Doubting Evolution

I am a big believer in science, but I must admit that human behavior over the past couple of weeks has made me doubt evolution.

First, we had the appalling eruptions during GOP debates–first, audience applause when Brian Williams prefaced a question to Rick Perry by noting that executions in Texas during his tenure far exceeded those in any other state; and second, shouts of “yes, let them die” when Ron Paul was asked whether uninsured people should simply be allowed to die.

Now we have the repulsive right-wing reaction to the execution of Troy Davis.

Callers to conservative radio shows last night defended that execution by insisting that the family of the murder victim “deserved closure.” Presumably, closure can come only from the death of another human being.  Now, I am not a supporter of the death penalty, for many reasons I won’t go into here, but even if one does support capital punishment, I cannot conceive of the “closure” that would come from proceeding with an execution where there is such substantial doubt of guilt. How can killing the wrong person provide justice or even retribution? How would executing a possibly innocent man be any different from the murder for which they are seeking vengeance?

Perhaps human evolution doesn’t always produce a capacity for compassion or empathy, but it should at least produce beings capable of a modicum of reason. These sickening displays of irrational blood-lust suggest that some among our human family not only haven’t evolved, they’ve regressed.


  1. Sheila,

    I don’t personally buy into the idea of evolution, but the I think your idea of evolution is completely off. Evolution doesn’t mean civilization, it means becoming a better predator or consumer. The logical result of evolution is more blood-lust and self-centered activity, because evolution would favor the survival, not self-sacrifice of the individual.

    As a matter of fact, evolution would favor letting the poor die and killing rouge individuals as this would promote the species in the long term. If you buy into evolution, this could be circumstantial evidence that we are evolving right now!

    I think what you are really lamenting a lack of social conscience among the political right. In this I agree with you. Many have equated Republicanism with Christianity, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Christ’s teachings (which I do buy into) in Matthew chapter five clearly teach denial of self, care for the poor, and loving our enemies instead of taking an eye for an eye.

    To be fair, I believe the political left has its own set of issues in relation to Christ’s teachings and social conscience, but that’s not what your article is about.

  2. Humanity has regressed!…and you are only noticing now? You criticize the right wing as bloodthirsty because they want a convicted murderer put to death, but you defend the “rights” of women to kill innocent children. Evolution isn’t true, if it were then you should not have any problem with “bloodthirsty conservatives” wanting to kill anyone and anything that moved along the earth; evolution mandates that there is no set standard of behavior. Morals, right and wrong, ethics (whatever you want to call it) came from a central author/standard. Follow your logic to the obvious end.

  3. @lednaVira – Mammals abort babies in the wild every day, that is part of the natural order. They do so to escape predators, in times of stress, at times when food source needs are low and they are starving and they do so biologically, even sometimes using naturally occurring plants to aid in the abortion of the fetus. They also kill other animals and their reasons are specific, for survival, dominance of territory, to further the species… yours is the flawed logic. Perhaps you should study some biology and stop trying to apply flawed religious reasoning to your arguments.

    This man you call a ‘convicted felon’ was convicted on NO evidence other than ‘eyewitness testimony’, 9 witness, 7 of which would later recant their testimonies 7 people changed their testimonies! No gun was ever found, no DNA evidence could place him at the crime scene therefore there is reasonable doubt, this is a travesty of justice, it makes a mockery of the system. You want to protect zygotes which aren’t yet self-supporting outside the womb, but you don’t want to protect the basic human rights of a full grown human and want to call someone else on flawed logic… pot, kettle, black, anyone?

    As to evolution, you don’t have to agree with its path for it to be proven and therefore true, no one said the species got smarter as it evolved, no one has made that claim, evolution tends toward strengthening certain genes and regressing others that are unnecessary for the survival of that particular species. So perhaps stupidity, vanity, bigotry and ignorance help the idiot human to prosper, who knows? But the simple fact that lednaVira doesn’t like the trend, doesn’t mean the trend doesn’t exist. I don’t like most of you other humans either and you still exist, damn the bad luck…

  4. Jedna:

    I don’t think you understand evolution. Many animals do not kill their own species. When they fight for territory, generally it primarily involves posturing. Interesting read for you would be Marc Hauser’s “Moral Minds: the nature of right and wrong.”. Hauser posits that most morality isn’t learned it is ingrained in you from birth. He makes a solid argument.

    The death penalty in this country does not work. It does not deter crime. There are plenty of stats available to prove it. Plus, the system is run by humans. Its inherently flawed and biased. Executing even one person that is factually innocent is a travesty (see story of Cam Willingham in Texas, or google Randy Steidl). Not to mention that the cost of the trial and subsequent appeals is generally greater than paying to incarcerate someone for life without parole.

  5. With the ‘evolution’ of sentences to ‘life without the possibility of parole’, the death sentence is no longer needed. Previously those with life sentences sometimes were paroled after 20 or so years in prison, which spurred more interest in the death penalty. But that has changed with another sentencing option that protects the public from release of those who have committed heinous crimes.

    Humans and human institutions are not perfect, so there will occasionally be wrongful convictions and wrongful killing of innocents. Why would Americans want to create situations where we have no ability to correct horrific mistakes? Who of the many ‘neutrals’ who might have stopped the execution would be willing to do the killing by their own hand?

  6. I think at this juncture I should note that I used the term ‘evolution’ metaphorically, not literally–and assumed that was obvious from the context.

    Evidently, it was less obvious to some readers than I expected.

  7. It’s still fun to think about. Those traits that support survival until replication and replicating as extensively as possible are selected for. Traits that hinder survival until replication are selected against.

    Traits that do neither are not affected.

  8. Tay, it explains a lot that you equate animals with human beings; I now understand why you don’t have a problem with abortion. Answer one question for me and then I’ll believe macro-evolution is true: Cite for me one example in biology where new genetic information was introduced? I can show you plenty of examples of “de-evolution” where genetic information is lost or remains the same, but never added.

    Mr. McDaniel, interesting that you would say morality is “ingrained at birth.” Who put it there? What is it’s standard? Why don’t animals have it? I will agree with you that the death penalty, in it’s current form, does not deter in the sense of “general prevention”; at least not everyone. But it sure deters the person that committed the crime from ever doing it again, because the likelihood of a violent criminal being paroled and preying on another victim is high.

  9. @Karl Habbegar:

    “I don’t personally buy into the idea of evolution, but the I think your idea of evolution is completely off. Evolution doesn’t mean civilization, it means becoming a better predator or consumer. The logical result of evolution is more blood-lust and self-centered activity, because evolution would favor the survival, not self-sacrifice of the individual.”

    Utterly false assumption. Evolution favors perpetuation of variations that confer reproductive advantage within the particular context those variations are expressed. Empathy, for example, inclines individuals toward mutual assistance and self-sacrifice. It cannot be assumed that a single rampaging individual, enjoys reproductive advantage over 100 individuals determined to protect one another.

    Selfish, aggressive impulses AND inclinations toward empathy, self-sacrifice and love can contribute to species perpetuation depending upon the context in which they’re expressed.

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