Bad Argument Against Evolution: Teaching Evolution Is “Bad”


This is a message to those of my friends and readers who are Christians who enjoy arguing about evolution. If you are going to attack evolution, actually attack evolution. 

I guess I should put this into the proper context. I debate lots of Christians. I don’t always debate about evolution, sometimes it is other stuff which I end up arguing about. When evolution does come up though, it is rarely actually about evolution. I’ve noticed that some Christians are fond of encouraging people to not teach evolution. Not because it isn’t true, but because it is responsible for “Nazis” “Communism” and other generic bad things according to them. These people assert this as if it were a fact, and are typically impossible to move from this position. I’m about to drop a “truth-bomb” on these people. Even if it were true that information related to evolution were a contributor to the Holocaust, or the pogroms in Russia (not to mention atrocities committed by Stalin’s regime), this would in no way be an effective argument against evolution itself being reflective of reality.

This is a stupid argument that people use to try and make people feel bad about teaching evolution. It’s ineffective. As long as the evidence suggest evolution occurred, evolution should be taught. Not in philosophy, but in science classes (and natural history classes as well). The consequences of fusing natural processes (well, in actuality our understanding of natural processes, not the processes themselves) and social philosophies isn’t always good, but that doesn’t undo the evidence which supports the understanding that evolution happened and is happening even now. It doesn’t make the evidence less compelling in a purely scientific context. No amount of atrocities, undoes this evidence. Deniers of evolution wish it did, and oftentimes know better than to try and aim at the science (and some of them UNDERSTAND that the evidence as it stands right now is fairly solid) so they aim at how people feel about it. Which is bullshit.

In order to make evolution look bad, people want to use the works of men and women who fused scientific understanding with social “principles” resulting in things like social darwinism and other things that are viewed as bad. This is a clever tactic, admittedly, but it does nothing to actually disprove evolution. It might win a debate, by getting an audience to look at the other side as “bad” or lacking in a moral compass, but it does literally NOTHING to actually disprove evolution as being the process by which life diversifies on Earth.

If you want to ask evolution how it feels about things like genocide, in order to be fair you’d also have to ask erosion and gravity how they feel about genocide. Those are also natural processes. The reason people don’t do this is because those processes are deemed less controversial, and they don’t view those theories as necessarily opposite to their beliefs in God or in some other deity. People understand that as long as evolution appears to be true, there is less reason to believe in a literal Bible (or some other holy-text, but the evolution deniers/skeptics I’ve met are Christian, but I know that isn’t universal). Evolution has no opinion on morality. Evolution is a process. Evolution didn’t ask to be partially incorporated into ideas like Social Darwinism.

My personal sense of morality, of compassion, of philosophy are not influenced by evolution. I’m sure there are people who are different than I am about that. I have no doubt that some people out there have a sense of morality which is affected by their understandings of the processes which impact life which are natural. But those people and I myself are not evidence for or against evolution, nor are our decisions. Sorry evolution deniers/skeptics, you need to do better than this if you want to truly impact evolution and whether or not it should be taught

Here’s a tip: if you want to get evolution to not be taught anymore, focus on disproving it. Not trying to connect it to failed/”bad” social and political attitudes. Focus on finding evidence which disproves evolution, not making it somehow sound “bad” to people who hear how you conflate it with certain attitudes or ideas.
Have you seen this argument? How does it make you feel, if you have?

Comments

  1. machintelligence says

    I fear your argument is doomed to failure. Most of the folks you are debating value feelings and “beliefs” over facts, and they will simply ignore them.
    “My mind is made up. Don’t try to confuse me with facts!”

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    The anti-evolution arguments-from-consequences I’ve encountered generally focus on its purported effects on children: “Teach them they’re animals, they’ll act like animals!” and the like.

    Pointing to the behavior of pre-Darwin humans generally gets me nowhere in these discussions. I suspect the people who get so upset about this don’t really worry about violence as such, but something they see as much worse: sex.

  3. kesci says

    I teach high school biology and have heard such arguments from both students and parents. I’ve been teaching 32 years and get one or two of these concerns each year. Parents generally voice their concerns during open house and students do so when we get to the evolution chapters in our text book. I also have a collection of religious tracts given to me by students regarding biological evolution and Big Bang theory. In addition, I’ve received a few letters from parents requesting equal time be given to Creationism or Intelligent Design. Fortunately I’ve never had any students get so bent out of shape about the subject to involve the intervention of an administrator. However, one colleague of mine two years ago had a student so disruptive that she had to have him removed from class.

    Regarding responses from students attempting to yoke evolution with immoral actions or characters (racism, slavery, genocide, eugenics, Hitler, Stalin, etc.), I simply emphasize that evolution is a natural process which occurs regardless if humans are around to put some sort of contrived meaning into it. With parents I refer them to the NSTA position statements on the Nature of Science and Evolution.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    if you want to get evolution to not be taught anymore, focus on disproving it

    This will not work, at least in isolation. If you REALLY want evolution to not be taught any more, what you really need to focus on is coming up with a better explanation of the evidence.

    Example: the evidence used to be that time is invariant. Classical mechanics was enough to explain everything we observed. It was only in the late 19th century that an experiment was done that showed there was something odd going on. At that point, people didn’t sit around trying to “disprove” classical mechanics. Instead, they set about explaining the evidence. And that explanation – relativity – has supplanted classical mechanics as the “true” explanation of how the universe works. “True”, that is, until we perform an experiment whose results relativity can’t explain. At that point, we’ll need a better theory again. So far, so good.

    Christians (and others) who focus on “disproving” evolution have it backwards. Nobody is interested in their “disproof”. All science asks is a better explanation than the one we’ve got – ideally a simpler, more broadly applicable one.

    Final note: “goddidit” is not an explanation.

    • says

      I would kind of agree and disagree with this. A “better” explanation can be defined various ways and will be defined various ways. Christians who seek the removal of evolution and others who seek to disprove/destroy evolution will argue that they have a “better explanation”, which many of us see as silly. But they’d argue that anyway.

      I think you have a smart argument here, but because of words like “better”. they’ll argue that they have already achieved what you said they should aim for.

  5. Peter the Mediocre says

    The idea that the more compelling argument, not physical reality, determines truth seems to be popular in some circles lately.

  6. Marfin says

    Your personal sense of morality is a product of evolution , if you believe in humans being a product of evolution , then everything about us is a product of evolution including our morals, desires, likes and dislikes.So the racist, the good Samaritan , the composer, the murderer, the doctor, the dictator, the bigot, the child molester, the person who devotes their lives to doing good are all just a product of evolution , evolution knows nothing of morals, it selects on fitness, so somehow all the likes dislikes desires and everything are just a products of evolution . Thats if you believe in evolution.

  7. cnocspeireag says

    ‘Machintelligence’ is right here. We had hardly been affected by this sort of craziness when I retired from teaching science in the UK, but it’s become a problem here too. There really is no ‘debate’, the case for evolution of species is as open and shut as it gets. You really have to be deluded, ignorant, or completely oblivious to evidence to reject it at our present state of knowledge. Almost by definition, it is impossible and a waste of time to argue with anyone who rejects all the principles of evidence and logic.

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