An Attempt To Explain
'Morality' To Mike Boston
Hi again Cliff!
I was reading a dialogue between you and a fellow named Mike and it was immediately as evident to me, as I'm sure it was to you, what he was aiming for. I think all questions about morality have a very simple answer and I'm somewhat confused that almost no one seems to use it. I guess you answered along similar lines but I don't think you said it straight out.
The fact that my argument is never used makes me think that there might be something wrong with it and I therefore figured I'd send it to you for "testing." The following is my attempt to explain "morality."
Evolution works on more than the individual level, it also affects populations and the interactions between populations. A society of primates that can cooperate is potentially vastly more successful than an society in which the members kill each other. The first society will therefore pass on their genes in greater numbers, leading to more societies of this type.
Therefore the ability to interact, cooperate and use "morality" to do so, is a direct result of natural selection and it can be viewed among, not only homan societies, but in the animal kingdom as well. The ant society is perhaps the best example of this, where soldiers even sacrifice their lives in order for the society to survive. Isn't this the same as human morality?
Two organisms living in symbiosis also display a sort of morality between the species barrier. Ants, again, "milk" leaflice (Swedish term, I'm not sure what they are called in English, small, green things on leaves) and in return they protect them from ladybugs. The animal kingdom is full of examples of what we would call morality, yet fundamentalists refuse to see this.
Isn't this basically what you replied to Mike? Cooperation equals greater chance of survival! If then, a sense of "right" and "wrong" is our mechanism to cooperate, who cares? Psycopaths have a lesser, or in extreme cases no, feeling of right or wrong and that's why they potentially commit henious acts. They have a biological shortcoming. It really is as simple as that. Right?
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Grahn, Johan"
Subject: Re: Is there evil in the world?
Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 10:19 PM
My argument against Mike was that he insisted on presupposing a specific world view (the Christian system of mythology) and then asking me to explain why this system is true. I do not wish to waste my time translating what he is saying into valid questions, because Mike has a history of trying to trip us up just for fun. I appreciate your effort to do just that, but I feel it is more important for me to address the essential dishonesty in Mike's approach -- that of expecting me to respond to a false premise -- than it is for me to rehash the subject matter of his particular trap. I engaged in this last year, during the "Atheism: A Position Of Convenience?" dialogue, only to discover at the end that he was merely contradicting whatever move I made. When he admitted that he was doing this just for fun, I wrote him off entirely, and chose not to engage with him on any terms other than that of complete honesty.
Meanwhile, yours is one possible explanation of where we get what Mike calls the notion of good and evil. This is still not to say that the notion itself is valid, however useful it may be in keeping the masses in line.
I hate to say it, but the origin of the concept of good and evil is mostly political, and has been popularized through the state religions of various cultures throughout history since the advent of the city-state. The popularity of the concept can be traced to the fact that those of us who dared to think beyond this convenient oversimplification were, for the most part, systematically put to death for opposing the state religion, and thus we never got much opportunity to populate the gene pool with those genetic traits which tend toward skepticism and Freethought.
Unfortunately for America, what little renaissance of Freethought we enjoyed during the eighteenth century was very racist and extremely sexist. It was assumed, for the most part, that religion was still good for (ex)slaves and women, and thus very little opportunity was made for these groups to engage in Freethought discussions. The suffragists, to be sure, picked up on the Freethought movement, but remained, for the most part, an isolated group. Had the American Freethought movement of the eighteenth century lacked racism, we might have been able to retain the cultural influence we once had. Now, though, the Freethought movements are rather quiet, remaining open mainly in the laboratories of science and the halls of the universities.
When we see that men like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and even Ingersoll, and later Freethinkers such as Carnegie, Ford, and several others of great influence assumed that Freethought was the realm of the intelligent (meaning white) and the powerful and the male, we can see clearly why this movement did not last. In England, the movement did not have these problems at nearly the levels we had them. I cannot speak for the rest of Europe and would be interested in gaining insight as two how Europe has become so secular. I think this is the main reason why America's Freethought movement did not last, though, combined with the genetic predisposition toward credulity which has been (un)naturally selected into the species.
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