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Showing posts with label Darwinism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darwinism. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Darwinism, Dawkins, and Complex Designers

Complexity and design seem to be infused into the very elements if life. Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel prize for his co-discovery of the structure of DNA, famously said "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved."1 Indeed, the strong map of design in the living creatures of the earth seems at first blush so strong that the scientists themselves have a hard time describing them without using vocabulary that implies design.

Richard Dawkins dismisses the appearance of the complex, organized features of life as pointing to a designer, though. In The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins acknowledges that the complex nature of things like DNA are things that biologists "have difficulty explaining." Yet, Dawkins states that the organized complexity of either the DNA molecule or the molecular machinery used to replicate proteins in no way points to a designer, simply because what ever created it would need to be even more complex. He writes, "Of course, any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein machine must have been at least as complex and organized as that machine itself." This would then lead to looking for an even more complex designer of the designer and so on, regressing back to infinity. Thus, Dawkins concludes, to claim a designer "is to explain precisely nothing. "2

Alvin Plantinga, in his book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, deftly takes Dawkins argument apart. He leads with a rather simple analogy showing why Dawkins' cleverness is unconvincing:
Design doesn’t explain organized complexity (says Dawkins); it presupposes it, because the designer would have to be as complex as what it creates (designs). Perhaps, therefore, Dawkins means to argue along the following lines: there are really just two explanations of life: unguided Darwinism and an explanation, guided Darwinism, perhaps, that involves design. But the latter is really no explanation at all. Therefore the only candidate is the former.

Here there are two problems. First, this argument doesn't depend on the facts of biology; it is substantially independent of the latter. Is it likely that Dawkins would be offering an argument of that sort? If so, why would he claim that it is "the Evidence of Evolution" that "Reveals a World Without Design"?

Set that problem aside for the moment; there is another and deeper problem with this argument. Suppose we land on an alien planet orbiting a distant star and discover some machine-like objects that look and work just like a 1941 Allis Chalmers tractor; our leader says "there must be intelligent beings on this planet-look at those tractors." A sophomore philosophy student on the expedition objects: "Hey, hold on a minute! You have explained nothing at all! Any intelligent life that designed those tractors would have to be at least as complex as they are!" No doubt we'd tell him a little learning is a dangerous thing and advise him to take the next rocket ship home and enroll in another philosophy course or two. For of course it is perfectly sensible, in that context, to explain the existence of those tractors in terms of intelligent life, even though (as we can concede for present purposes) that intelligent life would have to be at least as complex as the tractors. The point is we aren't trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity, and we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general; we are only trying to explain one particular manifestation of it (those tractors). And (unless you are trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity) it is perfectly proper to explain one manifestation of organized complexity in terms of another. Hence it is not the case, contra Dawkins, that an explanation in terms of divine design is a nonstarter. Such an explanation doesn't constitute an ultimate explanation of organized complexity (if God is complex, nothing could constitute such an explanation); but it is none the worse for that. 3


1.Crick, Francis. What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery. New York: Basic, 1988. 138. Print.
2. Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton, 1986. Print.
3. Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. 26-27. Print.
Image courtesy goofup [CC BY 2.0]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Shocking Biology Book that Triggered the Scopes Trial

Whenever the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial is brought up, most people believe it is a concrete example of the stubbornness of religious believers to not allow the facts of science in the classroom. That's definitely the way Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee saw things in their subsequent re-imagining of the events that took place in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925. Their treatment of those who held to religious beliefs when writing Inherit the Wind is clearly designed to make that point.

However, when one researches the facts of the case a different picture emerges. I've already talked about how the entire incident was manufactured; with the various parties hoping garner publicity for whatever side they happened to champion. As for the trial itself, Carol Iannone does a great job summarizing how the play distorts the facts in her First Things article. For an even more in-depth look into the events surrounding those eight days may be found in, Marvin Olasky and John Perry's Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial.

What Triggered This?

