Why Evolutionary “Just So” Stories Fail

by Sean McDowell

During my graduate philosophy work at Talbot, I took an independent study on Darwinism and intelligent design. My guiding professor, Dr. Garry Deweese, had me read books on both sides of the debate, including Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins.

It was during this study that I began to understand the concept of a “just-so” story, and it has stuck with me ever since. Essentially, to save the Darwinian paradigm, Darwinists sometimes come up with logically possible, but evidentially unsubstantiated stories to account for some recalcitrant feature in the natural world (yes, Christian apologists can sometimes be accused of doing the same thing to explain apparent contradictions in the Bible. But that is a story for another time).

For instance, evolution has been used to explain why men (allegedly) prefer blondes to brunettes, why humans like to burn their mouths with hot chilies, and the origin of religion.

On a more serious (and common) note, many Darwinists aim to provide an evolutionary explanation for morality. As it is often claimed, morality is a tool for survival. After all, if we didn’t have principles such as faithfulness, promise keeping, and honesty, we couldn’t function as a society. Society would crumble if there were no moral code. A belief that there is a real right and wrong helps species survive and flourish.

Now, morality certainly could, at least in principle, provide an evolutionary advantage to a particular species. If a group of human beings, for instance, lacked any moral compass, they would arguably be less likely to survive than a tribe committed to courage, honesty, and chastity. But this possible explanation fails to explain how morality evolved in the first place. Rather than providing an actual mechanism for the evolution of morality, the evolutionist offers a benefit of evolution, and then assumes his job is done.

But this misses the point…


Why Evolutionary “Just So” Stories Fail – Sean McDowell