Monday, May 28, 2012

We've Evolved to Disbelieve Evolution?

I read the most interesting and ironic article today at

It is well known that humans have ingrained mechanisms that lead to our being very good at deceiving ourselves. We tend to see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear, and cling to our own opinions and beliefs no matter what flimsy basis on which they stand.

Scientists have had trouble figuring out why this would be so? Why would we evolve such a way of thinking if it doesn't help us to find out what's true?

Now, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, two European scientists have suggested that it is not the ability to find out what is true that enhances survival, but the ability to persuade others to our opinion. So what we have evolved is the desire and skills to sell others on our ideas, while clear, unbiased thinking has taken a back seat, not being as valuable as ability to sell our ideas.

That rings true to me. Sellers influence people, not just clear thinkers, who are ignored all the time.

This was a very satisfying article to me. I've worked very hard at fighting the desire to cling to what I wish was true. I've studied logic, and I've studied argument and reason. I've learned how to properly judge the reliability of my sources, and I've learned to remember them so that I'm not just repeating rumors. I listen carefully to those who argue against me, and I've trained myself to believe that the best way to win an argument is to join the side that has the best evidence.

I rarely find that in others. In fact, in most discussions I find that those who disagree with me can't even conceive of or consider weighing what I have to say and comparing it with what they have to say. They can't even understand the idea of making strong effort to weigh evidence honestly, much less actually do it. Mostly, they just wait for me to finish talking so they can present their next argument, paying only flitting, occasional attention to the answer(s) I've given them.

Now I know why this is so! We evolved to persuade, not to seek truth.

This fits what I believe about the Gospel, too. Most literalist Christians believe that Adam and Eve is a literal story and people are by nature selfish because of the fall. I believe the story of Man and Life (the literal meanings of Adam and Eve) is an allegory meant to express the problems that are in humans.

Jesus and the apostles continually taught that we must overcome the desires of our body. What is of man is not trustworthy. In fact, it's mostly inherently evil. What comes from God is what we must pursue, and we need divine grace to live the spiritual, holy (i.e., set aside for God) lives that God calls us to live.

Evolution fits right into this. Evolution has taught us to desire survival and reproduction. Hence, our earthly body and mind push us to selfishness. We are concerned about the survival, security, and sustenance of ourselves, our family, and our tribe. We want to retaliate when wronged, and we long for food, for comfort, and for reproduction.

Jesus calls us to forsake the desires of the body, and to live spiritually. If we will come to him, he will make us children of God, give us the Spirit of God, and we can overcome bodily desires and live forever. If we live by the flesh, that is, by our physical, earthly life, then we will perish.

Jesus gave proof for this by rising from the dead. We have the testimony of 11 apostles who saw him alive, were appointed witnesses of the resurrection, and who sacrificed their lives in defense of their testimony. We also have the testimony of so many modern people in whom Jesus has risen again, transforming them into new creatures, answering their prayers, and empowering them to live supernaturally peaceful and loving lives.

We must also overcome the desire to be only persuaders, salesman, and not truth seekers. Jesus calls us to seek the truth and to be honest. When Christians lie, deceive, and cover up in order to attack the evidence for evolution, they are yielding to the sin in their human body and storing up wrath and death for the day of judgment. We can't yield to the flesh, even when we think we're defending God, and expect to reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-9).

It takes work to be unbiased, whether or not we can even be completely unbiased. Not many do that work, just as not many do the work of seeking God enough to obtain his righteousness and grace and overcome their other fleshly desires, whether that be immorality or other things like greed, selfish ambition, and a divisive attitude.


  1. Dear Paul

    Your blog and pages are informative and thought-provoking. I continue to pray fervently for your recovery. You have faith, integrity, and incredible energy. You are an inspiration to the rest of us.

    Now I'd like to offer a couple of measured criticisms of your comments.

