This is another updated and altered version of something I wrote a while ago. It was initially kicked off by a creationist article, where some guy boringly repeats yet again the tedious fallacy that evolutionary processes can be equated with moral decisions.
If you are an “evolutionist” – which I think means, if you are persuaded by the evidence that replication with random variation in a competitive environment is the most likely explanation for the observable variety of living organisms in the world – then, apparently, it necessarily follows that those creatures which are “fitter” than their rivals in some evolutionary sense are also morally “better”, and biology is the only thing that can give us any ideas of moral “goodness”.
This is what’s technically known as “retarculous fuckwittery”.
The idea of evolution is pretty scary to some people, so closely associated as it is with a meaningless, godless worldview. The idea that an entirely natural process could be how the entire human race came about, that we weren’t created specifically by any god and really aren’t all that special in the grand scheme of things, has a lot of big implications, which can be a lot to take in if it’s not an idea you’re used to. The fallacy known as the “argument from final consequences” will get its own entry in the Skeptictionary in time, but it’s clear why so many would feel compelled to reject evolution on the basis of the unthinkable things which seem to result from it.
But science is about studying the way the world works, identifying things that happen, and examining the question of how they happen. It’s about facts. Evolution is a fact. It’s not like we haven’t observed it taking place quite a bit. And even if for some reason you don’t buy that idea, you can at least grasp that the theory is a description of what scientists believe happens.
Which has bugger all to do with what may or may not be good.
It entirely misunderstands science to claim that, because research has been done and the world seems to work a certain way, our sense of morality should be blindly and arbitrarily defined by the principles that scientists “hold dear”. It’s like expecting that anyone who accepts the theory of gravity will spend their time frantically nailing everything to the floor, to stop objects from blasphemously moving upwards.
The fact is, there’s this thing called down, which is where stuff tends to fall. That’s just how the universe works. Any moral decisions are an irrelevancy in noticing this trend. It’s not that they shouldn’t go up, by any moral or ethical mandate, but the application of a downward gravitational force is just what happens.
And another thing about how the universe works, is that when there is replication among a population of entities, mutations in replication that cause variation among them, and differential fitness providing competitive pressures based on specific attributes of those entities, there will happen to occur processes of Darwinian natural selection. It’s just what happens.
Morality is a whole different study. Encouraging something not entirely in line with these Darwinian principles is no more immoral than doing star jumps and yelling “Suck it, Newton!” And doctors who acknowledge evolution, which is what that original Answers in Genesis article was about, aren’t “working against the driving force of nature”. They’re dealing with the Shit that proverbially Happens, and trying to make things better. Not more natural, not more in line with the laws of thermodynamics – those can look after themselves. Just more appropriate, and more desirable, based on things like compassion and humanity. Scientists can hold those dear, too.