Parenting Without God, pages 61-62

Apr 19, 2016

Morality is a product of our evolutionary past, well understood and gaining more and more evidence through many fields, such as neuroscience and evolutionary psychology (even though this field is a little controversial at the time of this writing). Morality has been removed from the grasp of religion of religion, but religions are not done putting up a fight in claiming it. They firmly believe morality is strictly their domain and try to overuse morality in the case of sex, sexual conduct, sexual relationships, sexual orientation, and gender identification. This leads to cultures like the purity culture and to crimes committed in the name of religion – acts that, in a secular world, would be viewed as immoral as any act can be but, under the banner of religion, are seen as heroic. I think Steven Weinberg captured this idea best when he said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”

Dan Arel, Parenting Without God pgs 61-62


Discuss!

17 comments on “Parenting Without God, pages 61-62

  • I agree fully with Steven Weinberg; history is full of religious fallacies, and continues up to this day.
    Moral code is a shifting target over the generations; it is not so long ago, that if you did not beat your slaves, you were on the moral high ground 🙂



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  • Religion is based on past interpretations and proscriptions of morality from less educated and less aware human beings, from a time when the character of life was far simpler and the authors intentions were less than holy.
    Spirituality comes from within us in the moment and therefore is the superior guide. The morality of the memes passed down through human social evolution are written on the unbiased, incorruptible codes in our DNA, not ancient literature.



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  • I don’t see that there is anything to discuss, here (for me at least.)
    I’ve always seen good people doing good, and others doing whatever else, all my life.
    Most of that has had nothing at all to do with religion, yet may have included a “thank God” or “praise Allah” (not from me!) in it.
    (I can be thankful, I suppose, for where I was born and raised, but to whom, I still have no idea, other than my own parents.)

    My morality has been taught to me.
    My parents were the fundamental teachers, but not the final ones.
    As I grew, I learned, through creative instructors at school, and elsewhere (books, mainly) that the Universe is so much larger than all of us, and no matter what can be found in ancient texts, the knowledge provided to us by scientific instruments, that expand our vision, exceeds any of those long-held beliefs by far.

    I did not need to be convinced (or exorcised) to understand this for myself.
    Logic will always dictate what we should do.
    Religion will alway dictate.



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  • Points to religious “intellectuals” of ancient times for recognizing that humans, even ones living in primitive cultures live by a moral “script”. Demerits for a) acting as though this was something that they invented; and b) abusing the knowledge for cynical reasons, (rudimentary politics), Acts that continues amongst the fully marinated religionists of the world to this day.



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  • Religion is an insult to human dignity.

    Indeed YES! All religions seemed to have been started as a scam by a charismatic bearded older man who wanted to control others in the name of a delusionary “god.” For others to follow his delusionary view of the universe and life after death, is indeed an insult to human dignity and a betrayal of the human spirit.



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  • 6
    fadeordraw says:

    “Morality is a product of our evolutionary past…”

    I’ll reply to this paragraph as a proponent of this RD initiative by firstly saying that the arm wrestle over religion “owning” morality is of course inaccurate; indeed, it never was in “the grasp of religion”. So the paragraph is similarly proselyting, as religions do. We need, I think, a little more sophistication when addressing such issues, noting that religion is an evolutionary fact of human existence.

    My knee jerk reaction to the opening statement was to sarcastically say, thank heavens, the evolution of morality is over, established, through an evolutionary process, in our distant past. The thing is, “morality” isn’t like biological evolution and the wonderful contentions about our recent and continuing biological evolutions. Rather, “morality” belongs to the realm of human ideas and that marvellous RD notion of “memes” (it is suggested that the author of the paragraph is not yet accordingly schooled in memes).

    So here’s a question. There is now the general understanding that those oriented to same sex sexual relationship are wired that way, the same way as those wired to heterosexual sexual relations; i.e., there’s an acceptance that there’s is not much “biological” choice is how one’s sexually bent. And this understanding has led to societal acceptance of same sex relationships. Now, without venturing into details of how much and governance involved and whatnot, does this societal acceptance constitute an occurring evolution of our “morality” meme?



