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The Evolution of Altruistic Love?7 min read

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One of the hardest things for me to do as a Christian husband is to love my wife “as Christ loved the Church.” It is a difficult thing to love someone else that sacrificially, but not an impossible thing. Which begs the question: if evolution is true, then where did altruistic love come from?

Nancy Pearcey raises that question in Total Truth and I think it is a thought worth exploring.

If human beings are merely products of chance, guided only by the principle of survival of the fittest, where would sacrificial love come in to that equation?

You may say that this sense of doing good for others evolved like all other morality did. But why would it exist in an evolutionary developed world?

There is no evolutionary need for me to love anyone else more than myself, in fact it is the exact opposite. In order to survive, I need to only consider my own needs and how best to meet them. Sure, I might be nice to someone else, but only if it will benefit me in some way.

Why do we as humans compel someone to act compassionately to someone they have never seen and will never meet? Giving sacrificially to someone else in Africa, for instance, will not help me pay my mortgage. It won’t put food on the table for me and my children. It is essentially money thrown away, speaking purely from an evolutionary standpoint.

Some may attempt to explain it by suggesting that we have a instinct to survive as a species, so that I have a evolutionary drive to help other humans. But why would this be so? Should I honestly care if other members of the human race die or do not evolve as quickly as I? Would that not be a positive thing for me and my own survival? If I am the most evolved person in the most evolved species, then I have almost assured my own survival. What benefit would it be to me to try to help others along in the process?

Evolutionary speaking, I have no need or reason to love my wife more than I love myself. I should love her as much as I need to in order to accomplish what I want, which in terms of evolution is good children to carry on my genes.

Why should I care about the sick, the poor, the homeless? Would that not be just one less person I have to compete with in order to survive and evolove? All of this sounds so disgusting and selfish to our eyes (I hate even typing it), but what basis do we have to care for others if evolution is our foundation?

Here is where Pearcey’s attack on the two-tired view of life comes in to play. Those who operate under an evolutionary standpoint in their bottom realm of “truth” or scientifict knowledge, cannot do so in their top realm of “value” or life experiences.

Recently two evolutionist professors wrote a book about rape and how it is essentially an “evolutionary adaptation for maximizing reproductive success.” (from Total Truth) They encountered the expected resistance from many liberal circles, most notable the feminist groups. One of the authors, Randy Thornhill, said on NPR that if evolution is true, then “every feature of every living thing, including human beings, has an underlying evolutionary background. That’s not a debatable matter.”

But how do you explain the evolution of the best of human characteristics (altruistic love) and the worst of human behaviors (rape)? There is no evolutionary need for sacrificial love, just as their is no need for rape. (Many rapes do not involve the possibility of reproduction resulting from the experience, specifically when it involves same-sex partners, children and the elderly.)

When carried to the logical extention, evolutionists must deny things that are elementary to human understanding. Biologist William Provine said that the Darwinian revolution will only be complete when we have embraced the moral and religious implications that “there is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning for life, and no free will.”

If you have no basis for ethics, meaning and free will, how do you live your life? You must seperate what you “know” scientifically from what you “know” experientially. In his book, The Moral Animal, Robert Wright says that “our genes control us.” “We are all machines, pushed and pulled by [physical] forces.” He states that “we believe the things – about morality, personal worth, even objective truth – that lead to behaviors that get our genes into the next generation.” Those are the beliefs that one must maintain if you carry evolution to the logical conclusion, yet Wright is unable to keep his theory consistent. He then urges the reader to work on “correcting the moral biases built into us by natural selection” and practicing the ideal of “brotherly love.” Pearcey’s question is the right one: “But if we are really ‘machines’ created by natural selection, how can we ‘correct’ the force that created us?”

The worldview cannot be carried out in a consistent way because of what they “know” to be true in real life. Avoid evolutionist Richard Dawkins runs into a similar dilemma in The Selfish Gene. He states that genes “created us, body and mind” and that we are their “survival machines,” merely sophisticated “robots” build by our genes to continue themselves. Then somehow, Dawkins makes a faith leap to rival any creationist by proclaiming that “we have the power to defy the selfish gene of our birth.” Even though “we are built as gene machines,…we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”

Darwinian evolutionist cannot, unlike Christians, live consistently on the basis of their worldview. Their blueprint of life does not allow for free will and the existence of standard morality. Yet, when they are forced into actual life, dealing with actual people they borrow (steal) from a Christian based worldview and claim the virtures of freedom and love.

Where does altruistic love come from? Why would natural selection impart such a “gift” to us? For the Christian, we know where love came from and we know why it is a part of the human experience (just as we know why things such as rape exist). We know that “God is love” and we are created in His image, so we have the ability to love like Him.

Do you love? Or the better question is, does your worldview allow you to love?