Creationism and Morality, Part 2

WE thought we had exhausted this topic a year ago when we wrote Creationism and Morality. That was about a strange article from Answers in Genesis (AIG) which claimed that:

Even though most people do not acknowledge it, the morality and rules that most humans adhere to have their basis in the Bible, specifically in the literal history of Genesis.

In response, we said: “Fascinating. Even Confucius got his morality from Genesis. Who knew?” Later that same month we wrote: Morality, Evolution, and Darwin, in which we argued that morality is independent of scripture.

We thought we were done with the subject, but today we find ourselves befuddled by a new creationist article on the same topic. We’re accustomed to disagreements between young-earth creationists and the other types, and we’re well acquainted with the pretended disdain that intelligent design promoters profess regarding their more forthright, openly religious creationist brethren. But now we have what seems to be a clash between two young-earth creationist outfits. See what you can make of it.

This article is from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. It’s titled Baby Morality Defies Evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

It is fascinating how quickly human babies learn about the world around them. But how soon can they distinguish “good” from “bad”? Some Yale psychologists wanted to find out, and their research results fly in the face of Freud and other evolutionary humanists.

We have no idea what Freud has to do with evolution and creationism, but neither does ICR, and it’s not important anyway. Let’s read on:

Yale professor Paul Bloom and his team tested infants and toddlers by using puppets to portray “naughty” and “nice” actions. They found that from the age of six months, babies differentiated good from bad by overwhelmingly choosing to hold the nice puppet over the mean one. Where did this sensibility come from, and why is it so evident at such a young age?

Now, dear reader, you see the problem. Although AIG claims that all morality comes from Genesis, this ICR article makes it obvious that — at least in the case of babies — morality doesn’t come from bible study. We’re so confused by these conflicting creationist claims! Nevertheless, we’ll continue with the ICR article:

[E]volutionary humanists asserted that babies are “amoral animals” upon which society stamps its own particular moral guidelines. But this came from their belief that humans are merely “naked apes” obsessed with God, or that in early life humans reflect their primate origins, not from observations or careful study.

Okay, whatever that means. Here’s more:

Instead, humans are evidently born with an innate moral sense that is not dependent on external affirmation. For example, “even a 4-year-old knows not only that unprovoked hitting is wrong but also that it would continue to be wrong even if a teacher said that it was O.K.”

What does ICR make of this non-scriptural yet moral behavior? Let’s find out:

Universal morals actually make no evolutionary sense. For one thing, morals are not physical. They are not composed of DNA, nor are they body parts or features of body parts. They are therefore not selectable by nature. However, this research adds to prior data showing unequivocally that humans are wired for morality, a fact that evolution cannot explain.

Wow! ICR announces that morals aren’t physical — a brilliant insight. Therefore, they conclude that they’re “not selectable by nature.” Really? Natural selection can’t filter out individuals who exhibit deleterious behavior? Jeepers, then the only possible explanation for toddler morality is … Oogity Boogity!

But what about our inborn fear of falling? Fear isn’t physical, so is that supernatural too? Is being oblivious to falling not selectable by nature? Hey, how about our inherent desire for — gasp! — sex? Like morality and fear, desire isn’t physical, so presumably that’s not selectable by nature either.

But stay with us. We’re confident that ICR’s creation scientists will clear everything up. Here’s another excerpt:

Also, people possess not only the knowledge of right and wrong, but also the ability to choose right or wrong. …

Moreover, these immaterial aspects work in concert with each other, along with specialized capacities to learn. How much more do humans fit the image of a powerful (volitional), good (moral), and wise (cognitive) God, rather than representing the product of some imaginary selective environments?

But if there are no “imaginary” selective factors, then how can babies — with no knowledge of scripture — be born moral? We wish ICR would get with AIG to clarify this situation. Without evidence for these conflicting claims, it’s impossible to know which website is right. When gurus disagree, their flocks are distressed.

Anyway, this is how ICR ends their article:

When it comes to a comprehensive explanation for the origins of unique human behavior and ability, the best source is the Word of the One who created that humanity.

But … but … the AIG-ICR conflict is unresolved. Anyway, ICR says that toddler morality defies evolution and provides evidence of Oogity Boogity. Hey — that’s all anyone needs to know, right? We are content.

Update: See A Secular Source of Morality.

Update: See Creationism and Morality, Part 3.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Creationism and Morality, Part 2

  1. I’m confused. I learned in church that we were all born sinners. We have to accept Jesus to be saved. Are creationists now saying we are born moral? Interesting….

  2. My son jumped out of the womb and was caught inches from the floor by quick reflexes. My son jumped off couches, the deck, the roof and ski slopes. Today he’s a sky diving instructor.

    However, he always feared broccoli, even as a baby, and even today he shuns broccoli UNLESS it’s covered in cheese sauce.

    Therefore, it appears that he was born with an innate love of falling but afeard of broccoli and had to accept cheese sauce to be nourished. Praise Julia Child!

  3. Ed says:

    Are creationists now saying we are born moral?

    It is a confusing message. I doubt that they realize the implications.

  4. longshadow

    Yale professor Paul Bloom and his team tested infants and toddlers by using puppets to portray “naughty” and “nice” actions. They found that from the age of six months, babies differentiated good from bad by overwhelmingly choosing to hold the nice puppet over the mean one. Where did this sensibility come from, and why is it so evident at such a young age?

    [snip]

    Instead, humans are evidently born with an innate moral sense that is not dependent on external affirmation.

    Holy [poop]! It must be painful to be that stupid.

    The most simple explanation for the babies’ behavior isn’t that babies have an innate understanding of good and bad, and are born with a moral compass; it’s that babies react positively to people who talk sweetly and smile when wielding puppets, and are put-off by people who who frown and talk angrily and loudly while wielding puppets.

    Why would babies react that way?….. Why, that would most likely be the product of evolution, wherein natural selection preferentially weeds out babies attracted to snarling, hungry wolves and famished, growling saber-toothed tigers from the breeding pool.

    Even if there are no humans visible to the babies watching the puppets, the same evolutionary principle applies: the behavior of nice puppets mimics the behavior of things that are going to protect the baby from harm, and the behavior of the “bad” puppet mimicks the behavior of things that pose a threat to the bay’s survival.

    Evolution, not a moral compass, is what guides a baby to seek calm, non-violent behavior.

  5. “For one thing, morals are not physical. …. However, this research adds to prior data showing unequivocally that humans are wired for morality”

    Ummm, that means they ARE physical.

  6. longshadow: Holy [poop]! It must be painful to be that stupid.

    Damn, you beat me to it, in both reaction and explanation. I am continually surprised by how similar groups can be so obsessed over a subject yet know absolutely nothing about it.

  7. It is a confusing message. I doubt that they realize the implications.

    One of the characteristics of creationism is a short attention span. Contradictions and other embarrassments are no matter of concern.

    Which is understandable in a movement where statements are motivational rather than substantive.

  8. Michael Fugate

    Wouldn’t we need to see how chimps and orangs and gorillas react to sockpuppets before we conclude that it is not part of our evolutionary history?