Evolutionary Economics

There is a basic principle that underpins the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, and that is the survival of the fittest. The theory suggests that this is most potent at times of environmental stress such as an ice age or other global catastrophe.
We are currently in the midst of an economic ice age, a global economic catastrophe. And nature, red in tooth and claw, will out. The big predators on the financial markets have been bringing down the slower moving beasts, be they banks or entire countries, while our esteemed political leaders seem to be applying evolutionary principles to their policies and exercise of power.
The recently passed Welfare Reforms, allied with cost-cutting measures that disproportionately affect the poorer members of society, has produced a situation where people will be perfectly fine so long as they don't lose their jobs, get ill or grow old. It is, effectively survival of the financially fittest out there. Unless you make personal provision against such eventualities, there is not much point in looking to the state long term to help. But then that has been the model for our friends in the USA for much of their history. It is what, historically, has made them an capitalist powerhouse...but one with an appallingly huge, poor underclass...  But even that has economic advantages... competition between those at the bottom of the heap (another the evolutionary principle) helps to keep wages and working conditions low, allowing greater profits for those at the top... and so long as the American dream, that anyone can make it to the top, endures, then our "selfish genes" will keep everyone looking out for themselves.
How can you have any sort of altruistic behaviour evolving against such a background? In evolutionary genetics there are two main drivers of altruistic behaviour. The first is Kin Selection, but it is a very limited sort of altruism, where you look after your own family in the hope that they will survive to share your genes. In the political sphere we've seen our fair share of nepotism down through the years, with politicians of all party hues... But the more interesting approach is that of Reciprocal Altruism, where creatures are effectively saying, "I'll scratch your back if at some time in the future it is statistically likely that you will scratch mine." Again this is a relatively limited form of altruism as this sort of payback is only really likely among tight knit groups...
For some time David Cameron, George Osborne and the other millionaires in the ConDem Coalition cabinet have told us that we are all in this together. In last weeks budget that was clearly demonstrated. In the face of a situation where services to the poor, the ill and the elderly are being cut, the rich also experienced cuts... Cuts to their tax bills... with a cut in the top rate of income tax, the justification being that it was hurting the economy. Never mind the unemployed public sector workers who are no longer paying tax and are now claiming "job seekers allowance", so long as those at the top of the pile are kept happy...
But we've seen all this before. Investment bankers mess up... poorer taxpayers bail them out... the bankers get bonuses and the taxpayers get laid off. Those at the top look after those at the top, while at the bottom, well, it's survival of the fittest.
Then this morning I wake up to the news that No 10 has admitted that the Tory treasurer has been selling access to the PM and Chancellor, and indirectly to the Cabinet Policy unit... well, they'll be able to pay for that access with the tax they'll save thanks to last week's budget, and the bonuses they received from the publicly owned banks... That is reciprocal altruism at work.
And it stinks...
I was critical of American economics and politics earlier (and will continue to be so) but against that background I have also seen some of the most stunning examples of genuine altruism possible... Churches running foodbanks, homeless shelters and soup kitchens; doctors, teachers and lawyers giving their time pro-bono to help the poor (especially the working poor, one of the most overlooked groups in the world of evolutionary economics)... Some engage in these programmes with an overt evangelistic intent, but most do so with no thought of payback (at least not in this world).
A few years ago when over observing such programmes with a group of Northern Ireland church leaders I foolishly suggested that we had less need of such fundamental poverty relief programmes because of our welfare state... Within 2 weeks of my return I realised my mistake in encountering 2 families who, for various reasons, could no longer put food on the table or money in their electric meter. That number has multiplied many times over since then and will radically increase in the wake of the recent wave of cuts and welfare reforms. Thankfully I have been able to draw on the help of agencies like Belfast Vineyard's Storehouse, Belfast Central Mission and St. Vincent de Paul (I'm very ecumenical when seeking help for others!) but the need is expanding.
What is needed is employment, say those at the top of the political and economic pile. And that is true. But where there are no jobs, what are they doing to help in the interim? Very, very little is the answer... Because evolutionary economics is the order of the day, and if you are not financially fit, or part of the in-crowd and cronies who can help out those in power, with your money or your vote (and we are sufficiently far away from elections for that not to matter), then God help you... because they won't, or perhaps can't...
And if truth be told, it may be down to God and the people of God... because it is grace and grace alone that may make the difference...



