Evolution and Human Sexuality

How does evolutionary theory tell us that rape is wrong?
How does evolutionary theory tell us that forced sterilization (i.e. eugenics) is wrong?
How does evolutionary theory tell us that sexual harassment is wrong?
How does evolutionary theory tell us that sexual abuse of children is wrong?

If it can’t tell us these basic things. I’m not sure it is plausible to say that evolution is excellent at explaining nearly everything about human sexuality. It certainly explains a lot, but certainly not some of the most important things.

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Evolutionary theory explains the underlining reasons for the sexual behavior evolving among animals. On a biological level and base behavioral level, evolutionary theory explains why humans have strong desire to have sex. From an evolutionary standpoint observing a group of bonobos in their natural habitat and a group of college students on spring break would be behavioral similar and explainable from an evolutionary biological standpoint.

The question you ask above is about how culture, ethics, and values in human society has and is evolving and changing. Human are biologically and sexually similar to other ape species. But humans, over a million years, have developed societies, cultures, ethics, and values that give a moral answer to your questions above. That moral answer changes with time, culture, society, and religion.

I am going to go through each question and show how morals change and how the morals of what Christians hold in such high regard are considered immoral in today’s secular society.

How does evolutionary theory tell us that rape is wrong? It is our society, our laws, and most importantly our individual 21st Century American reasoning that says rape is wrong. If I told you that a young girl perhaps 14 years old was going to be impregnated without her knowledge nor her permission, you would cry out that is statutory rape. Society and Government must do something to protect this young child. But if I tell you about the Immaculate Conception story from 2nd Century Roman, Christians throughout the world today hail it as a wonderful story to tell our children.

The forced sterilization practiced in the 20th century were more about racism and the desire by government to determine the future ethnic distribution. We can all agree today that it was immoral on so many levels. But to link eugenics with Darwin or Darwinism in order to blame evolution for it is convoluted.

Sexual harassment is clearly a 21st century secular humanist moral construct. It is mostly the result of a mixed male/female workforce or educational setting. In this area, secular laws, values, morals and ethics are far more evolved than the Bible. Look at Evangelical Christians today in this regard. A Christian employer thinks he has the right under freedom of religion to tell a gay employee, he can’t get married, or he can’t work on Sunday. In the educational setting, isn’t a school teacher telling a more “busty” student that she can’t wear a certain prom dress because it show too much cleavage. I would say that is sexual harassment of the student. Would Auntyevolution agree?

Certainly the Bible (and the Koran) is atrocious in this area. The virgin conception story is in today’s morality a story of sexual abuse of a child. Even parental consent marriage before the age of 18 is now considered illegal in NY and NJ, but certain Christian, Judaic, and Islamic group are complaining that this is going against their freedom of religion.

Summary: Evolutionary biology, psychology explains human sexuality quite well. Individual reasoning, society laws and cultural norms tell us what sexual practices are moral, ethical, right or wrong.

We don’t have to belabor this point @Patrick to much, but I want to make a few observations.

I entirely agree that culture, ethics, and values changes over time, and is constructed in part by humans.

However, if we are to take your position at face value, we must concede that rape is not fundamentally wrong. I disagree.

I like the juxtaposition, and that is almost worth a separate thread.

I’m not linking it to evolution. We all agree (including atheists) that this was wrong. Rather, I’m saying that it is not because of evolution we know it is wrong.

What is right and what is wrong is a human societal construct. Nothing to do with evolutionary biology. Can you even define rape on the Serengeti?

I think a topic on changing morality is well worth it.

I agree. What is right and what is wrong is constantly changing in society and more importantly in our minds. Trival things like when I was a child, I was told to eat everything on your plate, now with the rise in diabetes and diseases caused by overfeeding, today telling a child this would be frown upon.

It sounds like @swamidass is saying human sexuality is one of the topics in which the ‘limits of evolution’ as an explanation, description or theory of life, are exposed. I would like to hear more specifics about how that is so.

Yet it is clearly a moral argument based in ‘right/wrong’ thinking the way he frames it. He is not invoking social scientific critiques of the scandalous ‘evolution of rape’ hypothesis, which has caused much damage across several disciplines, particularly Gender Studies.

They can’t. But I think there are some things which we can learn from nature/evolution on these matters. I am not sure everyone in this conversation will enjoy hearing what nature/evolution says though.

I am not the first to say it, but the nuclear family is the only human institution that can create new life, and keep that life in daily communion with its creators. The nuclear family is a near-universal bedrock in every culture in the world. A non-anthropologist would be hard-pressed to name even one nation where any other arrangement for conceiving, nurturing, and raising children into adults was considered the optimal social arrangement.

Now a decent anthropologist could name some tiny cultures where other arrangements are the norm, such as the “mother’s-brothers” type where there is no father figure and the brothers of the mothers are the role models for young men. They might cite an example or two of truly communal living. So other arrangements besides the nuclear family have been tried, and the results are in. The thing is, these examples are so rare, and the cultures they produce so backward, that the exceptions serve to prove a rule: the traditional nuclear family is the superior social structure for building a healthy society.

