Saturday, 21 July 2012

Behaving Like Animals

The event* in Colorado was unspeakably tragic. There's simply not the words to adequately express the horror of such an action. Rubbing salt into the wound, though, are those who seek to capitalise the tragedy for their own agenda. Perhaps it's understandable when it's trying to highlight the plight of the mentally ill or to have a conversation about what role a society has with guns, as those conversations at least seem relevant. But there's Rick Warren, who was quick to point the blame at the teaching of evolution.

One could take issue with the cheap opportunism; that the convenient scapegoating has little to do with reality and only serves to push Warren's ideological agenda. But the sentiment seems quite in line with a narrative that fundamentalists have been pushing about evolution. One only needs to watch Expelled** to see the tight coupling of evolution and immorality. The biblical scholar Hector Avalos has gone so far as to say: "One understands nothing about creationism unless one understands that it is meant to be a system of ethics."

Evidentially, this is a hot-button issue among creationists. But however irritating the persistent associations between evolution and immorality are, the most irritating thing is how badly creationists miss the point. Of course we are going to behave like animals. We are animals, ergo we behave like animals.

What Rick Warren and others like him miss, is that there's nothing to preclude animal nature from having a moral component to it. It's an interesting question for biologists as to why it is that there's so much in the way of cooperative behaviour in nature***, but are we to see ourselves warning others of an impending danger to our own detriment as some angelic act, while dismissing the same in a prairie dog? Does our protection of the young have a nobility that a bear defending its young lacks?

Even if Rick Warren thinks that moral prescriptions are handed down from a deity, it doesn't mean that a view without a deity is simply how he sees the world minus what God adds to the framework. It's a failure to comprehend the view in question, which is what a good education system should work to alleviate. Perhaps if creationists weren't so busy trying to water down the teaching of evolution, they might at least understand what it is to be an animal.

*The Dark Knight Rises shooting.
**Or not, it's a terrible film.
*** One interesting answer

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