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Survival of the Kindest?

on December 12, 2009
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ScienceDaily: “Social Scientists Build Case for ‘Survival of the Kindest’Move over, Charles Darwin: researchers at Oregon State University and the University of California–Berkeley want to supplant “survival of the fittest” with “survival of the kindest.”

Are humans “wired to be selfish,” as evolutionists might say, or are we “evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive”? Some social scientists argue for the latter, calling altruism and compassion traits that evolved to help humans succeed.

Some social scientists are calling altruism and compassion traits that evolved to help humans succeed.

One of the scientists is Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, author of Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” he said. “Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate.”

Creationists should not be surprised by the research. After all, evolutionary scientists observe altruistic and compassionate behavior in humans and therefore must explain the source of such behavior—but their Darwinian framework requires that such behavior must be evolutionarily motivated. In other words, non-self-interested behavior must still be reducible to self-interest.

An example is one of the team’s latest studies, which showed that a particular version of the oxytocin gene receptor increases one’s ability both to correctly read another’s emotional state and to avoid getting “stressed out.” To explain the variation, the evolutionary researchers have sought to link such behavior to natural selection by arguing that generous people garner more respect and influence. Thus, selfless behaviors are shown to be ultimately selfish.

In another series of studies, the researchers demonstrated that sympathy “is . . . wired into our brains and bodies, and it spreads from one person to another through touch,” explained Keltner. Similar effects have been observed in animals, allegedly providing more support for the evolution of kindness.

In contrast to the scientists’ efforts to fit kindness into the Darwinian worldview, Christians have no need to “fit” selflessness in. On the contrary, creationists need an explanation for why there is selfish behavior in a world that God deemed “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We have the answer in Genesis 3: because of sin, the perfect world God created—in which selfless behaviors would require no explanation—has been corrupted. Now, true selflessness only comes from above.


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