Evolution, Human Dignity, and the “Last Man”

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March 13, 2019 by thewashingteenian

by Jay Trovato, Librarian and Guest Contributor

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How do we know that human life has value?  Intuitively, we know that it does, but how is it that we come to that conclusion?  I’ll tell you one thing: you will never get a straight answer to that question from the culture we currently live in.

 

First, let us consider the point of view of evolution, which is the official secular explanation for how we all got here.  One concept embedded within evolution is called “survival of the fittest,” which says that only the strongest members of a species survive the violent competition called life. We are not endowed with any special dignity other than the chance fact that we somehow got to the top of the food chain through natural selection (that is, the strong outlive the weak and pass on their strong genetic material to their offspring).  From a strictly evolutionary point of view, the idea of human worth does not really exist; it’s just a random trait that helped humans survive and evolve over time.

 

At the same time, however, we constantly see individuals and groups arguing against this concept by saying that every human life has value. We stand up against the abuse of others.  We create laws that protect weak and marginalized classes of people. We believe in things like fairness, justice, and peace. But, if the earth is just an arena where the species fight it out for survival and ascendancy, why would we bother to speak out in favor of protecting the vulnerable? Shouldn’t we just let the evolutionary forces do their thing and get rid of the weaker individuals to improve the genetic code passed down to the next generation?  We, as a society, have accepted evolution as an ontological assumption (that is, as an explanation for how we got here), but it seems that we are not willing to admit the implications in terms of the negative effect that it would necessarily have on the value of human life.

 

Therefore, as a culture, we are living in a contradiction.  Evolution tells us that there is no objective source of meaning for our lives, yet society and morality tells us that every person has value that is worth defending. The contradictory position I’ve just described is something the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “The Last Man.” In an existence with no clear origin and no ultimate goal, the Last Man only seeks comfort, peace, and security for himself as he waits for humanity to give up its illusion of dignity. The Last Man is a weak, cowardly being with no aims other than to be baselessly and passively happy.

 

I don’t know how you will escape this depressing condition. All I can tell you is how I avoid it. I believe in the God of the Bible, who created all men and women in His own image. The idea that we are created in God’s image – regardless of the human categories by which we might be categorized or judged – gives an enormous amount of value to each and every person.  Furthermore, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that each person who believes in Him can be forgiven of sin and begin a relationship with God. As a result, I owe God my life twice: He created me (which means He has rights over my life) and He sacrificed His life for me (which means He is willing to go to infinite lengths to save me).

 

My position is a matter of faith, yes. But it certainly beats the alternatives!  I’m not a blind product of natural selection. I don’t blindly subscribe to the idea of human value – I know where my value comes from. I’m not a gutless, useless Last Man. I was created for a purpose, I live a life of grateful joy, and I have hope for the future based on the character of God as revealed in the Bible.
So, let me leave you with the question I asked at the beginning of this article: How do we know that human life has value?  Or, more importantly, how do you know that your life has value?

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