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  • to fadordraw #6:

    ….religion is an evolutionary fact of human existence.

    That very well may be the case. I propose that the widespread existence of religion is a result of pleiotropy and the strong tendency of humans to conform. Conformity is a genetically inherited trait in humans as in many other social animals. The pleiotropic effect comes when a scam artist uses fear of death and a so called “afterlife” is used to cajole people to follow deluded ideas. Since some due in fact follow without question, then others conform and the religious croud become larger and larger exponentially. And so it goes, generation after generation.



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  • Morality is a product of our evolutionary past,

    And everyone is comfortable with taking that on blind faith?

    well understood and gaining more and more evidence through many fields, such as neuroscience and evolutionary
    psychology (

    Is it now? Of course, without any examples of how this has taken place, the claim is pretty much meaningless, if not utterly misleading.

    even though this field is a little controversial at the time of this writing).

    Controversial? What on earth would a natural, mechanical universe have to do with morality to begin with? It’s not like nature is making a list and checking it twice trying to figure out whose been nottie or nice.

    Morality has been removed from the grasp of religion of religion,
    but religions are not done putting up a fight in claiming it.

    It is because morality is the backbone to earning one’s right to the afterlife. When there is no afterlife to earn your right to, the need for morality inside a natural framework pretty much vanishes into thin air.

    They firmly believe morality is strictly their domain and try to overuse morality in the
    case of sex, sexual conduct, sexual relationships, sexual orientation, and gender identification.

    Of course, because religious people are trying to impress God in order to earn their salvation, hence moral purity becomes a major pillar to why religions even exist. Atheists are not trying to be saved; consequently, it becomes unclear why Atheists think that they need to hold on to concepts like sin, guilt, morality and such after striving so hard to come out of religion in the first place.

    This leads to cultures like the purity culture and to
    crimes committed in the name of religion – acts that, in a secular world, would be viewed as immoral as any act can be

    Of course, there is no real clues provided as to how this author jumps to such a wild conclusion above. He needs to first explain how he came to the conclusion that any act is a crime. A crime according to what natural universal standard?

    but, under the banner of religion,
    are seen as heroic.
    I think Steven Weinberg captured this idea best when he said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have
    good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things,

    Unfortunately, Weinberg provides no indication why the concepts of good an evil even carry relevance outside of a religious context. His point would be far more interesting if he provided a natural basis for why he believes in good and evil in the first place.



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  • Corey #8
    May 2, 2016 at 5:31 am

    Morality is a product of our evolutionary past, well understood and gaining more and more evidence through many fields, such as neuroscience and evolutionary psychology.

    Is it now? Of course, without any examples of how this has taken place, the claim is pretty much meaningless, if not utterly misleading.

    I think there are examples in human and animal social behaviours, but these go deeper than the manipulations of religious leaders in cahoots with political governments.

    There are certainly evolutionary benefits from codes of conduct which build constructive collective efforts within tribes based on equitable distribution of arising communal benefits, and give mutual protections from threats.

    These have nothing directly to do with expectations of an afterlife, although, belief in “fantasy big-brother-is-watching you”, and his followers will abuse/kill, those who do not share their delusions, may well come into the mix!



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  • I’ll reply to this paragraph as a proponent of this RD initiative by firstly saying that the arm wrestle over religion “owning” morality is of course inaccurate;

    So, since actions in a mechanical universe are, well mechanical, which mechanics are the good mechanics and which ones are the evil mechanics? I mean, just to be clear, I’m trying to determine how an Atheist might go from a system of raw mechanics to something as morally elaborate as precise notions of good actions and evil actions.

    indeed, it never was in “the grasp of religion”. So the paragraph is similarly proselyting, as religions do. We need, I think, a little more sophistication
    when addressing such issues, noting that religion is an evolutionary fact of human existence.

