This is a little quiz. What is wrong with the following assertion by Gary Palmer of the Alabama Policy Institute in a column he penned in favor of Rick Perry’s assertion that mankind was created by God?
In America, the rights of man are inseparably linked to the origin of man. If mankind evolved from the slime of the earth as the result of a completely random mixture of chemicals and elements, then he obviously has no Creator. If there is no Creator, then there is no endowment of rights and the Declaration’s assertion that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” is meaningless. If man has no rights that pre-date government, then any rights we may have are not unalienable and we are simply at the mercy of government.
Where to begin? First, by what premise does he conclude that the rights of man are inseparably linked to the origin of man? Where is the evidence? The principle author of the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Jefferson, whose cut and paste bible would make a Southern Christian blush. Jefferson, and most of the Founders, were considered to be Deists, men who believed there was a God, but not necessarily the same entity as the King James described, else Jefferson wouldn’t have cut out all the references to miracles he found in his bible. If there are no miracles, then it is profoundly obvious that man is in fact a creature of the slime. I, for one, find the “miracle” of evolution most remarkable. To imagine that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent entity like God was so clever as to have promulgated evolutionary rules that would result in the grandeur and beauty that we see around us, human and otherwise, fills my breast with awe. How Great Thou Art!
The lie that Declaration’s signatories actually believed that all men are created equal is evident in the number of rather unequal men held as slaves by the bunch. And in their treatment of women. The idea has really never been implemented in the history of the republic. Investment bankers are obviously today more equal than factory workers and homeowners, else all the government largesse directed at them might have been employed elsewhere.
Whether rights pre-date government is a trickier one. All men, in all times, have had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For Neolithic man, this meant the right to hunt and gather and fish and fend off wild animals and other humans. It is only the advent of governments, arising with civilization, that compelled men to sacrifice some of those rights for the benefits accruing to participation in society. Rights in society have always been subject to the rights of others, elsewise either tyranny or anarchy obtains.
Our government was not founded by men that believed as Rick Perry apparently believes. Taken in context, the Declaration is simply one group of white men of European (mostly English) ancestry proclaiming rights that exist without need of the King’s beneficence. In that regard, it is one massive rationalization for why they no longer have to submit to the King’s prerogatives, as they had concluded the benefits of membership in the British Empire outweighed its costs. How it is conceived that the Declaration depends upon mankind being the product of creation instead of evolution (even though evolution, in my view of things, is as much creation by a higher power as is Rick Perry’s view of mankind’s origination), is completely and utterly beyond my feeble comprehension abilities.