“What is it that you believe do though?” she asked. “I also noticed Dawkin’s The Blind Watchmaker on your bookshelf. You’ve reappraised your thoughts about religion. What have you decided about Evolution”
“I’m an economist,” he said, “In general, I don’t make decisions. I give advice about choices.”
“You can’t be serious!” she exclaimed.
“Not completely but there’s an element of truth in it. The economist studies markets, currencies, government policies on things like unemployment and interest rates. He or she, uses statistical and mathematical tools to model options and their probable outcomes based on historical data. He or she explains these results to politicians, insurers, bankers – people like that.”
“They – or their genes – decide which option they will adopt. Sometimes the most appealing option, to someone who seeks power, wealth or influence, may be immoral – whatever morality is. That’s the world we live in. I merely teach children how to use those investigative tools.”
She raised an eyebrow in surprise.
“Personally,” he continued, “I have to recognise reality and areas for compromise. Despite what I’ve acknowledged as some limits on free will, If I’m to live with my conscience – given my believe in our Western idea of morality – I feel that I have to believe that I have some freedom to decide. That I can freely choose good over evil – that I do not have to obey my basest instincts. Perhaps that is unwordly of me, but I live in hope that evil people are not a necessary product of natural adaptation. I do understand though that it sometimes seems otherwise in reality. Does that answer your question?”
“Yes,” she said, “Right! My turn I guess.”
“I know that some people believe that mankind is the final outcome of evolution – that we are so superior that it is we, ourselves who control any future evolution. I, personally, can’t believe that,” she said, “For example, I’m lactose intolerant, and that’s proof to me that evolution has not finished yet. Maybe my genes have an Asian origin. Most Northern European people seem to have evolved, in less than ten thousand years, to develop an ability to digest cows’ milk. Most Asian people haven’t. That’s just one example. Similarly Inuit people and Tibetans have evolved abilities to adapt to the climatic conditions that they have always lived in.”
He nodded his agreement. She smiled and continued.
“You might say that even our modern technology can be seen as a product of evolution. We would need longitudinal studies of chidren and young people if we were to understand whether – and how – their genes have evolved in any way from previous generations’ genetic make up.”
“Okay,” he said “I do understand what you have said. I’ve come across articles about that kind of evolutionary evidence elsewhere. But, in the long-term, does mankind have an actual purpose or are we just Evolution’s temporary vehicles for passing on adaptations. Are such adaptations God’s plan or merely the outcome of biological automatism?”
“I suppose the latter,” she said.
“But Evolution is amoral – blind to whether its adaptations are good or evil – and what is our basis for morality anyway? If there is no God to judge us, then why should we not make immoral choices if we could benefit from them? Clearly that road leads to anarchy, so ‘society’ claims to have created a system of laws to protect the weak from self-serving immorality. What happens though if those who make the laws are immoral? And who are we to say what constitutes immorality?”
He raised his hands in a gesture of hopelessness.
I began this post with a photo of even more books, chosen for their relevance to the conversation. It’s now Cathy’s turn – she would not only have read books like those pictured, but she is a librarian – books are her business.
Because these two characters are still dancing a verbal tango, I’ll feature yet another photo of a more physical type of dancing.
EXIF data were: Fujifilm X-T4 camera plus Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8. Shutter speed was 1/1000 secs @ f/2.8 and 35.3 mm. ISO was 6400.