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Ripe Acorns

Two acorns for Robert Trivers.

I believe in giving credit where it's due, even if the credit goes to one whose worldview is antithetical to my own.

And that's the case with Robert Trivers, Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. In his new book, The Folly of Fools, Dr. Trivers applies his evolutionary worldview to the question of why people are so prone to lie and deceive, both others and themselves.

It's a very important question, given the pervasiveness of such practices, not just within human society, but among all kinds of creatures. Lying and deceiving is as natural to us as breathing, it seems. Surely there's an explanation for this?

I give Dr. Trivers credit on two counts. First, he is absolutely correct when he writes, "Deception is a very deep feature of life." His observations agree with the psalmist who complained, "Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak" (Ps. 12.2). Lying has been around for a long time, so it's probably not more pervasive in our day, but you run into it everywhere. Lying has become so common, in fact, that politicians think nothing of lying about their plans or performance, as long as they can do so in a manner which is itself designed to make us believe they at least think they're telling the truth.

Second, credit Dr. Trivers with explaining that the main reason people lie and deceive is that it's in our interest to do so. In evolutionary terms, it increases the survival factor in our favor. We lie to satisfy what to us is a larger "truth," namely, that our own personal interests are to be regarded as supreme, if only by ourselves.

I have before quoted my Dad, who used to josh with us kids whenever we did something surprisingly well in sports, by saying, "Well, a blind hog'll find a ripe acorn every now and then." Two acorns for Robert Trivers.

Dr. Trivers proceeds even deeper along the root of lying, and I'm not prepared to disagree with him - not entirely, anyway. He insists that lying is in our genes. After all, evoutionary theory contends, genes control everything. They are the ultimate selfish creatures, doing nothing but what is in the interest of their survival. Somehow our genes have become structured to foster deception and lies. We lie because we can't help it. Our genes, you see.

But what Robert Trivers will not agree with is what he at least implies in the title of his book: Lying is a "very deep feature" of life because something beyond our genes, something beyond even physical stuff, is at work within us. Human beings are sinners. The sin of human beings affects everything in creation - even our selfish little impudent genes. But evolutionary theory cannot "measure" sin, which is a spiritual condition. Thus, evolutionists simply deny it, just as they deny all things spiritual.

Except when it suits them. Dr. Trivers' title comes from Proverbs 14.8: "The wisdom of the wise is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit." It is the fool's folly to wallow in his self-deception and lies, excusing himself and blaming others - or perhaps his genes. It is the way of the wise - they who fear God and keep His commandments - to understand their way, to recognize their propensity to lie (and steal and commit adultery and all the rest), and then to draw on the indwelling strength of God to overcome their sinful ways and be clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Dr. Trivers is content with his acorns. But my hope for him and all evolutionists is that they'll let the acorns speak to them of the oak - the larger, more coherent worldview presented by the wisdom of God in Scripture - and beyond the oak, to the Creator and Sustainer of the oak Himself, even our Lord Jesus Christ.

That would be real wisdom.

No fooling.

Related texts: Psalm 12; Psalm 58; Proverbs 14.8; Romans 3.9-18

A conversation starter: "Have you noticed that people tend to, shall we say, stretch the truth an awful lot? Why do you think we do this?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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