‘The Walking Dead’ and Christianity: Morality Did Not Evolve

“If we humans are simply biological bundles of phenomenally experienced pain and pleasure that constitute happiness and unhappiness, why be obliged to maximize general happiness?”[1] Christian Smith

by John Ellis

Herbert Spencer’s famed Darwinian maxim “survival of the fittest” has proven quite problematic for material positivists, not to mention problematic for the general well-being of civilization. It has proven especially problematic for material positivists operating in the fields of evolutionary psychology and moral science. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone not sporting a swastika face tattoo that will admit to believing that might makes right. Please don’t misunderstand, you can find people who admit to believing it, but, most likely, you’ll have to ask around for quite a while, and even then you’ll need to coax it out of them. Ask that question on the floor containing the offices of sociology professors at any state college or university, and your chance of finding someone to voice assent drops precipitously. Whether Nazis are staunch Darwinists is beside the point, though. The ideology of those teaching the social sciences to our not-quite-adult citizens matters; their hypocrisy is just a bonus.

The existence of morality as most of us commonly define it is at odds with traditional Darwinism. Furrowed brows over embedded contradictions are no match for a priori commitments, though. Clinging to their own unobservable tenets, the arguments of material positivists operating in the fields of social sciences (and hard sciences) have adapted and evolved; whether the fittest of the moral theories is winning the war of survival has yet to be determined. And much like their a priori commitments to the origin of so-called *ahem* species, the philosophical and ethical evolution of material positivists is mysterious and lacking in things like statistical and logical evidence. Make no mistake, though, even if those residing in secularism’s seemingly secure neighborhood named “Immanence” are currently unaware of it, the house of Darwinian ethics is constructed out of smoke and mirrors.

In the preface to their book Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest For the Foundations of Morality, James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky proffer the stunning admission that, “While the new science of morality presses onward, the idea of morality – as a mind-independent reality – has lost plausibility for the new moral scientists. They no longer believe such a thing exists.”[2]

If that admission weren’t enough, esteemed scholars Dr. Hunter and Dr. Nedelisky let even more of the snarling, self-defeating cat out of the bag. Continuing, they bald-facedly add, “Thus, when [moral scientists] say they are investigating morality scientifically, they now mean something different by ‘morality’ from what most people in the past have meant by it and what most people today still mean by it. In place of moral goodness, they substitute the merely useful, which is something science can discover. Despite using the language of morality, they embrace a view that, in its net effect, amounts to moral nihilism [emphasis kept].”[3]

Somewhere, beyond the grave, whether in heaven or hell, I do not claim to know, Jeremy Bentham is awash in pleasure, finally. He needs to keep reading, though, because similar to how Sartre insisted that hell is other people, the secularist sacred cow slayer team of Hunter and Nedelisky turn out to be one of Bentham’s worst nightmares.

Problems arise, of course, whenever thoroughgoing materialists give themselves over to thoroughgoing materialism. Namely, as the authors of Science and the Good inconveniently force readers to bump up against – inconvenient for thoroughgoing materialists who have sullenly surrendered to thoroughgoing materialism, that is – is that the admissions of the “new moral scientists” face a formidable defense in non-scholars’ non-materialist bits and pieces of themselves.

Of course, morality exists. As in, the type of morality recognized by most of us and that is undergirding many of our laws. I know that and you know that, and I know that you know that I know you know that. Porch pirates know that, too; they just don’t care.[4] And all of us know that morality exists just like how we all know that the color red on a scrumptious apple tingles our non-materialist bits and pieces in ways in which the science of color cannot answer, or even investigate. Or, rather, we all know that unless, of course, you are a thoroughgoing materialist who has given yourself over to thoroughgoing materialism. In that instance, congratulations (most likely) on having earned tenure in the sociology department at the university where you teach. I do, however, offer my condolences on your inability to enjoy apples to their fullest.

