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Darwin and doomsday: Christian de Duve gets hold of the weeping prophet Jeremiah’s robes

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I was just reading Warwick University sociologist Steve Fuller’s comment* on the evolutionary psychologist’s insistence on deriving all human characteristics from kinship with apes:

Corresponding to this removal of metaphysical privilege is a tendency for Darwinists to treat the [128] most distinctive features of the human condition as by-products or pathologies, in either case implying that we hare lucky to have them in the first place, but they may prove to be our undoing in the end.

when, smack, into my mailbox arrives news that Darwin defender Christian de Duve believes that our evolved human traits will be our undoing in the end:

“We have evolved traits that will lead to humanity’s extinction, says Christian de Duve – so we must learn to overcome them”We are the most successful species on the planet, but you think we will ultimately pay the price for this success. Why?

The cost of our success is the exhaustion of natural resources, leading to energy crises, climate change, pollution and the destruction of our habitat. If you exhaust natural resources there will be nothing left for your children. If we continue in the same direction, humankind is headed for some frightful ordeals, if not extinction.

You think that natural selection has worked against us. How?

Because it has no foresight. Natural selection has resulted in traits such as group selfishness being coded in our genes. These were useful to our ancestors under the conditions in which they lived, but have become noxious to us today.

– Clint Witchalls, “Biology Nobelist: Natural selection will destroy us,” New Scientist 28 February 2011

The inconsistency is interesting. We “evolved” the traits means we inherited the traits, and yet – as we learn later in the interview – we can somehow learn to overcome them?

What about the people who inherited sickle cell diease, thalassemia, or Huntington’s chorea? Can they just walk away from it all?

De Duve quotes a traditional source, Genesis, on original sin, “I believe that the writers of Genesis had detected the inherent selfishness in human nature that I propose is in our genes, and invented the myth of original sin to account for it.”

But the writers of Genesis did not mean “in our genes” in de Duve’s sense at all, let alone did they consider original sin is a myth. They meant that humans naturally fall into individual (not necessarily group) selfishness because they consciously choose something other than righteousness at a point when they are free not to. They also thought that only divine help could overcome the problem, not individual or group effort.

Re doomsday, I always ask, if it’s all so bad, why are there so many of us, why are world longevity rates rising, and why are people so fat these days? When life really is bad, none of these circumstances prevails.

*in a British anthology, Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, p. 127–28.

"You can’t have it both ways." DarwinDefender: You just don't get it, do you? Translation: You keep trying to critique the profoundly illogical by the standards of logic. Remember: "With "evolution," all things are possible!" Ilion
"... Darwin defender ..." :) ... the common name for Darwindefensor internetensis and allied sub-species. Ilion
I don’t understand how people can claim that one the one hand, evolution causes humans to show self-interest (in the name of preserving their family line, natural selection, etc.); but on the other hand, they also claim that evolution causes humans to behave altruistically, without thinking of self for the greater good of the group (or family). You can’t have it both ways. Either we are inherently selfish and seek to please ourselves, or we aren’t. Or, we choose to behave selflessly because those are the morals we’ve been taught. Barb
"The inconsistency is interesting. We “evolved” the traits means we inherited the traits, and yet – as we learn later in the interview – we can somehow learn to overcome them?" Hehe. When something in a human mind is capable of choosing to follow an impulse or not, it cannot be the impulse itself. One of those 'somethings' is foresight. The irony is that human foresight was allegedly created by a process with no foresight. Uh huh. kornbelt888

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