The courts themselves have always drawn upon that standard. There is no written rule of conduct to cover every situation that might arise. One of the most famous cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involved two men and a boy (the only survivors of a ship that sank) drifting for days in a lifeboat. The men decided that it was better to kill the boy than for all three to die for lack of water and sustenance. Evidence produced in court demonstrated that had they not killed the boy, all three indeed would have died. No legislative body had ever written a law to cover such a situation. Nonetheless, the court, drawing upon a higher source of right and wrong, found the two men guilty of murder.
No one has the right to take another’s innocent life to save oneself. That rule is written in our conscience. But it is the very opposite of everything that evolution, were it true, would produce as instinctive reaction. Self-preservation is the law of the jungle and enforced by tooth and claw without compassion. Respect for others is highly regarded among humans, and survival of the fittest could never produce it. Everywhere in nature, creatures kill and feed upon one another. We consider that normal and ourselves feed upon lower life forms that we have killed for our sustenance.
At the same time, however, we know it is wrong to murder other human beings of whatever color, race, or creed. The random motions of atoms in our brains that presumably all began with a big bang and have proceeded by chance ever since could never produce the moral understanding that is common to all. Nor can moral conviction or compassion for others be explained by any evolutionary process. In fact, “survival of the fittest” would be undermined by, and could never produce, conscience and ethical concerns.
Yet the solider who falls on an enemy hand grenade to save the lives of his buddies (as some have done), or the policemen and firemen who gave their lives in the attempt to rescue others on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was brought down by terrorists, are admired as heroes. A consistent materialist/evolutionist view would have to denounce as utterly senseless the risking of one’s own life to save the lives of total strangers. In spite of the predominant instinct of self-preservation, however, self-sacrificial deeds are admired and given the highest praise by society. How can that be, if we are products of evolution? When did evolution do away with the instinctive law of the jungle that is so essential to survival of the fittest?