"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Feb 13, 2009

Does Morality come from religion or nature?

Does morality come from religion or is it a product of evolution and culture?



This video looks at the issue of where morality comes from and shows how illogical arguments can be used to suggest morality requires the existence of a God. It shows how basic morality can flow from natural evolutionary pressures. It demonstrates the sleight of hand logic that religionists use to argue that moralty must flow from a supernatural being.

6 comments:

Looney said...

The woman's smile is scary!

The problem I have with the morality as a product of evolution explanation is that it is completely counter to my experience: Survival of the fittest rewards the amoral and the slackers. I have numerous times witnessed those who are disciplined, gentle and honorable trampled by slackers who thrive on mendacity and duplicity. The worst is when these types rise to the top and then start moralizing. Is that not so? Or perhaps Gordon Brown really represents an evolutionary improvement on the English race?

Bunc said...

I don't think anyone would argue that morality in it's totality arises from evolution. The problem you raise is a fair one.

Dawkins and others have set out quite a detailed account of how altruism can be beneficial in an evolutionary sense. However even Dawkins would acknowledge that in human societies we have a form of evolution which is beyond DNA. That is cultural evolution which carries with it a developing morality. Human morality in that sense could be viewed as a set of what Dawkins calls memes - and these include memes about morality.

I would not attempt to argue that religion has not made a significant historical contribution to morality - it has. But it has not all been to the good either. The practices in some religions ( including some Christian sects) can be way short of what any of us would agree to be morally justified.

I think the video makes the case that there are roots for morality in our evolution and that any claim that our morality MUST flow from man's place as a specialy created being is therefore spurious.

Bunc said...

Your right she has a very strange spoky smile.

Anonymous said...

I will try to explain this in a way that does not sound demeaning. Some people have said or believe that todays current morals originate from religion.

A few examples of morality that coincide with modern law, are not to kill not to fight, don't steal, blah blah blah, this is as obvious as it gets. These are a direct occurance in our society thanks to religion, the codes of hamurabi or maybe even older sources lost in history. Point is a long time ago religion gave some regulations that played into ancient society, and the traditions survived the ages, making these relgious regulations a part of our modern society, regaurdless if the person following them is religious or not.

The first instinct a person tends to have when religion is mentioned, is that the person mentioning it is refering to the Bible, the Quaran, or the Torah.

In the same way some evolutionist believe that the modern plants and animals were effected by the enviroment, the weather, survival instincts, and interaction with other animals, caused the species to evolve and adapt leaving us with the current layout of life on Earth.... so then did todays current layout of morality evolve into what it is from several different contributors, such as religion, wether it be domesticating animals, like the ancient eygiptians did because they held them to be sacred, and did not abuse them because it was against there beliefs, to not killing due respects to the story of Kain and Abel, and what do we do with todays murderers? we shun them away from what we hold to be our garden of eden, or modern society, in the same way God did.

Even a Chef believes, that if he/she adds basil, onions, some tomatos and some salt and pepper to a can of tomato sauce, the chef no longer has a bunch of random ingrediants on his/her hands, they do infact have spaghetti sauce. We must also believe that what we hold true today, has come from a list of ingrediants that were added in through out the ages, and cooked over centuries to come up with what we abide by today.

For a moment let's pretend that in ancient times where religion was rooted, that the law makers (being religious leaders of that era) had said that Cat's and Dogs were much easier prey to catch (as opposed to oxen and mammoths)Let's sacrafice Cat's and Dog's on the alter, and since the oxen are so powerful they must be sacred, can we all agree to believe that over time this recipe MIGHT have turned into a modern diet of cats and dogs, and the domestiation of oxen? It's possible who knows.

Let us take it a step further and say religion didn'yt attempt to regulate sexual intercourse at all, not even a mere metion of it, instead natural primitive instincts played it's part and mating between blood relatives was not looked down upon. Would we be as shocked today to hear that some old guy somewhere in the world impregnated his own daughter?

