Do morals evolve?

I thought about this question in light of the discussion on my recent posts here, here, and here. It seems that naturalists and secularists want us to believe that our moral values come to us from our biology and these are evolving as humankind hurdles forward through time and space.

Of course, from this beachhead they are free to dismiss religion by saying that we would’ve eventually arrived at our current moral state anyway. While the last sentence is a totally unsubstantiated speculation, a faith statement, if you will, there is one way I can agree that we’ve evolved morally and one way in which I think the evolutionary assertion is false.

First, I agree that we, as human beings, have evolved culturally in the sense of becoming more aware of individual freedoms, human rights, protecting the marginalized, and condemning the subjugation of other human beings. You could also include better treatment of animals and taking care of our environment. All these improvements are good. In that sense, we seem to be growing as relational human beings. But does this mean that we evolved by way of some new discoveries of moral truths? I hardly think so.

For instance, one of the oldest moral axioms of all is to love others as ourselves. Jesus said that this is (along with loving God) is what fulfills all the ancient laws and the prophets:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt.22:37-40, emphasis added)

You could say that actually loving others as yourself would cure every ill of moral wrongdoing in the world today. Yet, we clearly have not done so. We have not even come close to “evolving” to this ancient ideal. In fact, you could argue that we’ve just found more diabolical ways to do just the opposite and hide the bodies from our rose-colored view. If we cannot even live according to very ancient moral revelations, how can we honestly say we’ve evolved beyond this by way of some previously undiscovered secular truth?

Here’s what I think we can say. Moral truths themselves do not evolve. These timeless truths have been given to us since the beginning. As Solomon wisely put it, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” But we can and do evolve as a civilization in realizing those truths in our common experience. Progress in areas of social justice is just one example. In other words, we can say we’re on a progressive trajectory as human beings toward understanding how to live out the most ancient ideals that informed us in how we “should” behave toward one another. And even though history has proven that we’re not very good at it,  there does seem to be some hopeful plodding forward.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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169 Responses to Do morals evolve?

  1. tildeb says:

    First, you (again) assume the conclusion you want to reach by asserting it as a premise, and you do so by assuming our morals were ‘given’ to us.

    Is this true? What evidence is there for this ‘giving’? Well, there is none. There is only evidence of moral behaviour… behaviour that demonstrates considerations we consider to have a moral component.

    Why does this matter?

    This matters because there is also evidence of demonstrated behaviour indicating what we would call the same moral considerations , morality in action, from other mammals and birds and even rudimentary feeding ‘rules’ by some reptiles we have to account for. If humans were ‘given’ this moral sense from some supposed god then why was all the extra-species moral sense ‘given’? This question matters because whatever that answer might be, it stands contrary to the assertion you continue to advocate that morality is ‘given’ by way of religious instruction.

    This thesis doesn’t fit the evidence.

    Secondly, you know no one comes at moral considerations as a blank slate prior to religious instruction. So you describe culture as a possible vehicle but then claim religious moral instruction instructs culture! Again, animal studies put this claim to the test and find its wanting.

    In place of your thesis is the idea that our moral sense is part of our biology… a sense built on fundamental neurology that recognizes and implements reciprocity and fairness as important considerations for social behaviour. Because we share some of this neurological biology with other critters, we should expect to find some evidence of the moral consideration of reciprocity and fairness in their social behaviour. Lo and behold! That’s why this is powerful evidence that our moral sense is not cultural or religious but inherited. That means our moral sense is not ‘given’ to us by some intentional external agency as you assume but the evidence indicates the basis of moral considerations is inherited as part of our biology regarding reciprocity and fairness.

    • Mel Wild says:

      My argument is not with biology itself, or our physical moral senses, but with the idea that we have evolved by way of new discoveries of moral codes previously not known. If morality itself comes by way of biology you would expect a continual generation of new moral revelations. Yet we were given moral principles thousands of years ago that we still have not followed. Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely that you can provide evidence for this evolution of generating previously unknown moral codes. Sorry, not convinced.

      • tildeb says:

        Then you’re going to have to flesh out what you mean by “the idea that we have evolved by way of new discoveries of moral codes previously not known.” I have offered reciprocity and fairness as the biological basis for all behaviour we consider ‘moral’. In other words, our moral sense is based on reciprocity and fairness. So I do not know what you mean by ‘moral codes previously not known’ as it relates to the evolution of this moral sense (meaning how reciprocity and fairness have become heritable traits in neurology).

        • Mel Wild says:

          We have understood reciprocity and fairness from the very beginning. You have no proof that these ideals have evolved.

        • tildeb says:

          ?

          They’re not ‘ideals’; they are neurological pathways activated sensory input. They are part of our biology in that we inherit the genes necessary. These aren’t ‘given’ to us but, as I said, inherited. Reciprocity and fairness IS our moral sense. It is biological. Furthermore, we can see the same behaviour we do when this neurology is activated mirrored in the behaviour of other critters and we can see the same neurological areas activated as our own in our closest evolutionary kin when this sense is stimulated.

          So where are you disagreeing with my point that our moral sense (the necessary basis for any and all moral values) is not ‘given’ to us by an external agency but inherited through our biology?

        • Mel Wild says:

          First, who or what gave them to us? Second, explain to me how they evolved when these arguably generated moral codes obviously have not evolved?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Btw, the first question is because when you say, “not given but inherited” is incoherent.

        • tildeb says:

          Who or what gave them to us? This is what I’m asking you. My answer is we inherit this moral sense from our biology. We are born this way. They evolved by natural selection, for which there is very good evidence, which is why I mention the study of this sense from animal behaviour studies: the closer the kinship, the greater this moral sense is indicated by behaviour, but it – meaning behaviour in response to reciprocity and fairness discrepancies – is fairly widespread in the animal kingdom.

          You are again referring to moral codes. I’m taking about our biological basis for our moral sense in that this is not given to us by an external agency but is part and parcel of our inherited neurology. Moral codes are social constructs and these change depending on all kinds of variables… including you. You will demonstrate different moral codes depending on circumstance and environment (which helps explain your boundless tolerance and appreciation for the lies and deceits of a ColorStorm or John Branyan, for example, but not the critical review by the ever-questioning Ark – different (moral code) strokes for different folks, am I right?).

          So this is why I asked you to flesh out this connection you are trying to establish with evolution; if were not talking heritability, we’re not talking evolution.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Then we are talking about two different things. I was not arguing for where morals came from. That’s a different (debatable) subject. Even if we concede that it’s biological (which I’m not convinced they are), I still don’t see how our moral ideals (like “love others as yourself”) have evolved beyond the ancient precepts. We’ve had those ideals from the beginning. In fact, I think it can be argued that there’s nothing morally valued today that is new to our species. That was my argument.

