I think most people can sympathize with the experience of apprehending some weird trait about our biology and then wondering, “why does that exist”? Maybe it’s something like hair in a weird place, or the shape of a toenail or something like that.
Or maybe it leads to more complicated questions, like why do our bodies undergo changes like male pattern baldness? What is the reason?
Some of these kinds of questions seem to have obvious answers like why do we have eyebrows? Obviously to more easily facilitate the act of flirting. But male pattern baldness doesn’t have an explanation that is so immediately available.
In times that were more unanimously religious, people might have responded to that question by explaining that it helps us grow in humility in opposition to pride which is the root of all sin and evil.
As a man ages, he acquires more wealth and status and if he kept his youthful good looks, temptations towards lust and pride would overwhelm him. So, as a mercy and aide to his sanctification, God saw fit to see to it that his sexual appeal should decline to help him keep his commitments to his family.
But today, we’re far more scientific than such speculations, so we would prefer to have a natural answer to a question like that: one that resolves to keep things at ground level rather than up in the clouds.
And of course, the answer we’d expect would come through a Darwinian framework. And since Darwin himself suffered this fate, he may have asked the question himself as he fumbled with his combover each morning.
Whatever the explanation is, for anyone with any familiarity with Darwinism, evolution, or survival of the fittest, we know that it would be some attempt to explain how it encourages the survival of the species.
But when a naturalist or a Darwinist says that the reason a trait exists is for the survival of the species, they’re just begging for the very obvious next question which is, “what is the reason the creature has traits that help it survive?” or “why is survival of the species a good thing?”
Saying “survival” is the reason is just kicking the can further down the road.
It seems to me that when we attempt to answer the question, “what is the reason for…[fill in the blank]”, we’re admitting, we’re conceding that there is purpose and meaning behind the way a thing is or the way all things are.
These kinds of question arise when we perceive something that seems like it shouldn’t be. We expect things to be a certain way as compared to how they are and when those things contradict, we are faced with a feeling that reality is unreasonable when it ought to be reasonable.
Like, why does the sun want to destroy my skin when I go outside? It shouldn’t do that. I’m here after all, I’m a product of this system, so why is the system so hostile towards me? Again, we ask a question like that because underneath it all, we expect to find a reasonable answer.
We sense that things ought to be a certain way and since they aren’t, there must be some deeper explanation that needs revealing. But as soon as we say, things ought to be a certain way when they’re not, what we’re REALLY searching for is an assurance that things, reality, the laws of nature… are good.
Any description or expectation of how things ought to be is an appeal to morality – of good contrasted with evil. If I say, “you shouldn’t have lied.” what I’m actually saying is, you ought to have told the truth instead of lied. I’m saying something else ought to have happened as compared to what actually did happen.
When naturalists encounter something in biology or in nature that seems to suggest that a trait or a phenomenon has no reason, they seek to reconcile it with the necessity of survival and therefore do not have to answer it with, “there is no reason. The universe and everything in it is the consequence of random, indifferent, and meaningless chaos.”
That’s the answer every single person’s conscience seeks to avoid lest we, and our sanity with us, descends into nihilistic despair. And we can’t have that. We must have some explanation that tells us that things are stable and intelligible, but for modern man, we want an answer that transplants an intelligence, a mind, or God from the explanation.
And so, survival seems like the thing that does this. As long as everything can be explained by the need for survival, it doesn’t appeal to some higher spiritual explanation, it sounds very grounded in the day to day affairs of nature, but doesn’t leave us wondering if when we wake up tomorrow, all chaos will erupt around us because there is no reason for anything.
We can finally say, ah yes, there is no lawgiver, but there are still laws governing everything. Everything still has an intelligible explanation, but there is no intelligence behind it.
I hope you can detect the contradiction in that. If we look at a certain biological trait, and, based on our first perception of it, it doesn’t appear to make sense and so we look for an explanation, we need to be honest with the fact that what we’re doing is trying to reconcile it with an underlying assumption that truth, intelligence, and goodness prevail in the universe.
If they didn’t, then we shouldn’t ask the question and if, through some glitch in the system, we did ask the question, the answer should be, there is no reason. Everything that is is randomly produced by accident and will randomly be resolved in its destruction.
But we don’t do that. Not even the atheists do that. They believe they’ve found, in Darwin, an explanation that gives them safety and reason, but without God, but they fail to see that they have not provided an explanation for why survival matters.
Even as a very basic aspect of nature, elevating survival as the supreme explanation for all inquiry, seems to contradict the fact that all things are running down or what the 2nd law of thermodynamics calls entropy.
Everything is going to be destroyed and come to nothing. All life dies. What good reason is there if a life survives for 80 years vs. 80 seconds if in the end, it still dies?
The only explanation to that question, that I can think of, is if those 80 years provide that life with a window of an opportunity to fulfill some purpose that 8 seconds would not have provided. In other words, evolution by trying to explain everything through the lens of survival has not escaped purpose.
If someone says, “why is a chair the way it is?” you could say, oh well, the 4 legs keep it from tipping over, and the seat is to aid its user in sitting upright. The strong materials prevent it from collapsing when weight is added to it, and so on.
OK, well, all you’ve done is explain the mechanics of it. You haven’t explained, *Why* it is and the answer is, because it has a purpose, and the fact that it has a purpose concedes that someone designed it to fulfill that purpose.
As soon as we admit purpose to something, we are admitting that it derives that purpose from an intelligence. Purpose admits a reason and reason admits that an intelligence willed it.
If you ask why something is, and someone says survival, then they haven’t fully answered the question because the question is asking what the purpose is. Survival may be the mechanism that supports the purpose, but the purpose is the answer to the question and if you’re asking a question that requires a purpose, then you’ve already admitted that God’s will is the answer.