For the rest of us, though, we are either gloriously embracing the fact that Democritus and his Epicurean descendants only get things right to a point, or we are blissfully unaware of most of this while we enjoy the wondrous benefits gifted us by our non-materialist bits and pieces. And we do so, secure in the belief that Dante would’ve had plenty to say about those who steal Amazon packages off our front steps and that he would’ve been justified in condemning them to some level of hell. Only transcendent morality comes packaged with transcendent punishment, after all.

Annoyingly, our transcendent pleasure is under attack, and has been ever since Poggio Bracciolini made the decision to resurrect Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things in the early 15th century. Constant attack, in fact. A near Neil Peart level of overwhelming staccato drumbeats of an attack. I was unwillingly reminded of this while my kids were watching the pseudo-scientific and pseudo-entertaining TV show Brain Games.

Sitting on my couch, trying to mind my own business while engaging in the lost art of reading, I overheard a professor of evolutionary psychology at some red-bricked and colonnaded prestigious East coast university say, explaining the existence of morality, that, “Humans evolved in packs.”

She may not have said “packs.” She may have said “sets” or “units” or “groups” or “conjuntos,” I don’t remember. I do remember her point, though. And I remember it because it caused me to set my book down, hit “pause” on the remote, and force my bored children to sit through a lecture on the nonsense that is evolutionary psychology, for starters, and how materialism cannot adequately define, much less explain, morality.

In brief, the meat of my mostly unheard lecture consisted of two points: One, humans didn’t evolve in groups. That belief is a product of working backwards in order to protect the system.[5] Secondly, evolutionary morality is not morality, not really; not as it’s been defined and displayed throughout history. It’s a hijacking of the Biblical concept of morality and then reducing that duct taped and gagged concept to a version of altruism that only admits the “merely useful.”

My kids were unimpressed; a trait that, from my perspective, would seem to be a hindrance to their survival.

Petering out, I attempted one last hail Mary buffered by culturally relevant cool points. “The Walking Dead demonstrates that I’m right,” I blurted out.

“You don’t let us watch The Walking Dead,” my teenager retorted, successfully stymieing my argument.

I went back to reading my book and minding my own business. However, I have been unable to shake my irritation with how pop culture is allied with the science and philosophy of secularists/materialists in a unified attempt to finish what their Serpent spawned ancestors could not – the Tower of Babel.

So, and before getting to the reason why anyone will click on this post – to slake their curiosity of what in the world a TV show most known for zombies has to do with Christianity and the evolution of morality – first things first, and that first thing is species. As in, according to Darwinism, there ain’t no such thing.

Obviously, and with my half-hearted apology to Lotfi A. Zadeh, as David Berlinski points out, “There is only one relationship within set theory. An object belongs to a set or it does not.”[6]

If you are an even number, you are included in the set of even numbers. If you are an odd number, well, no matter how much you whine to H.R. about the lack of inclusivity, you are out.

But what does the inevitably paradoxical set theory of mathematics have to do with the broad field of evolutionary sciences? Well, the fuzziness of all living things defies sets. As in, no one with the descriptor of “evolutionary” sitting in front of the discipline in which they work can say with 100% confidence that humans with gills are outside the laws of nature.

As of yet, as far as I know (and I Googled it), no humans with gills have been known to exist. Humans have human DNA, not fish DNA, I’m told. Some time ago, as in millions of years ago, the belief states, our ancestors with DNA that were neither fully fish nor fully human had the fortunate happenstance to have a certain bone recede, creating a cavity that, and … skipping quite a few steps, evolved into what we have named the ear. The ancestors of Nemo, on the other hand, had the very good fortune of avoiding having their breathing apparatus change into an instrument through which “Christmas Shoes” can be heard.

Nowadays, though, it’s claimed that the set of bipeds called humans do not have gills. Thinking about it, though, some humans also do not have two legs, calling into question if humans are, indeed, within the set called bipeds. If you can be short a leg or two and still be considered a human, isn’t it cheating to place humans within a set defined by creatures who walk on two legs? But, enough with rabbit trails, back to the absence of gills in humans.

