The strange bedfellows of evolution and compassion

“Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals.” -Ecclesiastes 3:19

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”-Matthew 9:36

Just a few quick thoughts here. Over the years, as I’ve moved from away from YEC, I’ve always been told how evolution is godless and cruel. Satanic. A lie. A trick. “How would you feel if your kids were really just monkeys?”.

My experience has increasingly been the opposite. Understanding evolution (my children are not monkeys on most days) and the proliferation of species on this planet has actually encouraged a more loving and compassionate heart. We are flesh and blood. God’s creation. Not so crudely the magical creative blip of a fantasy god detached from creation. We have connection to this world. There are causes and effects. Biological, sociological, psychological reasons for things. For why humans think and act. Why we polarize and tend toward tribalism. Why we cry and hurt.

Jesus looked over a hungry and dirty crowd and loved them. Jesus’ empathy and compassion is even more profound in light who we are as humans.

Seeing my beautiful young kids and loving them. It’s grounding and real. The expectation of an angelic perfection and hyper fundamentalism appearing so clearly fraudulent. Instead, the reality of creation and the love of God toward us making the parent child construct all the more beautiful. Jesus, the creator of all, looking at his children with love and empathy even more jaw dropping.

Do you any of you have thoughts on this? Or ever feel that science can almost enhance feelings of compassion? Maybe some of you can even articulate my thoughts more clearly. :slight_smile:

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I was told similar things – the idea that we “came from monkeys” (as it was often put) should be an insult to us. Other versions were along the lines of “If you tell kids they’re just animals, don’t be surprised when they act like it.” And sure, if someone is so committed to biological essentialism that they tell kids they’re nothing more than what their biology makes them, that could be a problem. But the Psalms also say that humans are dust, and Adam was made from the dust of the ground, so I’m not sure why evolving from primates is worse.

For me, learning about evolution has helped to emphasize that biology is only part of the equation, which I would think is right in line with Christian views. But maybe we (as Christians) have become so enculturated with the reductionist and materialistic views of our culture that we lash out at the wrong thing. I thought evolution was the problem, but maybe it was more our insistence on acting like the physical is dangerous.

But I like what you say about feeling a greater connection to the world. So much of the Christian spirituality I grew up with, while being against evolution, was also very big on our “separation” from the world – so divorced from everything around us that it felt almost too abstract to be real. I don’t blame ancient cultures for seeing land and animals as sacred because that was kind of their bridge between God and the world.

Anyway, I doubt I articulated anything more clearly, but thanks for the opportunity to think out loud a bit. :smiley:

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To me, it is reassuring that though animals and like animals made from the dust of creation, we are chosen by God to carry his image, and can be representatives of God as we live our lives.

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YEC and nothing-but atheism have more in common with each other than they do with nuanced positions on either side. There is also good to be had from both sides. From atheism take “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer and sometimes the truest. From Belief take that it is okay to hold on faith the truth that draws you even if you can’t ‘prove’ it.

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The problem is not evolution, but the insertion of that word “just”. As the verse cited from Ecclesiastes points out, the idea that humans are just animals comes from assuming a purely materialistic viewpoint, even if that materialistic “under the sun” approach was taken nearly three thousand years before the development of evolutionary theory.

Biology confirms that we are animals, but cannot weigh in on the question of whether we are more than just a bunch of coordinated chemical reactions. The Bible consistently affirms that God is at work through the ordinary means of natural laws, not just in the miraculous. In fact, miracles are relatively rare in the Bible, particularly when you consider the overall timeline, contrasting dramatically with many apocryphal stories, Harry Potter, etc. [Not to imply that one can’t have fun reading Harry Potter but just to cite a currently familiar example of fantasy fiction where magic is rather commonplace within the plot.]

But modern young-earth and anti-evolution claims have largely bought into the deistic to atheistic error of thinking that scientific explanation = absence of God. Ironically, young-earth and ID also buy into the error that science is the ultimate go-to for authority, resorting to bad arguments to have the appearance of scientific backing, just as all sorts of social, ethical, and theological claims get marketed as scientific when they aren’t actually rooted in science.

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Great point both of you make here – as much as YEC apologetics organizations try to portray the Bible as this ultimate source of knowledge, in practice they are desperate to show that it conforms to modern reductionist philosophies, even as they disparage them.

Back to the subject of compassion – when we become so set on distancing ourselves from “monkeys” and anything else in creation that we perceive as dragging us down, it can be more difficult to see ourselves having any fellowship with creation. Kind of like a holier-than-thou pharisee (or Javert from Les Mis) who is unable to recognize any fellowship with “sinners” and only wants to focus on the degree of purity they have achieved in contrast.

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  • My stepmother, who raised me from about 3 months to just before my 12th birthday, was a devout believer in Jesus Christ, in a very literal understanding of the Bible, a Southern Baptist, born in 1887, one of 8 children, 5 of whom were Deaf.
  • I can still remember, in the mid-1950s, probably after a sermon on the evils of evolutionary theory at the time, protesting to a very young me against anyone suggesting that we humans are animals. Until she died in 1973, at the age of 86, she was convinced that: “Hearing think Deaf are animals. Wrong!”
  • I never tried to “enlighten” or dissuade her. To this day, I affirm that she was the first and one of several vessels of God’s abundant mercy and blessing in my life, evoking gratitude.whenever I think of her. I look forward to seeing her again in “the next world.”
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The strange bedfellows of evolution and compassion

People say the same thing of Christianity and compassion.

