Yesterday, May 14th, almost 500 Emory University faculty and students expressed their dismay that their commencement speaker did not toe the ideological line when it came to evolutionary biology. Yes, gasp, the renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson does not believe in evolutionary theory. Not only that, but biology professors at Emory and their supporters also accuse Carson of committing a thought crime because he allegedly “equates acceptance of evolution with a lack of ethics and morality.”
Since I am a historian who has studied and published on the history of evolutionary ethics, I was rather surprised by the Emory faculties’ consternation over Carson’s belief that evolution undermines objective ethics and morality. Last summer I attended a major interdisciplinary conference at Oxford University on “The Evolution of Morality and the Morality of Evolution.” Thus I am well aware that there are a variety of viewpoints in academe on this topic. Nonetheless, many evolutionists—from Darwin to the present (including quite a few at that Oxford conference)—have argued and are still arguing precisely the point that Dr. Carson was highlighting: they claim that morality has evolved and thus has no objective existence.
One of the keynote speakers at the Oxford conference was the leading philosopher of science Michael Ruse, who stated in a 1985 article co-authored with Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson: “Ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to co-operate.”