At some point in the long chain of our ancestors, according to evolution, some of them (many of them? … or … all of them??) did not have ears but had gills. Who’s to say that some of our future descendants won’t tire of listening to “Christmas Shoes” and exchange their ears for gills again? That eventuality most definitely fits under survival of the fittest, preserving our intellectual and existential integrity from earworm songs. If those descendants do so, will they still fit within the set called humans? Or, more likely, will we change the parameters and qualifications for our specie’s tag? Because, regardless of what we do, it will call into question the whole notion of the existence of a set (a species) called humans. And now feels like a good time to humbly suggest that we should probably consider redefining “bipeds,” or, at the least, kicking humans out of it. Granted another option would be kicking those missing a leg or two out of the classification of human. I can’t get behind that last suggestion, though, because doing so opens a Pandora’s Box that will ultimately lead to bald men being kicked out of the set named man, and I fear that I’m on my way out that door.[7]

All that raises the question, how can a “group” or “set” or, more specifically, a species evolve together if that group can’t even be defined until after the evolutionary process has reached a certain point of terminus? Not to mention, that, according to evolution, our cosmos, including we non-gilled bipeds, do not exist in a condition of stasis. Togetherness (community) is a product of felt needs that could only appear at a point on the evolutionary moving sidewalk at which humans are, well, already recognizable as humans. The set would have already been established before group morality was needed. Conveniently, and betraying a greater debt to Schillerian romanticism instead of hard science, E.O. Wilson’s kin morality skips the Darwinian emphasis on the individual over the group; natural selection, after all, is ruled in the academy by the metaphor “the selfish gene.” Even the famed atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse admits as much in his book A Meaning to Life as he takes E.O. Wilson to task.

Heaping questions upon questions, then, we must then ask if morality is necessary for the survival of the individual? Because, if morality, even morality reduced to an altruism that only admits the “merely useful,” is rightly seen as unnecessary for the survival of the individual, and it is acknowledged as unnecessary for the survival of the individual, which is why the lady professor was haranguing my children about it on our TV, that means that a morality that helps propagate the survival of the group can’t evolve until after the group has already been properly propagated. Gills came first, then some sort of cavity, then ears, and then, finally, “Christmas Shoes.”[8] Consider love.

Love is not necessary for the survival of our species; lust, maybe, but not love. In fact, if anything, love gets in the way. Pick any 15-year-old male heathen (or even non-heathen); he’ll confirm it. But, okay, and having to ignore the prodigious canon of the 1980’s soft rock staple Air Supply’s colloquial insights into the mysteries of love, let’s play the reductionist game and grant that love is merely the chemical reaction connected to the specie’s need to ensure its continued survival.

For starters, embracing that reductionism will put Hallmark out of business. No matter how much grumpy middle-aged men would have us believe otherwise, humanity would be lesser off without Hallmark’s full-throated embrace of the unexplainable saccharine elements of love. For another thing, and in his typical surly manner, David Berlinski writing of friendship, but it can equally be applied to love, points out that, “The [friendship/love] gene is described in molecular biological or biochemical terms; human action and human nature are not. A different vocabulary is required, and once specified, it becomes plain that there is nothing tying the two together.”[9]

