Sunday, October 04, 2009

Rules for living

Ardi the Missing link is found

Moral values without Religion

A couple of recent posts on ILSA (I linked them above) one about human evolution and the other on morality, got me to thinking. Given that evolution is a fact, where does that leave morality for humans? Evolution is design-denying; all life on earth has resulted from a slow, laborious process of natural selection. In an environment of limited resources, the fittest (differential variation through chance mutation) live longer than competitors less "fit", and leave more offspring, in a never ending spiral of birth, competition, reproduction and death.

Life is an arms race. The strong overcome the weak. The cheetah runs faster, not only than the gazelle, but faster than his own spotty cousin can and so is privileged to pass on those genes for "fast running". In the meanwhile, the gazelle that lost the race against the cheetah was slower at escaping compared to his pronking cousin, and ended up as dinner. The Gazelle that got away will be the one to propagate it's own genes into the future.

It's no different for humans. It's a dog eat dog world out there, so you better get the edge, because somebody somewhere, is going to get it before you do. So where does morality come into it?

I turned to Carl Sagan for a little insight...The article ends on a lame note, but there is a lot more to be discovered in terms of game theory if you select the link provided. Personally, I subscribe to the Bronze rule, but I find myself tipping into the Iron rule at times...After all, I'm only human; the product of 3.5 billion years of evolution...LOL

I have excerpted a few passages from Chapter 16 of his beautiful book "Billions & Billions"

Food for thought, and to be honest with you, it opens a whole can of interesting worms to be explored...

The most admired standard of behavior, in the West at least, is the Golden Rule, attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. Everyone knows its formulation in the first-century Gospel of St. Matthew: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Almost no one follows it.

When the Chinese philosopher Kung-Tzi (known as Confucius in the West) was asked in the fifth century BC his opinion of the Golden Rule (by then already well-known),of repaying evil with kindness, he replied, "Then with what will you repay kindness?" Shall the poor woman who envies her neighbor's wealth give what little she has to the rich? Shall the masochist inflict pain on his neighbor?

The Golden Rule takes no account of human differences. Are we really capable, after our cheek has been slapped, of turning the other cheek so it too can be slapped? With a heartless adversary, isn't this just a guarantee of more suffering?

The Silver Rule is different: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. It also can be found worldwide, including, a generation before Jesus, in the writings of Rabbi Hillel.

The most inspiring twentieth-century exemplars of the Silver Rule were Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. They counseled oppressed peoples not to repay violence with violence, but not to be compliant and obedient either. Nonviolent civil disobedience was what they advocated... putting your body on the line; showing, by your willingness to be punished in defying an unjust law, the justice of your cause. They aimed at melting the hearts of their oppressors (and those who had not yet made up their minds).

"Repay kindness with kindness," said Confucius, "but evil with justice." This might be called the Brass or Brazen Rule: Do unto others as they do unto you. It's the lex talonis, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," plus "one good turn deserves another." In actual human (and chimpanzee) behavior it's a familiar standard. "If the enemy inclines toward peace, do thou also incline toward peace,"

President Bill Clinton quoted from the Qur'an at the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords. Without having to appeal to anyone's better nature, we institute a kind of operant conditioning, rewarding them when they're nice to us and punishing them when they're not. We're not pushovers but we're not unforgiving either. It sounds promising. Or is it true that "two wrongs don't make a right"?

Of baser coinage is the Iron Rule: Do unto others as you like, before they do it unto you. It is sometimes formulated as "He who has the gold makes the rules," underscoring not just its departure from, but its contempt for the Golden Rule. This is the secret maxim of many, if they can get away with it, and often the unspoken precept of the powerful.

Finally, I should mention two other rules, found throughout the living world. They explain a great deal: One is Suck up to those above you, and abuse those below. This is the motto of bullies and the norm in many nonhuman primate societies. It's really the Golden Rule for superiors, the Iron Rule for inferiors. Since there is no known alloy of gold and iron, we'll call it the Tin Rule for its flexibility. The other common rule is Give precedence in all things to close relatives, and do as you like to others. This Nepotism Rule is known to evolutionary biologists as "kin selection."

Read the entire article

17 Opinion(s):

Islandshark said...

I wouldn't say evolution is a fact - traditional evolution can't explain the design of a giraffe brain or the existence of the bombardier beetle.

Exzanian said...

IShark, it's pretty much a fact as in the theory follows the scientific method: deductive and inductive reasoning. The only alternative is some kind of "Intelligent Design" which raises a much larger problem: an infinite regress in fact. Unless you want to ditch the whole scientific endeavour, evolution is here to stay...
Here's an article on the bombadier Beetle:
btw, did you mean giraffe neck?

Vanilla Ice said...

No scientific endeavour is ever considered fact; there is always more to add. The evolution hypothesis is a work in progress, but the huge body of evidence all points in the same direction, that evolution probably took place. The evidence is so strong that it is almost considered "fact". It would take a "miracle" to sway consensus, given that there is no credible evidence in the contrary.

Vanilla Ice said...

To add further. It doesn't have to be either evolution or creationism. If you insist that God exists, then it makes sense to reconcile your beliefs with evolution.

Exzanian said...

VI, absolutely correct on both your comments. That is why science is not dogmatic at all, it is subject to review and update all the time (a classic example is Einstein's theory of gravity supplanting Newton's)

Anonymous said...

And now we have the theory of some nebulous dark matter giving the support required for the universe not to implode...

Blah, blah, blah.

