"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Thursday, June 10, 2004

A DIALOGUE WITH DARKSTAR218 - PART 2 (See Tim's post here)

Hi Tim

We're obviously into the old nature versus nurture debate... The article on biological altruism we've both referred to ends:

"Contrary to what is often thought, an evolutionary approach to human behaviour does not imply that humans are likely to be motivated by self-interest alone. One strategy by which ‘selfish genes’ may increase their future representation is by causing humans to be non-selfish, in the psychological sense."
In short, evolutionary biology provides a mechanism for understanding altruism - and indeed morality - without the need for an external agent. That is not to say that God does not exist or does not have a hand in human affairs - but it does say that the mere existence of altruism and morality is not ipso facto evidence for the existence of God.

You posit that "Human Beings are born with an natural understanding of Good and Evil ". Studies of "feral children" suggest otherwise:
"Quite simply, feral children are usually entirely unaware of the needs and desires and others. The concepts of morals, property and possessions are alien to them, and they can't show empathy with other people. If brought up by animals, they don't even identify themselves as human, but probably regard humans as 'the enemy'."
There are examples of feral or maladjusted children learning to moderate their behaviour. That may suggest that we are born with the capacity for morality. But on the whole, morality appears to arise from socialisation - social interaction - rather than being something we have at birth.

The same goes for the story of your daughter's first lie. For you to say that she was born a liar seems rather harsh to me :-) It is very common for young children to lie and exaggerate - and is generally taken to be a sign of creativity and testing boundaries. I'd say that the fact she knew from the outset that it was inappropriate to abuse your trust says more (positively, of course) about the way you have raised your children than anything else. I've come across two year olds who are much less scrupulous!

In closing, we can both agree that the "Golden Rule" exists in human cultures. I say that this comes from the simple fact that people on the whole (but not always) do better when they co-operate than they do when they don't. Whether God exists or has a hand in this or not is a moot point.

If you wish to argue that it is something innate in humans and that does not depend on social interaction and socialisation, you are going to have to provide evidence to support your assertion.

Kind regards


Follow the discussion in full at Tim's Darkstar218 weblog.

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