briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

It’s Tuesday, January 28, 2020. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Why Do Humans Love Babies? Evolutionists and Christians Answer the Question Differently

The media are, right now, looking at an array of stories, and they are of course providing no shortage of headlines, but today I want us to step back just a moment and look at some issues that have not received widespread press attention, but in worldview analysis, there is a lot for us to consider here. For example, an article that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal by Alison Gopnik is in the mind and matter column of that newspaper, and the headline is this: “Humans Evolved to Love Baby Yoda.”

Now, Baby Yoda is of course exactly what you expected for us to be talking about on The Briefing today, and most of you know that the character appears on the Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian. This is not Yoda as a baby, it is rather a baby of the same species that is, in popular culture now, commonly referred to as Baby Yoda. Thus the headline, “Humans Evolved to Love Baby Yoda.”

Now, there’s a serious issue behind this article, and that is asking the question, why are we so attracted to infants? Now, of course in moral terms, this is primarily about why we are so attracted to human infants, but in reality the infants and young offspring of almost every species are the cutest among them. Who doesn’t like looking at a kitty or a puppy, or for that matter, a young lion or a tiger or a giraffe? Crowds turn out in massive numbers to see a newborn baby lion, and across oceans people get excited about the good news of the birth in a zoo of a baby hippo. But when we’re talking about human beings, we are talking about the fact that human infants are not only extremely attractive and they are incredibly cute, but they also seemingly have the ability to make us interested in them and want us to take care of them.

Now, just consider the fact that if you are operating from a completely secular, naturalistic, materialistic worldview, if you are operating from the worldview of evolution and Darwinism, then you’re going to have to explain why parents in particular love babies, and why other people love babies as well and why they give attention to them and care about them. Now, the answer to that for Christians will be obvious, but forget that for just a moment and imagine we’re not thinking about this as Christians, but rather trying to think about this as someone who is committed to an evolutionary worldview would have to think about it. Thus that’s why the Alison Gopnik article is interesting, because she is honestly trying to explain why human beings have evolved to care about babies.

Now, one of the principle functions of evolution is to explain the continuation of a species. To state the matter plainly, if you are talking about human beings, you’re talking about a species that in infancy requires an amount of care and attentiveness. Alison Gopnik begins her article, “Like many people with children or grandchildren, I spent December watching the new Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian. Across America, the show led to a remarkable Christmas truce among bitterly competing factions, rural or urban, Democrat or Republican. We all love Baby Yoda.” She continues, “In case you spent the last month in a monastic retreat, Baby Yoda is the weird but irresistibly adorable creature who is the heart of the series.” He isn’t actually Yoda, but a baby of the same species, it’s explained. “The Mandalorian, a ferocious bounty hunter in a metal helmet, takes on the job of hunting down Baby Yoda, but ends up rescuing and caring for him instead. This means finding snacks and sitters and keeping the baby from playing with the knob on the star ship gearshift.”

Now at this point, however, the summary of The Mandalorian and the saga of Baby Yoda is only the way of getting to Alison Gopnik’s deeper concern. Why is it that we care about infants anyway? She asked the question, “Why did the Mandalorian and the whole internet love Baby Yoda so much? The answer,” she says, “may tell us something profound about human evolution. Humans,” she says, “have a particularly long and helpless infancy. Our babies depend upon older caregivers for twice as long as chimp babies do. As a result,” she says, “we need more varied caregiving. Chimp mothers look after their babies by themselves,” but as she continues here, “the great anthropologist, Sarah Hardy pointed out in her 2009 book, Mothers and Others, human mothers have always been assisted by fathers, grandparents, and alloparents.” If that’s a new word to you, that is A-L-L-O before parents. That means, as she explains, people who look after other folks’ children. “No human animal,” she writes,” has so many different kinds of caregivers.”

