Saturday, June 25, 2011

Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?

I'm struck by twin ironies:  a) those who most vehemently deny biological evolution (i.e., biblical literalists and fundamentalists) are usually also those who most fervently embrace "survival of the fittest" social darwinism in economics and politics (God Helps Those Who Help Themselves); b) those who most earnestly accept the truth of biological evolution (scientists, agnostics, atheists, intellectuals) are generally those who fight against the social darwinist practice of applying principles of natural selection to non-biological domains.

In other words, despite Christ's admonitions to help the poor, many Christians believe that government should keep "hands off" and allow the rich and powerful to dominate and exploit, since the rich are, presumably, not only the "fittest" but also "God's chosen ones."

Whereas, many non-Christians--myself included--believe that government should adopt Christ-like policies toward those who are economically (but not necessarily biologically) disadvantaged--thereby enabling truly superior people, regardless of their social circumstances, to take their place among the "elect" (and thus increase the survivability of our species).

Though I struggled for years to cling to God and Christianity, I ultimately had to admit that there's very little evidence that God exists, and even less evidence (if that's possible) that such a dubious divinity is able to "help" anyone at all.  No, the notion that the exploiters (those who help everything) are God's chosen is a self-serving fiction invented and perpetuated by the exploiters themselves. Yes, of course I acknowledge the obvious truth of evolution--of natural selection.  But the societies men have created are not "natural."  Humans, unlike other species, have evolved to a point at which we are capable of influencing our own evolution.  WE can, to some extent, shape the future of our species--in rational ways that actually "go beyond" the nature that has hitherto determined us.

And so--for our own good as a race, shouldn't the forces of civilization--and most especially the power of government--be used to ensure that all people, regardless of their birth status, receive an equal chance to rise to the top?  Do I believe that government should artificially place or maintain undeserving people of "disadvantaged" birth in superior positions?  Absolutely not.  But neither do I believe that superior positions should be occupied by "wellborn" but undeserving scions of wealthy families or by unscrupulous thugs who use violence and lawbreaking to acquire this status.

Some people assert, Ayn Rand-like, that it is "unnatural" for a human being to have fellow-feeling for anyone other than his/her genetic family.  In this view, selfishness becomes a virtue because it is, well, a basic animal impulse.

But once again, evolution, in gradually according sentience to human beings, has likewise accorded us that very "supernaturalness" that we sometimes (curiously) call "divine".  Ask yourself what we most admire as an ideal:  "natural" self-serving behavior typical of other species or "supernatural" behavior that rejects greed and embraces altruism?  For some reason (I do not know what, but it must be a good one), evolution has given us a conscience, a super-ego, a sensibility which actually goads us to transcend our purely selfish interests.  Perhaps that's why the fundamentalists find it necessary to use GOD to justify their more primitive inclinations to hate, exploit and destroy outsiders. They themselves don't want to take responsibility for this selfishness; rather they must plead that they are only doing "God's will."  And, deep down, they feel guilty--guilty because their evolutionary conscience (which they also attribute to God)--keeps telling them that such purely "natural" conduct is, well, WRONG.  Somehow, our natural evolution has instilled in us a strong feeling that human survival is best served by defying nature.

Can we say, then, that the truest human "nature" is the rejection of "nature"?  How odd.  And yet, perhaps not so odd.  Natural selection has indeed provided human beings with a way of dominating the world and perpetuating our species:  the self-awareness to manipulate our own evolution.  Isn't that what we mean by civilization? It is by CONTROLLING nature--and our primitive natural instincts--that we have achieved our dominion on this little planet.

So I reject categorically all the right-wing claptrap about the "evils" of social-engineering and the merits of laissez-faire "market" forces.  Civilization itself is social engineering--and government has always been and will continue to be a vital force in engineering the forms of our civilization.  It is both asinine and delusional to advocate some sort of return to a Rousseauian (at best) or Hobbesian (at worst) state of nature--where individuals take care of themselves and neither require nor deserve any outside support.  Even laissez-faire-ists don't truly believe in laissez-faire:  they just mean laissez-MOI faire.