In looking at the background, there were a lot of pieces at play. As a reaction to the German high criticism and the more liberal spin that many prominent denominations were placing on the biblical texts, Christian fundamentalism had become a major force, even succeeding in helping to pass prohibition laws.1 The explosion in scientific achievements such as the telephone, in-home electricity, the airplane and the discovery of x-rays were changing the way people lived. Sigmund Freud, a self-described materialist whose psychoanalysis was hugely influential, taught that religion was nothing more than a human projection onto the world for those seeking to fulfill deep-seated wishes.2

In all of this change, Darwin's theory was being promoted across most of the school systems in the country. Yet, the Darwinism of the 1920's was not what one may hear today. The Darwinian champions of the early 20th century were themselves more fundamental in their understanding of the advancement of living creatures, including humans. The biology textbook used to teach the students in Tennessee in 1925 shows us just how much was really objectionable.

Reading the Biology Book Taught in Tennessee

As I noted previously, when asked whether he had taught evolution in the classroom, "Scopes said that any teacher who followed the state-approved textbooks taught evolution."3 The state-approved textbook for biology at that time was A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems written by George William Hunter in 1914 and published by the American Book Company out of Cincinnati. The entire book has been digitally archived and is available online at the Project Gutenberg website, but I wanted to highlight a few passages for you. Under the subtitle Evolution, Hunter lays out the story of man descending from apes and points to nomads as "little better than one of the lower animals." 4 Hunter's comment impugn the mental functions of people groups like native American or the various tribes across Africa that never developed beyond their stone age roots. Here's what he wrote in A Civic Biology about the races:
At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America. (Emphasis added.)5

Kill the Worthless People

Of course, holding to evolution in the early 20th century, it was easy for Hunter to embrace and teach eugenics. He clearly held that there were inferior human beings who he described as parasites. Here is the entire relevant section:
The Jukes.—Studies have been made on a number of different families in this country, in which mental and moral defects were present in one or both of the original parents. The "Jukes" family is a notorious example. The first mother is known as "Margaret, the mother of criminals." In seventy-five years the progeny of the original generation has cost the state of New York over a million and a quarter of dollars, besides giving over to the care of prisons and asylums considerably over a hundred feeble-minded, alcoholic, immoral, or criminal persons. Another case recently studied is the "Kallikak" family.35 This family has been traced back to the War of the Revolution, when a young soldier named Martin Kallikak seduced a feeble-minded girl. She had a feeble-minded son from whom there have been to the present time 480 descendants. Of these 33 were sexually immoral, 24 confirmed drunkards, 3 epileptics, and 143 feeble-minded. The man who started this terrible line of immorality and feeble-mindedness later married a normal Quaker girl. From this couple a line of 496 descendants have come, with no cases of feeble-mindedness. The evidence and the moral speak for themselves!

Parasitism and its Cost to Society.—Hundreds of families such as those described above exist to-day, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.

The Remedy.—If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.

Blood Tells.—Eugenics show us, on the other hand, in a study of the families in which are brilliant men and women, the fact that the descendants have received the good inheritance from their ancestors.
In Bryan's closing argument before the court on the Scopes trial, he made some very salient points. He opened declaring that he was not trying to stifle the free speech of any teacher:
Let us now separate the issues from the misrepresentations, intentional or unintentional, that have obscured both the letter and the purpose of the law. This is not an interference with freedom of conscience. A teacher can think as he pleases and worship God as he likes, or refuse to worship God at all. He can believe in the Bible or discard it; he can accept Christ or reject Him. This law places no obligations or restraints upon him. And so with freedom of speech, he can, so long as he acts as an individual, say anything he likes on any subject. This law does not violate any rights guaranteed by any Constitution to any individual. It deals with the defendant, not as an individual, but as an employee, official or public servant, paid by the State, and therefore under instructions from the State.

