Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Evolutionary Argument for Traditional Marriage

Let’s assume the truth of Darwinian evolution for the sake of argument:

According to Darwinian theory, we are the products of a long, gradual process. This process included genetic variation acted upon by natural selection. Species that are the most fit will on average produce more offspring, and so will tend to spread throughout a population. At any given time a species will generally be populated by the most fit individuals, although a population is always changing.

That Darwinian process has produced males and females for each species that reproduce sexually. Sexual reproduction is the process selected by nature for getting these species' genes into the next generation. These requirements for producing children have been dictated by nature. 

Many species that reproduce sexually will mate but then only one of the parents will remain behind to raise the offspring. Additionally, some species will mate, the mother will lay her eggs, and then the progeny are on their own to face a harsh predatory world. More rarely, mom and pop will mate and then both will stick around to handle the parenting duties.

Human beings have historically shown themselves to be in this third category. Cultural studies ranging over the world and throughout history have demonstrated that men and women make long-term pairing to raise their children. Human children are notorious for taking so danged long to develop. The complexity of the human species with physical, emotional, and cognitive needs probably tended to require more than just what a mother or father could alone provide. Also the length of time required for human maturation would have tended to encourage both mating partners to contribute to the raising of their children.

That this is the case is easily explained by evolution. Nature must have selected for this long-term-pairing trait. By definition the dominant trait in a species is the most beneficial for survival. Therefore we should follow what is best for our survival and maintain our traditional marriage model. Anything else will just weaken our survivability on average.

What do you think? Given Darwinian evolution, does this argument work?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Everything Physical is Physics...

...but not everything is physical.

This is becoming my standard answer to my students when they ask, "What is physics?" You see, in the high school in which I teach, every student must take physics (thanks to this policy, I have a job!). So I initially get a lot of questions about what it is that they will be learning. My answer tries to point out to them that everything in the physical universe must obey the laws of physics, which we will be studying. We live in an orderly universe governed by law. This insight is astonishing in its own right: why is the universe orderly? This can lead to some very interesting conversations about design.

My point is a little different, however, when I respond, "Everything physical is physics, but not everything is physical." We live in a materialistic culture in which we are told in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways that we are nothing but our bodies. Our minds are reduced to our brains. Our feelings to chemical reactions. Our morality to evolutionary bric-a-brac.

So by saying that not everything is physical, I hope to put a stone in their shoe that there is more to this world than just physical stuff. For example:
  • Souls
  • Mental states
  • God
  • Information
None of these are physical, but they are just as real as a rock. I don't bring all of this up unless someone asks, but most students don't take the bait. Every once in a while, however, I get a student genuinely interested, and then we can launch into a meaningful conversation.

Just one more small way to push back the tide...