Sunday, November 22, 2009

Of Lions and Stepfathers

Seeing as how I very recently blogged about the whole “Darwinism inevitably leads to  Racism & Genocide” claim I was hoping to never ever have to write about this again.  Then in the aftermath of a debate between PZ Myers and Jerry Bergman on the topic "Should Intelligent Design be taught in the schools" I read the following in an email response by Ross Olson of the Twin Cities Creation Science Association (who organized the debate):

“The only point at which the crowd got rowdy was with the mention of evolution's influence on Hitler. Actually, that issue is not solved by shouting because there is a strong case that the desire to improve the race leads to eugenic and ethnic cleansing policies. Indeed, your claim that morality comes from our culture needs to answer the question, "What if my culture is the Mafia?" Other evolutionary apologists have candidly pointed out that the only morality that can come out of evolution is that I leave my genes, as many of them as possible, to the next generation.”

I was in the middle of my usual response to claims like these – a deep sigh and a facepalm – when I suddenly realized I could think of a better example than the one I gave in my previous post on the matter.

OK, let’s forget about evolution for a moment.  Any Creationist worth his/her salt will tell you that Evolution is not a scientific fact because it’s not observable and repeatable etc.  So let’s look instead at a scientific fact no one can deny.

Lets talk about lions.

Could you be any more majestic?

You think “lion” you tend to think of an animal with nobility, majesty, fierce power and beauty - and they are certainly all of those things.  Admit it, that's the kind of animal you would like to associate yourself with right?  But wait, there is one little thing about lions that they may have glossed over in The Lion King.  See there is something that happens in the wild that you probably won't enjoy seeing.  From time to time you find that the resident males in a pride will be driven off by other males and these new males will take over the pride.  Once that happens their first order of business will be to kill off all the cubs in their new pride ASAP.  This in turn leads to the females in their new pride becoming sexually receptive again and mating with the males who just killed their babies, bearing the new males new offspring.

If this was you and your mom met someone new you would look nervous too.

This is a reasonably well known - though understandably not popular - fact about lions.  We may not like to think of it much but it is a fact and in case you have trouble believing my claim I have included several sources at the bottom of this post.  A simple google search will find you even more.  Anyone who knows about lions from PhD's to Game Rangers will confirm that.  I'm not going to embed a video because (trust me on this) it's not pretty to watch but if you really need to see it for yourself, a couple of those links have video footage or alternatively you can simply go to Youtube and search for “lion infanticide” or “male lion kills cubs” and you will find plenty of documentary footage.  Heck if you still don't want to believe all that just go into the wild and study lions for yourself, you are bound to see it.  It's not like we are talking about the exception here, more like the rule.  This is a fact.  Not a nice one, not a pleasant one and certainly not an easy one to watch but an undeniable fact.

So if you are a Creationist and you think that an acceptance of Evolution inevitably leads to racism, ethnic cleansing and school shootings how do you react to this fact?  Do you think that this will inevitably lead to stepfathers killing all their stepchildren?  Should this fact not be taught in school for fear that it may cause the bloody collapse of the foster care system?  Now to be fair I used to be a Young Earth Creationist myself once so I don’t want to set up a strawman argument here.  I know the Creationist position is not so much that everyone bases their ethics and morals on nature (though you would be excused if you weren’t clear on this just from reading Creationist propaganda pieces) but rather that unless you believe that God supernaturally created human beings as and that we as His special beings therefore get all our morals and ethics directly from Him as our Creator, there is nothing stopping people from basing their ethics and morals on nature (or whatever they find to their liking).  I’m guessing there are a lot of non-creationist stepfathers out there though.  Do you honestly believe that if they all knew about this fact about lions the streets will be running red with the blood of stepchildren?  If you actually believe that then you (my hypothetical Creationist friend) are seriously out of touch with reality.  Here is why.

Remember when they taught you in grade school that you were a mammal?  I do.  I seem to also remember that at no point in time did that cause me to reject my moral upbringing, renounce my faith or change my feelings on genocide.  At no point did I figure this logically inferred that I needed to act like any mammal other than the human mammal I had been my entire life.  Similarly when I later learned that I was mostly water it never made me want to run away from home to go live in a pool.  Neither did learning that humans were carbon based make me want to burn people for fuel.  Now let’s imagine for a moment that I was either moronic enough or insane enough to actually think and do these things – would that make any of the scientific facts I just named any less true?  NoTotally, absolutely, positively not.

Seriously I can't stress the "no" part enough here

So for the millionth time, can we please drop this whole “Evolution is wrong because it would turn people into amoral eugenicist genocidal monsters” line of argument?  It has absolutely no basis in reality.  None.  At all.  Science doesn’t work that way, reality doesn’t work that way, morals don’t work like that and neither does ethics.  The veracity of our scientific ideas do not stand or fall based on the moral implications someone may or may not derive from it.  So pretty please, why not just let this entire stupid argument go?  In real life, people just don’t act like that.  Oh we learn from nature and we do apply scientific principles to our lives all the time, I’m not arguing that.  Take this lion infanticide thing for example.  We see it applied all the time.  When a new CEO, president or even pastor takes over then usually the first thing they do is to kill off all the pet projects of their predecessor and start their own – we've all seen it happen I’m sure.  But you know what we never seem to see?  Loving stepfathers who upon learning that lions kill their step-cubs decide that this must apply to them too (because it is a scientific fact after all) and then proceed to murder their stepchildren, thats what!  Doesn’t matter if you believe in God, evolution or the Celestial Teapot, that is just not how reality works!

Honestly, who in their right mind would just base their behavior purely on some arbitrary thing they read somewhere?

Wikipedia article on infanticide
The Lion Research Centre
Prides, Coalitions and Infanticide Among Lions
The African Lion - Infanticide & Female Response

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