Non-Christians have rightfully waxed sarcastic about evangelicals who claim, after doing something horrible, "the devil made me do it." I'm developing a file of articles and book excerpts that display the secular alternative: "Evolution made me do it."
Today's example is courtesy of The New York Times, regularly a fount of inspiration. Columnist Frank Bruni, commenting on a forthcoming HBO documentary and a book-The Weight of the Nation-to be published next month, proposes that "fatness, even obesity, is less a lurking danger than a likely destiny."
About two-thirds of American adults now qualify as overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but such folks, according to Bruni, "may be doing nothing more or less than what comes naturally to us. Our current circumstances and our current circumferences may in fact be a toxically perfect fit. … Many of us do what we're chromosomally hard-wired to."
Bruni quotes Thomas A. Farley, New York City's health commissioner: "We're simply not genetically programmed to refuse calories when they're within arm's reach."
He quotes John Hoffman, an executive producer of the documentary: "Evolutionarily, there was no condition that existed when we were living with too much fat storage."
He quotes Michael L. Power and Jay Schulkin from their book The Evolution of Obesity: "We evolved on the savannahs of Africa. We now live in Candyland."
Nice line, but it goes for just about everything in America. We have hundreds of television channels and millions of books from which to choose. Pornography is a click or two away, drugs are often a block or two away, and adultery may only be a moment or two away. What Bruni says about food we could and should realize about many things: "The battle is perpetual and maddeningly nuanced."
The HBO documentary quotes David Altshuler, an endocrinologist and geneticist: "We underestimate how hard it is to change your behavior not once-not for a week or a month until you're cured-but to change it every day for the rest of your life."
Yes, it's hard. The Bible makes it clear that by ourselves we do not win. We often hear debates between the "nature" and "nurture" camps, but a third ingredient is vital: God's grace.