The right of the State to control the public schools is affirmed in the recent decision in the Oregon case, which declares that the State can direct what shall be taught and also forbid the teaching of anything ''manifestly inimical to the public welfare." The above decision goes even further and declares that the parent not only has the right to guard the religious welfare of the child but is in duty bound to guard it. That decision fits this case exactly. The State had a right to pass this law and the law represents the determination of, the parents to guard the religious welfare of their children.6
My question to those who use the Scope trial to say how backward the citizens of Tennessee were in objecting to the text is would you want your children to be taught this stuff?


Eskridge, Larry. "Fundamentalism." Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals. Wheaton College, 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

2 Nicholi, Armand M. The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. New York: Free, 2002. Print. 18.

3 Bergeron, Paul H., Stephen V. Ash, and Jeanette Keith. Tennesseans and Their History. Knoxville: U of Tennessee, 1999. Print. 252.

4 Hunter, George W. A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems. Cincinnati: American Book, 1914. Print. 192.

5 Hunter, 195.

6 Bryan, Willam Jennings. "Text of the Closing Statement of William Jennings Bryan at the Trial of John Scopes, Dayton, Tennessee, 1925." California State University Dominguez Hills. California State University Dominguez Hills, 31 Oct. 2005. Web. 26 Mar. 2015.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Darwinism's Fatal Flaw (podcast)

The idea that complex life arose through nothing but natural means is a hallmark of modern evolutionary theory. But what if we discovered a problem with Darwinism that was so fundamental, all of science wouldn't work? In this podcast series, Lenny highlights a new argument that shows why evolutionary naturalism is a non-starter.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Naturalism is Simply Unbelievable

Naturalism is simply unbelievable. I don't mean unbelievable in the fantastical sense, although I do think there's a lot of hand-waving that goes on to try and excise any supernatural explanation as to why we exist. I mean, the viewpoint is unbelievable in that its own assumptions destroy itself. It is illogical to hold to naturalism.

The naturalist wants us to believe that the natural world is all that exists; we came about through evolutionary processes and our minds are one of the products of that process. Given the survival of the fittest paradigm that rives evolution, the naturalist must also assert "What your beliefs are don't matter nearly as much as what the survival value of your actions are." In fact, they do this when discussing religion all the time. Religion isn't true, they would assert, but it served an evolutionary purpose.

To use an example, picture an overweight man who is running. Now, the man may believe he has a better chance at survival if he runs because he puts his body in better shape, reduces the chances of heart attacks, and is generally more fit for the tasks of survival. However, the man may equally believe that running is an act of worship to the life-god and it drives out the fat demons that plague much of his tribe. Either belief produces the same result: the man runs and the man has an increased chance of longevity. Either belief helps him survive equally well. It doesn't matter which is true on an evolutionary worldview because evolution is all about survivability.

Reason Offers No Evolutionary Advantage

Because all evolution cares about is the survival of the individual, reason alone offers no evolutionary advantage. In fact, evolutionary theory proves this. According to all New-Darwinian models, there was a time on the earth where there existed no rational thought whatsoever! Animals were primitive and they had no capacity to reason, yet they survived just fine. They mere responded to external stimuli and adjusted their behavior. They don't know why the water is here and not somewhere else; they simply desire water.

This is why you can get a pet dog or cat to chase a flashlight beam or laser pointer on the floor. The dog bites at it and it isn't there, yet he will continue to chase the beam! Your pet is simply responding to stimuli. They aren't thinking abstractly. A dog never wonders what it's like to be a cat!

