Category Archives: evolution

Why Do Good

“where does the desire to do good come from”

Bradley left a comment on my FAQ 1 page – The Ten Commandments and Morality – as follows:

I just have a question, not a comment. If there is no transcendental being from whom we get at least some inspiration to do good, where does the desire to do good come from, and why would we have any preferences any way? I know that certain things are just naturally disliked, but what makes it uncomfortable or not to be liked?

Rather than clog up my FAQ page I’ve copied this to a new post so I can answer the question, as well as make it easier for others to answer or comment.

Well Bradley to put it simply, the desire to do good has just been bred into us, the human race would not have survived if at least most of us hadn’t wanted to instinctively do good. How long do you think humankind would last if everyone wanted to rape, steal, lie, cheat, harm or kill? Not long.

Much like you assert that “certain things are just naturally disliked” so are certain things just naturally liked.

Apart from the evolution of society needing to (mainly) do good to each other to survive [read some literature on the ethic of reciprocity, which by the way was NOT invented by Christians as some are want to believe, as to why] science has also found various chemicals in the brain, and brain functions, that indicate the desire to do good is a physical property of the body. Have a read of some articles about Oxytoxin for example.

I don’t know about you Bradley, but I find when I do something good I feel good, I get a little “kick” out of doing something good, and it makes me happy. Why would this be? Perhaps it’s chemicals in the brain? Perhaps it’s because of the knowledge that I’ve made someone happy or improved their life in some way. But why be altruistic (which is what we are talking about when we discuss doing good things for no apparent reason or expectation of return)? We know that most religions cite altruism as a virtue, but I don’t consider that religion has a ‘hold’ on altruism. In fact it has been shown that many species of animals act in an altruistic manner and that there is an evolutionary explanation for altruism.

I consider it wholly possible to do good without any transcendental being providing inspiration. Anyway, how would we know a transcendental being provided the inspiration? Could it not be that any supposed transcendental inspiration is actually our own innate goodness and inspiration? That due to a lack of knowledge, or a lack of thought, this inspiration was deemed to have come from a transcendental being only because there didn’t seem to be any other way to explain it’s existence?

Time and again science has discovered reasons for things that people thought were the actions of a transcendental being, pushing the reason for a need, or the possibility, of any transcendental being further and further into non-existence. Perhaps one day science will prove where the desire to do good comes from (from what little I’ve read they pretty well already have) or perhaps there are some things that just are. Either way I see no reason to bring any transcendental being into the equation.

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Filed under atheism, beliefs, christianity, compassion, evolution, golden rule, religion, science

The Cognitive Dissonance is Strong in This One

Watched an awesome video last night on ABC1 TV Compass program called: Christianity: A History – God and the Scientists; do yourself a favour and watch it (streaming video or download, about 50 minutes). The presenter Colin Blakemore (a British neurobiologist at Oxford University and Warwick University)

interviews scholars and churchmen in order to understand how science transformed Christianity over the last four centuries. He shows how scientists born of the Enlightenment realised that the laws of the universe were there to be discovered, not read about in the Bible. He argues that science is the biggest challenge Christianity has ever had to face, and that it will eventually make religion unnecessary. from ABC Compass

It was a very informative show covering some of the history of science particularly how it pertains to Christianity. Despite Christianity actually starting many universities and initially encouraging thinking, they changed their mind quite quickly when anyone discovered something that went against church dogma (Copernicus, Galileo et al). The church doesn’t come across as being very open-minded (but has it ever?) and some of the methods used to dissuade free-thinking and scientific investigation were rather cruel (an understatement, torture methods used during the inquisition were horrendous), As Blakemore points out, the church didn’t always have to actually physically torture people, sometimes the mere threat was sufficient for people to recant their (correct) ideas. Self censorship is a powerful weapon.

The cognitive dissonance shown by some of the people Blakemore interviewed was interesting, the Vatican astronomer seemed fully conversant with all the latest astronomical findings and seemed quite happy to discuss the earth being 4.5 Billion years old, but some how still managed to fit God into the equation. But the greatest cognitive dissonance shown was by Dr Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and scientific adviser for the Creation Museum! He fully believes the biblical version of creation that God created everything in six days, that dinosaurs roamed the earth alongside humans, including Adam and Eve. I could hardly comprehend it when Lisle replied to one of Blakemore’s questions with

“If we find some experiment that seems on the surface to disagree with the word of God, we go with the word of God”

at about this stage I think a part of my brain melted from the sheer idiocy. The scientific method, which someone with a PhD in Astrophysics should know, does not allow you to disregard results of an experiment just because you don’t like those results; you have to go where the FACTS direct you, like it or not. I could not understand how someone could get a PhD in Astrophysics and be so deluded, as the title of this blog says: The Cognitive Dissonance is Strong in This One. If you just want to watch Blakemore’s visit to the Creation Museum, including the interview with Lisle, check the link, it goes for about 4 and 1/2 minutes. But be warned, the Stupid It Burns!

the_stupid_it_burns.jpg

Blakemore’s visit to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) left me wide eyed with the sheer enormity of the project, that thing is HUGE. People talk about the majesty of some religious buildings, and I agree some churches are architecturally and/or artistically inspiring, but the LHC is truly majestic in its own right.