          And, yes, there will be “different strokes” as to what those moral codes are depending on the cultural settings, yet there are some core values that most cultures have and would agree on. And those core values of right and wrong don’t seem to have evolved at all. We’re just better as doing them as we “evolve” culturally: as we become more globalized, better educated, and our cultures are mixed together.

      • john zande says:

        Yet we were given moral principles thousands of years ago that we still have not followed.

        If you consider justice important, then “turn the other cheek” and “do not resist the evil doer” are immoral.

        Wouldn’t you agree?

      • john zande says:

        We have understood reciprocity and fairness from the very beginning. You have no proof that these ideals have evolved.

        Well, now you’re just lying, and you KNOW you’re lying.

        Or do you want me to post the videos again?

        • Mel Wild says:

          So, Mr monkey video, how have we elves beyond loving others as ourselves?

        • john zande says:

          I’m assuming there’s a typo here…

        • Mel Wild says:

          LOL! Was typing from my phone in a restaurant. I meant “evolved.”

        • john zande says:

          I’m sorry, but i’m not entirely sure I understand what your question is asking.

          Are you saying you agree that the two pillars of morality (reciprocity and empathy) arose from evolution, are present in non-human animals, and you want examples of those pillars being honed (evolving) over time?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I thought I was pretty clear. I’m not referring to biology or neurology at all. I’m talking about moral principles or ideals that we aspire to as human beings. These are the “should”‘s of morality. For instance, the moral ideal of other-centered, self-giving love is probably the oldest ideal of all. We can only say we may have improved in our ability to achieve this ancient ideal; there was no new revelation of better ideals. What moral principles can you point to that weren’t already known to us? For instance, reciprocity and empathy are ancient values. Nothing new there.

          So, are you agreeing with me then, that moral ideals aren’t evolving (new ones being discovered), we are just getting better at living out old ones? Because that’s the point of my post.

        • john zande says:

          And by “ancient” are you saying tens of millions of years, rising up through evolution in Cenozoic?

        • Mel Wild says:

          I’m talking about the beginning of recorded history. Unless you have written documentation to the contrary for those millions of years, we have no idea what people actually believed about morality so that would be useless speculation.

        • john zande says:

          Nonsense. We have decades of animal behaviour research, hundreds of studies repeated hundreds of times. We see highly evolved senses of right and wrong in numerous social creatures that have risen in the Cenozoic… that is reaching back many tens of millions of years, starting with the evolution of mammals. Or in other words, animals with frontal lobes.

          So, I guess my question is, are you affording this sense of right and wrong behaviour to be present in non-human animals, or are you limiting it to humans? If just humans, can you identify when it rose? Our lineage is 7 million years, starting with Sahelanthropus tchadensis. Was it present in them?

        • Mel Wild says:

          LOL! What moral codes of conduct or ideals do you have from millions of years ago?

        • john zande says:

          Want to see the fairness experiment videos again?

          I have one done on dogs, if you don’t like monkeys. It’s actually quite funny.

          But if you want to ignore all that, you can. I think it would be a stupid position to take, considering the evidence, but you’re certainly free to do so. So seriously, if you’re rejecting all the non-human animal evidence and want to believe it’s a human phenomenon (as if we’re the only mammals with frontal lobes), then can you tell me when this ‘sense’ arose. Was it, for example, with Sahelanthropus tchadensis 7 million years ago?

          Honest question.

        • John Branyan says:

          Animals can’t be immoral.
          So animals can’t be moral.

        • john zande says:

          As an introduction, you might want to read the article: Like Humans, Chimps Reward Cooperation and Punish Freeloaders.

          But thanks for your continued input. Your sure-fire ability to be wrong helps frame the facts I’m presenting.

        • John Branyan says:

          I’m not wrong.
          You’re not presenting facts.
          Unless you’re able to read a chimp’s mind, you’re speculating about the motivation of observed behavior.
          Do you read chimp’s minds?

        • john zande says:

          Oh, so why is the freeloading individual punished by the group?

          Again, thanks. Your sure-fire ability to be wrong helps frame the facts I’m presenting.

        • John Branyan says:

          I can’t read chimp’s minds. Can you?
          Simple question.

        • john zande says:

          And Mel, I asked you a question above which I’m hoping you just missed.

          You said Yet we were given moral principles thousands of years ago that we still have not followed

          If you consider justice important, consider it moral, which I think you do, then do you consider these two commands, “turn the other cheek” and “do not resist the evil doer,” as immoral?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Do you have any ability to comprehend the subject? I’m beginning to wonder. I have no idea how your point relates to the subject of this post.

        • john zande says:

          You wrote Yet we were given moral principles thousands of years ago that we still have not followed

          I’m assuming these words you wrote are about Jesus. I’m enquiring about these words… which *you* wrote.

          Is not resisting an evil doer moral, or immoral? I’d say immoral. Do you agree?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Is not resisting an evil doer moral, or immoral? I’d say immoral. Do you agree?

          Not at all. Jesus is dealing with not seeking revenge in personal and civil matters, which is positive moral trait because it stops the escalation of violence. To retaliate a wrongdoing with more violence just perpetuates the cycle. Jesus was dealing with the violent paradigm of “an eye for an eye” in the His religious world (that was actually given to limit the retributive violence). I like the way Eugene Peterson translates that makes the intent more clear (Message Bible):

          38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. (Matt.5:38-42 MSG)

          Paul also says “not to be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Rom.12:21). These are acts of other-centered, self-giving love. Jesus was the ultimate example on the cross.

        • john zande says:

          OK, thanks for your answer. I won’t push you on the subject, as I don’t think you actually believe this answer for one second. It’s self-evident, of course, that there are some serious issues here with matters of justice and putting the “victim first,” which you have been saying is frightfully important. Or have you shifted your position on this?

          A stockbroker, to give a mild example, ‘churns’ through an old ladies life savings, buying and selling stock for no other reason than to get a commission on each buy/sell, leaving her broke. What you’re suggesting here is to do nothing. What you’re suggesting is to just let the injustice go unanswered. With no consequences for his actions (his ‘evil’ doing), the stockbroker will, of course, repeat his behaviour and ruin other people’s lives while enriching himself.

          By your reckoning, it would be morally correct to let him ruin lives.

          You have your faults, Mel, but I don’t think this would be your actual position on the matter.

          Another example: state aggression. Nazi Germany sweeps into western Europe with 380 armoured divisions. By your reckoning, it would be morally correct to sit back and do nothing. It would be morally correct to passively watch the crimes, and not lift a finger to oppose it.

          Again, I don’t think this would be your actual position on the matter.

