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Sweet Tooth

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on June 16, 2012
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National Reivew: “Science Demands Big Government” and New York Times: “Evolution’s Sweet Tooth“We have evolved to need coercion,” says Harvard biologist.

Evolution gave each of us the sweet tooth that controls our lives and leads us to self-destructive obesity, according to Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman. And Lieberman’s opinion piece in the New York Times supports New York mayor Bloomberg’s soda-slamming solution. “We did evolve to cooperate to help one another survive and thrive,” Lieberman writes. “Circumstances have changed, but we still need one another’s help as much as we ever did.” That “help” should take the form of coercion to save us from our outmoded irresistible urges. “We have evolved to need coercion.”

“Sip by sip and nibble by nibble, more of us gain weight because we can’t control normal, deeply rooted urges for a valuable, tasty and once limited resource.”

“Lessons from evolutionary biology support the mayor’s plan,” Lieberman writes. “Humans evolved to crave sugar, store it [as fat] and then use it. For millions of years, our cravings and digestive systems were exquisitely balanced because sugar was rare.” But now, “The food industry has made a fortune because we retain Stone Age bodies that crave sugar but live in a Space Age world in which sugar is cheap and plentiful. Sip by sip and nibble by nibble, more of us gain weight because we can’t control normal, deeply rooted urges for a valuable, tasty and once limited resource.”

Many people have expressed great displeasure at the New York mayor’s decision to ban the restaurant sale of sugary soda in portion sizes greater than 16 ounces. Lieberman’s analysis supports the mayor’s ban, explaining the seductive power of sweets through evolution. There was a time, so the story goes, when sweets were a rare but rich source of energy to help us out-compete our “chimpanzee cousins,” fueling our growing brains and allowing us to stash away fat (converted from excess sugar) for the days of deprivation. Now, with so much sugar around, we understandably have trouble controlling that sweet tooth, so society should help us to help ourselves, for society evolved to promote our survival in spite of such inborn cravings.

Evolutionary science is nowadays used to explain practically everything, and not just in nature. As columnist Dennis Prager comments, “Evolution explains love, altruism, morality, economic behavior, God, religion, intelligence.” Thus it is no surprise, he writes, “Along comes Professor Lieberman not merely to use evolution to explain human behavior, but to justify coercive left-wing social policy.”

Evolutionary science is really a way to explain life without God. Molecules-to-man evolution is a belief system and is not grounded in testable experimental observations but in unverifiable ideas about the past. And like a religion, evolutionary scientists speak with authority to explain why we are the way we are, how we should then live, and what we should do to be saved.

Because our modern lives are so blessed by the results of scientific advances, science for some has become the ultimate authority in life. For many, the idea that “science says it, I believe it, that settles it” has become the litmus test of all truth. Yet science is an ever-changing body of knowledge built upon testable ideas and our interpretations of our observations. Beliefs about origins are not testable, but those beliefs—those starting points, like whether or not God exists—are used to interpret all information about our origins. Science—while an incredible blessing overall—should be our servant and not our god.

On the other hand, God created us and therefore knows us best. He loves us and proved it by sending Jesus Christ to make salvation available, even though all people rebel against Him. Because He created us and loves us, He is the One best equipped to tell us why we are the way we are, what we must do to be saved, and how we should then live.

We know from God’s Word that He created Adam and Eve about 6,000 years ago fully functional and mature, the ancestors of all people. Humans were created with the ability to metabolize sugars for fuel and to store extra calories. But, starting with Adam and Eve, humans have rebelled against God’s perfect plan, and sin’s curse has affected every area of our lives, including the world all around us. Thus, the ready availability of empty calories in tasty sweets does make it easy to consume more calories than we need. And while there are many reasons people over-eat and under-exercise, none have an evolutionary basis. We may engage in self-destructive gluttony to seek pleasure, relieve stress, or perpetuate habitual patterns, but our lack of self-control has nothing to do with evolution.

Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham discussed this topic on his June 13 Facebook page, and as he pointed out, “Belief in molecules-to-man evolution is really a religion—it’s a religion that is therefore used to explain everything—doesn’t matter what the evidence is—they will fit it in in an attempt to explain it from their starting point of naturalism/millions of years/evolution.” Furthermore, he points out, evolutionary secularists “don't recognize (or want to recognize) the sin nature of man and that sin has affected every area of life.”

Evolution cannot explain our problems. The sinful nature of man and the cursed state of the world do. And the solutions to our problems don’t come from blaming them on an evolutionary fairy tale. Neither do solutions come from dredging up an evolutionary justification for whatever policy is popular—or unpopular—at the time.


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