Knowing that the earth circles the sun as opposed to the sun circling the earth gives us no evolutionary advantage whatsoever. We gain nothing in terms of the advantage to put food in our stomachs or to shelter us from the cold nights. This is because reason and responses are categorically different kinds of things. There is a difference between neural stimulation and mental reflection. The naturalist will say "All reason is is a process of neural stimulation" but C.S. Lewis argued that natural selection only operates by eliminating biologically harmful responses and increasing responses linked to better survival. He writes:
It is not conceivable that any improvement of responses could ever turn [the animal's thoughts] into acts of insight, or even remotely tend to do so. The relationship between response and stimulus is utterly different from that between knowledge and the truth known.1

Beliefs Can be Counter-Intuitive

Sometimes we have to believe things that are completely counter-intuitive based on our stimulus. Exercise is a good example of this. For me, it is counter-intuitive when lying in my comfortable, warm bed to get up and put my body in a situation designed to cause strain and pain. So the desire to exercise doesn't come from external stimuli, but from our reasoning capabilities. We do the things that are counter intuitive to everything the body is telling us because we have a reasoned that that's a better way to go. It doesn't make sense evolutionary because the benefits are a long way off.

 Alvin Plantinga agrees when he writes:
Fleeing predators, finding food and mates — these things require cognitive devices that in some way track crucial features of the environment, and are appropriately connected with muscles; but they do not require true belief, or even belief at all.

The long-term survival of organisms of a certain species certainly makes it likely that its members enjoy cognitive devices that are successful in tracking those features of the environment — indicators, as I've been calling them. Indicators, however, need not involve beliefs (emphasis added).2
There are many of our beliefs that lie completely outside the realm of evolutionary advantage at all. The belief that evolution is true is one of these. The problem is the evolutionist doesn't have good grounds for holding to his own evolutionary tale, since the evolutionary framework gives no grounds for holding that any of his beliefs are true. If evolution is true, then reason isn't trustworthy. How does one escape that when every belief the naturalist has is a product of evolution? Assuming naturalism is to doubt the reliability of reason itself.


1. Lewis, C. S. "Miracles." 2002. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002. 317. Print.

2. Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. 329. Print.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two Key Problems with Darwinism (video)

Modern Darwinism teaches that all life we see today is the result of lucky chemical accidents. There is no purpose or intelligence guiding the process. However, as we better understand the complexities of life and the amazing amount of information it takes to make even the simplest of cells, the Darwinian model just doesn't work.

In this video, Lenny teaches on two insurmountable problems for modern Darwinian theory and shows why life points to an intelligent designer.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why the Darwinist Version of Life's Origin is Anti-Science

P.Z. Myers, the acerbic evolutionary biologist, atheist, and blogger is certainly no friend to those arguing for God's existence. However, he did side with at least one point that creationists argue for when debating the concept of life and its origin: Darwinists who claim that the theory of evolution has nothing to do with origin of life "is a cop-out."  An older post at his blog Pharyngula, he writes:
#15 is also a pet peeve: "Evolution is a theory about the origin of life" is presented as false. It is not. I know many people like to recite the mantra that "abiogenesis is not evolution," but it's a cop-out. Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity. It includes molecular biases towards certain solutions and chance events that set up potential change as well as selection that refines existing variation. Abiogenesis research proposes similar principles that led to early chemical evolution. Tossing that work into a special-case ghetto that exempts you from explaining it is cheating, and ignores the fact that life is chemistry. That creationists don't understand that either is not a reason for us to avoid it.1
I completely agree with Myers in that anyone arguing for a non-Creator based model needs to account for both the origin as well as the development of the diversity of life as we see it today. I've previously written how evolutionary teaching texts and evolutionist both include the concept of abiogenesis—a 50 cent word meaning that life arose spontaneously from non-life—in their limiting the diversity of life we see today to only materialistic causes. For, if a creator is necessary to begin life, then the simplest explanation of life's diversity would be that such a creator created them with that diversity.

Passing on Pasteur

Of course, Myers, Dawkins, and company would never allow a creator to be considered in their model. 2 They hold that any such appeal is at its base unscientific. But there's a problem here. The view that life arose spontaneously from non-life has never once been observed in all of human history. If science is at its root a study of those things we can observe, then the theory that life can arise from non-life without any intelligent intervention seems to be non-science.  But abiogenesis is worse than that; it's anti science.

