February 21, 2003


Pastor guilty of aiding genocide (Reuters, 2/19/03)
A Rwandan pastor and his son were found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide by a U.N. tribunal on Wednesday, and sentenced to 10 and 25 years respectively for helping to massacre ethnic Tutsis.

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son Gerard were accused of herding large groups of Tutsi men, women and children into a church and hospital compound in the Kibuye region of western Rwanda in 1994 and then calling Hutus to come and kill them.

The 78-year-old Seventh Day Adventist pastor was found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide, a U.N. spokesman at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said. His 45-year-old son Gerard, a doctor, was found guilty of the same charge and of genocide. The verdicts were unanimous. [...]

Rights groups say several church leaders from various denominations played a leading role in the killings, using their authority to encourage the massacres of Tutsis who tried to take refuge in the country's churches.

There's a genuinely bizarre trope making the rounds amongst the usual suspects about how this episode indicates something important about Christianity or religion in general. Bunk.

Obviously religion has a bloody history of persecuting unbelievers and it would be silly to deny it. What's that have to do with this? There's no suggestion that the violence here was sectarian in nature.

In fact, if anything, this seems to have been an episode of simple Darwinism at work. One tribe (one group of selfish genes) sought a competitive advantage over another. At least Christianity instructs us that what the pastor did was evil and unacceptable. For an evolutionist what he did was entirely natural and, if unfortunate, understandable. It was just that kind of inevitable logic of evolution that led Stephen Jay Gould--who could not accept the Holocaust as merely a function of competing gene pools--to become an apostate. Even if he could never come to full terms with what his revulsion should have told his head, at least he had the decency to feel it in his gut.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2003 10:23 PM

Does it not at least suggest that Christianity is an old fiddle upon which you can play any tune? An SDA pastor should be pretty influenced by the Gospel should he not? And if not him, who? And did not Verwoerd and Co find Biblical support for Apartheid

Posted by: John Ray at February 21, 2003 11:39 PM

The son was a doctor are we to conclude the practice of Western medicine leads to a thirst for Genocide?

Posted by: oj at February 22, 2003 12:17 AM

If this is simply an example of Darwinism at work, are you admitting that Darwinism is a more powerful force than Christianity?

Posted by: Robert D at February 22, 2003 1:25 PM

You can't have it both ways OJ. You can't argue that Christianity is the only force that can secure liberty and justice in the world, and at the same time excuse its failures by saying that it is only one of many competing social forces in the world. If Christianity is to be this dominant force for liberty, it is precisely in situations like these that it has to come through and carry the day.

Posted by: Robert D at February 22, 2003 1:30 PM


Christianity assumes that we're all capable of precisely this kind of evil, that it is in fact evil, and that it should be so judged and punished. If mere belief in Christianity were stronger than evil there'd be no evil--an impossibility for Man to achieve on his own.

But if Darwinism is correct, then this kind of behavior is entirely reasonable. Why shouldn't i seek to slaughter those whose genes are different than mine if it will give me a competitive advantage? If continued existence of one's genome is the be all and end all of existence then this kind of behavior is "normal".

Posted by: oj at February 22, 2003 1:57 PM


But if Darwinism is correct, then this kind of behavior is entirely reasonable. Why shouldn't i seek to slaughter those whose genes are different than mine if it will give me a competitive advantage?

You have set up a straw man, and made a category mistake. First, the straw man. Competitive advantage exists at both
the individual and species-wide levels. What may be reasonable for one could be entirely different for the other. You seem uninclined to view the wider point of view and the tension between the two. Similarly, you view evolution through the "survival of the fittest" prism (pace Darwin) rather than the clumsier but more accurate "non-survival of the insufficiently fit."

There are parallels to this behavior in nature. When a new alpha-male assumes control over a pride, he kills all the existing lion cubs. Orangutans (if my memory serves) do the same. The tension between individual and species fitness, meaning the net fitness is less than it could be, should be clear.

Your category mistake is attributing to Darwinism (a sparse set of axioms that explain how complex systems change over time) a reason for not punishing evil behavior. That makes about as much sense as criticizing Christianity for having nothing to say about gigabit level 2 routers.

An evolutionary phsychologist would square the circle by noting that other individual genomes will react less than enthusiastically to the possibility they might be the next victim of a predatory genome....


Jeff Guinn

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 22, 2003 3:47 PM


So why didn't the Germans stop Hitler or the Americans stop slaughtering Indians, etc., etc., etc. These kinds of genocidal actions occur because they have wide societal support. There's little evidence that one group says: "Hey, we could be next, better stop."

Posted by: oj at February 22, 2003 6:04 PM


Darwinism is a way to explain why the living world is the way it is, it is not an ethical system. "Is" > "ought". Would anyone excuse a murderer by saying "well, he was merely increasing entropy". Does the second law of thermodynamics lead to murder? Can you accept this law as truth without using it as the basis for your moral decisions?

