Is there morality in natural selection?

I found an interesting article in today’s online edition of the New York Times. It’s about scientists trying to unravel Neanderthal DNA. Toward the end it gets to talking about fertilizing eggs and bringing back a Neanderthal. Here are the last two paragraphs:

The most serious technical problem would be creating functional chromosomes from Neanderthal DNA. But ethical questions may be less surmountable. “My first consideration would be for a child born alone in the world with no relatives,” said Ronald M. Green, an ethicist at Dartmouth College. The risk would be greater if, following the plot line of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” a mate were created as a companion for the lonely Neanderthal. “This was a species we competed with,” Dr. Green said. “We would not want to recreate a situation of two competing advanced hominid species.”

But Dr. Green said there could be arguments in the future for resurrecting the Neanderthals. “If we learn this is a species that was wrongly pushed off the stage of history, there is something of a moral argument for bringing it back,” he said. “But the status quo is not without merit. Curiosity alone could not justify what could be a disaster for both species.”

The underlining there is mine.

Now, I don’t care if you believe in God, believe in a creation story, intelligent design, or evolution. However, it’s pretty obvious these scientists are firmly on the evolution side of the fence. And that brings up a question I find quite puzzling.
Isn’t the whole premise of evolution based on natural selection? The most fit species survive, right?
So … that being the case, how can a scientist even suggest the possibility the Neanderthals were “wrongly pushed off the stage of history?”
Is there a code of morality to natural selection? I don’t think so.
I think this is another case of a liberal bashing white Europeans for what, according to the edicts of natural selection, comes naturally to every species. (And let’s keep in mind the idea that modern man entered Europe from Africa, so technically all of us today are supposed to be descended from Africans.) The modern white male is responsible for all the ills of the world, at least according to the liberal dogma.
I’m certainly not going to claim white Europeans (and their colonists and descendants) have never done anything wrong. But then, I have religious beliefs that emphasize morality and a code of conduct and that tells me things like slavery and genocide are bad.
If you base your entire belief system on the premise of natural selection and evolution, how can you possibly propose that an extinct species was “wrongly pushed off the stage of history?” Does the lion ponder the plight of the jackal he pushes out of his hunting ground? No. Does the wolf care if he’s eating the last deer on the face of the earth? No. They are doing what they are genetically predisposed to do … right?
For those who adhere to natural selection, how is it wrong for a species to do whatever it takes to become and remain dominant? To survive? Isn’t that how every species is genetically programmed? If it is wrong – if we did wrongly push Neanderthal man off the stage – tell me on what you base that judgment.
Seriously. If there is morality to natural selection, I want to learn about it.

8 thoughts on “Is there morality in natural selection?

  1. There is no morality in natural selection. It’s an entirely amoral process. It sounds to me like the scientist is just trying to think up reasons for bringing back a Neanderthal. (And how weirdly sci-fi is that idea! When did we start living in an sf story?)

  2. Note that the spurious comment is not from someone I believe you can strictly call a scientist – it’s from an “ethicist”.
    I’m with you, Steve, and I really question several of his statements. This is the one I actually take the most issue with: “We would not want to recreate a situation of two competing advanced hominid species.” How would they be “competing”? And what would be wrong with it if they were? So, what…we’re going to genetically reproduce two mated Neanderthals, and their offspring are going to take over the world? That’s ridiculous.

  3. Where does this Idea of slavery being bad come from? There’s nothing in the bible to say that… I assume that’s the bench mark… Genocide is the hall mark of the Abrahamic cilts and Slavery is so approved of that God sets a price that is fair for us to sell our daughters into slavery, and conditions of keeping foreign slaves, so where does this “morality” come from?
    The Harlequin

    • When you get to the last third of the Bible you’ll find something called the New Testament that has a little different view on things. I try to go a little more by that part of the book. And no, not the way Pat Robertson teaches it!

      • What standard does the “ethicist” use? Is it so compelling that we will all accept it? You are right that our standards cannot be used in evaluating natural selection. Also, if natural selection always creates something superior, then Neanderthals would disappear again, wouldn’t they?
        Regarding the references to the Old Testament: Is it possible that some of the Old Testament of which you speak, reports and regulates Israel’s behavior without necessarily approving of it? Even if there is approval,if you believe there is a god who was the ultimate author, by what standard would you judge a sovereign god? Is there a universal standard of morality? If so, who sets it?
        I doubt you could find a consensus on morality among the set of your readers, much less a universal consensus. Let the scientists try to raise the Neanderthal.

        • Well, I suspect Neanderthals would disappear again. On the other hand, if their DNA is mixed with ours, they could, possibly, be reborn with more advanced brains but retain a more animalistic instinct, making them more dangerous … if they could breed in great enough numbers.
          But, that’s all science fiction. Probably.
          I don’t really see the Old Testament reporting the behavior of the ancient Hebrews without bias. Look at the treatment of Astarte, for instance. She was a major female deity and no doubt presented one hell of a problem to the Hebrew patriarchs trying to establish monotheism, and yet she gets just a few mentions and is dismissed as a fringe cult figure.
          All in all I’m pretty skeptical of the Old Testament. Too many of the stories can be traced to older cultures, and there’s the problem of God being El in one book, a more benenolent deity, and Yahweh, the vengeful god, in another. I see the Old Testament as a mix of Hebrew mythology, history as they saw it, and rules for behavior.
          A universal standard of morality? Yes, actually, I believe there is one. Every major religion has some form of what we commonly know as the Golden Rule … “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” If you truly live by that you can’t possibly condone things like slavery and genocide. The problems seem to come when men get together and start wrapping dogma around that basic philosphy.

  4. Forget religion, morality, and ethics. Send them a copy of Jurassic Park. Idiots. I also agree with you – mark it on your calendar. 😉
    They’re just yammering on so that they’ll be allowed to play with their new toy. I think it should be taken away from them. Somebody’s going to get hurt.

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