So many men with brains the size of planets trying to prove God is dead and we have to have come from pond scum. Who gives a shit. I for one DO NOT CARE what you believe. Based on the evidence I have seen (which consists of a lot of "circumstantial" evidence and some downright hoaxes for both religion and evolution), Evolution is just as much a "religion" as any other religion on earth. The evolutionary theory is one that is UNPROVEN, and has not "evolved" in any material way since CD wrote Origins.

@ ExZanian... It might well follow the scientific method, but you forget that for it to be considered "Science" or scientific it must be provable and duplicable. None of which can be done (well... not without much gilding the lily anyway).

I would prefer if you called it what it is: An unproven theory concerning the origins of life. or if you prefer: The religion of evolution. But please do not try to sell this pseudo bunkum as science.

What good is it to me if I come from God? What good is to me if I come from a monkey?


All you so-called Evolutionary Scientists out there need to STFU and go do something useful like finding a cure for cancer!!!

Doberman said...

@ anon 9:13 who said "...and go do something useful like finding a cure for cancer!!!" Well now, you have me in a quandary. Either I believe in science and the evolution of organic matter and life forms such as various germs and cancerous cells capable of killing one which can be tracked back by scientific analysis OR I pray to a deity and hope to hell I wasn't fed BS and thus praying to fresh air. Hmmm. I think I'll chance it with the former.

Anonymous said...

you must remember that the scientists who propagate the pro-evolution arguments get the full support of the liberal media and MSM, since they all have one thing in common: to disprove the 'intelligent design' theory. The scientists (whose arguments make a lot more sense to me) who oppose that viewpoint, don't have that luxury.
I am not suggesting that there is no truth in the evolution theory, but the interesting thing is that evolution could very well be part of the intelligent design, where as the opposite could not be true.

Exzanian said...

Anon 9.13 - You make it seem as if evolution is a wild idea dreamt up after a hard nights drinking. The theory has been tested for 150 years and despite being attacked from all sides, the evidence simply continues to mount. I suggest you do as I have done and read a lot more about it before spouting about it.
Anon 9.21 (same Anon I think)Nobody is out to "disprove" ID, since it has presented no case, there is nothing to refute.

Viking said...


I think the point is that to describe it as a "fact" is misleading. Or maybe not, depending on how you see it, but the point is also that you can never truly "prove" an experiment you can't replicate.
According to strict scientific principles, evolution is not a fact for that reason, although disproving it is of course impossible too!
But as you say, evidence continues to mount up and it would take some imagination to deny; that coupled with the fact that most religious people have made their peace with evolution - after all, Genesis chapter 1 is a poem not a science tract - and light is created before the sun!

However, what i would be more interested in learning about further is the extent to which organism can or cannot influence their own evolution. It's hard to imagine how bats developed sonar for example..

Exzanian said...

Viking, point taken and VI has also mentioned it. I used shorthand for: “Given that evolution is the best possible explanation of our origins and as close to a fact as science can provide”

Viking said...

I like it :)

Vanilla Ice said...

@Anon 9:13. I hope you aren't the poster boy for Creationism, because you are rather rude and crude. Kind of what I have come to expect from the religious set, if there is a clash of ideologies. It is usually the religious set that threatens violence, or starts to use profanity.

Anonymous said...

i never would have thought that this blog would censor my last comment with the youtube link! there was no profanity in it, nor was there anything that would hurt your political agenda. it has become clear to me that the censors on this blog have a anti 'religion' agenda too. why else would you censor that last omment?

Doberman said...

@ anon 10:15, we are not anti-religion and I don't know what YouTube link you are referring to. I had a very hard-hitting anti-clergy YouTube video that I was going to post but pulled it because the focus of our blog is not religion and perhaps enough has been said about it. We merely brought up the subject a week ago to demonstrate that people cannot debate it reasonably, civilly, not because of the non-believers but theists like yourself. Send me the link to the YouTube video and I'll have a look at it.

Anonymous said...

Doberman, as a defender of minority rights you should know that the mainstream is not always right. We both also know that we can’t change ppl’s minds, nor do we want to shove our viewpoints down anyone’s throat, but we can show the other side of the coin to those that want to see the bigger picture and base their opinions upon it, whether political or otherwise.
Since evolution was an issue in this post, and some bloggers talked about scientific facts, I thought posting the youtube link was more than appropriate within the context.
And finally, please refrain from making blanket statements like “people cannot debate it reasonably, civilly, not because of the non-believers but theists like yourself.”
I refuse to be held accountable for other ”theists”, just like you would refuse to be accountable for other south africans like say malema.

Doberman said...

@ anon 5:58, my experience with people on the web is that most behave more irrationally online than in person. Perhaps it's the same false sense of security some get when they get into their cars. Road rage, internet rage, same thing. In person, that posture gets you clobbered, the other one not. Maybe it's overcompensation for lack of courage in the real world.

Most web users too are of the younger generation, the tech savvy, or the computer literate of which few have the experience and wisdom that comes with age to comment on issues of import. But they have an opinion. They can be aggressive and think talking like buffoons online to others is cute or makes them feel important. It does neither.

As for debating issues like religion or sexuality, I have found that people take a more aggressive posture because it affects them more personally than perhaps say, if we speak in general terms about a topic of interest, like Malema or crime. The two are not the same. What Malema does and says on a daily basis is of little consequence to you and me fundamentally however discussing my religion, my sexuality, that's a little closer to home.

Be a little less defensive. Allow others to disagree with you. It will lower your blood pressure. I can't control what you think or say and you can't control me either so relax. Agree to disagree civilly. If the argument hits a dead end, experience tells one to move on, not to threaten or scream, just move on. Put your case across then leave it.