Tom Gilson

Postscript to the Series, “Darwin’s Gift?”

Having written a four-part series on Francis Ayala’s Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion, I was already in strong disagreement over what Ayala called a “gift” to religion in Darwinism. Now I’m reading his monograph for the AAAS, “The Difference of Being Human,” and have found even more reason to disagree with him on this. The core of his argument is

(1) that the capacity for ethics is a necessary attribute of human nature, and (2) that moral norms are products of cultural evolution, not biological evolution.

I thought Biblical religion taught that moral norms flow from the character of God. Cultural evolution is no more friendly to Biblical religion than biological evolution; either way it contradicts what God has revealed about himself.

As far as I can remember (the book is back at the library now) Ayala did not mention this contingent, non-God-centered view of ethics in his book. Could that be because this is quite obviously not a gift to religion?

Series Navigation (Darwin's Gift?):<<< “Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion” Part 4
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8 thoughts on “Postscript to the Series, “Darwin’s Gift?”

  1. I thought Biblical religion taught that moral norms flow from the character of God.

    Could you show us where the Bible teaches about moral norms?  I don’t recall much talk about morals or norms in the Bible.
    Maybe moral norms are human inventions that have a history.  I mean, the word “moral” has been traced to the late 1300s in the Oxford English Dictionary.  And “norm” is a much younger word that has a history that has been traced to the early 1800s.
    Neither are necessarily Biblical, as you claim, nor are they natural, as Ayala insists.

  2. Jacob, if you can read the Bible and not see it speaking of morals or norms, using other words of course, then the ordinary meaning of language means little or nothing to you. But all I have to offer you in return is language, and I don’t know how to use it other than in its ordinary meaning. So there is absolutely no chance of us coming to a meeting of the minds, and no point in making the attempt. I’m not going to try.

    (New readers, please be aware that there is a history behind this, and not just this one interchange with Jacob; but I don’t want to go into all that here.)

  3. All we all have is ordinary language, Tom.  I’m not asking that we come to a meeting of the minds.  Rather, I’m asking you to cite specific Biblical passages that you interpret to be talking about moral norms.  I’m asking you to support your assertion.  That’s it.

  4. Thanks, Jacob, but no thanks. Very, very few people would doubt that the Bible speaks to moral norms, so I do not consider it necessary to support that assertion; and based on prior experience and the way you have typically handled words and meanings, I have very little hope that pursuing the question would be productive.

  5. I’m asking you to support your assertion.  That’s it.

    Ironic considering this is a man who thinks “the world is not a unity, but a plurality of different experiences, meanings, truths, gods, etc. “.

  6. For many years during the Cold War, there was no doubt among many Americans that the Bible spoke against communism and for free market economics.
    Just because there are few that would doubt your assertion doesn’t make your assertion true in terms of empirical correspondence or historical accuracy.

  7. I’m sorry, Jacob, but I think I’ve made my intentions clear on this. I’m exercising my option not to respond to your question, for reasons already stated.

  8. Could you show us where the Bible teaches about moral norms?  I don’t recall much talk about morals or norms in the Bible.

    Jeez, how is a thinking person supposed to even start to respond to something like this? You might as well have asked us to prove to you that The Art Of War talks about war.

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