Evolution and School Shootings

After yesterday's shooting at a school in Pennsylvania, CBS News gave Brian Rohrbough, father of one of the kids shot at Columbine in 1999, a forum to blame it all on evolution:

When my son Dan was murdered on the sidewalk at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, I hoped that would be the last school shooting. Since that day, I've tried to answer the question, "Why did this happen?"

This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value.

Reed Cartwright has already written a response to him, but I want to add one important bit of empirical evidence to the mix. If the teaching of evolution and not having God "in the schools" really leads to this terribly immoral society where people kill each other randomly because life has no inherent value, then how does Rohrbough explain the fact that every other Western democracy has far lower rates of murder, rape, teen pregnancy, and things like school shootings while teaching evolution far more comprehensively than we do in the US, and in far more secular societies than we have?

Survey after survey shows that the rates of acceptance of evolution are far, far lower in the US than in any other modern industrialized nation in the world. They also show that the rates of religious belief in the US are far higher, including belief in eternal punishment for our sins on earth. Yet the US has the highest rates of virtually every negative measurement - murder, rape and virtually all violent crime, not to mention teen pregnancy (our rate is double that of any European nation, and a full seven times higher than the Netherlands). And this despite all of those rates having gone down steadily for the last couple decades; even with that steady decrease, we still lead the modern Western world in rates of violence by wide margins. And we imprison nearly 4 times as high a percentage of our population as our allies as well. And yet in most of those nations, evolution is accepted as an uncontroversial reality by virtually the entire society, even the churches. This is a rather inconvenient fact for the Brian Rohrboughs of the world.

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This is, of course, another example of the my mind is made up, the facts are irrelevant mentality. It should be noticed that the approach is the same across many areas. Note the similarity of this rant with the previous post about denial of the study about the inverse relationship between porn and rape. Indeed, compare the thinking of Rohrbough and Trueman with the thinking of the evolution deniers, the vaccine deniers, the HIV/AIDS deniers, the holocaust deniers, the 9/11 deniers, the moon landing deniers, etc. Remove the subject of the denials and they all sound the same. The deniers know the "truth" and everybody else is either part of a conspiracy or dupes of a conspiracy to hide the "truth".

I'm amazed that people buy the nonsense he's spouting, especially given that it's usually spouted by Christian fundamentalists. Evolution by no means requires you to believe that cut-throat competition is the way things ought to be. However, Christian fundamentalists generally accept that it is right and proper for Jehovah the Omnipotent to do whatever he damn well pleases to anyone: having a nation exterminated because he wants someone else to have the land, sending people to hell for the wrong beliefs.

"I'm amazed that people buy the nonsense he's spouting, especially given that it's usually spouted by Christian fundamentalists. Evolution by no means requires you to believe that cut-throat competition is the way things ought to be."

It's even more amazing when you consider that the people who blame evolution for moral decline also claim it to be a left-wing conspiracy, and left wingers aren't renowned for their belief in cut throat competition between individuals.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Is this "news" feature a means for airing editorial matter/opinions without allowing responses? Clearly, the speaker did not have a clue regarding the cause of violence in schools; maybe it's the dress code, maybe it's the fault of President Bush or Senator Santorum.

It's also interesting that they point to evolution, quote social darwinism, a right-wing conservative construct to justify their exploitation of others, and blame scientific evolution and leftists, as was already mentioned ideas/groups that aren't generally known for their cutthroat competitive nature.

You'd think that these guys would then support the leftist idea that big business needs to be regulated so they don't hurt consumers in their competition, but no, they generally support free market capitalism, with cutthroat competition.

Drat! I need to go buy a new irony-o-meter. Anyone know where I can get one cheap? ;o)

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

Why would CBS air that nonsense? Are they agreeing with him or just marketing controversy to make a buck?

Rohrbough is correct.

The guy who did the shooting was a 32 year old child molester, and that might be biologically linked. Therefore, if we all pretended that evolution didn't exist, he would have never become a pedophilia. Because, as Rohrbough implies, we live in a universe where the subject holds supremacy in the object/subject relationship. As long as we don't believe in evolution, nothing bad will happen.

What I don't get is this. These fundi-Christians claim that God is so interactive with the Earth that he touches them daily. If that is the case, then why would God allow something like this to happen? Sure, they would argue that the Devil is what inspired him to do it, etc., but if God is all powerful, then it happened with His consent, didn't it? So God allowed this to happen. If your God allowed this to happen, is it a God worthy of worshipping?

What could the girls have done to deserve their fate (and the terror that led up to it)? At their age? Nothing. The only argument that a fundi has is that they were worshipping incorrectly. But wait a second, first, they're pretty fundamentalist Christian themselves, and second, can a 13, or even a 16 year old be blamed for the way they worship and not given a chance to "correct" that error? The only other argument is that God wanted them to be with him. Well if that's the case, couldn't He have taken them in their sleep while dreaming of angels and harps?

Finally you have the argument that God is testing the rest of us. That's a hell of a test, wouldn't you say? It is no wonder the fundamentalists lash out at others who have no logical tie to the terrors of the world. If they paused long enough to think things through, they'd be staring into an abyss that they don't want to look into.

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

If your God allowed this to happen, is it a God worthy of worshipping?

Doesn't matter. It's a fear thing. "Worthiness" isn't as important as keeping their butts out of eternal hell and torture. Forever is a long time.

Hummm, maybe we should make some statistics on how many fundies country has and correlate that with the per capita crime rates. Based on the logic, my country, The Netherlands, should be worse of than the US. Unfortunately for the fundies here, it has lower crime rates, lower drug use (YES!), lower abortion rates, lower divorce rates etc. But we are less moral than the US (because we take evolution more serious), and as such, those data have to be incorrect and manipulated.....

This is the same segment on the CBS Evening News that WOULDN'T let Bill Maher express HIS views on religon...

Ginger and dogmeatIB already beat me to it, but I just want to reiterate their point that it's very ironic that the social darwinians preaching survival of the fittest in socioeconomic matters are the same ones denying evolution.

How the big-business, small-government party got married with the right-wing Christians begging for a theocracy, I'll never understand.

lower divorce rates etc. But we are less moral than the US

At some point I hope people eventually(and I think most have) realize that divorce is not a moral failing. In most cases it is a painful end to a relationship that ahs nothing to do with the morality of the individuals involved, again the vast majority who are simply in a bad relationship.

I'm happily married myself but my friends who have been divorced are the most moral folks I know and I hate to see them tarred and feathered each time morals are spoken about. I find it disengenous. I also find it more morally bankrupt to simply stay married as per another couple I know who detest one another but stay together because neither wants to split property.

This is simply a nit pick and not revelant to the post at hand.

Thought experiment:

Imagine an Earth where the notion of a supernatural God had never arisen. Imagine your prematurely born daughter dies 20 minutes after birth. With no God to blame, there would be no revenge motive on which to base any future murderous lashing out.

In a manner of thinking, the assailant might have been rather clear-headed and rational, given his purported belief presuppositions: God allowed the destruction of my precious girl, so I'll return the favor by slaughtering other innocents.

Much about this man remains mysterious, and maybe more about his background and prior mental state will be forthcoming. For now, I'm not ready to assent to the idea that his action was necessarily incomprehensible or spiritually incoherent. I realize this sounds repulsive, but I can't shake the suspicion that his action might be more coherent than some other positions of theodicy.