The nuclear family forms spontaneously in all successful cultures regardless of the race or religion of the society. Other family forms which usher in the next generation (and thus continue the society) are so uncompetitive with the nuclear family as to be nearly extinct. Note that a nuclear family can take two forms: monogamous or polygamous. Of the two, cultures espousing the former have had greater success in producing advanced, healthy societies than the latter, and even in those cultures where polygamy is practiced by the upper class, monogamy is more common even if only as a result of biological necessity (male and female babies are born in about equal numbers).

Marriage is what binds men and women together to produce a nuclear family. Given the essential historical role of the nuclear family in producing a healthy and well-adjusted next generation, it is crystal clear that the state needs marriage more than marriage needs the state.

In our nation there is a culture clash of two major world-views. One is secular, naturalistic, results-oriented. The other is Christian, faith-based, theistic, and more willing to look beyond immediate results in order to make choices in agreement with their moral code.

On most issues, these two groups clash. On this issue, they shouldn’t. On this issue, it does not matter whether you believe Man is the result of a billion years of evolution or you believe that Man is the creation of God Almighty. The bottom line is that same, one social arrangement is clearly the “right” one for society to uphold with the exalted recognition of “marriage” - the nuclear family.

If you believe that Man is the creation of God and that marriage is ordained of God to be between one man and one women from the Garden on then you agree that the traditional family is the best option for a healthy society. If, on the other hand, you believe we are simply the product of evolution then the evidence demands that you believe that humans evolved to be socialized from a foundation of a nuclear family.

Whether we are the creation of God or the product of evolution the bottom line here is the same: nuclear families do the best job of successfully producing a succeeding generation to continue the kind.

Marriage is an exalted status given by society to a social status that both God’s law and scientific study has shown are best at sustaining a culture and its people.

Notice that marriage is not about how you “feel” about your partner. It is not about what you and your partner consider each other. Marriage is about society’s sanction, approval, and recognition.

Evolution and scripture are telling us the same thing on reproduction and child rearing. Adam and Eve were the example that mankind was to follow, and even they were pointing to the archetype example of Christ and the Church. We could view it as nature/evolution confirming scripture or scripture affirming what we learn from nature/evolution.

I appreciate this is your position. You are being consistent, and we agree on the entailments of your position, which is to deny anything essential to any moral claims.

I’d just suggest that a worldview that can equate “rape” and “eugenics” with “not eating everything on your plate” might be missing something important. I agree, from your point of view, we are in the same realm with all these things. Eating habits are not intrinsically less important than sexual ethics. That, to me, is fairly clear demonstration that there are important things that are outside your view. That is implausible to me, though I do see how you arrive at that position.

yes going from a discussion of rape and forced sterilization to not eating everything on your plate is pretty crass. A little like discussing how to help the poor over a gourmet lunch.

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And of course, I’m sure you personally oppose those horrible things. None of that was meant as an ad hominem. I know you know I didn’t mean it that way. However, I do not want anyone observing this to be confused.

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I agree with what you are saying with regard to the nuclear family that you describe. My family values are very similar to yours. However, we are an atheist nuclear family. How do you square that circle? One of my favorite family movie’s is Addam’s Family Values. Gomez Addams in love with Mortica Addams. Gomez the loving father. Wednesday and Puggy as children. Uncle Fester and Mama and cousins and family all around. They even have a child later in life named Putrid. Clearly not American Evangelist Christian values but certainly in line with what you describe above as evolutionary optimum.

I think I’ve already squared it in what I have written beforehand. The two paths point to the same destination on this issue. Nature and Scripture are teaching the same lesson. It is therefore not true because the Bible says it, rather the Bible says it because its true…

Nature is general revelation and scripture is special revelation. It may take many generations of observing nature to come to the same conclusions about family structure which can be arrived at from reading the scriptures on it in a single day. On the other hand a person of whatever religion or none could get the gist of it just from observing nature.

Now scripture does go into more detail than nature, in addition to being the repository of wisdom it might take generations to acquire through observing nature. But many of these things are not essential to getting the natural benefits of conforming to the natural order in terms of family structure. For example, marriage is meant to point to and be a reflection of Christ and the Church.

Through science it has taken mankind about 500 years of studying nature to have the knowledge that we have today. I seriously doubt that this knowledge was divinely coded into a book written by pre-sciencific people in the Middle East thousands of years ago such that we can go back to that book and see that this knowledge was there all along.

Repository of wisdom? Hardly. Biblical family values are atrocious. If your daughter is raped, the rapist must pay the father 5000 shekels and she must marry the rapist. If your daughter has sex with a priest she must be killed. Parents are to kill disobedient children who dishonor them. It is okay to have a child with your wife’s slave girl. If wild drunken visitors come to your house, you should give your daughters to them for their sexual enjoyment. (Job). Please don’t even compare my modern secular family values with anything concerning family values in the Bible. I find the Bible reprehensible in this regard.