    If you are not careful there, you will have by extention that religious wars are a needed tool of evolution to rapidly cleanse the gene pool of weaker faiths.

    My knee jerk reaction to the opening statement was to sarcastically say, thank heavens, the evolution of morality is over, established, through an evolutionary
    process, in our distant past. The thing is, “morality” isn’t like biological evolution and the wonderful contentions about our recent and continuing biological
    evolutions. Rather, “morality” belongs to the realm of human ideas and that marvellous RD notion of “memes” (it is suggested that the author of the paragraph
    is not yet accordingly schooled in memes).

    So here’s a question. There is now the general understanding that those oriented to same sex sexual relationship are wired that way, the same way as those
    wired to heterosexual sexual relations; i.e., there’s an acceptance that there’s is not much “biological” choice is how one’s sexually bent.

    Prewired bent falls outside of the domain of your responsibility, so you are really dragging things outside the moral domain there to a domain of programming instead.

    And this understanding
    has led to societal acceptance of same sex relationships. Now, without venturing into details of how much and governance involved and whatnot, does this
    societal acceptance constitute an occurring evolution of our “morality” meme? 

    I don’t think it really matters what behaviors society accepts or rejects, if the problem is your prewired bent.



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  • Our (human) morality is particular to us and is a work in cultural progress. The mighty corvid race on the planet Cruella (the Crows of Cruella) are scrupulously moral and true to the ancient ways of Cruella. The planet got its name from the terrible scarcity of lifeforms and ability to feed the few such that it had. Ailing grandparent crows would be angry with their son and daughter for not using them as soon as possible to feed their poorly nourished grandchildren. Great poetry exults in the eating of the old and the sorrow and shame of not being.

    Amongst ourselves morality is one of heightened mutuality grounded in a biological empathy. This flows quite naturally from our mammalian past. Our whole body chemistry and evolved neural workings, revolve around the need for a pacified infant being fed by a mother. The neuro-transmitter oxytocin used to muscle relax during birth evolves to pacify mother and offspring during feeding which in turn creates an experience of closeness and dependency denied other animals.

    Evolution added a switch to turn on this beneficial neuro-transmitter. Mammals, invented fur in distinction to feathers and attached at their much more numerous follicles a nerve type the C-Tactile Afferent (sensory). These respond only to touch (the hair being something of a mechanical amplifier) and only slow repetitative stroking at that. When stroked and comforted by the mother the effect is one of instant calming and a mutuality of purpose.

    In adults grooming is pacifying and bonding still.

    A further aspect invented by mammals is the mirror neuron that is the basis of being able to learn skills from others. These stimulate the same muscles in our selves that we see in others. They serve to help train the younger mammal members in skills both social and practical, facial expressions in the appropriate contexts and cracking nuts like thus and so. Facial expressions in ourselves and others are inextricably tied with the emotional state that underlies them. Putting on a happy face makes us feel, simply, happier. If we copy others facial expression we come to share their emotional stae..

    Humans have wildly more mirror neurons than other mammals and though it is argued these actively affect our adult behaviours and make us empathic, it is more likely that this super abundance is a childhood oriented effect training us to be both culture absorbing and empathic. Human babies are born comparatively undeveloped with brains only a third of the adult size. Their brains are very poorly functional making human babies utterly incompetent compared to say their chimp cousins. Mirror neurons keep tighter control of the human infant when young. This leads to a phenomenon only recently discovered and analysed called “overimitation”. Unlike equally competent chimp children human children believe what an adult (in loco parentiis) even when it conflicts with their own eyes and obvious reason. Copying (grown ups) at this age overrides thinking and seeing for yourself. What you learn when young becomes the substrate for all later knowledge and judgement and over-imitation provides the kind of uber reliable copying necessary to actually have a culture evolve. The high mirror neuron count though makes us learn particularly detailed reading of faces and emotions empathically.

