Monday, October 18, 2010

Frans de Waal: Morals Without God?

Frans de Waal's wonderful column Morals Without God? How primate behavior sheds light on the origins of our sense of right and wrong, in yesterday's New York Times is a must read. Among quotes of interest:

"Why not assume that our humanity, including the self-control needed for livable societies, is built into us? Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked social norms before they had religion? Did they never assist others in need, or complain about an unfair deal? Humans must have worried about the functioning of their communities well before the current religions arose, which is only a few thousand years ago."
And the thought provoking:
"... the building blocks of morality are older than humanity, and  we do not need God to explain how we got where we are today. On the other hand, what would happen if we were able to excise religion from society? I doubt that science and the naturalistic worldview could fill the void and become an inspiration for the good. Any framework we develop to advocate a certain moral outlook is bound to produce its own list of principles, its own prophets, and attract its own devoted followers, so that it will soon look like any old religion."

You can take a glance at the premise that lead to this discussion in this video trailer of his discussion with Robert Wright about morals, religion and primate altruism.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

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