[UPDATE 19-OCT] Morals Without God?
By FRANS DE WAAL - THE NEW YORK TIMES
Updated: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 20:32:44 UTC
Thanks to Skepticato for the link
Note from RD staff:
Franz de Waal ignores crucial evidence of our innate moral capacities.
Michael Tomasello, the developmental psychologist who co-heads the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, has demonstrated helpful and complex cooperative behavior in preverbal infants.
The films of these infants are impressive (and fun) to watch. When chimps do the same experiments, they are far less cooperative.
Tomasello builds the case that we are born cooperative and helpful. We become more strategic with age, but the basic altruistic, cooperative, and helpful mechanisms are unequivocally part of our endowment. This is just one of his group's many publications. Warneken F. & Tomasello, M., "Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees," Science 311:1301-1303, March 3, 2006.
I was born in Den Bosch, the city after which Hieronymus Bosch named himself. 1 This obviously does not make me an expert on the Dutch painter, but having grown up with his statue on the market square, I have always been fond of his imagery, his symbolism, and how it relates to humanity’s place in the universe. This remains relevant today since Bosch depicts a society under a waning influence of God.
His famous triptych with naked figures frolicking around — “The Garden of Earthly Delights” — seems a tribute to paradisiacal innocence. The tableau is far too happy and relaxed to fit the interpretation of depravity and sin advanced by puritan experts. It represents humanity free from guilt and shame either before the Fall or without any Fall at all. For a primatologist, like myself, the nudity, references to sex and fertility, the plentiful birds and fruits and the moving about in groups are thoroughly familiar and hardly require a religious or moral interpretation. Bosch seems to have depicted humanity in its natural state, while reserving his moralistic outlook for the right-hand panel of the triptych in which he punishes — not the frolickers from the middle panel — but monks, nuns, gluttons, gamblers, warriors, and drunkards.
Five centuries later, we remain embroiled in debates about the role of religion in society. As in Bosch’s days, the central theme is morality. Can we envision a world without God? Would this world be good? Don’t think for one moment that the current battle lines between biology and fundamentalist Christianity turn around evidence. One has to be pretty immune to data to doubt evolution, which is why books and documentaries aimed at convincing the skeptics are a waste of effort. They are helpful for those prepared to listen, but fail to reach their target audience. The debate is less about the truth than about how to handle it. For those who believe that morality comes straight from God the creator, acceptance of evolution would open a moral abyss.
... Read more
- - BBC News Comments
A new poll suggests that atheism is on the rise in the US, while those who consider themselves religious has dropped. What's the cause? Two writers debate.
- - human rights first Comments
Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The Consequences of Criminalizing “Defamation of Religions”
Ed Kilgore - Political Animal Comments
update - too crazy even for the evangelical right
Barton’s Fall From Grace
David Barton says his documents prove that the Founding Fathers were deeply religious men who built America on Christian ideas - but do his sources check out?
Cory Doctorow - BoingBoing Comments
Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich has given a tremendous closing statement, which is a masterful summary of Russian oligarchy
Graham Veale - Saints & Sceptics? Comments
Refuting Richard: Dawkins Doesn’t “Get” God
- - BBC News Comments
The government has launched an action plan to tackle child abuse linked to witchcraft or religion in England.