Ethics

The Era of Darwinian Evolution is Over

Freeman Dyson, Professor emeritus of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, who has focused his research on the internal physics of stars, subatomic-particle beams and the origin of life, has written a thoughtful wee piece here. Here’s a snippet:

Now, after some 3 billion years, the Darwinian era is over. The epoch of species competition came to an end about 10,000 years ago when a single species, Homo sapiens, began to dominate and reorganize the biosphere. Since that time, cultural evolution has replaced biological evolution as the driving force of change. Cultural evolution is not Darwinian. Cultures spread by horizontal transfer of ideas more than by genetic inheritance. Cultural evolution is running a thousand times faster than Darwinian evolution, taking us into a new era of cultural interdependence that we call globalization. And now, in the last 30 years, Homo sapiens has revived the ancient pre-Darwinian practice of horizontal gene transfer, moving genes easily from microbes to plants and animals, blurring the boundaries between species. We are moving rapidly into the post-Darwinian era, when species will no longer exist, and the evolution of life will again be communal.

In the post-Darwinian era, biotechnology will be domesticated. There will be do-it-yourself kits for gardeners, who will use gene transfer to breed new varieties of roses and orchids. Also, biotech games for children, played with real eggs and seeds rather than with images on a screen. Genetic engineering, once it gets into the hands of the general public, will give us an explosion of biodiversity. Designing genomes will be a new art form, as creative as painting or sculpture. Few of the new creations will be masterpieces, but all will bring joy to their creators and diversity to our fauna and flora.

How’s this for a vision of the future? Will we still be able to get the old varieties of roses and orchids … ?

Creational Ethics Is Public Ethics

The Journal for Christian Theological Research has just published an article by Guenther “Gene” Haas, ‘Creational Ethics is Public Ethics‘. The paper presents the framework and key doctrines relevant to public moral engagement as found in the Reformed or neo-Calvinist tradition shaped by Abraham Kuyper and his disciples. Haas’ thesis is that Christian ethics is public ethics because it is creational ethics. Christian ethics has a place in the public arena because it is the articulation of the creational moral order that constitutes and guides all human beings. Neo-Calvinism considers the creation order as foundational. The fall of creation and its redemption must be understood in relation to this foundational doctrine. But the creational order also shapes the nature of Christian involvement in the public domain. The final section highlights some implications of this for involvement in public life.

Ethics

‘Ethics does not … teach us what we should do, but rather what we may do. It measures the scope of freedom. In the light of exemplary situations it reflects … upon the question of what it means to live in freedom and with the gift of forgiveness in the midst of all the entangling autonomisms, all the conflicts of values and constellations of interests, and all the actual circumstances of this aeon that seek to determine us. It shows us how the prodigal son lives after he has forsaken the servitude of the far country and after he has outgrown the virtuous legalism of the brother who remained at home.’ – Helmut Thielicke, The Freedom of the Christian Man: A Christian confrontation with the Secular Gods (trans. J. W. Doberstein; New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 157.