Endowed, Not Evolved: Why Man’s Origin Matters to Our Rights

By Gary Palmer

The recent attack against Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s belief that mankind was created by God raises deeper questions than the usual “evolution” questions.

It appears that there is more to these protests than concerns for science or the typical hypersensitivity that many liberals have any time a high-profile leader says anything that disputes their orthodoxy concerning the origin of man. Skepticism about the belief that man is the product of random chance or evolved in the same way as other species strikes at the core of what some people believe about man and government.

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.

Moreover, the whole scope and purpose of government is changed. If there are no endowed rights that precede government, the Declaration’s assertion that the legitimate purpose of government is “to secure these rights” is also meaningless. Rather than deriving its power from the consent of the people for the purpose of protecting the people’s God-given rights, government becomes the originator of all rights and the grantor of all benefits and entitlements.

It is clear that the Founding Fathers agreed wholeheartedly with the Declaration’s assertion that we have a Creator whose law of human rights precedes and supersedes all laws of man and government. To believe anything else would deprive them of the firm basis for the form of government they designed: a government whose purpose was to protect their God-given rights and whose power is derived from the consent of the people. Sam Adams and James Otis wrote, “the right of freedom being the gift of God almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift.” They added, “There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the law of nature, and the grant of God almighty, who has given all men a natural right to be free ….”

Alexander Hamilton wrote, “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among parchments and musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” And Thomas Jefferson, the principle author of the Declaration, wrote that the sole basis for American freedom was the conviction among the people “that these liberties are the gift of God.”

Consequently, attacking those who believe that God created man extends well beyond an argument about the origins of life; it is also includes the origins of our government and the relationship between the people and the government as understood and intended by our Founding Fathers. The entire blueprint of the United States is based on a belief that God made man and that He endowed all men, regardless of their race or religion-or absence of religion-with unalienable rights. If man is nothing more than the result of millions of years of random processes, then there is no basis for our rights other than the dictates of whatever government happens to be in power.

If we are not God’s creation, then it is logical to conclude that every supposition for the purpose and scope of government as understood by our Founding Fathers is irrelevant and subject to repeal. If we, as a nation, no longer believe that our rights are endowed by our Creator, then those rights are not unalienable and we have no basis for complaint when federal bureaucrats or activist judges take them away.

In that regard, a politician’s belief about the origin of man could well be an insight into what they believe about our unalienable rights and the power of government over us. A recent Rasmussen poll indicated that 69 percent of Americans no longer believe our current government has the consent of the people to govern.

Consequently, the debate over the origin of man has a deep importance to our nation.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

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