Morality comes from Monkeys, or so they say…

Getty Images (ABC)

*** Click the Monkey or HERE to read the article/column! You know you want to click the Monkey ūüôā ***

Howdy everyone! To be quite candid, I’m no expert in writing blogs. I wrote one a while back, but then stopped because you know how life goes: you get caught up with things in life etc. I figured blogging is one of the pinnacle achievements of my generation — I’m 24, by the way — and I need to re-participate in the glory that is internet opinionating.¬†¬†Also, I have nothing better to do in Nowhere, North Dakota. ¬†So here I am!

Anyways, I came across this fascinating article/column on ABC via A supposedly acclaimed scientist by the name of Frans de Waal argues in his new book,¬†The Bonobo and the Atheist, that morality did not come about by sovereign providence (i.e. God), but actually from evolutionary processes of the primate brain. Consequently, De Waal implies that an idea of “God” evolved within the human mind, as well as a schema of morality.

“The moral law is not imposed from above or derived from well-reasoned principles; rather it arises from ingrained values that have been there since the beginning of time.” De Waal says.

The age-old conundrum is phrased as such: are we moral because we believe in God or do we believe in God because we are moral?

The most notable explication of this problem comes from Plato’s¬†Euthyphro, where the whimsical Socrates asks the poor, doltish Euthyphro : are things good because the gods say they are good, or do the gods say things are good because those things are good for some other reason in themselves?

Euthyphro: ughhhmmm…. YES.

If your head ain’t exploding yet then God has blessed you.

De Waal’s argument appeals to the Bonobo: these sex-crazed Monkeys that make love instead of war. The Bonobos and the Chimps are our closest evolutionary living relatives. We share 99% of our DNA with them.

The Bonobos differ from the Chimpanzees in their way of settling conflict, primarily through sex. While the Chimpanzees are terribly vicious and violent creatures, the Bonobos are driven by sex fuel for the dismantling of volatile situations. Maybe Noah should have thought twice before allowing those Chimps on his big boat…

So what are your thoughts on this? I have a poll below for ya. Or please feel free to voice your opinion through a comment. Personally, idk. I like to reserve judgments on most things in life so to avoid being shallow-minded. I have a degree in Philosophy; I have thoughts not judgments.

It always irks me when scientists get this vain joy in dispelling religion through scientific “discoveries.” I love science for its own sake, not for the scientific inquisition of religion. It seems De Waal is not out to destroy religion, reading towards the end of the column where he notes about the pragmatic usefulness of religion strengthening communal bonds etc.

But one part of this article that struck me with a certain degree of irony is where it says, “Our sense of morality, he continues, comes from within, not from above.”¬†That is eerily similar to what Jesus said — the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21).

Furthermore, this emphasis of morality within the individual, whether from religion or science, is a refreshing renaissance on righteousness, thrusting the burden of responsibility of being “good” on the human being; whereas some would try to thrust morality outside themselves so as to have an excuse for their egregiousness (e.g. “I’m not bad; I’m just craaaaaaazy!!! That’s why I murdered him”).

However, I don’t know if I would go so far in saying that Monkeys are Moral. The article says that Monkeys¬†feel¬†empathy, guilt, etc. But¬†feeling¬†empathy is different from cognitively processing¬†empathy.¬†That is, human beings process “right” and “wrong” through a very complex brain. We think¬†about right and wrong in conjunction to feeling it. Moreover, emotions lie within the primal part of the brain called the¬†Amygdala.¬†More complex thinking — thoughts of God or thoughts of “right” and “wrong” — lie within the Neocortex, the part of the brain overlapping the primitive,¬†animalistic¬†part of the brain. Whether both the Amygdala and the Neocortex evolved in such a way that they affected each other, idk. This is the extent to my scientific knowledge on the matter.

Put in another way: I think De Waals’¬†nativistic¬†argument is overly simplistic.

Getting into philosophy now, I also think these kinds of scientists are embracing a grand folly based on the Egocentric Predicament. It’s akin to the Anthropologists’¬†Ethnocentrism¬†and Athropomorphism. Basically, it’s the bias approach to judge the world through our human mind and standards. We humans have labeled these emotions as ideas of “empathy” and “guilt” and have given them meaning. But is it fair to say that horny monkeys feel “empathy” when that’s a term really only applicable to human beings? We try to delineate and identify emotions by labeling them, but you know, sometimes we have these weird feelings that are combinations of “anger” or “sadness” etc. Emotions are not as complex as our thoughts, yet are definitely more poignant in their affecting of our disposition.

Well, these are just some of my thoughts on the matter.

One thing I do know for sure: I wish God would have made me a Bonobo Monkey because then I wouldn’t have all this trouble getting laid as a simple human being.

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” ¬†Voltaire


1 Comment

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One response to “Morality comes from Monkeys, or so they say…

  1. Pingback: Our Modern Gladiators: American Football and the problem of brain injuries | Idk

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