Again, our pesky non-materialist bits and pieces act as a living refutation of peer-reviewed theses. Along those lines, our hypothetical 15-year-old heathen (or non-heathen) from above is furiously sucking the braces on his teeth in the hopes that we will ask him to chime in and provide real world application to Berlinski’s words. You see, his “feelings” for the Playmate of the Month can, most likely, although on the other side of this I’m not ready to completely give up this game either, be reduced to hormonal reactions. Test tubes, bubbling beakers, and peer-reviewed premises may be instructive here. His feelings for Sally, the cute redhead sitting three seats away from him in pre-Calculus, however, do not fit well within the apparatuses of science, much less that discipline’s epistemology. He suspects that if he were living in caveman times, he could have his way with Ms. December and chalk it up to doing his part to ensure the survival of his species – that of non-gilled bipeds who collect artwork on their cave walls. In that instance, the needs and wants of Ms. December would be of little to no concern for him or their future descendants who, somewhere along the line, evolved into moral creatures who now claim that present day Ms. December’s needs and wants are of great concern. Sally, however, that cute redhead from pre-calculus, presents a problem. His feelings do consider her feelings – her needs and wants. And, at the most fundamental level, all those conflicting moral feelings are an impediment to the survival of the species. Sally is not concerned that our 15-year-old heathen loves her, she has no intention of allowing him to propagate the species via any sort of coital entanglement with herself. For her part, Ms. December, if she thinks about it (and assuming that she is a thoroughgoing Darwinian material positivist), is thankful that her ancestors were not afforded the same rights as she is because she realizes that she would likely not be here otherwise. Hypocritically, she is also thankful that she is now afforded those rights that were thankfully denied Playcaveman’s Ms. December. Two things can be true at once, tis true, but not always.  

My point? If the #MeToo movement had existed millions of years ago, Twitter would have never been invented and our hypothetical 15-year-old would have never made it into the wonderful world of existence and would have been spared the pains of unrequited love. Morality, as in, morality as it’s commonly defined outside the halls of academia evolved at some point.[10] The question is, why?

It must be noted that while one side is smugly chuckling at my takedown of evolutionary psychology’s thesis of morality, the other side is clucking their tongues at my oversimplification. Fine. Fair is fair. Or is it?

Again, the answers secularists/materialists have at the ready for our 15-year-old heathen beg the question. As in, first off, the question of whether humans evolved in groups or not. It’s assumed it’s true because the other explanations for the existence of morality violates the sacred doctrines of secularism/materialism. And that’s not to mention that it also assumes a definition of morality that contradicts the definition that the greater part of humanity adheres to. Notre Dame professor Christian Smith rightfully insists, “Morality of the sort we are trying to justify here has to do with what is right and wrong, good and bad, et cetera, which are believed to be established not by humans’ own actual desires, decisions, or preferences but by sources believed to exist apart from them.”[11]

If I’m a porch pirate, what transcendent truth can materialist positivists appeal to that will convince me that stealing Christmas presents from one group for the benefit of my group is morally wrong? Sure, they can appeal to Locke, Adam Smith, Rousseau, and even Kant, although I doubt porch pirates read Kant (even most materialist positivist sociology professors only read about Kant). They can argue that larger society has socially contracted together that defining and defending private property is good for all (unless, of course, the state wants to build a road through your private property). The porch pirate can retort, and rightfully so, that no matter how many PhDs loudly trumpet it, protecting the well-being of those who can afford Amazon Prime is small comfort to those living in his circumstances. Group morality is one thing. Set theory, however, especially the contributions of Dr. Zadeh, tells us that forcing people to adhere to other people’s definition of what constitutes the group is a moral exercise in its own right, begging the question, again. What moral right do you have to determine that I must adhere to how that group, or any group, defines morality? Without transcendence, might makes right, after all. The porch pirate owes a debt of thanks to Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin, and even all the evolutionary sociologists and psychologists who modestly insist that might makes right is not to be read into their theories and class syllabi. They say so in peer-reviewed journals, after all. Porch pirates should simply trust them and ignore the hypocrisy operating the levers behind the curtain.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Watch AMC’s popular show The Walking Dead and its spinoff Fear the Walking Dead for an entertaining look at the problem of morality as it pertains to the survival of the group versus the survival of the individual and, importantly, versus a Biblical definition of morality – you know, the definition that we all adhere to whether we admit it or not; and that includes the evolutionary psychology professor who is ticked off at the porch pirate who made off with the package containing the smart backpack she bought as a Christmas present for her significant other.