How could anyone not be amazed with what science can achieve? How can anyone disregard scientific facts and instead accept what was written thousands of years ago by people who knew no better. We know better now, it has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that much of what is written in the bible is wrong, that the bible is not a scientific book. So why do so many people still cling to the biblical fallacies, and prefer (misguided) belief over scientific evidence?

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Filed under atheism, Charles Darwin, christianity, creationism, evolution, ID, religion, science

Books – brief reviews

Updated my reading list in the sidebar with some new additions.

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins.

An excellent lay-persons guide to Evolution. It is such a pity that books like this have to be written to try and counter-act the complete misinformation that the Creationists, ‘Intelligent Designers’ and other narrow minded religious people spout.

Evolution is a Fact, get over it people, especially the misinformed sheep that believe anything if it come from a pulpit.

The saddest thing about this book is that the people who really need to read it won’t, in fact most will flat out refuse to.

It should be compulsory for everyone on the planet to read at least chapter 1 of this book, it would be good if this was freely available to download and read (perhaps it is?), then no one would have an excuse to use the “just a theory” pathetic argument against evolution.

Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant.

A book that tries to explain why so many Americans vote against their own best interests, and discusses the class war that no one else wants to talk about, the white American underclass. This book is written in a easy to read story-telling style but covers a lot of topics, including the American health care system (or complete lack thereof), Americans at War, and why so many Americans want a theocratic state ( a rather scary section of the book).

He does get on his soap box a few times, but overall an interesting and thought provoking read.

Blog Update

I have also added tw0 comments to my previous blog post, about my new Kindle eBook reader, that will be of great interest to any Australians who are considering buying one.

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Filed under atheism, book review, books, christian right, creationism, Darwin, education, eReader, evolution, ID, religious, science, unemployed

Morality is no new thing

Religious people think that they ‘corner the market’ when it comes to morality. They believe in an absolute morality obtained directly from god. They believe that only humans have morals.

Religious people are wrong on all accounts.

I, and many others, have discussed the ‘absolute moral’ concept before and shown it is false and baseless. Morals, whether the religious like it or not, are not absolute and change (hopefully for the better) as societies change. The only moral that does appear to be relatively universal is the one commonly called “The Golden Rule” “an ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others”, which despite what some religious people believe was not invented by the authors of the bible.

I, and many others, have also discussed the fact that religious people (in particular members of the Abrahamic faiths who assert this the strongest) did not invent, or discover, the foundation of morals. Morals came about because societies would never have flourished without them.

Today I’d like to direct the religious to the article in the UK Telegraph titled Animals can tell right from wrong, which discusses a new book which says that:

Scientists studying animal behaviour believe they have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans.

There have been documentaries and articles before which discuss how some animals demonstrate that they help each other, or work together towards some common aim, but the book this article’s information comes from claims

that morals are “hard-wired” into the brains of all mammals and provide the “social glue” that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.

Whilst this book has its detractors, many of them still admit that some animals share many of the psychological qualities previously only attributed to humans. As  Professor Frans de Waal, a primate behaviourist at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, said:

“I don’t believe animals are moral in the sense we humans are – with well developed and reasoned sense of right and wrong – rather that human morality incorporates a set of psychological tendencies and capacities such as empathy, reciprocity, a desire for co-operation and harmony that are older than our species. (emphasis mine)

“Human morality was not formed from scratch, but grew out of our primate psychology. Primate psychology has ancient roots, and I agree that other animals show many of the same tendencies and have an intense sociality.”

The article then discusses various animals and shows examples of their ‘moral’ behavioural traits.

Elephants

In 2003, a herd of 11 elephants rescued antelope who were being held inside an enclosure in KwaZula-Natal, South Africa.

… example of animals showing empathy for members of another species – a trait previously thought to be the exclusive preserve of mankind.

Diana Monkeys

A laboratory experiment trained Diana monkeys to insert a token into a slot to obtain food.

A male who had grown to be adept at the task was found to be helping the oldest female who had not been able to learn how to insert the token.

… there was no benefit for the male monkey …

Rodents

Experiments with rats have shown that they will not take food if they know their actions will cause pain to another rat.

There are several other examples in the article of reciprocity, ethics, morals, a sense of justice and other traits commonly thought to only exist in humans. It just demonstrates to me that morals, ethics, etc. are some primal instinct that may be there in all animals to some extent. Morals (as I have pointed out before) are a societal necessity, not something handed down by some mythical being.

