Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is the theory of evolution normative?

A lot of people object to the theory of evolution on normative grounds, that is, because evolution says that people should behave in certain ways. To take a radical example, according to the theory of evolution men who rape has gained some sort of evolutionary advantage, and that is why the behavior still exists in many different species today. Speaking in evolutionary terms an individual can gain fitness through rape. Confused people (Russ Tanner in this video is confused on other issues besides this) who mistakenly thinks that the theory of evolution is normative goes on to argue that according to the theory of evolution, rape is good.

This is of course wrong. The theory of evolution says absolutely nothing about how we should behave. The theory of evolution, in other words is descriptive. It describes what the world is like and the mechanisms that are at work, it doesn't say what the world should be like or whether status quo is good or bad.

So independent of whether you want a communist or a liberal society, whether you want like or dislike a certain behavior that the theory of evolution predicts. Independent of what your opinion is, the theory of evolution can help you get you where you want to go because you can learn important lessons about human nature. Ignoring or trying to deny our natural instincts will just make things harder for you…

Go save the world, but do it using what you know about human nature

Ps: Also see my post "Ethics of an atheist"