The Impact of Evolution on Ethics
The theory of organic evolution implies that the origin of man does not come from a creative process by a supernatural being (God), but from a naturalistic organic process that took place over an extremely long process of time. Hence, the teaching of organic evolution equates to a denial of a Supreme Being. Thus, we should understand in the very beginning that evolution itself has no impact upon true ethics—it is simply an unproven (and un-provable) theory—but its tremendous impact on the subject of ethics lies in the widespread influence of those who believe and teach it.
Of course, while it is rare for organic evolutionists to admit that their beliefs have any negative impact on society, the fact of the matter is that a belief in organic evolution produces a society that is not a pleasant one in which to live. Nevertheless, one aggressive atheist who is antagonistic towards creationism, religion, and a belief in God actually has told the truth relative to the matter. In 1976, Richard Dawkins first wrote the book, The Selfish Gene, in which he set forth within the realm of Neo-Darwinism his theory of genetic determinism, which is an extension of Darwin’s natural selection into the genetic realm. In his book, he writes, “You are nothing. You are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose in life…I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave…. My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live…” (2-3). This last statement is absolutely correct; a society consistently operating upon the belief of organic evolution “would be a very nasty society in which to live.” Consider the implications of such a belief.
We generally view ethics as a system or code by which we determine attitudes or actions either to be right or wrong. Nevertheless (if humanity lived as if organic evolution were correct)—if there was no Supreme Being to whom we would show accountability through an objective, absolute standard of will (2 Tim. 3:16-17)—then humanity would exist in an environment where anyone may do anything he or she pleases! In the absence of God, everything is allowed and ethics ultimately becomes just a matter of one’s opinion.
Each and every individual only needs to base his or her decisions on what will satisfy his or her own selfish needs. Jean Paul Sartre, a French existential philosopher, wrote, “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself… Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior” (Existentialism and Humanism, 1961, 485). Thus, whatever one chooses to do is right. He later declared that we attach value to the choice itself so that “…we can never choose evil” (Existentialism, 1966, 279). Therefore, if evolution is true and if there is no God (or if humanity lives as if it were true), then it is impossible to formulate a system of ethics by which one objectively can differentiate between right and wrong!
Consider this observation from the autobiography of agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell:
We feel that the man who brings widespread happiness at the expense of misery to himself is a better man than the man who brings unhappiness to others and happiness to himself. I do not know of any rational ground for this view, or, perhaps, for the somewhat more rational view that whatever the majority desires (called utilitarian hedonism) is preferable to what the minority desires. These are truly ethical problems, but I do not know of any way in which they can be solved except by politics or war. All I can find to say on this subject is that an ethical opinion can only be defended by an ethical axiom, but, if the axiom is not accepted, there is no way of reaching a rational conclusion (1969, p. 29).
In other words, with no way to reach a rational conclusion on what is ethical, humanity plumbs to depths of despair with such carnal and base philosophies arising as “might makes right,” and “the strong subjugate the weak.” Thus, we can see the impact that organic evolution has upon ethics—it creates a system driven by anarchy where “every man did that which is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).