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Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:23 PM

Morality via evolution and creation

I've been having an online fight with this character about morals and how humans came to have them. He states that evolution could never have created morality because if a certain adaptation came along that made morality harmful to the species, it would need to be bred out. I pointed out to him that religion didn't necessarily create moral beings and pointed out the atrocities in the bible to prove it. However, he's the kind that needs to have the last word and he's been going off on tangents throwing scientific atheist philosophers to me that say this, that and the other.

In any event, morality in evolved humans vs. the Abrahamic God of the Bible is something that I can't wrap my head around. First, you have this Supreme Being that places his most elevated and beloved creation in a paradisaical land and leaves them telling them that every fruit of every tree they see they can eat, but the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is off-limits. You'll die and all that good stuff. Capische? Well, we all know the rest of the story. But, we also know that the couple was innocently amoral. They didn't know they were doing something wrong to begin with because they had no knowledge of good and evil. It wasn't until they partook of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that they discovered it's meaning. They had no morals until they learned them from the tree they were forbidden to eat from. Then, God punished them and billions of their descendants with suffering and death for millenia to come. All the pain and agony of the world for their one innocent transgression. He told two-year old kids it was dangerous to play with matches and then left them right where they could reach them and punished them for the rest of their lives.

The Gnostic Christians actually believe that the talking snake, Satan, was some sort of Promethean figure; that like Prometheus gave humans fire, Satan gave humans free will and freed them from the shackles of the Demi-Urge, the tyrant creator of the earth who was a lesser, petulant god.

But, the question of human morality remains. Evolution most certainly likes to assure species survival. If individuals within a species remain fiercely aggressive and fight each other constantly, survival will be impeded. It's to the benefit of the species to learn co-operation and to get along with each other. We all learned this in biology classes or by watching Nova or reading up on any of the science books that made us question religion and become atheists. And it all goes back to the question we all asked when we were learning religion at our elder's knees and they told us God created everything and we asked, "Well, who created God?"

Yeah, Creationists. How did God come to be around? If the universe didn't get created on it's own, how did God get created? Who created him? And if someone created him, who created that other guy (gal) who bestowed on us these wonderful morals and this wonderful universe?

So, this is how it's supposed to go. God was moral. He created amoral humans. He didn't want them to have any morals. The immoral Satan enticed them toward the tree that would open their eyes toward morality. God punished humans and billions of their progeny for obtaining the morals that they hadn't known they shouldn't have had. Was Satan objectively evil for giving them the knowledge of good and evil? Was God objectively good for having the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to begin with and then punishing his creation for innocently breaking his command when they didn't know it was wrong to do so? And then for his monstrous, draconian punishment of cursing them and the entire human race? All the hunger, war, murder, and evil in the world stems from his hissy fit because he was enraged that his innocent creation didn't follow a command that they didn't know was wrong not to follow.

God was the objective evil. He was supposed to be the greatest force for good, but he created man so he could destroy him. If he was omniscient, why didn't he know about the outcome of his experiment with man? Had he always intended for humans to be obedient lap dogs that never had any free will of their own; that always followed him sunnily, basking in His glory and never having an independent thought?

I'm a believer in Occam's Razor. The simplest answer is usually the correct one. The convoluted story in Genesis has been making heads explode and creating layers and layers of additional myth and apologists to try and explain the inexplicable for thousands of years. Evolution is direct creation, without the middleman. And it's liberating knowing that if I commit an act of evil, I won't be tormented in some afterlife for it; I can make restitution and a judgmental god won't be keeping tabs. And if I perform acts that are good, it's not some bribe to get in any deity's good graces.

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Response to Rozlee (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:36 PM

1. Conversely

If a trait arose that helped communal animals survive and thrive as a group, that trait would come to dominate. That would explain the evolution of social rules -- morality -- in a social species.

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Response to DavidDvorkin (Reply #1)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 02:06 PM

8. Exactly what happened.

If we'd been a solitary species, we'd have probably been less inclined to form attachments and follow any rules except those of territoriality. Being social creatures, we benefited from co-operation and stemming aggression.

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Response to Rozlee (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 02:59 PM

2. There's literally hundreds of other animal examples of

 

compassion and mutual caring, within dozens of species, ( chimps, of curse, are the most relevant examples, since we share a common ancestor 7 million years back).

And we don't need to limit this study of examples to the ape creatures, or even to other mammals, (where the entire "suckling" portion in rearing of young is predominant). Birds, for example, "adopt" orphan chicks, and male birds tend the nest while females hunt, the hundreds examples are profligate among animal species that survived to this day. There are even rituals and abnormal behaviors surrounding death of a young one, death of a mate, and efforts of some species to "revive" the dead by actually bringing food to the dear departed. Part of the nature of survival of many species involves a compassionate capacity and observable behavior, exhibited in many ways in various animals.


