How Evolution Strips Humanity of All Its Reality
The brilliant G.K. Chesterton once said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.” The 21st century has finally outdone his brilliance: We have quit believing in God and we believe in anything, just as he predicted. Strangely, though, somehow we have learned to believe in nothing, too. Did evolution do that to us? Read on.
I wrote last week how atheist philosophers have turned a-humanist, denying their own reality as much as they deny God’s. It would be a dangerous mistake, though, to see this as a mistake by academics. Every public school student is taught the same non-reality. It’s delivered in disguise, but the mask draped over it does little to dampen its impact. Home-schooled and Christian-schooled children catch the lesson, too, virtually absorbing it from the air around them. It takes extraordinary teaching effort to filter out this spike protein of a worldview.
The Subtle Curriculum of Human Nothingness
It’s subtle, though. Few schools dare say such things openly below college level. Many teachers don’t even realize it’s in the curriculum. That’s not so surprising, since half the problem is what’s not there. Public schools don’t have to deny the human soul outright. (By “soul,” all I mean here is any human reality that transcends our physicality.)
Schools teach the nothingness of the human soul quite well, just by leaving out all mention of it. The message is clear: Maybe there’s something to the soul, maybe there isn’t, maybe everyone can have “their own truth” about it. Whatever the answer may be, it’s not important enough to talk about.
Do not underestimate the power of what we do not teach our children. Especially when we hammer it home with what we teach them about evolution.
Evolution’s Insidious Message of Chance
It seems everyone disagrees on how much of evolutionary theory is true. One thing should be clear to all, though: No purely natural process of unguided variation and natural selection could lead to some higher species called “human.”
It cannot do it, first of all, because evolution (specifically, naturalistic, unguided, purely natural evolution, the form I’m talking about throughout this article) doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s nothing less but also nothing more than natural law in action. Natural law chooses nothing, decides nothing, wants nothing, knows nothing. To say evolution leads somewhere is like saying combustion leads forest fires to burn things.
This is not some unhappy Christian’s growling at evolutionary theory. This is what it actually teaches.
Doesn’t evolution “go somewhere,” though? Not really. Not so it matters.
You could call it creative if you like, but you’d be doing violence to the word’s meaning. If the theory is true, then yes, it results in new things in the world. Not by anything I’d call creative processes, though. Every innovation comes about blindly, by chance — random, unguided changes in genes, environments, or whatever. There is no meaning, purpose, intention, or direction to any new thing evolution offers the world.
Natural Selection Is a Shell Game with Words
That’s what you get with the theory, though. Natural selection then takes over, working on these random changes to … but no: Forget that. My sentence got off to a bad start there, because in fact natural selection does no work. It isn’t even really a thing. It’s just a way of saying, “what survives and reproduces, survives and reproduces. What doesn’t, doesn’t.”
They tell us “Nature” (capital N!) selects populations that are “better adapted” or “more fit.” Wrong. Nature doesn’t select a thing, not if you think selecting means some kind of decision-making. And you’d better not let those terms fool you, either. There’s only one marker that shows a population is “more fit”: its success in surviving and reproducing. It’s the same thing in different words. It’s a shell game with language, nothing more.
This is not some unhappy Christian’s growling at evolutionary theory. This is what it actually teaches. You might not have learned it that way in school, but that’s only because they didn’t tell you the whole truth there.
There Is No Evolutionary Ladder
Still, if you want to accept it, then you’ll go on thinking that this natural process leads to changes accumulating in organisms and populations, with some of those changes being “adaptive,” meaning they contribute to the success of that which succeeds. Over time new species can arise. It repeats over again and over again, population after population, species after species, until finally we get to the very top of the evolutionary ladder, humans.
That’s a fair statement of evolutionary theory — heavily condensed, obviously, but close enough. If you’re a very, very convinced evolutionist, you might want to tweak a word or two, but basically you’ll believe every word of it.
Your only real trouble would be with the final phrase, the one about humans at that top of the heap. It’s the same problem I mentioned earlier with “leading”: Evolution doesn’t have a heap. It doesn’t have any ladders, and it doesn’t know a thing about “up” or “down. It doesn’t know anything, actually. If it did, though, it would be one thing and one thing only: winning or losing in the survival-and-reproduction game.
Humans Aren’t at the Top
And now for the real kicker.
That’s not just how we got here, according to naturalistic evolution. It’s why we got here. It’s the very same why that explains why redwood trees and Labrador retrievers got here. And why spiders and scorpions and coronaviruses are here, too. We all live for the same why, which is none whatsoever.
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The Bible says, “There is no distinction, for all have fallen short of the glory of God.” Evolution says there’s no distinction, too. There’s also no “falling short,” either. Maybe you think that’s good news, but there’s bad news to go with it: There’s no standing tall, either. None. Not just among humans, as in some ideal of equality like, “No man stands taller than another.”
As far as evolution is concerned, no man stands taller than a virus. Humanity itself stands no taller. Because again, evolution doesn’t know up from down. It doesn’t know anything at all.
This is the message of the theory. I doubt many teachers spell it so clearly and explicitly below college level, but they don’t have to. Young people aren’t stupid. We tell them humans are no different from any other life. Everything comes from the same place by the same processes, with the same value, purpose and intention: exactly none, on all those counts. No value. No purpose. No intention. And no difference. Being human means nothing.
Still, Reality Rules Even the Confused
That’s the unavoidable message. No wonder the world is confused. Can any human actually live on that? No, because it’s not real. Being human does mean something. No ideology could possibly overcome that reality. People will always find an out.
I think of Carl Sagan, telling us in his famous speech on the “pale blue dot.” His main message there is, “We are utterly, totally, absurdly insignificant.” Yet with inspirational music supporting him, he concludes, “The more I’m convinced nothing matters, the more responsible I feel to act as if it does.” That’s a paraphrase, but watch yourself and see if I got it wrong. I don’t think so.
Sagan believes it’s all meaningless. Therefore, he tells us, it’s all the more important to live as if it were meaningful. Thus he proves Chesterton wrong, believing in nothing and believing in anything, both at the same time. That’s what happens whenever anyone tries selling the idea that being human means nothing. They’re confused, but they’re confused as human beings. Reality still rules.
Closer to Home; Closer to Truth?
This isn’t just academic philosophy now. We teach these things in America’s grade schools and high schools. Students get the message: Being human is nothing special, in fact, it’s hardly even real.
It hits close to home in everything from transgenderism to Wicca to environmental activism. If there’s nothing real or distinctive about being human, why not say rivers and mountains have rights just like humans do? Why not say sex and gender are unreal? Or why not jump off the other side and go full-on pagan? It’s no worse than being meaningless, after all.
But this is Easter week, and part of Easter’s message is that those aren’t the only options, thanks be to God. God made us in His image, and He loves us enough to die for us. Enough said on that for now, though. More to come.
Postscript: Some doubters say they can’t find my opening Chesterton quote in anything he wrote. Okay, but so what? I say it sounds so much like him he must have said it sometime, somewhere, probably with friends in the pub over beer and cigars.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.