We have to respect the fact that in medieval times the catholic church played a large hand in enforcing the laws, we also have to aknowledge that the priest were infact the law makers, and some of those laws still remain a natural part of our daily lives. We also have to go back to Jesus time and the Jewish leaders followed and taught and enforced there own laws, despite the fact that they were goverened by Rome. We can go back a little further to Moses and lay the same blueprint, or the codes of Hammurabi. or the Assyrians and Babylonians, religious laws can be dated back to the beggining of history, and the similarities in todays law, and morals, can be compared to ancient law's and morals. Religion played a big part in ancient times, larger then it does today. People followed it, God-kings and Kings fought bloody wars over it, even the Iraq war and terrorist activity today isn't a mere "you say God is spaghtetti monster you die now! BOOM!" it comes down to the fundemental beliefe that the winner of the war writes history, and history defines tommorows morals.

I am not saying that Atheist have no morals, but the morals... wether religious or not, the morals come from religion, ages before we were born, if we were evolved animals constantly on the brink of extinction, our morals would be to protect our hunting territory, get food, fornicate, protect food, protect offspring..... we wouldn't care if somewhere out there a family of bears was over hunting the salmon and it could effect the enviroment, Love is a human emotion, we are blessed to have it, our understanding of love is handed down to us through the churches and social gatherings of ancient times.

Next time you see a case of animal cruelty, or a bloody gang murder on the television, and it makes you feel ill to the fact that how such cruelty can be administered in a loving world. Keep in mind where that feeling truely originates from, date it back to your parent's teaching you how to love one another, and not take things for granite, go back further to your great grand-parents teaching your parent's the same life values, to the ancestors that attended church, to the priest who got his values from religion, all the way back to God, planning it all out eons before our thought process can even comprehend what we are discussing right now.

Wether we are Christian, Muslim, Athiest, Jewish, Pagan, Wiccan, or any other independent social group, wether, todays morals are founded on God, or Ben Franklin, Wether I'm wrong and your right, wether we are both clueless...

we share this planet, and we can all trust that Love is the key.. You cannot do wrong to me if you love me, and I cannot do you wrong if I Love you. I cherish your beliefes because I care for you and your well being, do so with mine.

Jesus said “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? (Matthew 5:43-47 )

Bunc said...

"....all the way back to God...."

Your logic breaks down at that point as far as I am concerned my anonymous friend.

There is no necessity to take that further step because everything else that you write about can simply be seen as a set of human cultural constructs laid on top of the gift that our evolutionary inheritance gave us; a tendency to have altruistic and co-operative behaviour in our grab bag of inherited traits.

It is a logical leap of faith to suggest that morality fundamentally had it's roots in a real existent God. A naturalistic explanation is, as you almost set out yourself, quite sufficient to explain our observed morality without this logical jump.

Anonymous said...

Let's say for a moment God doesn't exist, Let's for argument sake say that, God is infact 100% false and religion is completly made up by over zelous fanatics since the brink of written history. Let's for a moment assume that severel groups of people sat down and engineered every single tidbit of religion based on there beleife in the existance of a real God... Now jump to present time, did anything i say change?

It's is still centuries of religious influence that shaped our current defenition of morality, based off the actual beleif that there is a God and this is the way to conduct yourself to please that God.

Point still remains that Morality, or atleast our current definition of morality, has it's very founding roots deeply inplanted with an aray of different religious beliefes.

Could we still have morals in present time if religion had never existed, I believe the answer to that is yes, our culture and dependent on cooparative lives, may have sprung up some very basic morals, and over time it could have blossomed into a full moral system that we may have followed today.

However that is not what the video or the disccusion is implying, it is implying that nature has handed us our current set of morals, everything we do today, every job we do, everything humanity strives for, has its very roots in religion, true an apple tree root is far different then the apple itself, but religion was the spark that started the human thought process back in the early years of history when God may have been an oddly shaped rock or something.

And to why I attributed "all the way back to God"? well at this point I can say that it is our nature, altho the root and apple are different they are one in the same. our thought proccess is hardwired for religion, maybe not through our beliefes, but definitly our day to day actions. we play the part of religious followers even if we don't subscribe to an actual religion.

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