A few years ago, a dear friend challenged me about my enjoyment of a TV show that glorifies and celebrates death. From his perspective, a show centered on zombies reveals an un-Christlike fascination with death. In explanation, I told him that The Walking Dead isn’t about death but about life. And that the main obstacles to life aren’t the zombies but other humans. The fallen nature of man is a predominant theme of the show. Along those lines, the show narrates how the desire to survive is bolstered by a self-serving view of morality. To be sure, the creators of the show push against that. Their discomfort with pragmatic morality is obvious, and within that lies much of the narrative tension of the show.

To be clear, if the show had been canceled after the first season, much of what I’m writing wouldn’t apply. In its genesis, The Walking Dead was a fun, gory zombie show.[12] To be sure, the themes of sin and redemption, morality and survival, and the big questions of what makes us human poked through at points in the first season (also, it should be pointed out that the concept of humans having a, well, human nature is no longer well received in academia – I’m not making up the suspicion of species). Moving forward, though, the show’s writers, showrunner, and various directors embraced the metaphysical themes and the show transitioned from a show about zombies to a show about humans and morality.

Over the first few seasons, the development of that tension is subtle and artfully woven into the characters’ growing roundness. The moral questions and metaphysical themes are introduced to the viewers a la the proverbial frog in the pot. By the time the viewer is forced to ask, “Wait, who exactly are the good guys here?”, it’s too late. We’ve become so emotionally invested in the characters that we’ve become part of their tribe. Their group. Their set. Their ethical boundaries become our ethical boundaries as we root for their survival, which includes cheering on choices that we would be appalled by if our next-door neighbor made those same choices.

The Walking Dead is a deconstruction of the evolution of morality. A de-evolution, if you will. Back to Rousseau’s state of nature. However, like William Golding, the show’s creators are not naïve about what would happen in that state of nature. And the closer humans get to that state of nature, the less defined the ethics become in the de-evolving social contracts. If my statistical chances for survival increases as your chances decrease, well, guess what I’m rooting for? Or rather, guess what I’d be rooting for if I weren’t a Christian.

As a human made in God’s Image, I am aware of the existence of transcendent morality, like how I’m aware of (and thankful for) my existential response to the color of apples. A morality that is decidedly not pragmatic, because it is defined by God; and a morality that is frequently unhelpful for survival – the fish symbol ended up on the walls of ancient Roman catacombs for a reason. And since the show’s creators are humans, even if they deny the God of the Bible in whose image they have been made (and I don’t know if they do or do not), they are unable to write transcendent morality out of their imagined post-apocalyptic world. Even the Dadaists kicked Artaud out of their group for embracing a level of surrealism that threatened to undermine what makes us human. If Andre Breton was unable to kick through all the pricks, you better believe that Atlanta-based filmmakers can’t.

And this is my point: transcendent morality that is decidedly not pragmatic nor helpful for the survival of the species exists, even as the modern moral scientists change the definition under us. In fact, even as they change the definition, those very scientists hypocritically insist that humanity continue abiding by many of the transcendent morals that do not conform to their definition. Ask the evolutionary psychologist who is now purchasing Ring to help defend her second purchase of that smart backpack against the “merely useful” morality of porch pirates.

And in our disenchanted, buffered society the moral tension between what science is trying to sell us and what we know is true of the world (and our own heart) is part of what Charles Taylor named “cross-pressure.” The eminent philosopher explains, “Homogeneity and instability work together to bring the fragilizing effect of pluralism to a maximum.”[13] In other words, interacting closely with other humans who harbor different beliefs, fears, and desires that not only compete with ours but also run counter to the pronouncements of the priests of pluralism causes an internal tension that our imminent age cannot resolve – the cross-pressure of what we’re told is true (imminence) and what we feel as creatures made in God’s image (transcendence) is amplified by our relationships with complex others who defy being reduced to scientific explanations. And The Walking Dead feels all of that very deeply, making for great storytelling.  

In fact, the show heightens it. The contrast with its spinoff throws this tension into sharp relief.

Fear the Walking Dead contains a moral starkness that is jarring; at least, the first few seasons do so, prior to the introduction of John Dorie and Morgan Jones, the crossover character from the original sister show.