          So, when you say “Not at all,” I think we can all read that as “Inaction is certainly immoral, but I can’t bring myself to say that.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          The concept is don’t seek revenge, JZ, not that people who break laws shouldn’t be punished. You’re taking Jesus’ words way beyond their context. Paul said in Romans 13…

          3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. (Rom.13:3-4)

          The Amish community that was attacked by a gunman (who said he was angry at God, btw) several years ago is a perfect example. This gunman went into their school and shot 10 children, five of them were killed. Their very public response (it was all over the news) was that they forgave him. They didn’t want retribution, they wanted mercy. That doesn’t mean that the man shouldn’t go to prison. That’s what government is designed to do. The Amish were actually carrying out the intent of Jesus’ words.

        • john zande says:

          Revenge *is* justice, Mel. And the command is quite clear: turn the cheek, do not resist the evil doer.

        • Mel Wild says:

          So, according to your logic, then if God gets His revenge on you for all the terrible things you said about Him and all the people you turned away from Him, He would be totally just for doing so, right?

          No, you don’t get the passage at all (at least you won’t admit to it).

        • john zande says:

          Huh? Not sure that thought of yours came out exactly as you might have planned.

          Mel, revenge is the price one pays. As a society we’ve formalised the transgressions and published the agreed-upon punishments, but that DOES NOT change the fact that justice is revenge. It’s the gentrification of this need for revenge. It’s also the recognition that for justice to be meaningful it has to be consistent.

          But OK Mel, play with your apologetics paintbrush all you like. I’m more interested, as per this post, with when, exactly, you think our sense of right and wrong arose… which I’ve asked three times already.

          Here’s the fourth:

          You can dismiss all the evidence that non-human animals exhibit a strong and complex awareness of right and wrong, but that still leaves you with the question as to when did the capacity arise in hominids?

          Was it with Sahelanthropus tchadensis 7 million years ago? Was it perhaps with Ardipithecus, Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, or Homo erectus?

  2. Wally Fry says:

    Mel. Thanks. I often wish someone could explain how, if morals have evolved and ARE evolving, exactly why anything is actually immoral. If they are evolving, then nothing is immoral, it is just at its own stage of change and adaptation. Wrong now, but not then. Ultimately perhaps okay now, yet wrong at some point in the future. Or, maybe not. I suppose it depends on….something?

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s a good point, Wally. How do we know if anything is objectively wrong if it’s continually changing? How do we make coherent laws from this notion? My point is, if there’s actual “evolution” of morals going on it would be that we’re progressing toward acts of self-sacrifice, other-centered benevolence and understanding toward one another, which is simply moving toward the oldest moral precept of all!

  3. “…hopeful plodding forward.”

    I like how you put that, Mel.I quite agree. It seems to me as if we as people are not evolving at all, nor morally progressing, but a kind of kingdom is being built anyway, and we are on some kind of moral trajectory. (LOL, and no we are not all, “going to hell in hand basket,” although it can feel that way sometimes.) The trajectory I sense is actually a good one,with some major birth pains here and there. That positive trajectory kind of flies in the face of logic, reason, evolution…human nature.

    • Mel Wild says:

      True. Cultural paradigms and values move very slowly, even in our fast-paced modern world. It ebbs and flows, and it’s not always positive. But it is moving forward in a general positive direction. My point is that this positive moving forward is toward realizing ancient truths about how we ought to act toward one another. I think we’ve proven over and over again that there’s nothing new under the sun. To think otherwise is just willful ignorance of history.

  4. John Branyan says:

    I tend to agree that morality doesn’t evolve. Selfishness has always been immoral. There was never a time when killing someone in a rage was okey-dokey. (Looking at you, Cain…)

    The idea that morality is based on biology is idiotic. Biology isn’t “right” or “wrong”.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I keep asking what moral principle has actually evolved (or what new principle did we discover), which would be the only thing that would refute my point, and I keep getting irrelevant answers. But I’m seriously beginning to wonder about JZ’s comprehension abilities. Either that or he’s just pulling my chain because he keeps asking me somewhat incoherent questions or makes totally irrelevant points about where morals came from (which again, is not the subject). I’m also not sure if JZ knows what a moral standard is because he keeps wanting to show his monkey videos again. I don’t know about you but I have never seen or heard of any moral code or precept given to us by monkeys or dogs. I hope he’s being facetious (for his sake).

      • John Branyan says:

        There is no such thing as animal immorality. No sane person would suggest that a dog was “doing wrong” when it pulls a baby kangaroo out of it’s dead mother’s pouch and eats it. But the heathen want to say the dog is “doing right” when it pulls the baby out and befriends it.

        JZ isn’t being facetious. He’s being depraved. His pride as driven him so far from God (the only source of wisdom) that he has literally lost his mind.

      • john zande says:

        I keep asking what moral principle has actually evolved (or what new principle did we discover), which would be the only thing that would refute my point, and I keep getting irrelevant answers.

        If you want to cast an enormous net, then an idea like fairness, for example, has always represented one broad idea to creatures capable of understanding the consequences of behaviours. Sure. I have no problem with that, but what is fair today is not necessarily fair tomorrow, so the actual ‘content’ of that idea is fluid. At any given time, what is fair also varies from one group to the next. It can be called the same thing, fair, but antagonistic from one group to the other, so to try and paint the broadest possible notion as somehow universally the same is a little too simplistic.

        Was it “fair” to drop atomic weapons on Japanese civilians? Yes, and No.

        Take the fur trade. Today we have alternative means of producing warm clothing and so it is considered by most immoral to kill an animal just to wear its fur. It is unnecessary and therefore wrong due to the suffering it causes. That was not the value judgment of the Paleolithic man. The paradigm shifts, the moral code shifts with it. What was right becomes wrong, although both measures were right in their times.

        As you can see from these examples, it’s an abstract thing, made possible by biological complexity and the evolution of organisms capable of measuring the consequences of behaviours. An amoeba cannot act morally or immorally. It can only be an amoeba. In a world of amoebas there are just amoebas being amoebas.

        Now, I asked you about the emergence of this capacity… But you appear to be dodging it. Please don’t do that. The evidence, of course, clearly shows the pillars of morality being present in non-human animals. Without offering any coherent explanation, you seem to want to simply dismiss this with a hand-wave, which is fine, but it still leaves the question of when the capacity arose in hominids.

        Was it with Sahelanthropus tchadensis 7 million years ago? Was it perhaps with Ardipithecus, Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, or Homo erectus?

        • judyt54 says:

          absolutely, John. What was moral behavior (or at least “moral’ by the standards of the day) a thousand years ago, or further back than that, might be considered immoral, or indecent, or vicious today. Times change. Standards for survival change. In colonial times people became fur traders and trappers to make a living and survive. Now it borders on immorality and for the most part unnecessary.

