Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Enemy Reinforcements Identified as a Ranking Rant

Well, we've got another nut ranting about evolution encouraging amoral behavior. This insanity really irritates me on multiple levels.

First, on the pure logic front, it's irrelevant: The (a/im)morality of an idea has nothing to do with its validity. Even if it was somehow immoral for 2 + 2 to equal 4, 2 + 2 would still equal 4.

Second, it demonstrates a lack of understanding between descriptive and proscriptive concepts. Evolution, like all of science, is descriptive: It describes how our world works, and what is likely to happen. Just because the "strong" (whatever that means) are going to be more successful than the "weak" (whatever that means), it doesn't mean that they should. Just because gravity pulls objects downward doesn't mean that a rock "should" roll down a hill in any sort of moral sense. We can expect the rock to roll down, but only because that's how gravity and rocks work.

Third, it demonstrates a very limited understanding of how evolution works. Personally, I find it telling that fundies seem to think that evolution favors violent, brute force solutions. In reality, such means are quite dangerous, especially for humans: Combat is a high-risk venture. For creatures like insects, who breed at a rate that puts rabbits to shame, it's an acceptable risk. For humans, it is not: Human beings have to invest a lot of time and effort into raising the few children they can produce over a lifetime. Going Columbine pretty much guarantees evolutionary failure: Violent children tend to die, or at least get locked away somewhere where they're unlikely to spend any time with members of the opposite sex.

This risk strikes me as a likely reason for the various posturing games animals play: Why take on a high risk of death, when you can take on a lesser risk, like neck and horn injury? Why risk death when you can merely risk being shown up by the guy with the bigger, shinier tail feathers? This game has taken hold in the human population as well: Why demonstrate your manliness by killing the guy who saw her first (risky, and women consider it "insensitive" nowadays), when you can get a Hummer or *gasp* be a considerate and productive individual?

Contrary to the simplistic model Cretinists like to portray, evolution can and does find nonviolent means to continue. As I said before, I find it telling that they seemingly jump to the conclusion that violence is the most effective means to solve the survival/reproductive problems a human encounters during his lifespan. Even if there are these hypothetical people acting violent because of a belief in evolution, that's an argument to strengthen, not weaken, the teaching of evolution: There are other ways to live besides brutish domination, and evolution's come up with plenty of examples. Like humans, a species of social animals who can't easily survive without cooperation from other humans.

Another annoyance of mine is the 'act like animals' pseudoargument. Which animals? The animal kingdom has a rather large variety of behaviors. Even members of an individual species can have a lot of variation. Additionally, not all animal behaviors are bad, like Cretinists like to imply. There are plenty of pets out there who get medals for behavior considered heroic by human standards. Yet another point: It's a false dichotomy. Humans do act like animals. We just have more complicated rituals than most for getting a meal or a date. Or evaluating the potential and quality of a date.

Despite what Cretinists would like you to believe, religion isn't a "higher" behavior or anything: It's like one tale I've read about a dog who barked at thunderstorms: He barked, the thunderstorm went away, so "obviously" the canomorphized thunderstorm ran off scared. Religion is pretty much a way of giving ourselves the comforting illusion of control.

This rant may be continued.


Infophile said...

"Another annoyance of mine is the 'act like animals' pseudoargument..."

Doggerel it.

Bob said...


Guthrie wrote about apes doing the same thing. Were they homomorphizing?

Part of his theory holds that "animism and anthropomorphism...are universal in humans and shared by some animials." So it seems man anthropomorphizes man's best friend, and man's best friend canomorphizes man.

"Religion is pretty much a way of giving ourselves the comforting illusion of control."

That illusion is not necessarily comforting, nor is the illusion necessarily of control. The illusion is that the universe has the capacity for moral judgement, and exercises its judement, blessing the rightious and condemning the wicked. And from what I hear it can be quite fickle.

Don said...

"Doggerel it."

It would also be mighty fine if you'd doggerel "energy." That one always gets under my skin.