder to understand. Yes, some birds are pretty. Some birds sing pretty songs. But is it really worth the cost of the bird seed to have them in your yard? It’s a close call.
Some people love cats. What’s up with that? Cats have never been good for anything except catching mice and making guitar strings! Mouse traps are cheaper than cat food, and now that we have nylon we can make musical instruments without cat guts. Cats are selfish and uncooperative. How could a love for cats possibly have evolved? There isn’t even a hint of direct reciprocity. And yet, the existence of cat lovers proves that there really are people who love the unlovable.
Remember the evolutionary premise: Everything has a natural explanation. Supernatural explanations are foolish and unscientific. Therefore we love because it is natural to expect tit for tat. We do unselfish things for others in the selfish expectation that they will do more for us in return.
Is that why you love the people (or pets) you love? Are you just using them? Have you never loved anyone without an ulterior motive? Is your love just selfishness in disguise?
The direct reciprocity explanation rests on thin ice, but when it comes to indirect reciprocity, the pond isn’t even close to freezing.
Direct reciprocity is captured in the principle: “You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours”. But it is harder to make sense of the principle “You scratch my back and I'll scratch someone else's” or “I scratch your back and someone else will scratch mine” (Fig. 1). Why should this work? Presumably, I will not get my back scratched if it becomes known that I never scratch anybody else's. Indirect reciprocity, in this view, is based on reputation. But why should anyone care about what I did to a third party?
There are two approaches converging on this issue. One is rooted in social science, the other in evolutionary biology. 5
There are two approaches, but no solutions. Evolutionary biology and social science are both limited to natural explanations. Whether it is genetic or social, the natural explanation has to be rooted in selfishness. One has to explain how the notion arose that if I do good things for other people, and make sure everyone else knows I do good things for other people, then I will benefit in the end. Neither evolutionary biology nor social science can explain it.
Notice that scientific explanations tend to focus on conscious decisions. They propose that we do unselfish things because it makes sense. But you probably know from personal experience that love isn’t logical. One can’t overlook passion.
The naturalistic explanation is that love is nothing more than refined lust.
… [consider] the example of sexual desire, which most biologists agree evolved to spur the conception of offspring. Today, however, individuals experience sexual desire in many situations in which procreation is clearly impossible, “even when they know the object of their desire is imaginary, or a piece of paper”, as Tooby says. 6
They are being diplomatic. They aren’t just talking about Playboy. Certainly one of those “situations in which procreation is clearly impossible” is a homosexual one. Since their definition of science excludes a priori any supernatural force (e.g. a devil) encouraging this behavior, they need genetic or sociological explanations for it.
The problem for evolutionists is that if homosexuality is a genetic predisposition, it certainly seems that natural selection would rapidly eliminate that gene from the population. Having children is hereditary. If your parents NEVER had intercourse with the opposite sex, you won’t either!
Homosexuality is currently enjoying acceptance, even celebration, in some circles; but historically this has not been the case. Given the long-standing social pressure against homosexuality, it is difficult to come up with a credible sociological explanation for the origin of homosexuality.
Evolutionists have no choice but to say, “Just because scientists cannot explain today how homosexual tendencies arose does not mean that they cannot, and will not, be able to explain them tomorrow.”
If we really are the product of survival of the fittest, how could love and unselfishness have evolved? Sooner or later, calculatus eliminatus has to enter the picture.
When you mislay a certain something.
The explanations for love, altruism, and even homosexuality, cannot be found in the materialistic, natural realm. If the explanation isn’t there, it must be someplace else.
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KITZMILLER v. DOVER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/400/707/2414073/
2 Buchanan, New Scientist, 12 March 2005, “Charity begins at Homo sapiens”, page 33, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18524901-600-charity-begins-at-homo-sapiens/ (Ev)
3 Nowak & Sigmund, Nature, Vol. 437, 27 October 2005, “Evolution of indirect reciprocity” page 1291, https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04131 (Ev)
4 Buchanan, New Scientist, 12 March 2005, “Charity begins at Homo sapiens”, page 33, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18524901-600-charity-begins-at-homo-sapiens/ (Ev)
5 Nowak & Sigmund, Nature, Vol. 437, 27 October 2005, “Evolution of indirect reciprocity” page 1291, https://www.nature.com/articles/nature04131 (Ev)
6 Buchanan, New Scientist, 12 March 2005, “Charity begins at Homo sapiens”, page 33, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18524901-600-charity-begins-at-homo-sapiens/ (Ev)
7 Dr. Seuss, 1971, The Cat in the Hat (cartoon)