          You simply cannot apply millennia-old standards to modern life. If you did we would still be hacking off the hands of thieves and burning witches.

        • Mel Wild says:

          You simply cannot apply millennia-old standards to modern life.

          How has “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you” or “love your neighbor as yourself” changed over time? Why can’t we apply these today? When were these standards ever immoral? How have we improved upon these two principles?

          If you did we would still be hacking off the hands of thieves and burning witches.

          I would agree that hacking off hands and burning witches is no longer considered just punishment, or even something we should do ever. But that’s not my point and these kinds of things were never condoned by Jesus or Paul or the New Testament. I said we have certainly grown as a civilization in our understanding of what is moral and how to treat people, but nothing has changed as far as the fundamental moral standards. And loving our neighbor as ourselves fulfills all morality.

        • john zande says:

          I put this thought experiment to Mel the other day, but he refused (for obvious reasons) to answer it:

          If I programmed a robot to enforce all biblical laws, would you feel safe having it in your home?

          We can also look more specifically at animal sacrifice, which the bible says is a moral and necessary act. The god Christians, in this case, hope exists loves the smell of burnt sacrificial flesh (Gen 8:21/Lev 1:9/Lev 3:5). Today, we (meaning the majority of people) see animal sacrifice as shockingly immoral. Our moral compass (shared memes) has shifted with increasing knowledge of how the world works.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Total distortion of what is going on there, JZ. If YOU programmed the robot it wouldn’t look anything like what was actually going on with God. The prophets also said, “I NEVER wanted your sacrifices” in many places. All He’s ever wanted was and is our hearts from the very beginning. He was placating THEM by progressively bringing them out of their pagan past in their way of relating to their gods because that’s all they understood. Here’s just one example from Jeremiah:

          5 “For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7 then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

          21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. (Jer.7:5-7, 21-24)

          If God actually wanted animal sacrifices to please Him we would still be sacrificing animals because He doesn’t change. So please don’t preach the Bible to us. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • john zande says:

          So, would you have such a robot in your house, and feel safe?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Not if you programmed it.

        • john zande says:

          I’d only be copying words directly from the bible…

        • Mel Wild says:

          Yeah, like the devil did with Jesus. Totally out of context and with the wrong intent.

        • john zande says:

          Again, I’d only be copying the words from the bible… Like this:

          A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

        • Mel Wild says:

          Right, that’s tops on Christian principles.

        • john zande says:

          Well, this is from an evangelical Christian theologian:

          What Christians most often forget is how to read the whole Bible as the complete Word of God. For some, there is a misunderstanding that the Old Testament no longer applies to Christians. That would be a mistaken understanding because Jesus came to fulfill the “Law and the Prophets” (the Old Testament), but not to change a “jot or tittle” of it. Jesus did change some of the incorrect ways that the Jews were practicing the Law, but did not change the Law itself.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I didn’t say the Old Testament no longer applies at all. We just have to re-interpret it through the lens of Jesus. Not to mention, the prophets corrected some of their thinking on sacrifices in the Old Testament itself. If we take passages out of their historical and cultural context and apply them to ours, or if our understanding in any way contradicts what Jesus taught us about God, we are misinterpreting them.

          A wooden literal interpretation of the Bible is the worst possible way to read the Bible. It was never historically understood that way and no one except extreme Fundamentalists read it that way. But believe whatever you want. You will just go and find something else that agrees with you. I don’t have the time for this.

        • john zande says:

          We just have to re-interpret it

          Ah. Well, it’s certainly good to see Yhwh has his messaging perfectly clear and free of any and all ambiguity. With eternity on the line, I’m sure he’d hate for there’d to be any misunderstandings, especially among the professional class of theologians…

          Anyway, I’m really not interested in this subject at all. What I am interested in (as per the subject of this post) is when, exactly, you think our sense of right and wrong arose in the course of our evolutionary history.

          You can dismiss all the evidence that non-human animals exhibit a strong and complex awareness of right and wrong, but that still leaves you with the question as to when did the capacity arise in hominids?

          Was it with Sahelanthropus tchadensis 7 million years ago? Was it perhaps with Ardipithecus, Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, or Homo erectus?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Your “evidence” is not relevant to my post, which is about moral PRECEPTS, PRINCIPLES, CODES, whatever you want to call it. For the nth time, It’s NOT about biological evolution or whether animals have morals or not. And my point (for the nth time) is that these PRECEPTS, like loving your neighbor as yourself, have not evolved at all. We haven’t even fully realized them after thousands of years of knowing them. So, unless you have 7 million year old scrolls somewhere with moral codes, your points are irrelevant to my point. You are just wasting my time (again).

        • john zande says:

          I’m not presenting evidence for the deep, extra-human roots of morality. I am, in fact, trying to get you to focus on what you are calling “moral precepts.”

          Will you focus, please?

          You are claiming these precepts are just there, in human beings, presumably put there by Yhwh, and static. Yes? Well, OK. The thing is, though, humans weren’t “created.” Our specific evolutionary path is some 7 million years long. If you don’t think the pillars are morality emerged in animals far older than Sahelanthropus tchadensis, then you are saying that somewhere along that path we got these “precepts.”

          Correct?

          So, I’m curious. Do you believe we got these precepts inserted 250,000 years ago with the advent of modern Homo Sapiens Sapiens, or was it perhaps further back with Ardipithecus, or Australopithecus afarensis, or Homo habilis, or Homo erectus?

          What about Neanderthals and Denisovans, did they have these precepts, too?

        • john zande says:

          BTW, are you going to answer my question, asked 4 times now?

        • Mel Wild says:

          LOL! Only when you start listening to what I say.

        • john zande says:

          Does that mean you don’t know when?

        • John Z and tildeb, thought I’d mention my observation of this post and comments here as well as down at the bottom of comments…

          …these PRECEPTS, like loving your neighbor as yourself, have not evolved at all.

          In order to properly understand the “evolution” of social morals, it’s wiser to go to a number of continental Sociologists who have studied full-time and published findings (for decades) the development, structure, and function of past and present societies/cultures and have had them scrutinized by their qualified peers… RATHER THAN going to a musical composer and conductor or managers of restaurants/cafes, though they both deal with people. 😉 LOL

          It’s even MORE wise to take whatever the composer/conductor or restaurant/cafe manager has to say about the history and evolution of human/animal morality with plenty of caution, suspicion, and bottles of salt when they cannot demonstrate any sort of background, academia, or internship in the field. Furthermore, I did not see any references or footnotes in this blog-post to such expertise by scholars in the subject.

          Conclusion? Utilize ample caution, suspicion, and bottles of salt when reading an Opine blog-post like this.

