By Douglass Anele
I plead with my readers to bear with me one more time so that we can properly conclude our indepth critique of Wallaceâ€™s and Olatunjiâ€™s fallacies and deliberate misinterpretations of the theory of evolution. Last week we drew attention to the fact that Adam and Eve, the first human beings allegedly created directly by God were amoral ab initio, according to the book of Genesis.
As a matter of fact, the biblical account suggests that our sense of morality or knowledge of good and evil, is the result of disobedience, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. But philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists have accumulated enough evidence which demonstrates that our sense of morality is part and parcel of our socio-cultural evolution, part of our adaptation to both natural and man-made environments.
Immanuel Kantâ€™s Critique of Practical Reason, Erich Frommâ€™s Man For Himself , Robert Hindeâ€™s Why Good is Good, Robert Buchmanâ€™s Can We Be Good Without God? and Matt Ridleyâ€™s The Origins of Virtue are very useful in this regard. There is absolutely no need to bring in the idea of a superhuman moral legislator to explain morality, or what is sometimes called conscience. Aside from the genetic and neurological substrates of moral consciousness, scientists have identified two main circumstances which influence organisms to behave altruistically.
The first one relates to kin selection in which , according to Dawkins, animals (including humans) tend to care for, defend, share resources with, warn of danger, or otherwise show altruism towards close kin because of the enhanced statistical probablity that kin will share copies of the same genes. The second, reciprocal altruism, entails what biologists call symbiosis.
It operates throughout the broad spectrum of living organisms. A few examples will be enough for our purpose here. There is a symbiotic relationship between the bee and the flower. The flower has to be pollinated and the bee needs nectar.
Hence, the bee, while reaching for nectar pollinates the flower. The same principle applies between oxpeckers and buffaloes, cows and their gut micro-organisms, lichens and algae etc. The diverse orders of living things are rich in symbiosis.
The twin pillars of altruism, kinship and reciprocation, serve as foundation for secondary structures which are very prominent at the human level. For instance, when the power of language is brought into the equation, reputation and advertisement of dominance or superiority become important motivators of moral behaviour . To discuss these factors in detail will lenghten our discussion further.
Suffice it to say that there are four good evolutionary reasons why individuals should be altruistic, generous and â€˜moralâ€™ to one another: kin selection, symbiosis, reputation, and the need to demonstrate dominance or superiority. There is absolutely no rational justification for the widespread presumption that without belief in God we cannot have any valid standard of morality.
Kant has shown that morality is logically separable from religion, and his categorical imperative of duty was absolute because it is universalizable. Actually,Â it is hard to justify moral standards without reference to the consequences of our actions.
People like Wallace and Olatunji who claim that morality derives from religion have not really thought through the implications of their belief. As usual, taking The Bible asÂ paradigm, the punishments meted to Adam and Eve for eating the â€œforbidden fruitâ€ were far in excess of their alleged â€œsinâ€.
The ten commandments purpotedly given to Moses by Yahweh are just the kind of simple rulesÂ ancient tribesmen were capable of formulating â€“there is nothingÂ intellectually or morally extraordinary about them. Additionally,Â the kind of God depicted in the Old Testament is light years away from what any reasonable person would consider moral perfection or goodness.
Yahweh is the embodiment and absolute magnification of the worst in human character. He is portrayed as wicked, unjust, irascible, vindictive, jealous, genocidal and perverse â€“a deity that enjoys the smell of burning flesh during sacrifices!
The New Testament is even worse, for it adds to the absurdities of the Old Testament theÂ Â Â Â obnoxious doctrine of original sin and its atonement through the purported blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Moreover,Â it is shocking that ChristianityÂ adopted an instrument of torture and execution (the cross) as its sacred symbol.
One of the best reasons why the scriptures of exclusivistic religions should not be the sources of morality in contemporary societies has been admirably articulated by Sam Harris: â€œThe danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.
Because each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way others must, civilization is still beseiged by armies of the preposterous. We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature. Who would have thought something so tragically absurd would be possible? I urge Wallace,Â Olatunji and other creationists to honestly consider the import of Harrisâ€™ sobering observation.