You see, the question has come up before. There was a time where people believed that life could arise spontaneously. People would notice their milk or bread gather mold and they thought that these life forms just popped into existence. However, the French scientist Louis Pasteur performed an extensive series of experiments to heat food products prior to packaging and he showed conclusively that new life doesn't simply pop into existence. He proved that biogenesis (from life comes life) is the scientifically viable theory rather than abiogenesis.

Pasteur's results have been confirmed millions of times over. In fact, our modern method of food distribution relies on the fact that new forms of life won't just appear. Think of a jar of natural peanut butter. The jar is an open system in which energy and sunlight may pass through. The starting material is organic; it has all the right proteins for life. Heck, peanuts are even the starting point for the plant. Yet, no one expects to find new life in their peanut butter!

Science is at its absolute best when one can verify a hypothesis through repeatable testing. The more times one achieves the same results, the stronger the hypothesis becomes. Pasteur's biogenesis is about as strong a finding as science can achieve, so why argue for abiogenesis when no one in the history of humanity has ever observed such and not even one theoretical model of how life could spontaneously arise exists? Simply, it's because the only other explanation of life is that it came from a creator. Therefore, those that trumpet science above all the loudest seem to be the most willing to dump Pasteur's science when it doesn't fit their model. Doesn't that make them anti-science?


1. Myers, PZ. "15 Misconceptions about Evolution." Pharyngula. ScienceBlogs LLC., 20 Feb. 2008. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.
2. In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins writes, "The Darwinian theory is in principle capable of explaining life. No other theory that has ever been suggested is in principle capable of explaining life." Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. New York, N.Y: W.W. Norton, 1987. Print. 288.
Image courtesy PiccoloNamek

Friday, July 25, 2014

Do Airplanes Evolve? Only If Evolution Encompasses a Designer

Evolution is a topic that seems to always be accompanied by assertion and conjecture. Yesterday, the Christian Science Monitor highlighted a recent scientific journal article that compares the history of passenger airplane development with the evolution of birds.1 The abstract from the journal article begins, "The prevailing view is that we cannot witness biological evolution because it occurred on a time scale immensely greater than our lifetime. Here, we show that we can witness evolution in our lifetime by watching the evolution of the flying human-and-machine species: the airplane."2 The paper concludes with "The legacy of all flow systems (animate and inanimate) is this: they have moved mass (they have "mixed" the Earth's crust) more because of design evolution than in the absence of design evolution."3

While I don't doubt that passenger airplane design and development follow the authors' well-argued pattern of larger bodies and similar structures, the claim that this somehow allows an observer to "see" evolution as one would desire to see birds evolve shows just how loosely the term is applied even within the academic community. It comes as no surprise to anyone that the change airplanes experience are a result of intelligent designers who are constantly testing designs to select the changes that would make the vehicle more efficient and functional. These changes are not random mutations in a genome, but thoughtful extrapolations enacted with purpose.

If I were to say that birds evolved the way airplanes do, becoming more efficient because of design changes that were thoughtful extrapolations enacted with purpose, that would be a good definition of intelligent design. Darwinists would have a fit if I were to define evolution in this way, for the goal of evolution is to explain diversity and complexity without a designer.

I believe studies like this may be interesting and useful, but they tell us nothing about neo-Darwinian theory. The problem is that the evolution is famously understood as a wiggle-word as David Klinghoffer has documented. It can mean anything from change over time to natural selections acting on random mutations to all living organisms descending from a common ancestor.4

It seems that the authors of this article have taken the meaning of evolution in one its broadest senses. They define the term when commenting on the image provided above:
Yes, we should care because bird's-eye-views such as Fig. 1 open everybody's eyes to the natural phenomenon called "evolution." Evolution means a flow organization (design) that changes over time. In biology, evolution is largely a mental construct built on imagination, because the time scale of animal evolution is immense relative to the time available to us for observations. We cannot witness animal evolution, and this places the biology argument for evolution at a disadvantage. It would be useful to have access to the evolution of one species in real time.

