America in the aftermath of the 2016 election saw protests of the election results, including a few riots; there were also a number of apparent hoaxes, and millenials requesting counseling in their university classrooms. While riots certainly are not funny, some of the news stories about university students have driven certain conservatives and moderates to laughter.
Laughter, while understandable, is not particularly helpful. We know that many millenials who feel they are “interested in social justice” will regard the recent election as a confirmation that America is basically a racist, misogynist country (illustrating, perhaps, that confirmation bias is a knife that cuts both ways). But this is political, and the debates involved can better be viewed through the lens of a political blog. Nevertheless, the claim to be “interested in social justice” is an interesting one, though perhaps a bit arrogant. Anyone who is not a psychopath or a sociopath has an interest in social justice; this is relatively uncontroversial.
The difficulties come in how to define “social justice” (or for that matter, “justice”). There are stark distinctions between the Egalitarianism of John Rawls and the Libertarianism of an Ayn Rand, each of whom considers the other’s position to be unjust. A Christian will be interested as well in matters of “what is deserved,”(justice is about receiving what we deserve, or the prevention of undeserved harm) a position uncommon outside of Christian thought. Yet, the thought of justice is an interesting one, because the prevalent naturalism within millennial societies and the universities shows the contradiction inherent in the modern worldview.
If man is merely an evolved ape, then appeals to justice are appeals to the illusionary. The best argument someone can raise is that justice is something society invented because it provides evolutionary advantages in some circumstances (and only in some circumstances). But no matter how deeply seated that conviction may be, if natural processes only are involved, people cannot be said to have “rights” worthy of being respected.
For example, we live in a culture that properly condemns rape, a horrid evil, so much so that many on the left seek to suspend the usual protections allotted to a man accused of such a crime. The argument is raised that we should always believe one who claims she was raped, that no woman would ever lie about such a thing; and if taken to its logical conclusion, men should be convicted or ostracized by society on the accusation alone.
And yet, if we accept an atheistic model of evolution, the rapist is doing precisely what he ought to be doing: He is supposed to pass on his genes to the next generation by whatever means works; and thousands of years of military history would suggest it is, in fact, an efficient method of both procreation and maintenance of power within a society. If warriors take a number of women by force after conquering a city or village, the men gain a greater likelihood of there being conscripts for some future war.
On evolutionary grounds, those committing such crimes could aptly claim they are just “born that way.” Evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins might argue they would never try to organize a society on evolution. But when one considers that these same evolutionists offer evolutionary explanations for the development of moral codes (such as the belief that justice was created to benefit society), one must ask, on what grounds do they believe they can argue society can be organized on any grounds other than evolution? One cannot argue that societal evolution is an explanation for moral codes one minute, and argue we should avoid social Darwinism a few minutes later.
Some have argued, societies that develop theories about human rights have a stronger social fabric, which gives them a better chance to survive; but where has it been proven that this is how societies have evolved in the first place? And is it really true? A number of totalitarian societies who long ago lost their God-given respect for women have survived largely unchanged over millennia. And if this is the case, on what grounds can we consider western societies more successful than the Saudi Arabians?
Finally, a few, such as Richard Rority have noted this is just “our way of doing things.” And yet, if it is just “our way,” on what grounds can we condemn someone else’s ways of doing things, even those within our society, as “wrong?”
In other words, any discussion of justice, social justice, equity or egalitarianism is at its root contradictory to the principles of atheistic, biological evolution. This is as true for atheists advocating libertarianism, such as Ayn Rand, with her claim that socialism is the enslavement of the most capable (which of course presumes this is somehow wrong); and it is true for socialists, who essentially argue we should maintain an equality of individuals that is at odds with evolutionary theory while insisting that evolutionary theory is true.
Of course, a third possibility is that the atheists are wrong, that man is not merely an over-evolved ape with a slightly bigger brain, a thesis that does little to explain our creativity or our ability to make ground/consequent arguments.
Perhaps instead we should consider that the reason rape is wrong is because God made human beings, and therefore women are worthy of respect. We have been given innately a conscience that both recognizes women as made in imageo dei and has not been eroded by the culture in which we live in (at least, not yet).