    Believers who intentionally lie and deceive and fail to repent do have much to answer for, of course. But do most believers who argue against evolution fall into that category? I doubt it. Many believers reject evolution in part because they have read anti-evolution material that seems God-honoring and persuasive, although that material might contain deceptions they are unaware of. But an even greater reason for their rejection is their straightforward historical reading of Genesis, the same way you read the gospel accounts about Jesus. Adam seems to be a historical figure insofar as he is said to have had sons who lead in an apparently historical line of descent to, among others, Abraham, who is the subject of what you yourself probably take as a more-or-less straightforward historical narrative.

    Now, I see the problem with resisting mountains of scientific evidence. But if such evidence is to be the basis for a pretty radical departure in the way we read a crucial part of the Bible, then it must be either intelligently digested and evaluated or else taken on the authority of those who advocate it. This in turn means that in order for believers to interpret Genesis 1-11 correctly, they must educate themselves in all the arcane knowledge of the geological and biological sciences. That is at the very least counter-intuitive to what we know of the early Christians' approach to the Scriptures, which would not seem to require long, difficult courses in worldly education.

    Effectively, we're saying that believers must be so science-savvy that they can weigh, parse, and then finally reject the kind of scientific-sounding arguments they encounter in Answers in Genesus, which are made by seemingly Godly men who seem to be defending the integrity of the Scriptures. If they are not inclined to educate themselves to that rather high standard, then alternatively we expect them to accept purely on authority the opinions of scientists who mostly reject the Bible as inspired revelation over the opinions of the aforesaid seemingly godly men seemingly defending it.

    Is this what we are asking of ordinary believers? If yes is the answer, it is not an easy answer, not a slam-dunk in terms of spiritual discernment.

    To go on, you repeat the argument that I often come across that we can believe what the New Testament says about Jesus because the apostles were willing to die for those propositions. The trouble is, I don't know of independent, objective evidence that the apostles did die for them. The New Testament says that one them did (James brother of John) and that others would, but the credibility of the New Testament is what the argument is designed to establish. Extra-biblical Christian tradition says that they did, but the documents carrying that tradition are not held by believers to be inspired, and contain certain other historical claims that few believers would be inclined to defend. Extra-biblical tradition is very much a mixed bag and hardly qualifies as strong, objective historical evidence. The historical case is probably strongest for Paul, who did not claim to have witnessed Jesus' ministry, teachings, and crucifixion.

    Do I doubt that at least some of the original apostles endured martyrdom? Absolutely not. But I believe they were martyrs because I believe the New Testament is inspired, not the other way around.

    Darek Barefoot

  2. Hi Darek. Thanks for the comment.

    I don't think most Christians know they're lying when they repeat what's passed on by creation organizations. I even think that AiG is trying very hard to correct the gross dishonesty that they've passed on in the past (thus their page on arguments creationists shouldn't use anymore). In that I agree with you.

    Believers don't have to be that science savvy. They need two or three people they trust in their congregation to look at the issue for them ... if they're that interested.

    I believe the early Christian approach to Scripture leaves room for evolution. I believe the modern approach to Scripture that does not leave room for evolution is not only faulty, but it produces a faulty, pharisaic brand of Christianity that causes many to fall away and that God cannot fully get behind.

    My concern is not evolution. My concern is the worship of the Bible and the lack of willingness most people have to judge fruit and trust the Spirit of God. They have immense trust in their own interpretations of Scripture, so much so that not even God himself can lead them away from it. Evolution is just one of many tools I use to teach the Scriptural and historical truth that is the very basis of the new covenant, which is that the sons of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God, and if that leading is in the church, as a united people, it can be trusted to be "true, and not a lie."

    As for believing that the apostles died for the message they preached, I don't lean on the New Testament for that. As you say, it only talks about one of them doing so. I lean on history for that. Yes, there is only tradition, but the existence of churches from India to England started by those apostles and the existence of many firsthand testimonies to the persecution and death of early Christians make it very safe to infer that the apostles really did give up their lives for the Gospel as tradition holds.


Feel free to comment, and I'll even let links be posted, particularly on the subject of evolution from either side. No spam, and no pointless links. The comments are moderated.