On this issue that is not what I am saying. It’s not “encoded”. It is plain-text. But yes, because it is divinely inspired there is plenty in there “all along” but we just lacked the knowledge to see it until recently. Unfortunately religious institutions have gotten away from theology as a science and have made everything dogma, not subject to re-interpretation with new evidence. But its there for those who have eyes to see.

The penalty for rape was death. You are describing badly a situation where there is consensual sex. Young men could not just play the field without consequences. If they were caught doing the wild thing with a girl, they married the girl unless the father would not have him. And yes he owed the dad because he went around the filters of the dad being able to screen suitors for his daughter. This would have the effect of connecting sex to commitment and responsibility. Which it should be connected. Using the law to do so is a separate subject, one the bible speaks to later.

The rest of your accusations fall under the category of God’s revelation to man being progressive and the law not reflecting God’s perfect will but taking into account where we were (and are). See Matthew 19 for an example. The rest of it is where you are reporting what people did, sometimes in dire situations, not what God commanded them to do. But I guess if you want to find fault with God you will find it, no matter how unjustly you have to skew the evidence to pin our shortcomings on Him. The good news is that God has already pinned all of your shortcomings and mine on His son. There is no other way to right-standing to God than in Him, but He has provided a Way.

This is exactly with the OEC astronomer Hugh Ross does on a daily basis. He is no longer doing astronomy attempting to fine new knowledge about the Cosmos. Instead, he reads the technical journal papers of the latest astronomical results and then goes to Bible to look for places that he can contort into a possible matchup. This is not science/faith compatibility.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 New International Version (NIV)
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

That is your example of “good family values”? Having your Son killed for the so-called sins of others past and future against the Father?

A key point here is that the passage is saying that rape is wrong, and it is making provisions (in that culture) for the long term protection of the victim. It is hard to understand the intention behind that rule, because that culture is so different than ours. In our world, victims are not publicly outed, etc. However, it is not accurate to see this passage as legitimizing rape. That is not what it is doing. This is hard for white americans to understand sometimes, but different cultures can agree that something is wrong, and have different ways of managing it.

Moreover, the whole arc of Scripture is to argue that rules like this one are insufficient to make us good. In fact, we find ways to twist them to do evil. So while the original intent of that rule might have been to protect the victim and make the aggressor take responsibility, it is obvious how it could be twisted and used to legitimize evil activity. That is the whole point. Rules do not make us good. Even following the letter of the law, we can be totally evil. We cannot reduce “what it means to be good” into a set of rules.

So the fact that you can twist the passage this way is the final message here, and sets the stage for different way. It sets the stage for a different way to go about this through Jesus.

The equally interesting thing is that you are attempting to make a moral argument against Scripture after arguing that you morality is just constructed. That is not terribly coherent, and relies on ignorance of Scripture.

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Patrick in addition to everything Joshua said, that translation of Deut 22:28-29 is misleading. The exact same form of the word used for rape is used of consensual adulterous sex in verse 22. The difference is that there is another Hebrew word attached to it which can be translated “seize” or “lay hold of”. Putting the two words together some translators use “rape” to describe an act of intercourse where coercion of some sort is involved. That is fair, but just like our law recognizes different kinds of rape, so does the Law of Moses. Notice…

Verse 25 also describes a situation of forceable rape. Here is the word used in verse 25 which describes the force https://www.biblehub.com/hebrew/vehechezik_2388.htm

Here is the word used to indicate “seizes” in verse 28

Why did the Law use two different words to describe the “force” employed in the sexual act only a few verses apart? It is reasonable to suppose that it was because it was not talking about the same type of “laying hold of”. The first instance is forceable rape. The second instance is when the girl was beguiled into it against her better judgment. In that kind of situation, the man is obligated to take responsibility.

Whenever you think to accuse God of unrighteousness or injustice you should seriously seriously consider at least looking at the original language first. I have found the scriptures to be horribly mistranslated at many critical points.

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The best family values, because the Son consented to become our brother and give Himself up to pain and humiliation and even temporary separation from the Father in order to reconcile us from our deadly alienation from both Father and Son. That this extreme act had to be done shows the seriousness of our sin and the depth of their love for us. They deserve to be trusted and worshiped.

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What would you know about faith/science compatibility? As someone who has faith I can tell you that science/faith is exactly what Hugh Ross does- very well in the subject of astronomy and scripture. No matter his mis-steps on Adam and human genetics- which if and when he listens to Joshua on the genetic evidence and me on what the scriptures are actually saying about Adam and the flood he will be in an even stronger position to do so. He will use science to help people understand what is really in the scripture.



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I find this to be a wonderful response. There is indeed a burden to some degree on Hugh Ross to engage. Joshua seems to be trying to find his own way here too.

“If and when he listens” is something I’m paying especially close attention to right now - what it takes for some people to listen - and what conditions it requires for them to do so. For some people, engagement itself is REALLY difficult to do in a safe, clear, orderly way.