Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Biological Perspectives and Political Movements

David Heddle authored a blog entry at He Lives from which the following quotes are obtained. My comments follow.

What if (and, based on what I have heard, this is the secondary tenet of Expelled) Hitler and his supporters were true believers in evolution, and they sincerely believed that the holocaust was thereby justified. Would that actually impugn evolution?

No it would not. If evolution is true, then is a morally neutral fact. Actually I take that back—if it is true then it is, I’d say, as part of creation, necessarily good.

I agree with what is written but think that David Heddle has asked the less relevant question. I'll pose the more relevant one in a comment that follows.

It would be a similar situation to those who sincerely believed the bible justified southern slavery. Did such people actually exist? Perhaps—or perhaps they simply co-opted passages to justify their ideology. But for the sake of argument, suppose they sincerely thought they were interpreting scripture correctly. Does that impugn Christianity? No, it impugns only an erroneous exegesis.

A valid point and one which clues us in on accurate useage of biological concepts.

Asked differently, suppose you arrive at the conclusion that (a) evolution is correct and (b) it really did lead to Nazism. What would you do? Outlaw a correct scientific theory as being a dangerous idea?

Outlawing scientific theories and ideas is a non-starter. Evolution is a very broad topic which includes eons of time, mechanisms of change including mutations and drift, groupings of organisms by descent and branching, extinctions, analyses associated with molecular biological structures and much more. Yet the abuses of Nazism or eugenics for that matter, are linked to a specific concept within the study of evolution- natural selection. Perverted fitness concepts were linked to actions whose purpose was artificial selection and consequent population changes.

While reading an essay by Chuck Colson I found a better approach to the abuse of scientific theories for political purposes. In the linked article Colson writes:

Most important, the group, like any good Ivy League club, appeals to science to defend abstinence. On the True Love Revolution website, they make a big deal about a human hormone called oxytocin. This hormone, which is released during intercourse, birth, and breast-feeding, creates a deep psychological and physiological bond between people.

Fredell says that oxytocin in casual sex bonds people who may not want to be bonded to each other. In her words, “Why bond yourself so intensely when you are not sure you are going to spend the rest of your life with this person?”

Note the biological reference. Oxytocin, a hormone, the level of which is elevated through sexual intercourse, fosters more intense bonding between a couple. That is not desirable if the partners have a casual relationship with no intent to make it anything other than casual. Note too that the hormone is directly related to the social problem discussed. It is not a vague concept or even a specific one with broad implications that do not impact the matter at hand. If we are to delve into biology we need to know what data to use and what concepts to stay away from when formulating socio-political policies. Natural selection contains seeds of destruction when applied to issues like genetic defects and racial disharmony. We need not ban its discussion of course. Merely use it correctly and refrain from social analogies when they are destructive. What do we substitute then if anything? More from Colson first:

True Love Revolution is also taking this radical stance by doing something that good Christian apologists have done for generations: by appealing to natural law. To put it simply, natural law is an explanation of reality based on the natural—and we know, created—order. C. S. Lewis, for instance, defended Christianity by explaining that it makes the most sense of the world. In essence, that Christianity is the most natural worldview.

Similarly, this exceptional group of students argues that sexual purity is the most natural way to find true love, because it respects the body and it respects the human being.

The more relevant question, I believe, is what, if any concept, within evolution or biology is an appropriate guide in the formulation of socio-political policies? The answer may be nothing. It may also be found in the example of using oxytocin to support Christian morality. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. We don't need to excise biological concepts but at times we need to keep them within the realm of scientific theory and not misapply them to matters outside the realm of biology. Consider applicable biological functions instead. They tend to be more precisely formulated and more relevant when biological analogies are called for. There are some that, like oxytocin, better advance a Christian world view than natural selection.



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