Fear the Walking Dead debuted in 2015, five years after The Walking Dead introduced viewers to Rick and company. During those interim five years, the creators learned a lot about how their imaginative world works. The first season of the spinoff is largely a culmination of the lessons learned. The characters responded to the events around them in a manner that betrayed a post-apocalyptic morality advanced beyond their experience. Traditional, selfless morality was jettisoned from the get-go in favor of a wolfpack morality (Travis may be an exception, but even he betrays that his morality is largely determined by his felt need to protect and defend his sociopath of a son). The heroes are beyond anti-heroes; they’re simply self-serving as they fight for survival.

As a viewer, I found it hard to empathize with the characters or to emotionally connect with the show because, unlike its predecessor, Fear the Walking Dead never afforded me the opportunity to gradually identify with the felt needs of the characters. I was never emotionally baptized into their tribe, meaning that their breaches of traditional morality were far more obvious than those of Rick from The Walking Dead. Madison Clark was always intended to be the spinoff’s Rick Grimes. However, minus the original show’s emotional content buoyed by traditional morality found in the first couple of seasons, the character was never able to transcend the role of she-wolf.

Interestingly, the show’s creators put the brakes on Fear the Walking Dead’s plummet to evolutionary morality’s logical, de-evolved end. At first, the series attempted to salvage Madison’s character, but the attempts to have her openly atone for her past sins only made it worse, highlighting how unredeemable, from a human standpoint, she is. And this is where the moral center of Morgan Jones enters the picture.

Morgan may be the most interesting and most human character across the entire Walking Dead universe. His desire to harm no one is always in tension with the need to survive. And this is where the two series’ fascinating tension burst forth under the weight of attempting to hold onto traditional (Biblical) morality all while painting a bleak dystopian world populated by characters driven almost solely by the need to survive – the morality of “merely useful.”

Once the viewer succumbs to the show’s premise and themes, Morgan’s attempts to hold the moral high ground are revealed to be self-defeating, even as we admire him. The creators know this, and often resort to narrative cheating (the lack of moral high ground by the other characters act as a stop gap, ensuring the group’s survival, allowing Morgan to operate as if his worldview works when, in fact, it doesn’t) or they openly acknowledge the folly of morality within the world: this is seen dramatically in season 5 when Dwight (another crossover character with the sister series) adheres to Morgan’s ethics of harm no one, a decision that proves disastrous for the group just a few episodes later. In fact, season 5 concludes with Morgan’s morality crashing the world around him with his group succumbing to a stronger group – might makes right and you can’t fight it forever is the unwanted lesson. Whether his morality has killed him or not remains to be seen, presumably in season 6, episode 1. If he did survive the consequences wrought by his refusing to come down off his traditional moral high hill, that means that what remains of his hard fought for selfless morality will likely be the driving question for the character moving forward. And, by extension, the series.

Whatever its flaws, inconsistencies, and storytelling cheats, The Walking Dead and its spinoff reveal a couple of things that are instructive for discussions about morality. Or, rather, it splashes these things on our TV screens in highly entertaining ways. No doubt, like much of pop culture, whatever abiding questions the show asks are most likely never contemplated by its viewers. Regardless of the numbing power of entertainment, I believe that the two main takeaways from the sister series are as follows: 1. Group morality is not morality as commonly defined. 2. The logical end of the de-evolution of group morality terminates in might makes right for the individual. Before the set (group, species, tribe, etc.) can even exist, individuals would have to survive in an incredibly hostile environment that would punish any sense of altruism.

One thing that should be noted is that I have not provided a fleshed-out explanation of what traditional morality entails. To that, I look to the Bible.

One of the interesting things about the Ten Commandments is their focus. Unlike the Bill of Rights, they are outwardly focused. Instead of, “You have the right to defend your private property,” God commands, “You shall not steal.” God’s morality is not the “merely useful,” nor is it the culmination of regulations that help society keep their trains running on time. God’s morality is a surrender to the needs of others regardless of your own needs and, dare I say it, desires and wishes. And God’s morality is fully displayed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Second Person of the Trinity “had to be made like his brothers in every respect (Hebrews 2:17).” In Philippians 2:7-8, Paul explains that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

There was nothing “merely useful” about the Incarnation; it was a costly, selfless affair, as true morality tends to be.