        • John Branyan says:

          BRAAAAAAAVVVOOOOOO!
          We must always go to multiple sources, good and bad, right and wrong, expert and novice. No singular source can ever be trusted. BRAVO!
          BRAVO!

        • Wrong. But as history has shown you twist, interpret, interpolate, and extrapolate anything your pathological brain imagines. Watching and reading your inept comments and semi-cognitive process sometimes (not too often) becomes feint comedy. You deserve one or two claps for that. 😉

          Have a good week BrainYawn.

        • John Branyan says:

          BRAVO! BRAAAVOO-OO!
          Watching you reject your own arguments is the essence of comedy. You desrve one or two BRAVOOOOOO’s for that. 😉

          Have a good week Professor Buffoon.

        • John Branyan says:

          “Without offering any coherent explanation, you seem to want to simply dismiss this with a hand-wave, which is fine, but it still leaves the question of when the capacity arose in hominids.”

          This is the question YOU are supposed to answer.
          It is not Mel’s job to support YOUR claim.

        • john zande says:

          I have, and can continue to do with video evidence and published papers.

          But thanks for your continued input. Your sure-fire ability to be wrong helps frame the facts I’m presenting.

        • John Branyan says:

          JZ: “Take the fur trade. Today we have alternative means of producing warm clothing and so it is considered by most immoral to kill an animal just to wear its fur. It is unnecessary and therefore wrong due to the suffering it causes…it’s an abstract thing, made possible by biological complexity.. ”
          You cannot prove any of this with biological science.

          JZ:” That was not the value judgment of the Paleolithic man. The paradigm shifts, the moral code shifts with it. What was right becomes wrong, although both measures were right in their times.”
          Great! Biblical slavery was not morally wrong.
          It’s great to see you’ve finally come around!

          Looking forward to your pantomiming.

        • john zande says:

          So you’re saying morals do, in fact, evolve.

          Thanks for your input.

        • John Branyan says:

          Actually, I said exactly the opposite.
          Thanks for blowing mightily.

        • john zande says:

          So you’re saying the bible is morally reprehensible.

          OK, thanks for your input.

        • John Branyan says:

          I’m enjoying your pantomime! It’s a perfect depiction of a man caught in a box. Keep it up!

        • john zande says:

          Thanks for your input.

        • John Branyan says:

          I didn’t do it for you.
          It’s for the people reading along who aren’t nitwits.

        • john zande says:

          True, the people reading along can easily see the contradictory mess you’ve gotten yourself into.

          Again, thanks for your input.

      • tildeb says:

        The term morality means “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” This understanding necessitates looking at behaviour… and then extracting where on a spectrum between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ the behaviour falls. But this makes no sense unless we further define what informs ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour based on certain principles.

        When we talk about the principles of morality, we are introducing assumptions and assertions to define these bookend terms. You are inserting some god here at some historical moment. You write as if you believe these principles were inserted into our genetic code at some historical time and place. This is how you are able to go along with the ‘biology’ aspect… but won’t (because you can’t) put your foot down and say, “Here is where the event of instilling moral principles into our biology occurred and this is when it happened and this is how it happened and here is the evidence for this belief I hold.”

        I find all of those religious overtones, insertions, assumption, and assignments to some divine overseer unlikely, extraneous, and quite unhelpful in understanding morality.

        My assertion is that our biology provides us with the fundamental principles. The fundamental principles are reciprocity and fairness and it comes with our neurology. But not just ours.

        If you think about it, understanding reciprocity and fairness is all about social interactions, about relationships, about how balanced whatever the interaction is between the parties involved. When the balance is lacking, our biology responds. The only principles being used here is our innate sense of fairness, our innate sense that we are not engaging in a balanced reciprocal social event. Our brains then do all kinds of fascinating things regarding chemicals and information processing neurology. We feel this response and then act accordingly. But not just us.

        This leads us to better understand how this response mechanism has changed over time if we wish to speak about it under the terms of evolutionary change. But I don’t think you actually want to go there. The bottom line is that if you really want to better understand morality, religion doesn’t help; it substitutes Just So stories. And makes stuff up. Religion introduces these same principles that are biological and then claims to be their source as well as veritable host of other values – often conflicting with different religions and their values – and claims ownership of morality! This is patently false not because I say so but because our evolutionary biology presents a coherent explanation.

        Because morality necessarily includes social behaviour, morals can not be an independent thing, cannot be objectively true in and of themselves. Morality is what we call an emergent property of social behaviour. There is no morality without social behaviour. This is why animal studies involving social relationships are so revealing: because the same sense of reciprocity and fairness exists across the animal kingdom. More importantly there is duplicate behaviour in all the great apes (our closest evolutionary kin) and – this the vital part – similar behavioural disturbances! That’s how we know we share a common set of moral principles – principles that are raised when reciprocity and fairness in a social interaction are disturbed! How disturbances in reciprocity and fairness affects social behaviour can be and is studied up the wazoo. That’s why John keeps offering more and more videos on this subject.

        The principles of fundamental morality precedes you, precedes your parents, precedes their parents, precedes theirs, precedes hundreds of generations of humans, precedes all religious texts, all scripture. The fundamental principles cross the species boundary. We can adduce that this means morality is not god-given to people but emerges by means of biology from social behaviour… not just ours but throughout the animal kingdom.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Okay, I don’t have a problem with a lot of your logic. I will make one more comment here and leave it at that. You said…

          “The principles of fundamental morality precedes you, precedes your parents, precedes their parents, precedes theirs, precedes hundreds of generations of humans, precedes all religious texts, all scripture.”

          Well, that’s exactly what I was saying. I totally agree! These principles did not evolve. We intuitively understood that they were moral from the beginning. And I could argue that the “preceding morality” was given to us by God, so yes, the principle does certainly precede Scripture. You’re just inserting biology where I insert God because you are a naturalist and won’t accept any other possibility. But these preceding principles, like fairness and reciprocity, have not changed since the beginning. Or, the religious version that says, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no evolution of principles going on here, only our actualizing them more successfully in our culture as we move forward in time. I don’t really have problem with improved biology helping us to live them out better, there is also a long history of working out these things that has nothing to do with improved biology, nonetheless, that’s no proof that these ancient precepts came from biology. And I could argue that that internal biology came from God in the first place. And the only historical data we have are that they came from religious sources, long before humankind had the ability to live them out or even fully comprehend them. So, you certainly have a right to your worldview but behavior studies and neurology don’t refute my argument.

          Okay, I’ve repeated myself several times here. We will just need to agree to disagree. I think we both have valid points, just very different worldviews. I have a lot of work to do so I will need to leave it there.