Looking at Fig. 1 satisfies precisely this need.5
You can see how subtly the authors try to apply the changes in airplane design to biological evolution, but such application is without merit, for they never discuss the mechanism of the change within the biological counterpart to the airplane. Who are these designers that are coming up with new bird body types? The assumption seems to be, well I'm actually not sure what it proves. Things change. Humans improve designs because they want their efforts to be efficient and rewarding, both financially and emotionally. But if passenger airplane designs satisfy the need to see evolution in action, then the intelligent design community offers a better explanation of the diversity of bird types than the neo-Darwinian model ever will.


1. Lewis, Tayna. "Airplane designs evolve like flying animals do, say scientists" The Christian Science Monitor. 23 July 2014. Web.
2. Bejan A., J. D. Charles and S. Lorente. "The evolution of airplanes." J. Appl. Phys. 116, 044901 (2014); Web. 25 July 2014.
3. Ibid.
4. Klinghoffer, David. "The Eight Meanings of ‘Evolution’." Evolution News and Views. Web. 26 Aug 2011.
5. Bejan, 2014.

Image credit: J. Appl. Phys. 116, 044901 (2014);

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Moral Argument in a Nutshell

Morality is a key component of what it means to be human. The fact that there are at least some standards to which all human beings should adhere is well-recognized across all cultures. Morality is real and must be rooted in an objective reality beyond our natural world.

First, we know that morality cannot be merely a human convention where people agree to behave a certain way.

It differs from other types of societal norms, such as understanding which side of the road to drive on. While driving on the wrong side of the road is illegal, what makes it the "wrong side" is simply a social construct, an agreement between people to ensure safety and a smooth flow of traffic. It makes no sense to say Americans are immoral when we drive on the right side of the road while those in the UK and Australia are behaving morally upright by driving on the left. Those are simply societal norms that help us get about our business.

Therefore, morality cannot be derived from nature or natural law. It cannot be thought of as only stemming from some evolutionary framework to benefit our survival as a species.

The atheist philosopher Michael Ruse clearly understood this when he said that if evolution is true, then morality doesn't really exist. Ruse argued that morality:
"simply does not work unless we believe it is objective. Darwinian theory shows that, in fact, morality is a function of (subjective) feelings; but it shows also that we have (and must have) the illusion of objectivity."1
Ruse goes on to argue that morality is "an illusion foisted upon us by our genes" and that the illusion is the objectivity of moral values. According to Ruse, if morality stems from an evolutionary framework, it is not real, but only a useful fiction. And if it's not real, then it cannot be considered binding for all humanity.

No, morality is a completely different kind of thing. We recognize that a heinous act such as torturing a weaker individual only for pleasure is an objectively evil thing to do—it is wrong for all people across all ages, regardless of whether they thought so or not. Thus, moral laws are considered prescriptive—they are how anyone at any place and any time should behave given a specific set of circumstances. And we can recognize such laws as real, not simply made up to propagate the race.

In order for moral laws to be prescriptive in this way, they must be grounded in something other than a social agreement. Therefore, moral laws must have a source that transcends humanity, that is, God.

So, if there is no God, then there are no real moral values and duties. But, we know moral values and duties do exist. Torturing babies for the fun of it is really wrong. So it stands to reason that God does exist.


1.Ruse, Michael. Taking Darwin Seriously. (New York: Prometheus Books, 1988. 253.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Monkey Business: Stop Excusing Sexual Deviance

An article entitled "Face it: Monogamy is unnatural" was featured yesterday on the CNN site. Written by Meghan Laslocky, her thesis is that "a greater tolerance toward the human impulse to experience sexual variety is needed."[1] Laslocky bases this on the fact that "Biologically, we humans are animals. So it makes sense to look to the animal kingdom for clues as to what we are built for." She then throws out examples from the animal kingdom of how monogamy is a sham. "The evidence shows that monogamy is a rarity among mammals. Only 3% to 5% of all the mammal species on Earth 'practice any form of monogamy.' In fact, no mammal species has been proven to be truly monogamous."

