This is an interesting reaction I got to Monday’s column:
Evolution explains much in society. I think too much. It is moving in the direction of reducing behavior to that of all primates and to a society devoid of morals and free will. The scientific method is a cake walk compared to the difficult thought processes that engage the minds of those individuals who labor with ideas of justice, mercy, wisdom, prudence, right and wrong etc., all of which are meaningless in the context of evolution. In the context of evolution they don’t exist and we have an amoral society. Schools need discussions of dogma. Dogma wrestles with the complexities of right and wrong. I am not arguing in favor of a single religious doctrine taught in schools but of Judaic, Islamic, Christian etc dogmas. The classes would be open to all. The students would then learn to discuss and value systems with various dogmas and come to realize that there can be compromise, friendship and respect between peoples of different beliefs. This would be antecedent to participating in politics/governing and other societal institutions. Societal institutions are now peopled by individuals who discuss difficult societal issues and dogmas, with no educational framework to deal with the resolution of problems related to justice, mercy, right and wrong.
My reaction is that evolution is no more responsible for rendering justice or mercy “meaningless” than is any other area of science. You could also say that right and wrong are meaningless in the context of organic chemistry. So should we stop doing or teaching organic chemistry? What about astronomy? What has that done for morals and ethics lately?
Could the real concern be that evolution will inform our ethical behavior by showing that we are related to other living things? Can we ethically continue to treat the rest of the living world as something created for our enjoyment, use and abuse when we have so much evidence showing this is not true? In a similar way astronomy, too, can inform us by reminding us that we are not located at the center of the universe and that we’re all clinging together to a very tiny speck in a very large cosmos.