Now as Gopnik is operating from an exclusively evolutionary worldview, she doesn’t find it so hard to explain why evolution, as she would say, has produced mothers who take care of their offspring. But the larger, more complex question is why those who aren’t mothers would take care of the offspring, those identified here by the anthropologist as alloparents. Now, if you are a caregiver caring for an infant, not your own offspring, then, as Gopnik explains, you are a facultative caregiver. She says, “Meaning that they only provide care in certain circumstances and not others,” but this is where the article gets even more interesting. “Once they are committed to a baby, however, they may be just as devoted and effective as biological mothers.” She continues, “The key factor seems to be the very act of caregiving itself. We don’t take care of babies because we love them. Instead, like the Mandalorian, we love babies once we start taking care of them.”

Now still operating out of this entirely evolutionary worldview, we are told the human babies are attractive in unique ways to other human beings. They have little noses and fat cheeks, and somehow the evolutionists explain, that makes them irresistibly cute such that we want to pick them up and care for them. But the anthropologists cited in this article say that it is not merely their appearance. “The way a baby acts is just as important as the way it looks. Even though babies can’t talk, they gesture and make eye contact. Studies show,” she says, “that human infants already understand and react to the emotions and desires of others. Those anthropologists “argue that these very early abilities for social cooperation and emotional intelligence evolved to help attract caregivers.”

So in other words, it just so happens that human infants have evolved to act in ways that make people want to care for them. The sneaky little creatures make us want to care for them, and once we start to care for them, according to this theory, we start to feel for them and we bond with them, and before long, we’re feeding them and investing in their college tuition plans.

Here’s the summary of her thesis and review of current research. The anthropologist “also suggests that once these abilities were in place in babies, they allowed more cooperation between adults as well. All of those mothers and fathers and alloparents parents had to coordinate their efforts to take care of the babies, so,” she says, “there was a kind of benign evolutionary circle. As babies became more socially skilled, they were better at attracting caregivers, and when they grew up they became better caregivers themselves.”

So, she says, the arc of The Mandalorian is also the story of human evolution. Now here we go. Let’s just think about this for a moment. Evolutionists have to explain everything entirely in terms of evolution, because evolution is a comprehensive theory. It claims to be able to explain virtually everything. It has to explain everything, because it denies that there is anything beyond the material world. If there’s nothing beyond the material world, then the material world has to be self-explanatory, and somehow we have to explain how in the world it is that these human infants have developed these sneaky plans that are so effective at making us love them and bond with them and consider them cute and attractive, and then interact with them in such a way that again, sneaky as they are, they make us continue to take care of them and feed them.

Well, for one thing, if we’re thinking about this as Christians, here is further evidence of the incompatibility of the evolutionary worldview and the biblical worldview. You really can’t cut the question halfway. You either believe in materialism or you believe in a theistic God-created universe. There really is no middle position. If you do believe in a divinely designed universe created out of nothing for the glory of God according to what he has revealed in Scripture, then you have a very different understanding of why human beings care for their babies, why mothers love their offspring, why mothers and fathers care for their children and protect them and sacrifice for them. Why, indeed, to his own glory, God made human infants so needy for so long, human babies, newborn human beings, so incompetent at so many basic life functions that we have to care for them, and in the act of caring for them, we see an illustration, for example, of God’s love for us. As we shall see, this is actually revealed in the text of Scripture.

So in one sense, we look at this and evidently shaking our heads and frustrated, even heartbroken over the sterility of this worldview. Not too long ago, a teenage student asked me how I would, in a debate, pose the hardest question to an evolutionist. I said, “For me, it’s simple. Ask the evolutionist, why does a mother love her child?” If you are an evolutionist, then you simply have to explain that that is a behavior pattern that evolved in both biology and in human behavior over time, so that the species would be continued. Period. There is nothing special to it. It is just an evolutionary mechanism. Any honest Darwinist, any honest evolutionist would have to admit that’s all there is, because they have to admit that’s all there could be according to their worldview.