I appreciate, of course, that government can do evil (anti-human action) as well as good (pro-human action).  But, in democracies at least, individual humans have, mas o menos, a small bit of power to influence their government.  On the other hand, individuals have almost NO (or vastly unequal) power to influence the wealthy exploiters who, according to their own lights, have God's authorization to help themselves to dominion. So I conclude that government (of the democratic variety) is the more human and more humanizing of these two great "engineering forces" currently struggling for dominance in American life.

I will therefore continue to support government in any effort it makes to help those whom the God of the laissez-faire bible-thumping robber barons does NOT (and obviously CANNOT) help.  In so doing--even though I have contributed no "genetic" material to human evolution--I may yet have helped passed on "memetic" material that will render our species somewhat more sapiens and, hence, more fit to survive.


  1. “God helps those who help themselves” is not a Bible verse and letting everyone fend for themselves is not a virtue taught by Christ.

    Biological evolution (I’m assuming the means of natural selection, adaptation, speciation, common ancestry, and the like) is certainly not truth. There are things within the neo-Darwinism that are observable and are true, like for instance, natural selection. Once more, they are measurable. We can see changes over generations. But micro-evolution cannot be extrapolated to macro-evolution. Evolution requires a common ancestor, but the first progenitor came from where? So far, origin or life researchers have no idea how life came from non-living organic molecules. There is nothing but mutually exclusive theories (though very well-tested and very well-experimented) and even staunch non-Christian scientists affirm the “miracle” that a first replicator came into existence. Why? Because everything about origin of life research has continually pointed to the need for an intelligent intervener. In fact, there are serious challenges to the paradigm of evolution. Like for instance, the fact that genetic mutations are exactly that: they are abnormalities to exiting information in the code. Either an existing gene is duplicated or flipped or missed or substituted. But it is a change on EXISTING code. New genetic information is not produced. Modern evolution seems to point toward a dogmatic institution that most atheists would cast as religion. It blindly refuses to accept other conclusions based on the evidence. Lastly, there are many scientists who have rejected and acknowledge the inadequacy of Darwinian evolutionary biology to account for its claims. Some have gone on to the intelligent design movement, initiated by the co-founder of natural selection, the secularist and liberal Alfred Russell Wallace. Not all Christians are Young Earth Creationists.

    The problem with any moral judgments made by materialists (i.e. no supernatural Creator) is that they are meaningless. Naturalists have no logical grounding from which to justify any moral claim.

    A large percentage of soup kitchens and homeless shelters are run by churches…

    There is actually substantial evidence to support the belief that God exists, even more so than most Christians are even aware of. The Big Bang, the origin of life, the existence of objective moral values and duties, the fine-tuning of the constants in the universe, the enormous statistical odds against a planet like earth’s existence (even among the entire universe), the 3-facts defense of the resurrection of Christ, etc…

    Naturalistic processes in evolution can only “guarantee” that human thoughts are only byproducts of chemical reactions in the brain which is an organism that evolved from random chance and time. So human thought is the byproduct of chance. Moreover, even if it was not, under evolution our thoughts can only be “trusted” to work for survival advantages of the individual – that’s it. Nature cannot ascribe morality to human beings more than human beings can ascribe it to themselves. On naturalism, there is no logical basis from which to make moral judgments. Things like love, justice and other concepts have no meaning.

    1. I'm not exactly sure what point you're trying to make. Though I don't think there's much evidence for the existence of God, my main idea was simply to object to the immoral use of the "idea of God" to justify laissez-faire exploitation of weaker people (social darwinism). I'm not intellectually equipped to argue about the origins of the human moral sense. Nor can I prove that God does NOT exist (I just see little proof that he DOES.) Certainly those questions are interesting--but I repeat: my blog was intended to protest the hypocritical justification of greed in the name of "God." Nothing else.