        • tildeb says:

          I know you’re done but I have to correct you because you are in factual error when you conclude, “And the only historical data we have are that they came from religious sources,”

          No. We have ongoing sources including historical that they (fundamental principles of reciprocity and fairness) come from our inherited biology. Across species. This demonstrates no need for religious sources! Suggesting there are religious sources is a factual claim for which you know and I know you have no evidence, no means to link the effect you select – morality – with the cause you propose: god. So this religious claim (meaning wholly faith-based) when compared and contrasted to the scientific claim (meaning evidence-adduced from reality) is really selecting an unjustified belief over a justified belief. Your claim stands as an uninformed opinion based on nothing but empty assertion contrary to a compelling scientific position.

        • Mel Wild says:

          So, again, which historical documents are you referring to that these precepts came from secular sources. Because that’s the only point that would be relevant.

        • John Branyan says:

          I agree. It’d be great to see those historical sources.
          Man, I hope it’s more monkey videos!

        • Mel Wild says:

          7 million year old monkey videos.

        • John Branyan says:

          Hi Dear Leader,
          If I’m understanding your million word essay, morality is a function of biology, like flatulence. As we evolve, social interactions influence our opinions on whose smells better. The better smell is “right”. The other smells are “wrong”.

          I hope there are more videos from JZ! You guys are really opening my eyes to the value of godless wisdom.

  5. paulfg says:

    “I’m also not sure if JZ knows what a moral standard is because he keeps wanting to show his monkey videos again. I don’t know about you but I have never seen or heard of any moral code or precept given to us by monkeys or dogs. I hope he’s being facetious (for his sake).”

    Comment added after (for me) a lot of thought …

    Unless this is “proving” something (that cannot be proven) – it is simply polarising for the sake of polarising. And that does not sit well with me. JZ is not a “Pharisee”and in this context you are closer to a Pharisee than he, being not only studied but also a believer. And the Jesus I read of never took “those people” on. He invited and connected. He healed rather than exorcised. And he never poked fun at anyone – no matter the provocation.

    “I hope he’s being facetious (for his sake).”

    Just a thought.

    • John Branyan says:

      Is this comment proving something or are you simply polarizing for the sake of polarizing?

      • paulfg says:

        John, I have no idea what that means.

        • John Branyan says:

          What did it mean when you said it to Mel?

        • paulfg says:

          Hi again John, this might sound odd to you – but I know that Mel will “get” this comment without further explanation.

        • John Branyan says:

          What sounds odd to me is your refusal to clarify your statement.

          From my point of view, it looked like you were criticizing Mel for the manner in which he engaged another person. Did I misunderstand?

        • paulfg says:

          John, whilst I recognise you are trying to identify what there is to attack or defend here – there isn’t.

          And I addressed the comment to Mel. So how Mel receives that – understands that or not – is, surely, down to Mel rather than you. Isn’t it unkind to assume on Mel’s behalf?

        • John Branyan says:

          I didn’t assume anything. I asked you explain what you meant in your statement. Isn’t it unkind to refuse an earnest request for clarification?

        • paulfg says:

          John, with all the kindness I can muster, thank you for your interest earnest or otherwise. In this case I think it kind to allow Mel the freedom to comment without any further distraction from this “side-bar”.

        • John Branyan says:

          Paul, with all the kindness I can muster, shame on you.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Paul, we talked off line before I read your comment here. Since I addressed most of your point there I will only comment on one point you made here.

      “And that does not sit well with me. JZ is not a “Pharisee” and in this context you are closer to a Pharisee than he, being not only studied but also a believer. And the Jesus I read of never took “those people” on. He invited and connected.”

      First, as I said to you, Jesus was not nice to everyone. Only to those who were honestly seeking Him. These particular Pharisees that Jesus rebuked were religious but not believers. Jesus made a point of making that clear in John 8, saying they were no sons of Abraham but children of the devil (pretty harsh!). To be clear, some Pharisees were believers and did seek Him out. But these particular Pharisees rejected Christ and vehemently opposed Him at every turn, following Him wherever He went, coming to Him under a pretext, only to try and trap Him in His words and discredit Him. Jesus also accused them of not entering in the Kingdom themselves and stopping others from entering in, calling them a “brood of vipers” and many other names. JZ, is no innocent seeker, but a hardened ex-Christian who knows the Bible and has rejected Christ. He only uses the Bible to discredit God and believers. He is a bully and the “Pharisee” here. His bullying of believers deserves nothing but rebuke. He has clearly shown me that he has no intention in engaging in honest conversation. He refuses to comment on the specific subject, engages in his red herrings, then accuses me of not answering him! He sits on my blog from early morning to late at night (much more than I ever do), making hundreds of irrelevant comments because he is only interested in what he has to say. So, yes, I can get a little short with him. But this is after two years of putting up with this nonsense. Most people would just ban him on the first week and be done with it. That’s probably the best thing to do. Of course, then I will be accused of banning him because I can’t answer his questions. LOL!

      I will also say there that it is appropriate to point out the Jesus-hater’s hypocrisy and incoherent arguments. Most of the time that was what I was intending to do. I’ve just come to the end of clearly wasting my time with them.

      But I did take your words (here and email) to heart and it would probably be a better use of my time to just shake the dust off my feet of him and move on. I really don’t have time for this. People will decide what they want to decide about what’s going on here regardless, whether it’s true or not. But I won’t accept their sanctimonious shaming and hypocritical nonsense. That’s why it’s probably best to just ignore them and move on.

      • John Branyan says:

        Hey Mel,
        Lemme offer this.
        You don’t owe anybody an explanation. Not JZ. Not Me. Not Paul.
        You’re comment section is open for any of our brothers and sisters who think they can do a better job of speaking truth. Shaming you for your methods is inappropriate, especially when your accuser doesn’t have the courage to admit he’s doing it.

        God is using you to create thousands of lines of outraged pablum in the atheist blog-world. They rage. God is glorified.

      • paulfg says:

        Thanks Mel. And an interesting thought. The Pharisees were the keepers of “church” all ready for the Messiah to come and take over the world, restore the Chosen People and all that.

        THAT is what I meant by “believers”- and JZ is not a “believer” by that definition.

  6. judyt54 says:

    My goodness, isn’t that what Mel does every damn day in here? I guess we learned how from the master. Yes indeed.

  7. Mel, I think you are amazingly patient. You’ll get no criticism or complaints from me about your efforts to engage with people who are often outright disrespectful and contemptuous. You are always awesome and gracious.

    I just wanted to mention that a moral value that may have “evolved” or is at least in process of changing, “justice” in the hands of people has always been related to revenge, punishment. Jesus changed everything we thought we knew about “justice.” God’s justice is restorative, and not vengeful. As a society we are moving closer towards that ideal, the very same ideal Jesus taught and demonstrated to us with His sacrifice.