She culminates her argument with a look at the biology of pair-bonding in prairie voles, a small rodent native to North America. Stating that hormones and receptors are the cause for such behavior, Laslocky concludes:
"Among humans, here's the rub: we have the chemicals and the receptors, but it varies from person to person how much we have. Based on brain wiring alone, inclination toward fidelity can vary dramatically from one individual to another. In other words, 'once a cheater, always a cheater,' might have as much to do with brain wiring as with a person's moral compass, upbringing or culture. "
I'm sure everyone who has walked in on their spouse in the act of infidelity is comforted by that fact.

Arguments like the one Laslocky proposes are not new. Many times I hear from homosexual advocates that homosexuality must be natural because zoologists have observed animals performing homosexual behavior in the wild. This type of reasoning is as preposterous as it is inconsistent. No one would say, "Chimps fling their feces and we are so close genetically we should, too." Or to take a more mundane example, it isn't uncommon for a host to be horrified when his or her pet dog mounts the leg of a guest. Even in the article, one image of elephant seals is accompanied with the note that males "protect harems of more than 100 females from other males thinking of moving into their territories." I'm sure such a "natural" relationship model will be not considered acceptable by women!

No, these appeals to the animal kingdom as a way to understand our sexual actions make one of two egregious errors. The first is they assume humans are slaves to our biology. While prairie voles may not be able to rise above their responses to chemical hormones, part of what it means to be human is to NOT react to our base stimuli. We don't want a man threatening to kill at the mere presence of another male. We don't want a person to simply take whomever he or she desires. We have this capacity for reason that makes us--let's choose this word wisely--civilized.

In fact, that's the argument that women's groups have relied on when talking about rape and provocative dress. It doesn't matter how it makes you feel, you don't have to act on it. So, to dismiss infidelity as people who are victims of biology opens up a much larger issue and gives sexual predators an out.

The second way these kinds of arguments err is by blurring actions and assuming animal motivations are the same as in humans. This anthropomorphizing animal behavior is a common plague in animal behavioral research. The case of Koko is a perfect example.

Koko is a famous gorilla who supposedly mastered over 1,000 signs and uses American Sign Language to communicate in complex sentences. However, as Steven Pinker in his book The Language Instinct documents, the handlers were interpreting actions as signs, interpreting one sign to mean something else, and basically superimposing what they wanted Koko's behavior to mean onto the ape's actions. [2] Similarly, no animals form homosexual relationships for pair-bonding. They auto-stimulate themselves with whatever they may find. That's why the dog mounts the guest's leg.

One thing not mentioned by proponents who liken human sexuality with animal behavior is acts of sexual gratification between species. Peter Singer writes that while visiting an orangutan refuge in Africa with a group, one of the women "was suddenly seized by a large male orangutan, his intentions made obvious by his erect penis. Fighting off so powerful an animal was not an option, but Galdikas (the refuge's director) called to her companion not to be concerned, because the orangutan would not harm her, and adding, as further reassurance, that ‘they have a very small penis.' As it happened, the orangutan lost interest before penetration took place."[3] Such a scenario is scary, but not as scary as Singer's conclusion. He says such an action is an example of why sex across species should "cease to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings."[4]

Regardless of which error is committed, you can see how judging sexual actions by observing animal sexual behavior leads to dangerous consequences.  Human beings are not merely animals. We have minds and we have a moral compass. Bestiality is wrong. Rape is wrong. And excusing infidelity on the basis of biology is itself inexcusable.


1. Laslocky, Meghan. "Face it: Monogamy is unnatural." <> Accessed 6/22/2013.

2. Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language.
(New York:William Morrow & Co. 1994). 345-347.

3. Singer, Peter. "Heavy Petting." Nerve, 2001. < > Accessed 6/22/2013

4. Ibid.

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An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
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