Friday, August 17, 2007

Is Religion the Root of All Evil?

Humans do bad things to each other. So do other animals.

The "bad" human behavior for which religion is often blamed would continue to exist tomorrow if religion ceased to exist tonight, for a simple reason -- genetics.

Phenotypical behavior evolves from two sources, genetics and environment. Not being biologists, social scientists tend to concentrate on the environment (conditioning) and the role it plays in human behavior. Thus, the cause and effect relationship of religion and behavior becomes an easy target for them.

The problem with that is idea is that it blames the tool for the works of the fool.

Much of our behavior is innate, not learned. Much of the "bad" behavior for which religion is blamed is actually phylogenetically similar to that seen in other animals species.

We see similar territoriality, competition for resources, kin selection, aggression, and so on, in many animal species. Natural selection (or God) provided Homo sapiens with the same instincts for self/species preservation as other animals. Humans mark their territory by building fences and setting borders for similar reasons that dogs urinate on bushes.

Our "bad" behaviors are simply human expressions of the same preservational animal instincts found in other species. Pan troglodytes do not require religion to make them homocidal towards other chimps -- and Homo sapiens don't either.

We humans are clever apes. We are even able (and willing) to use our "science" to justify our self-serving behavior. It was not very long ago that many leading scientists throughout the world (including America) firmly believed in eugenics. Why not? It's a proven way to breed better cattle and bananas. Are humans biologically superior to cattle? Of course not. So, what makes humans superior? Our egos? If we're not superior in some way, eugenics is as scientifically logical for our species as it is for hogs.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Marital Fidelity

What "glues" a marriage together is not what most people consider "love". It's actually mutual need-fulfillment. Natural selection provided us with a set of instincts (needs) at birth. Thereafter, our experiences provided us with conditioned needs. Together, these genetic and conditioned needs determine behavior. As long as a husband or wife meets their spouse's needs better than anyone else, they'll remain loyal. What are those needs?

Genetic needs of both male and female include survival of self and species. It's not quite so easy to nail down needs created by conditioning. These are driven by a person's zeitgeist -- the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate they live in. Similarity of zeitgeist helps ensure a couple's need-fulfillment, thus the Biblical advice to "be not unequally yoked", while not essential, has merit.

I realize this "animal instincts" stuff is not very romantic. However, knowing the motivators for human behavior provides us with the possibility of using them to our advantage. God forbid that I'd use the phrase "manipulate others". At the very least, it might allow us to know whether we are able, or willing, to fulfill the needs of another, thereby ensuring their "loyalty". It might help us maintain or repair a relationship -- or know when to move on.

A couple notes:

1. Marriage does not switch off the instinct for sex. Therefore, wives having male "friends" and husbands having female "friends" is, zoologically speaking, playing bonding roulette. Exercise extreme caution.

2. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. "Out of sight, out of mind" is far more accurate. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also serves to condition the norm -- to cement the relationship. We grow comfortable with what we're used to, so it's risky to make absence the norm.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Are Children Naturally Bad?

I heard a person say that children come into the world rude, insolent, discourteous, greedy, selfish, self centered, thieves, vandals, demanding, and prone to disobedience and anarchy.

This is true, but it's not the whole truth.

Human children are born with what natural selection deemed best suited for both their personal survival and the survival of their species. After birth, their behavior is conditioned by their environment. Thus their phenotypical behavior is a product of both their genetics and their environmental experiences.

Left on their own (as as been seen with feral children), they will do what is necessary to ensure their survival. This will certainly involve breaking some of the "10 commandments". However, such children would also instinctively demonstrate a certain amount of altruistic and caring behavior -- similar to that of other apes.

Natural behavior is not evil -- it's what evolution (or the Creator if you wish) provided. The natural behavior of a child is no more "evil" than that of a puppy. What's evil is selfishly harming others after knowing it's wrong.

A person's behavior will depend a lot upon their conditioning. Left to their own learning (as many are), children tend to be less altruistic and conforming and more self-centered and anarchic because that is their natural state. So, where do we place the blame when a person behaves "badly"?

Children are victims of their genetics and conditioning. Nature provides the first. Nurture provides the second. Neither is chosen by the children when they pop out of the womb. We should try and remember this and limit ourselves to judging behavior, not people. People can only be judged by their Creator.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Suggestion

As an old man, I'd suggest the following:

Try to use whatever talents, fortunes, and strengths you have to help others. That is what love means, and it's the one common denominator in all religions. Then, your life will not have been in vain and you'll have a good chance of dying with a satisfied mind.