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Philip Yancey

Dark Nature

The new prophets of evolutionary psychology want to reduce us to mere survival machines.

In a novel by Miguel de Unamuno, the protagonist Augusto Perez suddenly stops the action to confront the author. Which of the two is more "real," he demands: himself the character, or Unamuno the author? He is arguing for his life, for the author Unamuno has decided to kill him off. Finally Perez delivers a decisive blow. Obviously he, the "fictitious being," is more real, for he is a creation of human thought and genius, whereas the author is a product of blind animality.

Unamuno, a philosopher of Christian sensibility, was satirizing the state of art and science in modern times. With ever more brilliance and eloquence, the intellectuals of our day are arguing that they themselves are the product of blind animality. In doing so, they fail to see that devaluing the messenger casts doubt upon the message. Nowhere is this trend more obvious than in the new science of evolutionary psychology, which attempts to explain all human thought and behavior as the unguided result of natural selection.

As products of blind evolution, say these thinkers, we deceive ourselves by searching for any teleology other than that scripted in our DNA. We must look down, not up: to nature, not its Creator. The hubris of this new science is breathtaking. Predicts Robert Trivers of Harvard, "Sooner or later, political science, law, economics, psychology, psychiatry and anthropology will all be branches of sociobiology." He might have added ethics to the list.

Writers on evolutionary psychology—Robert Wright, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, John Maynard Smith, Matt Ridley, Lyall Watson, Frans de Waal—are talented and entertaining, and fill their works with vivid descriptions of birds, bees, and chimpanzees. They explain courtship displays, infidelity, maternal instincts, gossip, and social organization in arresting ways. Newsmagazines like Time hire these writers to interpret gang behavior in the inner cities or sexual indiscretions in the capital city, and the results ...

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