The truth is that evolution and Christianity are the real bedfellows and it is naïve simple-minded notions of compassion which don’t fit reality, and are frankly manufactured as tools of rhetoric for the most ridiculous arguments.

Very cool passage. But it could easily mean that other animals than human also can have a spiritual body which is imperishable.

INDEED!!!

So God looked at the world and saw the indisputable proof that cooperation (of which compassion is a part) is the most successful survival strategy and God said, “It is good.”

Yes.

It is a misunderstanding of Jesus saying “You must be perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” It is not about never making any mistakes. That is total nonsense. Making mistakes is how we learn. No. What Jesus was talking about are the self-destructive habits of sin – and blaming others refusing to learn from your mistakes is at the top of the list. You simply cannot expect heaven, the kingdom of God, and eternal life with such things because these self-destructive habits will drag you down, creating hell around you. So Jesus’ constant refrain was, “Your sins are forgiven, so go and sin no more.” It is not about retribution, or God cannot associate with sinners (Jesus proved that wrong), or your sins being an offense against God. It is about what these self-destructive habits are doing to you.

Yes.

This ability to see the good in people is one of the more godly characteristics we can find in people. That and the desire to serve and help other people.

Yes.

It is a big part of what inspired “Language of God” and this forum.

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Hi! Can you expand a bit on this, I’m not sure what you mean. Can you give any examples? Thanks

Its just that on one side you have people complaining that a compassionate God would not kill so many in a flood and on the other side you have people complaining that a compassionate God would not be creating species by the death and suffering implicit in evolution. I guess with the former it makes sense because they are ultimately arguing that no such compassionate God exists, but it is hypocritical in the latter case.

One can have compassion without refusing to perform surgery or without giving a child whatever candy they demand. So these notions of “compassion” seem a little contrived to me, put up just for the sake of arguing against things they want to shout down.

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“All have the same breath.” That deserves unpacking. In the OT, life is in the breath (Heb. ruach–spirit/wind/breath). Both humans and animals owe their lives (breath) to the Spirit of God, who gave it. But you stopped before the climax of Ecc. 3:21!

"Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

I’m too lazy to look up the reference, but this reminds me of one of Kierkegaard’s greatest riffs on the priestly trade. They sell tickets to a destination, but no one hears from the ones who made the trip. Oof.

Couldn’t agree more. I even look at my dog differently these days. haha

The parent-child construct is exactly right. I don’t think I can articulate your thoughts any better, but here are my thoughts:

Then I was beside him, as a master workman;
And I was daily his delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
And having my delight in the sons of adam . Prov. 8:30-31

“Rejoicing” here has the connotation of playing, of laughter, and the “delight” that Wisdom expresses is the same delight that God expresses for Ephraim, his dear son, in Jer. 31:20. As I see it, this was the condition before the Fall, before humanity was barred from God’s presence. God enjoyed and delighted in early human development in the same way that a father takes delight in his child’s growth toward maturity. But whatever fellowship God had with the children of adam during those thousands of years of immaturity was altered when we rebelled. Those who are evil cannot look upon a holy God and live. God could no longer laugh and play with us. Instead, he hid from us, for our own good. But, as Jeremiah prophesied, no matter how often the Lord has rebuked his dear children, his heart still yearns for us, and he will surely have mercy on us.

In the end, God will again play with his children. No longer will he hide his face (Is. 45:15). When we finally “see him as he is,” we shall laugh with him and delight in him forever, as he always intended from the beginning. The Lord’s creative purpose will inevitably be achieved.

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Yes! This is what I’m clumsily trying to describe. The abstract feeling. Vague connections to reality as if we aren’t made of flesh and bone just like the creation around us. Like we’re plastic fairy people just blinked into existence.

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This is great. Thanks!

Thank you for sharing that. :slight_smile:

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Right! I included the passage mostly because I think it’s cool. And just for the contrast. We’re dust. We are like the animals. And yet, Jesus looked at us and had compassion.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Some good verses to bookmark.

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Evolution and compassion doesnt go hand in hand though.Unless you are arguing for Theistic Evolution.Evolution is simplified in one sentence “Survival of the fittest”.

And just one thing to add.Ive seen countless comments here on “compassion” and i have to say.You people have no clue what the … you are talking about.But its interesting to see nonetheless.

Compassion is evolved. What’s strange about that?

Strange from my perspective growing up in YEC and without a lot of science education. Nothing good could ever come from evolution because it was Satan’s great deception. Whether that good thing be something evolved or something evolution enhances or highlights.

Evolution invented compassion? Or something more inherent and fundamental evolved and developed through the process of evolution?

Meaning the ability to recognize, perceive and actualize compassion evolved from the perspective of the creature. Compassion evolving doesn’t necessarily mean compassion was invented by evolution because it evolved.

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