In Search of Humanism Among the Primates

by Frans de Waal

The theory of evolution is that microscopic organisms evolved into whales in a period of about one hundred million decades. I use this unit because it takes 20 years for a fertilized human egg to develop into all of the cells in a human body. Using decades instead of years or seconds puts the amount of time evolution is supposed to have happened in perspective. The theory of human evolution is that human beings evolved from apes.

Many people think the theory of evolution is a fact, and call it common descent. They justify this with the nonsense that the word theory has a different meaning in science than it does in other areas. Fact or theory, there is no theory that explains common descent. There are only theories that explain the adaptation of species to the environment. These theories are natural selection (Pierre Louis Maupertuis), epigenetics (Jean-Baptiste Lamarck), orthogenesis (Wilhelm Haacke), natural genetic engineering (James Shapiro), and facilitated variation (Marc Kirschner and John C. Gerhart). According to Evolution Revolution: Evolution is True. Darwin is Wrong. This Changes Everything by Allen Bennett (Lexem Publishing, 2014), Charles Darwin’s only contribution to evolutionary biology was to popularize natural selection, and Darwinism is some kind of atheistic cult. De Waal is not a Darwinist:

With the increasing popularity of the gene’s-eye view, however, these distinctions were overlooked. This led to a cynical outlook on human and animal nature. The altruistic impulse was downplayed, ridiculed even, and morality was taken off the table entirely. We were only slightly better than social insects. Human kindness was seen as a charade and morality as a thin veneer over a cauldron of nasty tendencies. (location 472)
Veneer Theory used to be the dominant biological view of human nature. It regarded kindness as either absent or an evolutionary misstep. Morality was a thin veneer barely able to conceal our true nature, which was entirely selfish. In the past decade, however, Veneer Theory has succumbed to overwhelming evidence for innate empathy, altruism, and cooperation in humans and other animals. (location 605)

Darwinists want an evolutionary mechanism that has the potential of explaining common descent. Natural selection offers more hope of this than epigenetics and natural genetic engineering. The fact that blacksmiths develop big arm muscles is an example of the complexity of life. If blacksmith’s children were born with big arm muscles, it would mean there was some kind of connection between the blacksmith’s arms and his gonads, making organisms more complex and harder to explain. Likewise, the fact that non-human animals solve problems and plan ahead, empathize with other creatures, have a sense of fairness, are altruistic and compassionate, crave and give affection, and can recognized faces is evidence against natural selection. De Waal even gives an example of apes responding to public opinion. However, this is all evidence for human evolution. The author believes in human evolution, but to his credit acknowledges the evidence against it:

At the same time, however, I am reluctant to call a chimpanzee a "moral being." This is because sentiments do not suffice. We strive for a logically coherent system and have debates about how the death penalty fits arguments for the sanctity of life, or whether an unchosen sexual orientation can be morally wrong. These debates are uniquely human. (location 261)

If you do not obey moral laws, you risk going to Hell when you die. This is why moral laws come from God, not from evolution and our mental abilities. One of the reasons I believe in life after death is that people who don’t believe, almost without exception, don’t discuss the matter knowledgably, intelligently, rationally, and honestly. The following quotes from the author is evidence of his lack of knowledge, intelligence, and rationality:

Without God, moral rules are "nothing but euphemisms for personal taste," exclaimed the rabbi, waving his hands above his head as if throwing pizza dough. (location 1259)

God exists because value judgments are real. If you like vanilla and I like chocolate, it is true that we have different values. It is true because we are embodied spirits and not a collection of molecules. If we are a collection of molecules, there is something different about us but it is not that we have different values. If an honor killing makes you happy and disgusts me, my values are better than your values. If it is true that murder is a sin, then God exists. This is what the rabbi was trying to say.

At one level, God’s existence is an absolute certainty for many, but at another level it always remains open to criticism. Religion is called “faith” precisely because it trusts things unseen. (location 2814)

There are two kinds of knowledge: faith and reason. In faith, you know something is true because God is telling you. In reason, you know something is true because you can see the truth of it. Belief in life after death is a matter of faith, but we know from reason that an infinite being, called God in Western religions, exists.

If we weren’t put on earth by God, so the thinking goes, we’d lack purpose. (location 1419)

The author thinks our purpose in life should be self-realization, not trying to get to Heaven. One of the great mysteries of life is that people who try to make themselves happy tend to be unhappy, and people who try to make others happy tend to be happy. But the goal of making yourself happy is an intelligible goal. We can understand what millionaire playboys are trying to achieve. But the goal of self-realization is literally unintelligible. We can realize our potential in different ways. The problem of life consists precisely in deciding how to realize our potentials. It is quite true that if there is no life after death, we would lack purpose. The way the atheist Jean-Paul Sartre put it was this: “Man is a useless passion.”