Date of Award

2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Religion, Theological Studies PhD

First Advisor

Miroslav M. Kis

Second Advisor

John T. Baldwin

Third Advisor

Richard M. Davidson

Abstract

The topic. This dissertation explores and analyzes James Rachels's efforts to prove that Darwin's theory of evolution has catastrophic implications for traditional Christian ethics.

The purpose. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore and evaluate the question of whether or not protology affects ethics. In particular, I propose to distill the implications of evolutionary views of origins for ethics, mainly in reference to the issue of human preference over nature in ethics. I propose to disclose Rachels's understanding of the implications of evolution on human preference (greater protections for human beings over non-humans) in ethics (such as biblical-Christian ethics), and to evaluate his views on the basis of his internal consistency, and the accuracy of his use of Christian history and biblical data.

The sources. In order to accomplish this purpose, many sources were consulted, starting with the works of Rachels himself. Some of the additional authors consulted include: J. V. Langmead Casserly, Richard Dawkins, Stephen J. Gould, John F. Haught, Cornelius Hunter, Jerry Korsmeyer, Andrew Linzey, John Rawls, Tom Regan, Lewis Regenstein, Michael Ruse, Richard Ryder, Peter Singer, Gerhard von Rad, Stephen Webb, Lynn White, Jr., and Benjamin Wiker.

Conclusions. First, James Rachels is essentially correct in his analysis of the impact of Darwinian evolution on Christian Ethics. Second, possibly Rachels's greatest contribution is identifying Darwin's rejection of teleology as the philosophical nerve of Darwinism. Third, Rachels correctly identifies two key pillars of human preference in Christian ethics and shows how evolution undermines each pillar. Fourth, the work of evolutionary theologians corroborate Rachels's assertion that any kind of theism incorporating Darwin's theory cannot sustain a traditional Christian view of morality. Fifth, the dependence of evolutionary theologians on Process Theology undermines the grounding of God's moral authority by limiting His foreknowledge. Sixth, Wiker is correct in his assertion that cosmology affects morality, and that changing from a biblical cosmology to a materialist one will eventually undermine Christian ethics. Seventh, I conclude that in the evolutionary system, rights become grounded in individual functionality, whereas in Scripture they are granted by God, thus providing for them a more secure foundation.

Subject Area

Evolution--Moral and ethical aspects, Evolution--Religious aspects--Christianity, Christian ethics

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