Dec 10th, 2007, 09:51 PM
To say that morality is genetic really strikes me as an intellectual cop out. While I'm sure fight or flight and self-preservation are foundationally instictive, to say these things "evolved" is to say they are evolve-able attributes... and I wonder in what ways our survival instincts have evolved since the Darwinian Process culled out those humans born with no survival instincts at all.
Additionally, survival instincts aren't exactly morality itself, but I'm trying to extrapolate your thought process from a point of athiesm... No higher power or order to things. I'm guessing extended morality would begin, for you, about there, right?
That's not exactly what you were on about though was it?
There's a book out there containing a collection of letters and speeches written by Einstein that I halfway read once, and in it he addressed his concept of spirituality. I don't remember exactly what he said, but I combined it with a little historical theology and have probably already mentioned it more than once in here... but anyways... The vast majority experience their religious beliefs from the basis of the "angry, vengeful God," which is the most primitive form of human religious belief. These folks are those that try not do bad things for fear of punishment, as you alluded to above.
The second group, which when combined with the first comprises about 99% of people, seeks to earn rewards by doing good things. This adds a layer of complexity to the first thought process by acknowledging the power of the higher order or being to reward as well as punish.
The third group, a very thin slice of the human pie by Einstein's reckoning, is mostly comprised, in his opinion, of those that rise to positions of leadership in their fields of study, be they scientists, theologists, politicians or policemen. These leaders in their field have developed a more evolved method of understanding spirituality and life. They see that decisions made and actions taken in the highest moral light possible not only work out for the best of the individual but also for the best of everyone involved.
This wonderful minority of men sort of "go with the flow" of life, rather than seeking reward for positive actions or avoiding punishment for sins. I think this gets us back to your question, but you might not like the answer. Many atheists like to point to Einstein as a fellow, but it seems to me that his belief system at least hints at an underlying order to life. If one's decisions are made in such a way as to benefit not only oneself but also everyone affected by those decisions, the decisions are considered to be correct and the actions taken through such consideration are generally at least more positive than others made more willy-nillily.
If such an underlying order actually does exist, wouldn't it have had to have been designed to be that way? If our decisions actually connect us so precisely within society, much like electrical bonds connecting atoms, isn't that just a little too perfect for happenstance? It's easy for an evolutionary psychologist like you, I'm sure, to disagree on the grounds that moral decisions have a positive influence on life and society and thus moral decision makers have a stronger chance at the Darwinian Russian Roulette Table.... BUT....
Whether you look at the times in which we find ourselves discussing this, or at Einstein's time, that of Jesus or even if we squint so far back as to the days of cavemen, that third way of living and deciding has always produced positive results, and it has never really caught on. There have always been more dick heads than moral people that concern themselves with the well-being of others, and there likely always will be.
Metal is right that popular acceptance of pure morality is an evolving thing, but that doesn't mean morality is evolving, rather only our acceptance of what I see as a constant.
I got home and went to look, unsuccessfully, for the book... which I believe was called Ideas and Opinions... in order to quote some Einstein for you and thus add a little credibility to my statements. I mean after all, if Einstein said it, it must be smart right?
Unfortunately, the above is probably at best not even close to his words. I tend to blend things I read into other stuff I already know or believe. I do remember specifically that he, as a leader in his field, actually did ascribe the highest form of moral/spiritual existence to people like him, so I left that part in, though I think I probably disagree at least in part...
One thing I did add in that I know he never addressed is that among that third group must exist those that sense that positive path through life, but for whatever reason, choose to work against it rather than "going with the flow." It's just a triviality I guess, and not one that I've thought about much, but I think that's where we'd find actual evil.
I think the great religious works of man... the New Testament, the Torah, the Koran, even the various and essentially silly Eastern works... serve as a history of our search for truth through various means. I think that God is generally only representative, at least in our thoughts concerning God, of what we could be in the light of perfect truth and morality. Since I think that, I can see value in theology and religion as well as I can see that none of it has actually worked so far. It's a good starting point, and really nothing more.
That doesn't mean I'm an atheist, as you claim to be. I believe in a higher
order, and I think that necessitates a higher power. It seems to me that if mankind has devoted much of it's generated thought from day one to divining a clearer picture of God than what is immediately obvious, it would be pretty silly... and really even more arrogant than I am... to waste my time on it, given the abject failure of theology to tell us more than what we can already understand with a little clear thought and some soul-searching. I think it's far more productive to plunge the depths of the obvious and see where that leads rather than imagining fantasy realms of Angels and Devils and Kingdoms built in the Clouds and others in the Bowels of the Earth and Messiahs and Divine Sacrifices and Prophecies and Damnation.
The closest I've come to the traditional sort of spiritual fantasy, which is kinda fun... don't get me wrong... is to imagine God physically represented in the tiniest electrical bonds holding all matter together. Matter is what it is, but the bonds that hold the particles together into whatever fashion you sense them as matter why it is. This, I think, satisfies the traditional Western criteria for God: Omnipresent, Omnipowerful and Omniscient. Maybe in death the "why" for our own existence joins the whole, which would explain why nobody ever comes back, as that would likely rock.
Meh... that's fantasy... and it's tangential... so I'll leave it at that.
Now, please, somebody, call me stupid.