February 25, 2005
Creationism and moral decay
In the previous posting, I said that the reason that there is such hostility to the teaching of evolutionary theory by ID advocates and young-Earth creationists is that they feel that it implies a lack off special status for human beings, which leads to atheism, which has led to the current state of moral decay in the US from a more wholesome past. They feel that eliminating the teaching of evolution is the first step on the road to moral redemption.
There are many flaws in this line of reasoning but for the moment I want to look at one feature and pose the question as to why such people think that the moral state of America is in worse shape now than it was in the past.
It becomes clear that the reason is that the word â€˜moralityâ€™ as used almost exclusively in relation to sex and nudity. Those who see us as currently living in a moral swamp use sex and nudity as the yardsticks for measurement.
Even taking this narrow view of morality, it is not clear that America is any less moral now than it was, say, fifty or more years ago. On the one hand, there is clearly a lot of public discussion now of sex-related issues and more nudity and sex in films and on television. But all that this might indicate is that things that were done and spoken in private in the past are now more in the open. In other words, we donâ€™t have more sex. We simply have less secrecy and hypocrisy.
It is not that public piety and hypocrisy about sex and nudity has disappeared, as can be seen by the ridiculous flap over the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, which was portrayed as if it had irreparably damaged the nationâ€™s psyche. In fact, America is a curious mass of contradictions when it comes to sex and nudity, publicly deploring it while relishing titillating stories in the media.
But it is hard for me to accept that we are in a worse state of morals than we were in the past when that word is used in a more meaningful and broader sense.
For example, it was only fifty years ago or less that civil rights legislation was enacted giving blacks the legal rights that white people had. Lynchings, beatings, fire hosing of peaceful marchers, Jim Crow laws, open discrimination in all areas of life, are all in the living memory of people. Was that a more moral time to live in?
Similarly, the status of women just one hundred years ago was no picnic either. Women had no vote, few career choices, and little hope for advancement or being taken seriously in the scientific, business, and professional worlds. They were seen as primarily homemakers and mothers and little else. Was that a more moral time to live in?
And one has to only go back to about two hundred years to get to the era of slavery and genocide against Native Americans. Was that a more moral time to live in?
While equality has still not been attained, it is only those who are looking at the past with blinkers who could see golden ages then and wish to return to them.
I think that there is a strong case to be made that in some ways morality has increased over time so that even if one were inclined to make this kind of correlation between morals in a broad sense and the passage of time since the publication of Darwinâ€™s On the Origin of Species in 1859, one would have to conclude that morals have actually improved with the advent of evolutionary theory.
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