Throughout his earthly ministry, alongside preaching repentance of sins and submission to his Word, Jesus preached a morality of service to God first, and then to others. Nary a word about loving yourself first or focusing on your needs or taking some “me time” or whatever other self-affirmation memes pollute the social media landscape. True morality is the surrender of our so-called rights in the service of others. Thankfully, our society, while desperately attempting to do otherwise, still adheres, in varying degrees, to the Biblical principle of morality.

The porch pirate is frowned upon, even if the well-being of his defined “tribe” is bettered by his pirating. Nations in need of resources for their citizens are kept from invading nations of plenty, even though doing so will help ensure the survival of their citizens who are lacking. Even with our postmodern epistemology, we recognize that there are still some things that are not socially constructed – declaring murder unlawful, for instance, even if my tribe is better positioned for survival by the murder of an individual outside of my tribe. And, as of now, but not in Iceland, the eradication of “undesirables” is deemed immoral.  

And the Biblical principle of morality that is rooted in the command to deny ourselves and follow Jesus highlights the problem of morality touted by evolutionary psychologists who claim that humans evolved in groups; ergo, morality evolved as a tool to help ensure the survival of the group. That “morality” not only allows for but demands the eradication of the “undesirables.” By definition, survival of the fittest recognizes a hierarchy of importance and value.

However, in a system framed by survival of the fittest, who gets to define “undesirable?” I mean, if left solely up to me, it’s tempting to place people who chew with their mouth open in that category. And those who can’t seem to comprehend how four-way stop signs work. And close talkers. And Dallas Cowboys fans. History is replete with examples of societies and charismatic leaders who took seriously the “responsibility” of weeding out the undesirables for the betterment of their defined tribe, and history tends to frown with great severity on them. Imagine how history would judge me if I advocated and implemented the necessary steps to help ensure the survival of our species by eradicating fans of the Dallas Cowboys.

Living in modern times, as we do, it’s easy to see the problematic ethics of eradicating undesirables. While making my life less enjoyable, the existence of Dallas Cowboys fans does not pose a threat to my survival. Back up several hundreds of thousands of years, though, and the ethics become a bit murkier if we accept Darwinism. So much so, that it’s difficult to see how my graciousness towards Dallas Cowboys fans and those who chew with their mouth open ever evolved. Taking it a step further, survival of the fittest is major obstacle to the survival of our species, including those of us with less than two legs and those of us hoping to swap our ears for gills.

Weak, infirmed babies are an obstacle to the survival of parents hiding from saber-toothed tigers and who are desperately competing with other groups for the necessary food stuffs to ensure survival. Might makes right in those circumstances. Like how the early bird gets the worm, the strongest caveman gets the most voluptuous and fertile cavewoman. Sitting atop the fragile existence of humanity, this pair’s combined strengths help ensure that they get to eat, even if that means nerd caveman and his nerd cavewoman wife starve to death as a result. “Who cares? Not my problem,” grunts uber-caveman. His strong baby gets to live and pass on uber-caveman’s strong genes. Except, now that I think about it, the notion of a strong baby is quite relative. No human babies are strong in the actual sense of the word. All human babies are weak and an obstacle to the survival of parents hiding from stalking carnivores. Not to mention, the time and energy needed to ensure survival in Jebel Irhoud some 300,000 years ago would have been greatly drained by the time and energy needed to ensure the survival of a human baby. Even with all of our modern conveniences like diaper genies and breast pumps, caring for a screaming baby who woke you up at 3 in the morning requires the existence of selfless morality. During the Stone Age, human babies would have been deemed undesirable and a threat to survival by groups in which laws and punishments and selfless altruism had not yet evolved. Those early humans who did feel a spark of selfless love towards another creature who was going to make it much harder for them to survive would have undoubtedly not lasted long enough to create a set characterized by our modern understanding of morality. Unless, of course, you want to argue that first came love, then came marriage, then came a baby in a baby carriage. Fair warning, though, that proposal will earn you a dressing down by the professors in most of your classes in both the science and social science buildings on campus.

