The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The evolutionary glitch

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It’s really, really easy to explain human behavior using God’s Word. The fall of man means that we are disconnected with God and so vertically messed up; disconnected with each other and so horizontally messed up; and even disconnected with ourselves and so internally messed up.

1366811764_05Of course it’s a lot more complex than this. The generality of human behavior fits perfectly into the biblical presuppositions, yet all the specific ins and outs of behavior are never so easy to explain. Why did he do that? Why did she say that? Why do I have those thoughts? Human behavior is often plain baffling, yet the biblical worldview of man as the image-bearer of God rebelling against his creator gives an overarching explanation that fits with the facts of life.

If you reject the Christian worldview, explaining human behavioral quirks becomes just so much hard work. For instance, explaining why everyone tries to justify themselves as a moral person in a universe that could care less about our morality is a lot of fun. Or how about trying to explain why it is that even though everybody is trying to be good, there does seem to be a lot of evil going on in our hearts and in the world at large? Why give yourself a headache trying to figure out all sorts of sociological and environmental explanations for this when you can simplify things and go with the “man rebelled against his creator” explanation?

Now the US born comedienne, Ruby Wax, has waded into the fray with an attempt to explain the human psyche from an evolutionary perspective. Speaking at the 2013 Hay Festival where she was promoting her new book, Sane New World: How to Tame the Mind, she said that the “critical voices” we get in our heads stem from our evolutionary past. [1] “In evolution it worked really well,” she claimed, “but as the years have gone by there’s been a glitch. We need it because otherwise we could get hit by the next car. 50,000 years ago when we got language, the feeling of a threat we could suddenly put words to it. So really we’ve given a voice to it. So that language of ‘I gotta send an email’, ‘what about my fat thighs’, ‘how come nobody is calling me,’ that’s not actually what’s going on – it’s vigilance, looking for danger. So we put these words that really aren’t appropriate to the feeling that something is wrong. It’s the soundtrack that’s going through all of our heads and it’s always negative. No-one has a voice in their head saying ‘oh you’re doing a wonderful job, and may I say how attractive you’re looking.’” [2]

I think Miss Wax (she is married, but still seems to be known as Miss), has done a wonderful job here. Wonderful that is for a collection of randomly placed atoms that are subject to evolutionary glitches. Who would have thought it – the atoms speak and have thoughts of their own! No matter, those atoms have had their say and now another bunch of differently configured atoms will attempt to answer their thoughts one by one.

Firstly, there is the claim that the “critical voices” we get in our heads stem from our evolutionary past. She seems very certain of her case here, yet I think it ought to be pointed out that the theory of evolution is just that – the theory of evolution and not the fact of evolution. Yes I know that most of the western world at least has accepted the theory as fact, but in the absence of millions of graduated transitional changes in the fossil record, a lab-tested mechanism whereby abiogenesis could have occurred, not to mention some actual tangible living examples of kind-to-kind transitionals, I’m afraid it remains just a theory. So stating that the “critical voices” in our heads stem from our evolutionary past is what you might call jumping the gun somewhat. Best wait until the theory has been proven before we start asserting all the things that the theory has apparently done to us.

Secondly, she claims that “in evolution it worked really well, but as the years have gone by there’s been a glitch.” I’m not entirely sure what she means by this. Is the glitch in us, or is it in evolution itself. Or even in both. If it is in us, then this begs the question how would she know? If we are all “glitched” then there’s not much point supposing we would be able to identify the glitch, much less do anything about it. Random and unluckily glitched bunch of atoms, heal thyself!

If the glitch is in evolution, on the other hand, then we should likewise just forget about it. If evolution is going to go all glitchy on us and mess around with us like this, then we can do nothing about it and must sadly suffer in silence whilst it unleashes its worst upon us. Unless of course we can quickly work out how to unglitch the evolutionary glitch.

And if it is both, then we really are in trouble. Computers these days are able to diagnose problems with themselves, and even to provide a fix. But they still needed a programmer to program them to begin with, and they would still need someone to come and fix them if the problem was beyond what the programmer programmed into them to deal with. But if both the computer and the programmer are all glitchy, there’s really not much hope left.

Thirdly, she says that “50,000 years ago when we got language, the feeling of a threat we could suddenly put words to it.” Evolutionists generally seem to think that the species “homo sapiens” first appeared on earth around 500,000 years ago, with modern “homo sapiens” coming onto the scene around 200,000 years ago. Taking the later date, this means that according to Miss Wax, for 150,000 years human beings had the same feeling of threat and “critical voices” that we now have, but with no way of articulating them. I can only assume that the scenario envisaged is that for at least 150,000 years, people were essentially like babies and toddlers – with all sorts of issues and messed up heads, but with no outlet to vent the frustration. It seems like there must have been a lot of yelling and hollering and throwing things around back in those days. In fact, it really is a wonder that we survived all those years of non-communicable, pent-up frustration without going insane or killing each other. But somehow evolution managed to get us through it all, even though we are now all forced to suffer from the glitch it left us with.

Fourthly, she says, “So really we’ve given a voice to it. So that language of ‘I gotta send an email’, ‘what about my fat thighs’, ‘how come nobody is calling me,’ that’s not actually what’s going on – it’s vigilance, looking for danger. So we put these words that really aren’t appropriate to the feeling that something is wrong.” Her general thesis is that the critical voice once performed the role of alerting us to danger so we could avoid it, but as the need for vigilance has waned, the voices have remained but they now turn their attention upon ourselves, nagging us about all sorts of things. Well some of these voices are common sense, some of them are paranoia, some of them are plain evil, some of them are stupid, some of them are covetous, and some of them are the result of real, actual guilt. But all this goes to show that we really are messed up – not just a bit messed up because of some evolutionary glitch from our dim and distant past, but well and truly messed up in the way the Bible shows us to be.

Sixthly, she says, “It’s the soundtrack that’s going through all of our heads and it’s always negative. No-one has a voice in their head saying ‘oh you’re doing a wonderful job, and may I say how attractive you’re looking.’” Here, I can only wonder which planet Miss Wax lives on. If all of us are just getting a negative soundtrack going through our heads putting us down all the time, where on earth do giant egos come from? Is there really nobody on planet earth right now thinking more highly of themselves than they ought? Or did that last comment stem from the critical voice in my head putting me down yet again?

Man is a complex creature. Miss Wax has identified the issue that something is basically wrong internally with man, yet her diagnosis fails to reveal what the real problem is. In fact, her thinking is further proof of the existence of the glitch – the fallen-man glitch, not the evolutionary-man glitch, that is.

  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/10084208/Hay-Festival-2013-evolutionary-glitch-is-making-us-worry-too-much-Ruby-Wax-says.html[]
  2. Ibid.[]
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