But we’re not looking at this merely shaking our heads. We’re also looking at this thankful to the fact that God not only has created the universe, but that he has spoken to us and he’s given us the Scriptures to explain this. He does explain why parents love their children. It is because he first loved us, and it is because he created us in his image in such a way that we love our children as a reflection of how he as Creator loves us. He made us in his image, which means we have a consciousness and a knowledge. We have a capacity to engage with our children, even to communicate with our children and to envision a future for our children that is unique to the human being, precisely because we’re the only creature made in God’s image.

Furthermore, we understand that love is something real. It is not just some kind of evolutionary mechanism disguised as some kind of emotion. It is a reality. Indeed, it is a reality that comes before we are ever born and continues throughout eternity, because, as the very first Bible verse I ever memorized as a child says, “God is love.”

On earth, a mother’s love for her child, or for that matter, a parent’s love for the child, both mother and father, it’s one of the pictures of the kingdom of Christ. It’s one of the pictures of the perfection of creation. It’s one of the pictures that is a reflection to us of the love of God, writ small in the miniature life of one single family, mother, father, and children. By the way, why do we care for the children of others? It is because made in the image of God, we care. Love of neighbors certainly extends and even begins with love for other children, and of course Jesus modeled this himself as he invited children to come to himself.

What we’re looking at here is just a profound distinction between the biblical worldview and the evolutionary worldview showing up unexpectedly in an article with the headline, “Humans Evolved to Love Baby Yoda.” Set Baby Yoda aside for a moment. Human beings did not evolve, and we certainly did not evolve to love our babies. It is actually impossible for me to believe that in an honest way, evolutionists truly believe inside the deep recesses of their hearts that they really only love their children in order for evolution to continue the species. I don’t think they actually believe that, but somehow millions of people around us have convinced themselves, yes, that’s what they actually believe.

Part II

Father’s Quick Action Rescues Son from Mountain Lion Attack: Why? Big Worldview Implications Lurk in the Headlines

By the way, along these lines, another story like this appeared recently, a headline came at CNN: “A three-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion and a California wilderness park. The animal was euthanized.” All kinds of worldview dimensions here, but CNN reports, “A mountain lion has been euthanized after attacking a three-year-old boy in a Southern California wilderness park. A family of six was out for a walk at the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Orange County when the animal approached, according to Orange County Fire Authority. The young boy was leading the family when a mountain lion grabbed the boy by the neck and began dragging him away. The boy’s quick-thinking dad,” we are told, “threw his backpack at the animal, distracting it. The mountain lion dropped the boy, grabbed the bag and climbed up in a tree. The child was transported to a nearby hospital and is now in stable condition.”

Why are we looking at this story? Well, for a couple of reasons, one more important than the other. The most important thing for us to recognize is that what this father did when he saw his three-year-old attacked by a mountain lion is fight back. In this case, he fought back with a backpack, and he fought back successfully. Now, this had to happen in split seconds. It had to happen without forethought. It had to happen without premeditation. It had to happen because this is what fathers do when their little boys are attacked. This is what parents do, mothers and fathers, when their children are in danger. They act, and I’m absolutely convinced that they do not act primarily and exclusively because there’s some kind of evolutionary mechanism that requires them to react in order to protect their children, because otherwise the species would come to an end. No, I think we know there’s a lot more to it than that.

I said there’s a second issue. The second issue is that the mountain lion was euthanized after attacking the child. Now, you’ll notice that we’re living in a day of so much confusion over animal rights and human rights, and you’ll notice that hypothetically, there are so many people who are arguing that animals ought to have the same rights as human beings. Well, if animals ought to have the same rights as human beings, then this mountain lion should have been arrested and then offered some kind of violence counseling rather than being euthanized. But at least at this point, from what I can tell in the media, even the most radical animal rights activist has not suggested that it is the boy who was at fault when the mountain lion attacked, and the euthanization of the mountain lion, though certainly sad in the death of an animal in the wilderness, is something that does make sense when you understand that the life of a three- year-old boy is infinitely more important than the life of a mountain lion.

