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Without a higher calling, greed is our guide.

This is my column in today’s Greenville News.  Enjoy!  (It can’t be directly linked without a subscription…sorry!)

Americans have been told for years, and with increasing vehemence, that Darwin was right. So much so that expressing a public, relevant belief in the God of the Bible, or in the authority of scripture, is likely to get a person labled backward, primitive, stupid or hostile.

However, in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests, we have a disconnect. You see, Darwinism (oversimplified for space) says that we are all just trying to survive and spread our DNA. Natural selection dictates that the fittest survive, the unfit do not.

One might reasonably argue, therefore, that those who made the most on Wall Street, those who have the best houses, cars, medicine and educations, who can afford to have serial spouses, who can afford to have and educate children, are merely the Darwinian winners. So what’s the problem?

evolution

After marginalizing faith in the public sphere, we are left with competition. And since there’s plenty of food, it must simply be that we compete for money and power. Cash, gold, bonds and stocks replace spears; factories and contracts, power and influence replace deer and bear as quarry.

Charles Darwin was a brilliant man. And in point of fact, his theories have significant explanatory power, even as they have gaps and weaknesses like every theory. But one thing Darwin didn’t leave us, alongside The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, was any sort of book on ethics, any treatise on right and wrong.

Therefore, progressive citizens, policy-makers, students and educators, especially those most hostile to Judeo-Christian belief systems, should step back and ask themselves, ‘why is it so wrong for the rich to succeed and the poor to suffer?’

Their answer might be that Wall Street doesn’t constitute nature. But that would be a stretch. At least according to David Stove, now deceased Australian philosopher and atheist. In his book, Darwinian Fairy Tales, Stove says that we can’t separate ourselves from nature. ‘Man is one species of animal among others.’ What we do, as humans, is our nature. To that extent, the rules of Darwinism apply as well on the stock exchange as they do in the forest.

The poor and weak, unable to adapt to changing conditions (substitute economic for environmental) will die; those able to compete will reproduce more successfully, and their offspring will bear the traits that allowed them to ‘win’ and will spread their unique (and apparently lucrative) DNA in the world.

Of course, Stove also said some other things. For instance, he believed that evolutionary mechanisms are probably true. But despite that fact, one of the premises of his book is that evolution doesn’t really explain how we behave, how we live or interact as humans. For instance, we intentionally limit reproduction and we selflessly do the right thing for strangers. He seems to suggest that there’s more to humanity than can be explained by natural selection and random mutations over time.

Our current economic climate, in particular the conflict of right and left, conservative and progressive, theist and atheist, might well be a time when we can discover some very relevant reasons for dialogue

We might just find common ground if Christians say, to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, ‘yes there is injustice. Yes there is greed. Yes we should try to help the poor. That’s what Jesus told us to do. To feed the hungry and help the struggling, to heal the sick and visit the prisoners. We may be animals; but we are more than animals.’

cross

So long as we also point out that Jesus told us to speak healing and redemption to the hearts of the greedy and the oppressed, the giver and the taker. To love the angry, to embrace the enemy of our beliefs. Jesus was concerned with our pocket-books and our bellies; but he came to ensure the survival of souls above all else. For we are all struggling and we are all sinners, rich and poor alike.

Without a higher calling, without a divine imperative to define good and evil, to call for compassion and condemn avarice, we’re simply left with life as it is. Succeed or succumb. And it’s pointless to call the system, or anyone in it, evil. At least when evil no longer exists as an accepted concept in our wider cultural lexicon.

In fact, it’s an utter waste of time to protest wealth or ‘unfairness’ if theology has truly been banished in favor of something as ethically unapologetic as our own biology.

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