V. Stevenson said…
Mr Campton-

Perhaps at some stage you would care to explain why God allows/tolerates/uses pedophiles to help extend his kingdom.

I speak as one who was a victim of such a person.

My abuser-through his christian life lead many to Jesus, many of whom went on to be ordained ministers etc. Yet at the very same time he abused many boys ( over a period of 45yrs ), some of whom took their own lives. This happened in Northern Ireland, and is a matter of public record.

If there is a God, how could he tolerate such a thing?-by the same man.

I would be genuinely interested in your answer.

Thank you
And I am genuinely sorry that has been the experience of you and others. I'll let God answer for himself, but I believe that he brings all things and people to justice, and has made clear that those who prey on vulnerable children, especially under the cloak of righeousness. But I also hope that the person in question has or will face justice in the here and now, for your sake and the sake of other young people. I also hope you get the help you need to find genuine healing. I don't normally reply to off-thread comments but this is too important not to and if I can be of any real help please contact me via the site or by other means.
V. Stevenson said…
Thank you for your reply.

The issue for many of the victims, is not that of justice, but rather- how could God tolerate such a situation.

Our abuser was Dr Lindsay Brown, who was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. Our desire was not to seek justice, but a hope that the conviction would deter others, this has turned out to be a forlorn hope.

Through Lindsay Brown, many boys were lead to believe in Jesus, many went on to work full time in many Christian organisations. Lindsay's own Christian influence in Bangor Grammar School, Scripture Union, Crusader Bible Class, CSSM, Presbyterian Church, etc, has been immense and lasting. He has many prodigies in the ordained ministry, overseas missionary work, the list is endless, one is even an ordained theology professor here in NI

You mention-"those who prey...under the cloak of righteousness" but many victims ask how could there be a God who uses a man such as Lindsay, there are many people, who to this day, point to the influence of Lindsay, for leading them to faith, yet this same God also tolerates the same man abusing countless people, over a period of 45 years, devastating many victims, AND many of their families, yet you say "I'll let God answer for himself"

The issue for us, is that at many Christian events, Lindsay was leading boys to Jesus, and at the same event was abusing other boys. Yet while the kingdom was being greatly extended, this same God, (who can have no contact with sin), was tolerating the abuse of young innocent children.

I have asked many Christians if God would allow a pedophile to extend his kingdom, they have always replied in the negative.
Anonymous said…
Thank you. I have struggled to understand, as you ,the theological reasons that could allow such a God as we have grown up trusting to tolerate this. I can't and have subsequently distanced myself from the faith. Thank you for your searching and questioning that have prompted me to awaken from apathy and begin the search again..may that give you some glimmer of hope.I have no answers but share your deep pain.
V. Stevenson said…
To Anonymous

Thank you for your words. I wish there were more like you, who would take the question seriously.

I know that my questions are very simple, but I am always amazed, when Christians tell me that they are very sure of all the wonderful attributes of God, yet when the question of why does God tolerate dreadful suffering, we are instantly told - who can know the mind of God?

Added to this is the statement, well - justice will be done in the next life, and you have no right to question God. There is much that could be said about that, at another time.

I have been reading Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and in particular his commentary on Romans, he expressly states that a non Christian cannot be used to extend the kingdom of God, a non Christian is excluded from such activity. This is from his commentary of Romans 6:13, in his book "The New Man" pages 171/172.

Like many others, I was brought up in church, and taught that you are either under the domination of Satan, or under the domination of the grace of God. If Lindsay was under the domination of Satan, would Satan have "turned a blind eye" as Lindsay led others to Jesus?, I think not, after all, "Satan does not cast out Satan". Conversely, would God be prepared to allow Lindsay to abuse for 45years, while leading others to the kingdom?, the faith taught to me cannot be true.