    The very word “justice” is incredibly hard to define. We don’t even really know what it means. But if you go to the Latin and Sanskrit word origins, what we have is a word that really means “right-welfare,” and “faithful to the original.” Faithful to the original always reminds me of what Jesus says, “but in the beginning it was not so.”

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, IB. I have learned that these anti-Christian combatants are not the least bit interested in engaging in honest conversation. They are only interested in putting their vitriolic view of God on Christian web sites and wasting people’s time. It’s getting annoying. Although, one thing I didn’t know before getting into this is how dogmatic and extremely fundamentalist they are in their scientistic views; it’s just the flip-side of the most obnoxious extreme religious fundamentalists! Quite funny, actually. I want to sing, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” LOL!

  8. The pastor stated above in one of his comments:

    …these PRECEPTS, like loving your neighbor as yourself, have not evolved at all.

    In order to properly understand the “evolution” of social morals, it’s wiser to go to a number of continental Sociologists who have studied full-time and published findings (for decades) the development, structure, and function of past and present societies/cultures and have had them scrutinized by their qualified peers… RATHER THAN going to a musical composer and conductor or managers of restaurants/cafes, though they both deal with people. 😉 LOL

    It’s even MORE wise to take whatever the composer/conductor or restaurant/cafe manager has to say about the history and evolution of human/animal morality with plenty of caution, suspicion, and bottles of salt when they cannot demonstrate any sort of background, academia, or internship in the field. Furthermore, I did not see any references or footnotes in this blog-post to such expertise by scholars in the subject.

    Conclusion? Utilize ample caution, suspicion, and bottles of salt when reading an Opine blog-post like this.

    • Citizen Tom says:

      That’s funny! Especially that ending, and you didn’t reference anyone.

      • It wasn’t my responsibility nor was it to offer any credence to reference anyone to offer any value to whay the pastor was postulating. It was the pastor’s blog-post. I think you need to address your comment to the pastor.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          Where it makes sense, Mel obviously cited the sorices he respect

        • ? Sorry, “…obviously cited the sorices he respect” doesn’t make any sense due to poor grammar and spelling, which IS INDEED obvious here. 😉

          But as I’ve stated to the pastor several times, intensive discussions/debates like these are poorly done within the confines of WordPress comment-sections, especially when the blog-post and author is (obviously) slanted to or lopsided for one viewpoint. Hopefully the more moderate or neutral blog-visitor can see and infer this.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          Sorry great master taboo. The effort to compose on my smartphone is nearly beyond my feeble capacity.

          We peasants shouldn’t try think deep thoughts like taboo class professors. We might drown our little brains swimming in thoughts that go over our heads.

          Thanks for your devotion to us and your sincere efforts to save us from ourselves. We wouldn’t know — could not possibly know — what to do without you. We might even think thoughts forbidden by giant intellectuals like your holy taboo self.😀

    • Btw Mel, I’m still waiting and interested in your next reply to my earlier question(s) for more clarification on your earlier post “Some intellectual honestly on Western values” which as a reminder was…

      Nonetheless, I hope you might further clarify your time/years between Catholic/Christian life versus outside embedded (deep?) in the non-Christian Secular world. Right now it appears very lopsided. Thanks. 🙂

      You were quite vague in your initial answers then went off on an irrelevant tangent. I hope you’ll find the time to further clarify in specific details (as would be necessary) your personal experiences/background regarding NON-Christian cultures and belief-systems. Thanks.

      • Mel Wild says:

        I don’t go into personal details with an avatar.

        • That’s fine. Why didn’t you just say that over on your earlier post? That took all of 10-seconds to type?

          Nevertheless then, it is reasonable to conclude that your experiences/background on the subject of non-Christian subjects are significantly skewed and lopsided… unless of course you feel “safe” to show otherwise. 😉

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, my post is my observation. It was clearly written that way. What is your point? You can have all your sociologists stand on their heads if you want. If this observation is wrong, perhaps you can enlighten us inferior folk in how we’ve improved upon loving our neighbor as ourselves or treating others as we want to be treated? Otherwise, you are wasting my time.

      • john zande says:

        how we’ve improved upon loving our neighbor as ourselves or treating others as we want to be treated?

        The presumption of innocence and right to defence (and appeal) before an impartial judiciary, for starters. A slew of codified rights and legal protections, for another.

        Empathy and reciprocity are not magical gifts. Their origins lay deep in evolutionary history, and they are sharpened with increased neural/cultural complexity. You need only compare the behavioural/social complexity of a group of, say, meerkats to a group of bonobos, and that group of bonobos to a Palaeolithic human clan, and that Palaeolithic human clan to a community in, say, Sweden today to see the “improvement.”

        This has been answered repeatedly. You saying it hasn’t does not reflect well on you, Mel.

        • An excellent reminder John Z. Thank you Sir. 😉

        • Mel Wild says:

          Again, that was not my point at all. All of these improvements in civilization are simply improvements upon the ancient moral ideal of loving others as ourselves. In other words, these improvements are based on a fundamentally religious precept. My question is, and has always been from the beginning, how have we improved by making better fundamental precepts than loving others as ourselves? Or any other precept that’s not already based on an ancient one? We haven’t. We’re simply striving to realize these ancient moral precepts (and we’re better at it now). I’m not saying that’s bad; I’m just pointing out that it’s nothing new. We have only evolved in our capability and awareness that we should do these things. That is the only point my post is making. Anything beyond that is refuting a point I’m not making.

        • john zande says:

          You wrote: If this observation is wrong, perhaps you can enlighten us inferior folk in HOW WE’VE IMPROVED upon loving our neighbor as ourselves or treating others as we want to be treated?

          I gave you an example of how we’ve “improved.”

          And as I’ve already explained, you are not talking about anything that can be considered actual. The abstract notion of something like ‘fairness’ is fixed, how could it not be, but the CONTENT of what is fair is fluid. It evolves over time and is informed by the conditions, and even at any given moment in time the content can vary radically from one group to another despite the fact that the notion of ‘fairness’ is shared by both. That’s really not complicated, and it’s certainly not mysterious.

          Again: Was it “fair” to drop atomic weapons on Japanese civilians? Yes, and No.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And I already told PT that the question (to him, not you) was not worded properly. Perhaps if you read that you wouldn’t need to interject your comments into our conversation.

        • Mel Wild says:

          This has been answered repeatedly. You saying it hasn’t does not reflect well on you, Mel.

          I’m sorry, this doesn’t reflect well on you, JZ. The only thing you’ve shown is that you’ve repeatedly missed the point.

        • john zande says:

          Bound to happen when you keep moving the goal posts.

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, you’re the one moving the “goal posts” by bringing up everything about evolution but the point of my post! I have never changed the subject. You have. But this has been your M.O. since the beginning so I’m not surprised.