Posted by: Robert D at February 22, 2003 8:33 PM


Do we hold people morally responsible for obeying the Second Law of Thermodynamics or is it accepted that Nature causes them to obey?

Why hold people responsible for obeying the dictates of Darwinism, if it truly is a physical law of the Universe?

Posted by: oj at February 22, 2003 9:20 PM


The Second Law of Thermodynamics is an inviolable law, so we can't hold anyone responsible for acting in compliance by it. But it has nothing to do with moral actions, ie. committing or not committing a murder, as the law is upheld in either case. It does not apply to moral considerations.

Darwinism is not such an involiable law. It does not "compel" obedience. It is history, not fate. It may explain why we have a predilection for preferring our close relations over strangers, but it does not compel the murder of strangers.

Posted by: Robert D at February 22, 2003 9:46 PM


That's because you wish to preserve Free Will. The true Darwinists (what Gould called fundamentalists) say, and the logic of the theory requires, that it is a property of the Universe, just like the physical laws. The point being, if you don't think men are bound by evolution, then you aren't a Darwinist.

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2003 7:39 AM

Again you say 'the logic of the theory', where have you demonstrated that this is the logic of the theory?

Posted by: Wrighty at February 23, 2003 9:04 AM

Is evolution driven by natural selection or intelligent choice? If you're saying both then I and every creationist on Earth can agree with you. But are there other scientific laws that suddenly stop affecting humans once we realize they exist?

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2003 11:23 AM

OJ, I don't see that TOE leads to strict determinism. You can obey this law, and still exercise free will. Your moral decisions merely have to ensure that your genes survive into the next generation. If you can figure out how to do this without massacreing your neighbors, then you've exercised free will and have obeyed the "commandment" of TOE.

But the free decisions that many people make that fly in the face of TOE, such as aborting their children, proves that TOE is not an inviolable law of the universe, such as 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. What you call Darwinist Fundamentalism is a caricature, I don't think that there are many serious scientists who portray TOE in the way that you are.

Posted by: Robert D at February 23, 2003 11:44 AM

My question was not a defense of Darwinism, it was a query that hasn't been answered. This may sound irrelevant but there you go, I'm free not to commit adultery, but am I free not to desire hot women? And is my freedom comprimised because of that?

Posted by: Wrighty at February 23, 2003 11:52 AM

If it is your desire to be free of desiring hot women, you could ask your doctor to prescribe Prozac. But then the question would be "Am I free to not desire to be free of desiring hot women". Questions of free will can quickly devolve into endless regressions of this type. If you have a desire, do you identify it as your desire or as some external force acting on you? Am I a man that desires women, or am I a being that is acted on, and imprisoned by, an external force which makes me desire women?

The real question being asked is "who am I"? If you go down that road, you will always end up unfree, and your identity will shrink to zero.

Posted by: Robert D at February 23, 2003 1:14 PM



I think you'll find all of them do. At least Wright, Pinker and Dawkins, but here are some links: http://www.brothersjudd.com/webpage/evolution.htm

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2003 4:26 PM


So you don't believe in free will. That's fine. But how do we justify punishing people for behaviors that you believe are programmed into them?

Posted by: oj at February 23, 2003 4:29 PM


The TOE isn't a law. It is an sparse set of axioms that explain how complex systems develop and change over time, without the need for an outside designer. To give just two examples, economies and languages are complex, evolutionary systems. (And no, Adam Smith didn't design market economies, any more than Einstein designed the speed of light).

The TOE has nothing to say about ethics or free will, other than to say that to the extent they exist in us, and didn't exist previously, they must have conveyed some reproductive fitness.

You are trying to burden the TOE with water it wasn't designed to carry.



Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 23, 2003 9:02 PM


I agree that's precisely what evolution is, a rather weak force, easiily overcome by rational beings and more than likely not binding on any animals of reasonable intelligence. That's been a creationist critique for a century and a half--evolution fails to explain anything once you get to about the mammal stage.

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2003 1:59 PM


Evolution isn't a force, no more than the GANTT diagram of a car assembly line is.

It is a cross product of variation, reproductive success and environment.

Human language, hypertrophied though it may be, is on a primate continuum. The cross product, taken over time, clearly favored those human variations with a facility for language. Certainly, languages themselves, despite their complexity, have had no intelligent designer--though the French have tried.

Similarly for economies. "Intelligent Designers" (that is, government, although I'm not sure those two concepts track) routinely mess with the economic environment. The economy itself evolves without any overarching intelligent design.

So, either you can contradict my thesis by identifying each language's intelligent designer, and the US economy's intelligent designer, or you have to concede that it is possible the evolutionary cross product has resulted in astonishingly complex systems.

If that is so, why is it suddenly beyond possibility that the same cross product can produce complex mental and physical systems?


Jeff Guinn

Posted by: at February 24, 2003 2:46 PM


Why do you say that I do not believe in free will?

Posted by: Robert D at February 24, 2003 3:55 PM


Why do you say that I do not believe in free will?

Posted by: Robert D at February 24, 2003 3:56 PM