Whilst the book may have some questionable conclusions I think it would be a good read, and the principles behind it warrant further study. From the brief review in the Telegraph and at New Scientist it certainly appears that the authors have some very valid propositions.

What do you think, do animals have a moral code, are they capable of showing empathy; and what does this mean to the way we treat them?

Hat Tip to toomanytribbles for blogging the Telegraph article.

PS. I realise I may have generalised in my opening statements, but I have heard all those statements from so many religious people.

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Filed under atheism, ethics, evolution, morals, religion

I love Sciencey Stuff

Yesterday had some very interesting science related articles in the news, here’s a couple of excerpts:

Life’s First Spark Re-Created in the Laboratory

It’s Alive! Since the late seventies scientists have theorised how life may have started, recent experiments have validated some of those theories.

A fundamental but elusive step in the early evolution of life on Earth has been replicated in a laboratory.

Researchers synthesized the basic ingredients of RNA, a molecule from which the simplest self-replicating structures are made. from Wired Science

I admit, I don’t understand half of this stuff (I’m not a molecular biologist or even done any university level science subjects) but I think I understand enough of the fundamentals to understand how and why this all works. I also understand enough to see that no “divine intervention” is required.

I have just started reading “The Selfish Gene” which explains some of the same concepts as in the linked article. Interesting to note, the concepts raised in that book reflect what have now been achieved in the laboratory.

When Sex and Science Collide

Ancient phallus unearthed in cave

Recent archaeological digs have unearthed the final piece of an ancient artifact. That artifact is a “20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.” from BBC News

A “must have” object in every Ice Age ladies collection?

The object is believed to be an Ice Age Sex Aid.

The “object” also appears to have been used to “knap, or split, flints” (sharpen or shape stone knives).

So Ladies, next time your man says he’s “hard as a rock” ask him if you can borrow it to sharpen a few knives. 🙂

There was also an excellent article in the New York Times about some of the female artefacts archaeologists have found dating back 40,000 years. However I can no longer access that article as the NYT wants me to register and log-in. Suffice to say the article discussed the many anatomically correct statues of women and women’s “private parts” that have been found in Ulm and other places. PZ has a story today about the female figurines, with the picture of them.

Quite sex obsessed our ancestors weren’t they? Though some might say  nothing much has changed in the last 40,000 years, has it?

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Filed under atheism, evolution, penis, science

A Big Day in Science

Two interesting science articles caught my eye today. One about evolution and  one about astronomy.

Evolution

Another ‘missing link’ has been found. From the BBC News comes the story of a fossil found in the Arctic which looks like a cross between an otter and a seal.

A skeleton unearthed in northern Canada shows a creature with feet that were probably webbed, but were not flippers.

Writing in the journal Nature, scientists suggest the 23 million-year-old proto-seal would have walked on land and swum in fresh water.

Great name thay have given it: Pujilla darwini.

Pujilla is an Inuktitut term for “young sea mammal”, and darwini is named after Charles Darwin who contented that land mammals would naturally move into the marine environment via a fresh water stage.

Read the rest of the story here.

Damned evilutionists you may have found another missing link, but where’s the crocoduck fossil? expected fundie question

Astronomy

A ‘blob’ has been found. Also from BBC News, comes the story that astronomers have found  a “Lyman-alpha blob”, which is 55,000 light years across,  and 12.9 billion light years away. Scientists are now wondering how such a large object formed so soon after the ‘big bang’.

“Many early theories of galaxy formation predicted a Lyman-alpha ‘fuzz’ around early galaxies,” said James Geach, an astronomer at the University of Durham who works on Lyman-alpha blobs.

“The problem is that no-one is entirely sure what mechanism gives rise to the extended emission; a number of theories of Lyman-alpha blob formation abound, but all are difficult to test”

Yeah I guess it would be quite difficult to test the creation of a universe, but I’m sure the scientists will eventually come up with a very good theory to explain how these ‘blobs’ formed.

blob‘ – is that the best name you scientists/astronomers could come up with?

Read the rest of the story here.

The scientists don’t have to wonder how the ‘blob’ got there, God put it there. expected fundie statement

Everyday more and more amazing things come to light in the science world; and more and more explanations for how the world and the universe works are discovered. But still there are those that cling to ‘goddidit’, how much further does science have to squeeze god out of the equation before people realise that there probably is no god?

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Happy Birthday Charles Darwin

Happy Darwin Day all.

Happy Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day

To all those that have problems accepting the Theory of Evolution because they think “it’s only a theory”. Do you also have a problem accepting Gravitational Theory or the Theory of Relativity?

Here’s something for those that can’t accept that the theory of evolution is a valid theory:

You're Friggin Special

You're Friggin Special

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