The premise of your opponent's in this argument is fundamentally flawed, in view of known facts about selected other animal species in the wild.

No doubt, any story-telling that was intended for the human species to impart within their young a special sense of human obligation was one developed within the last tens of thousands of years, refined down to the point of one of a few thousand major religious doctrines, many of them following Abrahamic branches of story-telling. They relate to each other in more ways than not, and they have the distinctively human and fanciful invention of diabolical (devilish) elements against which to counteract. Unfortunately, as the story of Adam and Eve got told among the Judo-Christian branches of these story-tellers, the fantasy got so mixed up that any logical brain could pick it apart for its inherent self-contradictory messages. A God that so loved the world that he condemned them all to hell for not loving him back, etc.

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Response to JKingman (Reply #2)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 02:02 PM

7. There is also evidence in dolphins who have saved humans

from drowning and from shark attacks despite the fact that we've been a hostile species to them. Plus the story of "elephant whisperer" Lawrence Anthony, who had a herd of elephants leave their preserve, somehow knowing he'd died, and parade around his home in mourning where his body lay at rest. Mammals show compassion and affection for other than their own species and have displayed self-sacrifice for them.

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Response to Rozlee (Reply #7)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 02:57 PM

9. Yes, thanks for this. Cross species caring is abundant in the literature

 

As an example, not of saving, but of caring...here's a rather dramatic and fun example on Youtube.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=4809485640652

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Response to Rozlee (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 02:59 PM

3. You might want to check out this TED talk

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Response to intaglio (Reply #3)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 01:55 PM

6. Thank you for this post. Really interesting.

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Response to Rozlee (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 07:25 PM

4. I don't understand the original argument by your "friend".

"He states that evolution could never have created morality because if a certain adaptation came along that made morality harmful to the species, it would need to be bred out."

Huh? I have read and re-read this statement, and it appear to be true but not an argument against evolution. More precisely, it argues for evolution. Of course, if an adaptation occurs that made morality harmful to the species, it would be bred out---over a period of time. I think this worked much better in more brutal times, when anyone who acted amorally would be killed by the rest of the tribe. But I don't see an argument for god here.

And looking at this from the other direction, if morality was not beneficial, it would not have survived. But of course, morality is what keeps our society together (or our tribes if we go back). It is what keeps us safe in a group, it is what has allowed us to survive over time...so there is great benefit to the species in morality.

Where is the argument for god? Am I just not thinking???

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #4)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 01:54 PM

5. There is no argument for god. But, theists will never admit the idiocy and delusion of their beliefs

They always assume that morality can't come from anything but the luminous and transcendent and that what atheists deem morals without God is merely aping the behavior of good Christian folk in order to not be considered deviants in a humankind that the Creator gave morality to. Evolution can't bestow morality, his reasoning goes, because morality should be God-given and totally dependent on the definition of the godhead. It exists for the purpose of the end game to separate the wheat from the chaff in the day of judgment. Deep down, I believe that theists are just envious of non-theists because we've shrugged off the fear of punishment from angry supreme beings and slavish devotion to rigid dogma. We're not suffering the uncertainty and trepidation of wondering if we've offended an easy-to-wroth bipolar god or a pantheon of temperamental, mischievous unpredictable gods. Evolution and it's deviation from all creation stories is the ultimate slap in the face for them. They can't live with the idea that the godless, hellbound atheists have a liberation of spirit and mind from the fear and worry that defines their lives. In polls, self-described religious people report that they feel happier than non-religious people. Oh, really? Then, why do more people in the Southern Bible Belt states have a higher use of anti-depressants than any other states, with only the Mormon-heavy Utah leading the pack?

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Response to Rozlee (Reply #5)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 06:46 PM

10. Lots of assumptions that are hard or impossible to prove.

I have often wondered how much of my behavior is influenced by the society (with all the religious undertones) that I was raised in, and how much is just survival----you have to act a certain way or you will have the cops or strangers shoot your ass. I am sure that we are all living up to the standards we were taught. But when they find tribes in remote places, who have never been exposed to our morality, they always have a code of ethics...not always our code, but it keeps their society working.

And I have to love the "who is happier" question. How do you measure this? Just asking the question and getting an answer isn't enough. Good point about who uses the most antidepressants.

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Response to Rozlee (Original post)

Wed Nov 28, 2012, 12:34 PM

11. Altruism has a selfish component as well as a self-less one.

After all, bees selflessly serve the Queen, but only because she is essential for the hive. THEY couldn't benefit from the hive if she were not taken care of. And of course this is the root of social behavior: related individuals. The selfish gene, y'know. But from family helping other family members, it radiates out into non-family and then non-species circles.

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