A CRITIQUE OF EVERYTHING: EVOLUTIONARY PHILOSOPHY

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The following is an excerpt from Kenneth Zaretzke’s article Ethics, Environment, and Society or A Critique of Everything.  It first appeared in Soli Deo Gloria (1976), a festschrift for Dr. John H. Gerstner (edited by R.C. Sproul).

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The real weakness of the evolutionary philosophy (I don’t call it science) is its inability to say anything addressed to plain experience. The evolutionist places a high value on survival so as to allow for evolution, for progress. But why is survival good? How can you deduce an “ought” out of mere naturalism? Can the evolutionist contradict the man who declines to participate in his scheme since it is all going to come to an end anyway? The evolutionist cannot counter that irreversible entropy, or cosmic disintegration, is thousands or even millions, of years off. After all, a thousand years is as one day with the evolutionist. The evolutionary time scale is so vast that it really doesn’t matter whether our demise is millions upon millions, or merely hundreds, of years away. Weren’t several billion years required for the planets to form and for life to appear? And to think that civilization has been around for a paltry 5,000 years! On the evolutionary basis, why shouldn’t I just adopt a hedonistic lifestyle while society crumbles about me (instinct, you know)? If man is just a concentration of impersonal matter, why then, let us dispense with this ridiculous talk about the meaning of life! As for suffering, pain, and evil—well, C’est la Vie.

worship creation rather than creatorWe talk of being mere animals, but act in everyday life as if we were unique. Modern man’s practice is better than his philosophy. To those who refer to man as a unique animal, I reply that there is no such thing. An animal is an unself-conscious creature that is dominated by the thing we call instinct, and on that basis there is no such thing as uniqueness. If the primeval ooze gave rise to life, this is at least evident in the confused twists and turns of some evolutionary philosophies, which are as chaotic ideas as might arise from mindless slime. We are taught that God was a nice crutch in the early stages of evolution, but now man has “come of age,” and God is all how you look at it (naturally, most people look at it in themselves). But there is not the worst of it. Far more silly is to congratulate ourselves for having progressed—for now we are gods! Besides being funny, though, this situation is also tragic. One cannot even begin to imagine what all these little gods will do to each other in the attempt to gain sovereignty.

I hardly know how to describe it, but a hilarious trajicomedy has been going on for quite a while now. Men are embracing one extreme after another in a desperate attempt to avoid the idea that they are not mere animals. A fine example of this is a recent book entitled One Cosmic Instant: Man’s Fleeting Supremacy, in which the author harpoons man for his egocentricity. How dare a man say he is better than a bird or an ant! The following quotations from Chesterton will hopefully serve as a corrective to this view:

If you leave off looking at books about beasts and men, if you begin to look at beasts and men then (if you have any humor or imagination, any sense of the frantic or farcial) you will observe that the startling thing is not how like man is to the brutes, but how unlike he is. It is the monstrous scale of his divergence that requires explanation. That man and brute are like is, in a sense, a truism; but that being so like they should then be so insanely unlike, that is the shock and the enigma.

The very fact that a bird can get as far as building a nest, and cannot get any farther, proves that he has not a mind as man has a mind; it proves it more completely than if he built nothing at all. If he built nothing at all, he might possibly be a philosopher of the Quietist or Buddhistic school, indifferent to all but the mind within. But when he builds as he does build and is satisfied and sings aloud with satisfaction, then we know there is really an invisible veil like a pane of glass between him and us, like the window on which a bird will beat in vain.

EPSON scanner imageLike so many of his evolutionistic fellows, the author is forced to deny Reason because he doesn’t want to admit God. “Reason,” he writes, “presupposes causes, and causes presuppose necessities.” Necessity, of course, means a Creator. This writer refers to Reason as a Great Ego Trip and admonishes us to become humbler by denying our significance. Francis Schaeffer’s book Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology is included in the bibliography, and I suppose the author has this book in mind when he writes that:

The world is full of Christian apologists who call attention to the stewardship theme in defense of their persuasion, but their recognition of it has never progressed beyond the academic stage.

Where then is Truth? G. K. Chesterton has some wisdom for our tired ears: “As a matter of fact, it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer. That is why, in recent literature, there has been so little argument and so much sneering.” And it is hard to argue with Schaeffer’s cogent argument on behalf of the Christian view of ecology.

Better to sneer at Christians than to argue with them, lest they convince you of the validity of their worldview.

For this reason, it doesn’t worry me when intellectuals sneer at C. S. Lewis. Well should they sneer, for Lewis is a threat to their way of life.

I disbelieve the author of One Cosmic Instant when he tells us we are posterity. Here again, you have a naturalist trying to impose value where there can be none. This practice is common among evolutionists. The attempt to create evolunary values is mere fancy— it has about as much validity as Hitler discoursing on his love for the Jewish people. We need to be wary of the great amount of reasoning in circles that occurs today. People do not stop to examine their presuppositions, and they wind up making the most foolhardy statements. Garrett Hardin does this in Nature and Man’s Fate when he says, “We know it is not true that design can come only out of planning. Out of luxuriant waste, winnowed by selection, come designs more beautiful and in greater variety than ever man could plan.” If Mr. Hardin will stop and think for one moment, he will realize that no more religiously dogmatic statement was ever made, insofar as his statement is taken as an explanation for the origin and evolution of life. There is no evidence for his teaching. But I personally think survival to be good because I place a high value on life. Nothing is new about lending value to life, of course, but I have never seen an evolutionist defend his view. My defense is that man is made in the image of God, and all creation is His handiwork. The value of life is inherent in the authority of the Creator, “in whom there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5).

Writes Chesterton:

The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a stepmother.

The wisest men in the world set out to be natural; and the most unnatural thing in the world was the very first thing they did. The immediate effect of saluting the sun and the sunny sanity of nature was a perversion spreading like a pestilence.

Man may call a bird his sister and a lion his brother, but he is sadly mistaken when he calls nature his mother. Nature is not man’s highest good. Nothing is said by nature in the long run as far as man is concerned. Nature is certainly beautiful, and to be enjoyed and nurtured, but we should reject the unhealthy tendency—as old as civilization—to place man on the same level as nature. Anyone with plain common sense can see that man is the unique steward of nature’s garden. And to be a gardener means to be separate. Nature is subordinate to man, and not coordinate. This does not imply contempt for nature. It is the perversion of this view that has wrought so much destruction in the natural environment. It is actually a paradox: I hold nature to be subordinate to man, and yet I think that no one can stand more still and awestruck than I, staring in wonder at the cosmos. Look at sister dandelion: how fair she is—and how marvelously complex. And brother buttercup: how sweet he smells, and how smooth is his touch. But I do not call nature my mother.

When Theodore Roszak writes, “The young, miserably educated as they are, bring with them almost nothing but healthy instincts,” I think of how easily this instinct will become perverted.

 

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One Comment on “A CRITIQUE OF EVERYTHING: EVOLUTIONARY PHILOSOPHY”

  1. Tr Ba August 9, 2014 at 2:21 AM #

    A more effective way of starting this paper is giving a definition for evolutionary philosophy.

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