Saturday, February 18, 2006

Evolution Leads to Hitler?

There are apparently some entrepreneurial Intelligent Design and Creation Scientists out there. The Washington Post reports that some tour companies are taking groups of home-schooled children of biblical literalists through museums and offering the "correct" interpretation of the exhibits:

The tours are not all fun and games, with the guides claiming that evolutionist thinking supports racism and abortion. This happened on a recent [National Center of Atmospheric Research] tour, when [Rusty] Carter [of Biblically Correct Tours] told a dozen children and their parents abortion was an act of natural selection carried out by humans.

Other tours suggest Hitler was playing his version of survival of the fittest by favoring whites, and note that museum dioramas of early humans have black "subhumans."

"My contention is evolution kills people," Jack said in an interview. "It's not that evolutionists don't have morality, it's that evolution can offer no morality. Ideas have consequences. If you believe you came from slime there is no reason not to, if you can, get away with anything."

While it's true that the scientific investigation of evolution on this planet cannot be applied to morals, it's a big mistake to suggest that accepting the reality of evolution precludes morality. Morals are sometimes difficult to discern, and it can take a great deal of diligence to adhere to them. But the moral choice in any situation is independent of whether one views oneself as having descended from a long history of life forms on the planet, or as having descended from a few thousand years' worth of purely human lineage. Either way, morality is the same. The only difference is that, in the latter case, those with that view are willing to accept morality from authority, rather than morality discerned.

I fear there is something deep within the human psyche in general, and strongly affecting ID/Creationism proponents, that yearns for authoritative pronouncements about humanity's special place in the grand plan of the universe. I once spoke for a couple hours with Kent Hovind about a presentation he gave in Belfast, Maine. Even as a lay-reader of scientific articles in popular publications, I knew his talk had been riddled with errors and mischaracterizations of current scientific thought. But as we talked one-on-one, I came to realize that he would be lost in a universe that hadn't been created a mere six millennia ago.

People who have secular moral systems need to do a better job of explaining what morality means and why it is important to strive to be moral in the absence of punishment by deity.

The Post article also mentions some museums that are open now, or being planned, that cater directly to the ID/Creationist crowd. Nothing wrong about that; that's what makes America great. But over time, the "natural selection" that will occur when students who have been trained by ID/Creationist proponents try to enter careers in science will be fierce. There are only so many church-subsidized scientific organizations these days.



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