    Read Age of Empathy by primatologist Frans de Waal for an account of mammalian empathy.

    More shortly on Morals and Cultural evolution after a little more medication for a clearly terminal case of manflu.



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  • Corey #10
    May 2, 2016 at 6:55 am

    So, since actions in a mechanical universe are, well mechanical, which mechanics are the good mechanics and which ones are the evil mechanics? I mean, just to be clear, I’m trying to determine how an Atheist might go from a system of raw mechanics to something as morally elaborate as precise notions of good actions and evil actions.

    If you are looking for evolutionary origins of “morality” which maintains social harmony within groups, reciprocal altruism and kin-selection would be basic features.



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  • Evolution. II

    Evolution discovers effective solutions many times. The eye has been re-invented perhaps some seven times that we know of. Mutuality (of sorts) many times more. From the simple ad hoc discovery that belonging to a really big flock, swarm or herd and evolving a heuristic of always seeking the middle made you the safer the more successful you were, to the deeper mutuality of brother ant. An ant colony of clones, offspring from a single mother enables selfish genes thus shared between super close siblings to achieve a higher reproductive fitness by serving seemingly selflessly the needs of the nest as a whole.

    Team work in all these situations is hugely more effective than a brave individualism.

    Mammals (of course) are a whole nother step on, given their fantastic biological, nurturing based kit. Humans have the cherry on top. Well two. well, three actually, the super abundance of mirror neurons, empathy reading and childhood “over-imitation” (more a capacity for indoctrination). But also a ginormous cortex, an outer rind of brain, neurons formed as a vertical inferential stack, able to model and… well…. infer the future a bit. Its slow, but unlike the inner. “lower”, earlier parts of the brain, its is plastic enough to learn about most new things. Slow is a problem though. Earlier brain parts are dedicated to things like fight and flight response and are blindingly fast because they need to be and are mostly thoughtless.

    Computing the consequences of our actions using our cortex is rather slow, but to help humans (and the bigger cetations) take advantage of this computation is the final cherry added- Spindle cells. These fat insulated wires are superfast data highways from the cortex to the anterior cingulate cortex, the brains very own error detector, the part that vetoes that impulsive action and a raised hand unclenches to smooth your hair. In a brain full of kludges upon kludges, the ultimately civilising kludge may be spindle cells. It better enables us to overcome our baser instincts through the power of thought.

    Evolution is mostly a set of kludges. Just enough is done to relieve an immediate selection pressure. Selfish genes serve themselves half as well simply by serving the survival of siblings, parents, aunts and uncles and cousins (though in declining measure). Evolution didn’t create a reliable kin detector. (We’re not talking conscious here, we’re talking primitive sub-conscious knowledge, sub-conscious detection, consistent with sub conscious goads to action.) Kin detection is achieved by the simple expedient of noting that nearby grown ups are probably related (as in a tribe) and should be listened to. Cuddling, oxytocin rewarding individuals are probably related (near enough in the troupe). Our Kin detector is really an as-if-kin detector. Our wired empathy to feel another’s pain or (oxytocin releasing) pleasure extends our as-if-kin detection ever outwards in the family franchise. Other simple detectors exist to reinforce bonding. Our own nearest and dearest aside, this bonding engagement starts also with big-eyed (i.e young) mammals like kittens (big eyes another simple evolved oxytocin turn on pressing a “young so nurture” button for us). Nurturing mammal mothers will happily adopt and nurture from outside the species, so wonderfully crude is such detection.

    So now we’re all set to go, ready to re-discover the power of a new more intellectual mutuality from a series of inoffensive and happy accidents due to our rubbish kin and young detectors. Discovering the benefits of an enlarging family (as-if-kin) with greater protection at the core; caring for waifs and strays happily; feeling the pains and pleasures of others; introspecting on their feelings as our own. Discovering…

    well more in part three

    One more part shortly…truly getting to morality and cultural evolution…oh and wired in fairness…



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