The saga of Lindsay Brown, was one of the biggest scandals to ever hit Christianity in NI, it proves there is something seriously wrong with Christian teaching, but it has remained one of the biggest unanswered, and ignored questions, within the Christian community.
Apologies for my delay in getting back to you on this... I've been rationing my time on line recently for various reasons. When you initially outlined your experience, I suspected that I knew who you were talking about, as I knew him too, although not closely. He spoke at a number of SU events I attended as a boy. I can understand your need for clear answers, without ever being able to understand the trauma that you, and far too many other, have been through, at his hands and the hands of others who claimed to be servants of God. I don't claim to have a clear understanding of the mind of God a la Lloyd-Jones, but have known some people do evil things on the one hand, such as this, or stirring up political hatred, or betraying their wives, whilst at others clearly being used by God... the Bible is full of such people... Jacob, Moses, David, Saul... God even seems to refer to the pagan Persian Emperor as his instrument. So it's not straightforward... I'd love to say it was, but it isn't... and those who paint a simple black and white picture of God against the background of a world that is far from black and white does him, and those who are seeking to follow him, a disservice... because at some point that picture will be shown to be inadequate, and faith will be shattered... So this is NOT simply a pastoral issue, but a profound theological one too, as you have suggested. But this ongoing tension between the power of an omnipotent, all-loving sovereign God and his choice to give humanity free will, is one that has marked out some of the deepest faultlines in Christian theology, and one of the reasons I am a VirtualMethodist rather than VirtualCalvinist.
Not sure that too much more conversation on this thread would be terribly helpful, as there is always the danger of misreading tone etc. As I have said before, please (either of you) feel free to contact me by other means if you want to continue this conversation.
Am intrigued as to what, in particular, prompted you to leave your original comment on this blog post?
V. Stevenson said…
Dear Mr Campton

Thank you for your reply and time.

I do not doubt that you are much more aware than I am, that the greatest Christian proponent of the doctrine regarding freewill was St. Augustine. Yet this was the same man who also told us that if your child dies without Christian baptism, then the child, ( and I put this more politely than Augustine did ), the child will not be received into heaven. This is the unutterable horror that the Church taught, and told parents for about 1600 years. Can anybody begin to imagine what parents must have went through, the suffering and torment, if tragically they lost their child, and it was not baptized? What a dreadful man!

Yet many Christians ( not all ), still use the doctrine of freewill as their default position, when they give an explanation for suffering in this world. If suffering is due to the fact that we have freewill, what would be the point in Christians ( as I have often witnessed ), praying for God to intervene in many situations?, how often have we heard prayers asking God to "stay the hand of evil"? etc, etc, etc. But such prayers are senseless if you believe in freewill. When many Christians pray, they are asking God to interfere with freewill. When good things happen, Christians say that was due to God, good has triumphed over evil, but when evil triumphs, the Christians say, that is because of freewill. They say God allows these tragedies to happen, because he needs to allow us to exercise our freewill.

Even if the Christian argument of freewill had some merit,- and I don't see how it has,- that would still not answer why God allows the unutterable suffering caused by natural disasters, how on earth can Christians sing at harvest time "the wind and waves obey Him"?

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a retired policeman, he wanted to tell me what God had done for him,(before he became a christian), one night while on duty, a joy rider tried to run him down, he sustained terrible injuries, fortunately he survived, he and his family "knew" that God had intervened that night, and because God had saved his life, he gave his life to Jesus. I want to stress that he is a lovely man, and I respect his belief entirely. With as much humanity as I could muster, I asked him, why would God do that for you, and not for somebody else?-his answer was that he did not know.

I only mention the following because the folks concerned put it into the public arena themselves. And it is with as much human grace and tenderness as I can muster, that I would point out that the wife of a Methodist minster colleague of yours, has testified very openly that God miraculously healed her of cancer. I do not doubt their sincerity, and I deeply respect their integrity, and I am glad the lady's health improved.

My brother holds a Ph.D., he sincerely believes that when he prays for a parking space, God provides one. I do not say this glibly, it is a true record of his belief.

Billy Swann, openly and publicly, tells of how he and his wife told God, that they would serve him anywhere, but the South of Ireland-guess what?-God took him by the "scruff of the neck"-and now he is working for the Presbyterian Dublin Central Mission. Not too much freewill or nonintervention there.