Part III

16? 18? 21? 25? Never? When Do Humans Really Become Adults? It’s Actually an Urgent Question

But then next, another very interesting article raising a basic question. This is an article that appeared just days ago in the New York Times. The article’s by Maria Kramer, and the headline of the article, “A Lawmaking Quandary: When Are You An Adult?” Well, what the reporter here is talking about was proposed legislation in Vermont that actually was never meant to be taken seriously. John Rogers, a Vermont state Senator and he’s identified as a fierce gun rights advocate, offered the legislation that stated, “In light of the dangerous and life threatening consequences of cell phone use by young people, it is clear that persons under 21 years of age are not developmentally mature enough to safely possess them,” so he proposed a bill outlawing the use of cell phones by anyone in Vermont under age 21.

Well, as the reporter says, this was really not serious legislation, but no doubt it was meant to make a serious point. As Kramer reports, “It was in part a rebuke of a law of Vermont passed in 2018 that banned the sale of firearms to most people under 21 in an attempt to show the absurdity of allowing 18-year-olds to go to war, but forbidding them from enjoying the constitutional rights and vices afforded to older Americans.” But my interest today on The Briefing is not so much about Vermont or specifically gun rights, but rather the more basic and fundamental question that Maria Kramer also recognizes in the background of her story. It’s this: when are we truly grown up? When is a human being authentically an adult?

As Kramer writes, “It is a question that is possessed both poets and lawmakers, but,” she says, “there is not much clarity in state laws.” Now get this: “In, Alaska teenagers as young as 14 could get married with a court order. Only a handful of states allow drinking under 21, and that is under strict circumstances like when a parent or legal guardian is present. 18-year-old adults can run for office, go to strip clubs, be sentenced to life in prison, and volunteer to go to war or be drafted, but as of last December,” she reports, “they cannot vape or smoke tobacco products. And,” she says, “since 1984 when states began raising the legal age of drinking to 21 from 18, they’ve not been able to buy a beer at a bar in most of the United States. A restriction,” she says, “that has infuriated college students ever since.”

Where did all this confusion come from? Well, in previous generations and in previous eras in the United States, adulthood was primarily considered functionally, not so much by a chronological age. But when you had the regime of laws, and especially in the aftermath of prohibition, when people had to decide on passing legislation that would authorize some people to drink but not others, they decided on age 21, because at that point, age 21 was the age at which Americans could vote. Well, there’s a number. 21. That’s an interesting fact. How did that come up? Well, it was arbitrary. It was just decided that 21 sounded better than either 20 or 22. There was no magic about it at all. But when the voting age was lowered to 18, many states lowered the alcohol drinking age to the same, but that turned out to have very bad consequences, and thus the federal government began putting pressure on the states to raise the age of legal drinking from 18 to 21. But then, as Kramer points out in this article, psychologists and medical authorities came back saying that actually the human brain continues developing an adolescent developmental pattern all the way through about age 25.

Kramer then asked the question, “When is an adult still a child?” She says, “It’s a question that April Alexander, a psychology professor at the University of Denver, often gets from her graduate students, and that has become even more fraught with the growing research around the development of the juvenile brain.” This professor said in answer, “We don’t have a clear answer for them. The scientific consensus that most brains do not fully develop until age 25 has led to a host of reforms in the criminal justice system and re-examination about how society should punish young adults. But,” as Kramer says, “it has also fed that confusion over what young adults should be allowed to do when scientists know that they use less restraint and discipline than older people.” That according to Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University and founder of that school’s Child and Family Advocacy Clinic.

