Crunching the Handbook

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Uncategorized
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A couple of years ago I changed my major from criminal justice to biology. I did this after a few semesters of college when I realized I was smart enough to go this route. Becoming a biologist was a childhood dream that I am finally pursuing.

When I announced to my mom my new future plans she wasn’t thrilled. Shortly after my announcement I received a present from her, The Evolution Handbook. This book is over 900 pages and boasts “over 3,000 scientific facts which annihilate evolutionary theory.”

Every sentence of this book drips with arrogance. I wanted to throw the book away as soon as I got it, but I have a hard time throwing out any book. So it’s been sitting on the shelf all this time and I’ve finally decided what to do with it. I am going to read it. Then I’m going to do my own research of established scientific knowledge to argue in favor of evolution and against what this book is presenting. These arguments will be presented here in my blog, so stay tuned and get ready to learn with me.

I want to start with a claim from this book that evolutionary theory is dangerous in that it teaches that there are no moral principles. Here’s a quote straight from the book:

“The social and moral impact that evolutionary concepts have had on the modern world has been terrific. Morality and ethical standards have been greatly reduced. Children and youth are taught in school that they are an advanced level of animals, and there are no moral principles. Since they are just animals, they should do whatever they want. Personal survival and success will come only by rivalry, strife, and stepping on others.”

Well, this is partly right. Evolution doesn’t teach moral principles. Evolution isn’t a tool to explain morality or philosophy. Evolution describes the history of life on earth. To say that learning about this history will negate all morality is false and, well, stupid.

This also assumes (this book is a creationist publication) that morality can only be defined by a deity, a higher power, a sky-daddy-grand-designer. This is also wrong. Though the religious may use their beliefs in the supernatural as a moral structure, belief in the supernatural is not a prerequisite for morality.

Humans are a social species. Our species could never be successful without principles of cooperation, compassion or empathy. My lack of belief doesn’t give me an excuse to lie and murder. I can easily see that my actions have consequences. If I lied to people all the time it would destroy my credibility. I couldn’t hold relationships together because I wouldn’t be trustworthy. Similarly, if I decided to murder someone I could see the consequences in not only legal and social punishment, but also in the grief of people who were close to and cared for my victim. Having empathy for people is a good enough reason to not kill anyone.

Learning about the history of life on earth does not threaten moral values. It only threatens creationist claims that their bible (I’m assuming the publishers of this book are Christian in faith) is a book to be taken literally (where they choose for the sake of their own arguments what should be taken literally and what should not, perhaps a topic for another post). A literal biblical understanding of the origin of life says that it took 7 days for their God to make up all the living things on earth  around 6,000 years ago, and the way these things were created are the way they have always been. We know this is untrue, we know the age of the earth and when species lived and when they arose. However, to take the bible literally you apparently have to swallow this Genesis pill.

The Evolution Handbook is also online, so anyone interested in reading for themselves can go here I’ll be updating on what I find as often as I can. If any reader who can make it through a chapter of this book wants to do their own analysis feel free to get ahold of me, contributions are welcome!

Until next time:

  1. Cyrus says:

    For someone to say that the only reason people don’t murder people is because they have religion and the morals inherent in that religion is the most ignorant possible thing anyone could say. Besides the fact that people who claim to be religious have been responsible for countless deaths over the centuries, usually done in the name of religion, it is also saying that if god said it was ok to kill people, you would go along with it simply because god said so. You hit the nail on the head: We don’t go around killing people because inherently we know killing is wrong and we don’t need a book to tell us this.

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