Brother Yun, the "Heavenly Man"-God gets him out of prison in China, by unlocking doors and gates, by putting guards to sleep, and blinding them. Yet at the same time God ignores, and does not intervene to help Elisabeth Fritzel to escape.
V. Stevenson said…

At the same Christian camp, Lindsay Brown leads a boy to Jesus, yet at the very same camp, God does nothing to stop Lindsay abusing another boy. So apparently freewill decided which boy would become a follower of Jesus at that camp, and which boy would be abused. Yet God's hands are tied, because of freewill. Yet-actually we do see God intervening when he chooses. You mention a certain pagan Persian Emperor, from my understanding God used him as an instrument to punish his people, not too much freewill there. Indeed if God can intervene with a pagan Persian Emperor, he did not have to use/tolerate/allow Lindsay to sow such havoc on boys for 45years.

Christians tell me that God is loving, kind, intrinsically good, they tell me God loves them, that God makes them feel so good while they sing and pray in church, but when the obvious and compelling evidence is pointed out, that God tolerates injustice, given the misery that is being imposed on some helpless child right this instant, I am told that God is mysterious, who can know his mind, who can understand God's will?

Freewill?-not even the demons have freewill, in the story of Job, God gave Satan permission to take away Job's wealth, not too much freewill there. In the story of the demon filled man of Gadara, the demons could not even enter the pigs without permission from Jesus, not too much freewill there.

Mr Campton if you are still reading this, I want to say that the following is obviously no responsibility of yours.

Long before Lindsay was arrested, I thought I was his only victim, but the older I became, and with a family of my own developing, I told some Christians of serious concerns I had about Lindsay, these were brushed off by them, and they continued to be very involved in camps with him. When Lindsay was finally arrested, of which I had no part, I was devastated to learn that so many others had been abused. Christians continued to say that the charges were not true, at the court we the victims were called liars by the Christians, at the sentencing, the trial Judge stated that many hundreds of letters of support for Lindsay had been handed to the court. The Judge noted in his remarks that not one letter contained regret, or concern for the victims. He read out one letter, from a CofI rector(now a Bishop), which asked for mitigation for Lindsay, and praising all the good work he had done.
The victims never even received an apology, from such a large group of Christians, and when I asked some of them, how do they explain all that had happened etc, they say it changes nothing in their faith, and who are you to question God, its just "business as usual", they don't have to answer me. Yet this same group of Christians, are more worried about a CofI Dean in the South Of Ireland, a lovely man, who has never harmed anybody, yet these Christians demand to know what the Dean is doing in his bedroom, because they think their faith is offended! And they want him out. But the saga of Lindsay causes them no problem!
V. Stevenson said…

Again this is not your problem, but the Protestant Churches have been deafening in their silence, about all child abuse in this land. I often think of the father of a victim in the Cloyne Diocese, who unable to live with what had happened to his son, took his own life. I often think of victims who could not cope due to Lindsay. I have no faith now at all. But what is faith?-what or who is God?-what is Christianity? There seems to be billions of gods, because even each Christian seems to have their own concept, and tailor made God, different to the next Christian. I know a highly respected, ordained, Methodist theologian and philosopher who openly says that Calvinism is from hell, and deeply means it.

If your still reading-to answer your question- why this blog post? I came across it by accident, and I read your post about the Murphy Report (Dublin Diocese), you said,
you did not care if somebody was a priest, you did not care if they were a bishop, or an archbishop, children come first

Why should it be that in order to satisfy some theological nicety, or philosophical supposed truth, do children not come first?

I think you should take one step further

I don't care if somebody is even a God/god, children come first

I was prompted to leave a comment on your blog, hoping that maybe you will tell your god-that children come first.

Thank you for reading this.
Thank you for writing it.
I'd love to have some easy answers for you... but I don't... I don't even have hard ones... You raise some questions that I have wrestled with myself at times, but never from your perspective...
I am dreadfully sorry for what you have experienced in your life from those who claim to be followers of Christ, not only Lindsay, but those who supported him and denied the testimony of his victims... He fooled a lot of people for a long, long time.
I genuinely would like to meet with you some time to talk... not with any particular expectation that I can help you, but perhaps you can help me as I seek to understand what you, and others like you, have gone and are going through...
V.Stevenson said…
I'll contact you through your site, to arrange a suitable time for you.


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