“We’re constantly trying to balance the rights to protection and the rights to participation.” Professor Binford continued, “We are a society that loves its liberty, but we’re also a society that recognizes that children are unique and special and deserving of protection.” So when does a child become an adult, and how many adults are actually still children? It is fascinating that in the year 2020 we are now confronting this kind of question in legislatures, on college and university campuses, in courtrooms, and in prisons, and for that matter in the New York Times, and even more pressingly in churches, and even more urgently than that, in families.

It is really interesting as we think about biblical theology to recognize that the Bible never gives an age. There is no chronological age that is given, but rather there is a very clear distinction between childhood and adulthood. It’s understood in the Scriptures that there’s a transition between childhood and adulthood, and thus there are references to youth. We understand that. There’s something between childhood in its early years and adulthood, and that comes with physical maturity and puberty and the ability to reproduce, but it also comes with the capacity for complex analytical cognition. That is the ability to think in analytical terms, to analyze. That’s an ability that adolescents have that children don’t have. A four-year-old child thinks, but a 14-year-old thinks about thinking. That’s a very different act.

It is interesting to note that we have this phenomenon of extended adolescence in the United States right now, but that again is not primarily a matter of number. It is primarily a matter of function and faculty and behavior. That’s the biblical worldview. The biblical worldview tells us that when you are looking at the distinction between a child and a youth and an adult, and primarily between, say, a youth and an adult or a child and an adult, the main difference is maturity and responsibility and wisdom. All those become very clear in Scripture. This basic structure is found in the Old Testament, but it is explicit in the New Testament. We are even told that Jesus himself grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. We have the Apostle Paul who says, in  1 Corinthians 13:11, that when he was a child, he thought as a child and he reasoned as a child, but now he’s become a man. There again, a very big difference.

You have the same thing when you have Paul’s chastening of the congregation that now requires milk rather than meat. That’s also in 1 Corinthians 3:2, where Paul tells them they should be able now to receive meat, but instead they are immature, requiring milk. There is a picture of infancy. That is not a compliment to the congregation. It’s a reminder that they are to grow into maturity. That is to say into a spiritual adulthood. Similarly, in the Book of Hebrews 5, we are told that there are Christians who still need milk when they should be ready for meat. That is to say they shouldn’t require nursing, they should be chewing. There again a very clear functional definition of the distinction between an infant and a child, and between a child and an adult.

But in Scripture, there is more, and this is also important, in Scripture an adult is one who acts as an adult. The hallmarks in this case of adulthood aren’t physical or psychological. Primarily, they are functional. They are tied to responsibilities. Throughout human history and in the Christian Church, based upon a biblical worldview, an adult has been recognized generally as someone who has completed education, who now is engaged in a job or profession or is fulfilling an adult responsibility. This would include gloriously a mom at home with her children, a homemaker in the home, as well as a lawyer in the courtroom or a doctor in the surgical suite. The same thing would pertain. It is also generally tied to marriage and family, and if not marriage, then deployment, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7, for the cause of the gospel, for the glory of Christ. The arrival of marriage and then a family and the establishment of a home—all of these have been understood primarily as the hallmarks of adulthood.

Well, there are some interesting issues here, especially as they relate to the criminal justice system. No doubt legislators and others, college authorities do have to come up with some basic chronological numbers, because if you are dealing with a large population, you don’t have much choice than to operate on some kind of numerical system. But in reality, if we are a society in 2020, a society that doesn’t know who an adult is, that goes a long way in explaining the other problems we see driven throughout our society as we know it.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

As we’re speaking about young people growing into Christian adulthood, I just want to remind you it’s an exciting time right now at Boyce College. I want to invite prospective college students to the Boyce College Preview Day on Friday, March 27th. Listeners to The Briefing can register for the event at no cost. You’ll join about 250 perspective students and families for Boyce’s preview event. You’ll have the chance to tour the campus, meet our nationally recognized faculty, and learn about our 19 academic programs. Hotel lodging is provided for those who attend. Register online at, and use the code “thebriefing” to register for free. That’s all one word, “thebriefing.”

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And I say this to all you children, young people, and adults out there: I will meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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