Look, while granting that self-interest goes a long way to helping people survive harsh climates and unforgiving circumstances, it’s nonsensical to attempt to force self-interest into the list of morality’s synonyms. Furthermore, claiming that morality evolved because humans evolved in groups is begging multiple questions; in layman’s terms, it’s putting the cart before the horse. The problem remains, as in, our 15-year-old heathen feels things for Sally that can’t be reduced either to chemicals or the un-demonstratable theses of evolutionary psychologists.

Morality exists. Excessive, selfless, slobbering morality that seeks the good of others, even strangers, at the expense of the individual who is most decidedly not thinking about the “merely useful” exists. The question remains, though, as to why? Even if Brain Games can’t figure it out, shows like The Walking Dead demonstrate that humans still bear the Image of God. No matter how much energy Darwinists put into running on their evolutionary wheel of chance, our inability to escape transcendent morality speaks volumes. And, whether you like it or not, that inescapable transcendent morality points to a Transcendent Being to whom we owe obedience.

Soli Deo Gloria

[1] Christian Smith, Atheist Overreach: What Atheism Can’t Deliver (New York: Oxford Press, 2019), 75.

[2] James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky, Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest For the Foundations of Morality (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018), xv.

[3] Hunter and Nedelisky, Science and the Good, xv.

[4] Romans 1, especially verses 18-32, has relevance for all this mutual knowing and whatnot.

[5] For the record, I do not believe that humans evolved. While I do not consider myself a young earth creationist, I am also not a theistic evolutionist; in fact, I find groups like BioLogos far more theologically problematic than many of the YEC groups, including those who waste inordinate amount of dollars to build a replica of the Ark in KY. In short, and making next to no one happy, I believe that when Christians began applying materialist “how” questions to theology, we surrendered the philosophical/theological high ground of transcendence. My point to my kids was simply that within the system of Darwinism, they can’t claim that humans evolved in groups – well, they can claim it, obviously, because they do, but it’s even more mathematically nonsensical than the rest of the system. On a related note, I used to be friends with a brilliant mathematician who had been nominated for the Fields Medal. Initially, I assumed he was an atheist, but he assured me that no mathematician worth his or her salt is an atheist. “The numbers don’t add up without some sort of god,” he told me. To be clear, this man was not a Christian, adhering to the Bhagavad Gita. However, what I know about the Bhagavad Gita and what I know about this man, he was not a good adherent of it. His point still stands, though.

[6] David Berlinski, Human Nature (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2019), 133.

[7] While I want to express some gratitude to David Berlinski for helping me work through this line of thought, I also want to add that he didn’t introduce me to it. He is, however, the only one who has ever made me chuckle over it.

[8] Joking aside, Zadeh’s fuzzy sets, while helping solve paradoxes within mathematics, are no help when applied to evolutionary biology. When discussing species, degrees of membership still only work after a principle of bivalence has been established for that species.

[9] Berlinski, Human Nature, 145.

[10] Again, this assumes that Charles Darwin managed to figure out the game after observing mockingbirds and tortoise shells. I’m not saying he didn’t; I’m saying that I remain skeptical.

[11] Christian Smith, Atheist Overreach,68.

[12] It took me several tries to get into the show. Friends raved about it, but I had a hard time finding substance in the first season. Being stuck in a guard shack while working third shift as a security guard was the reason I eventually watched it. During the second season, my interest was piqued beyond simply wiling away the hours between 3am and 6:30, the hours when my brain rebelled against reading.

[13] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Beknap Press, 2007) 304.

2 thoughts on “‘The Walking Dead’ and Christianity: Morality Did Not Evolve

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