One of the most obvious consequences of Darwinism, one which was very attractive to early adherents but completely ignored today, is that the same process that distinguished humans from other apes would still be in progress today, improving the genes of some groups of people at the expense of other groups. That is, some of us are more evolved than others.

The Croods 2 inadvertently highlights the central ethical problem of Darwinism.

It’s an ugly idea with an ugly history. The Nazis were enthusiastic Darwinians who perceived themselves (of course) to be the more advanced group with horrifying consequences. Darwinism clearly cuts against any possibility of seeing all people as fundamentally equal – there is no material sense in which all people are equal. Nor is there anything very special about being human since humans are just another short phase in the long, long process of animal evolution. And yet, we are deeply convinced (rightly so!) that all people are fundamentally equal with an inherent dignity and worth that transcends any concept of fitness or survival ability.

Evolutionists would prefer to avoid this tension (blatant contradiction rather), but Croods 2 walks right into it as our cave-people heroes from the first film fall in with another family, the Betterman’s, who turn out to be a step or two farther down the path of human evolution than the Croods. The Betterman’s dispense with the ape-like physical characteristics of the Croods, farm their land, live in a house, and make use of an assortment of fanciful technologies. They’re smarter too.

Obviously an animated kids’ film is not going to wrestle seriously with the implications of this scenario. In the movie, the setup reduces to a variant on the classic theme of meeting the too-good-to-be-true neighbors. It’s just a joke and one firmly set in the distant past; nothing leads the viewer to consider whether, Evolution carrying on as it always does, this is the sort of thing that would actually happen, now or in the future.

But how could the problem be dealt with seriously? Are the more-evolved and the less-evolved somehow equal? On what basis? When exactly did we cross the line from non-human to human? To what extent do more-evolved animals have the right and responsibility to manage the earth’s resources for the less-evolved animals?

Or, to put it another way, if atheists were writing the Declaration of Independence today, what could they put in place of Jefferson’s famous line? We hold these truths to be scientifically proven that all Homo sapiens sapiens, being equally evolved, have been endowed by their superior genes with unalienable rights…? Something about that just doesn’t seem very compelling.

Categories: Atheism