        • john zande says:

          Mel, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s rather difficult (and patently ludicrous) to NOT bring up evolution if the thing being discussed came into being through evolution.

          It. Is. Not. Magic.

          I have demonstrated this with examples. You, on the other hand, have demonstrated nothing.

          Again: Was it “fair” to drop atomic weapons on Japanese civilians? Yes, and No.

          You are talking about abstract notions. Don’t you get this?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Mel, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s rather difficult (and patently ludicrous) to NOT bring up evolution if the thing being discussed came into being through evolution.

          JZ, in case you haven’t noticed (which obviously you haven’t), my argument was never with evolution or that we have improved as human beings. Here’s what I said in the post:

          Here’s what I think we can say. Moral truths themselves do not evolve. These timeless truths have been given to us since the beginning. As Solomon wisely put it, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” But we can and do evolve as a civilization in realizing those truths in our common experience.

          Btw, Tildeb actually made this point. He gets it. Apparently, you don’t. You just go off on your tangents, arguing past any point that’s being made here. So, whether it’s our biology evolving to help us realize these ancient fundamental moral values or not, that’s not the point. The ONLY point I’ve ever been making is that we do not see fundamental moral precepts evolving (like, “love others as yourself”), only an “evolution,” if you will, of better actualization of those ancient principles. Furthermore, what this also shows is that our biology cannot make moral principles; it can only respond to them. There’s a huge difference between the two. Furthermore, secularism has not given us any new and unique moral precepts that are not already based on ancient religious ones, which was the point of my other posts.

        • john zande says:

          Moral truths themselves do not evolve.

          And again, you are talking about abstract notions, not actual things… and certainly not “truths” that are fixed.

          I have explained this over and over and over again. Read my comments again if it helps. I have given you examples, repeatedly, that demonstrate that these are abstract notions, not actual things, and that they change according to time and conditions and perspective.

          If you wish to continue pretending to be stupid then go right ahead, because that is all you’re demonstrating here…. together with an amazing skill to move the goal posts and then cry foul when people point this out to you.

        • john zande says:

          And here again is my first direct response

          If you want to cast an enormous net, then an idea like fairness, for example, has always represented one broad idea to creatures capable of understanding the consequences of behaviours. Sure. I have no problem with that, but what is fair today is not necessarily fair tomorrow, so the actual ‘content’ of that idea is fluid. At any given time, what is fair also varies from one group to the next. It can be called the same thing, fair [the abstract idea], but antagonistic from one group to the other, so to try and paint the broadest possible notion as somehow universally the same is a little too simplistic.

          Can you demonstrate anything that proves this wrong?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Well, you could’ve stopped right there. All you have articulated was my point: that we have not come up with new moral precepts but have gotten better at following the very old ones.

        • john zande says:

          Rather than repeating myself ad nauseam, give me an example of what you consider a fixed, unmovable, eternal, unbendable, universal moral truth…

        • Mel Wild says:

          Treat others as you would want to be treated.
          Love others as you love yourself.

        • john zande says:

          Would you treat (love) a terrorist who has just killed your family gently? Would you treat an invading army with kindness and compassion? Would you be charitable to a man who killed your dog? would you show patience to a child molester?

        • Mel Wild says:

          We already have been through this, JZ. Yes, absolutely. I should forgive and be charitable to violators, even the worst offenders. That is the very message of the cross. It’s the highest moral ideal we can exercise as a human being, to show grace and mercy to those who don’t deserve it. When we retaliate we are only showing that we are no better than the perpetrator. Answering violence with violence. But that is not saying that the perpetrator should not be stopped, taken out of society (arrested, imprisonment.) for not following this moral standard. That’s what civil law is for, to protect us from such violators. You cannot conflate the two into one thing.

        • john zande says:

          Inaction is immoral, period, and there is no conflation; punishing the wrongdoer, the child molester, is NOT how they would want to be treated.

          You see, you’re describing an abstract notion that is no way fixed. Again, was dropping atomic weapons on Japanese civilians fair? Yes, and No.

        • Mel Wild says:

          That is not inaction. Quite the opposite! There’s a hundred ways to protect my family without retaliation. I don’t have to seek revenge to seek justice done or forgive the perpetrator.

        • john zande says:

          protection is proactive. we’re talking about after-the-fact, and that means treating people in ways that they do not want to be treated.

          sorry mel, but you haven’t demonstrated a moral truth.

      • LOL… Or we could let “all the [pastors pretending to be] sociologists stand on their heads” because often contrasting vivid fantasy to informed broadly educated expertise does equally well. 😉

        …perhaps you can enlighten us inferior folk in how we’ve improved upon loving our neighbor as ourselves or treating others as we want to be treated?

        Ahh, thank you for that invite sir, although there’s no need for descriptions like “inferior folk” to be used. If anything, it’s likely just ignorance or naivety due to “time constraints” or blatant laziness to obtain all facts and high probabilities. But to your invite here, as I was formulating my response, a blog I follow had several/many of the same answers I thought of and history has actually born-out independent of religious or “Christian” influences:

        • The eradication of formerly Christian sanctioned slavery (Including Apartheid)

        • The pursuit of cures for HIV/AIDS and more notably Cancer.

        • The efforts by many organizations and cultures to eradicate racism

        • The efforts by secular Humanists and other enlightened individuals to remove the spectre of religion and other superstitious practices.

        • The improvement of conditions for women in the face of patriarchal societal attitudes and repression.

        • Empathy and understanding for members of the LGBTQ community.

        • Efforts by many to engender a gun-free world.

        • The drive to establish true democracies across the world.

        • The efforts of those involved in science to the overall improvement and well-being of every one on the planet through such things as sustainable energy (Solar, Wind, etc)

        • The efforts of those who try to enlighten people about animal factory-farming, (including the slaughter of mammals for sport) and the drive towards plant-based diets.

        The above are but a minuscule number of things that a great many humans are doing that demonstrate an attitude of “Love thy Neighbour.” — with permission from an excellent, informative, educated blog I follow

        • Mel Wild says:

          Like JZ, you keep making points I’m not making, which is why there’s so many comments on this blog that don’t need to be made. You are simply making my point by listing these things and thinking you’re refuting my argument. But, to be fair, I worded my question wrong so I will give you a pass. JZ has no excuse. He’s been on this post longer than I have and he should know better. My point is not about improvement upon ancient morals we already have. It was actually, how have we evolved with NEW morals that aren’t already based on the ancient ones. Here’s what I said in the post:

          First, I agree that we, as human beings, have evolved culturally in the sense of becoming more aware of individual freedoms, human rights, protecting the marginalized, and condemning the subjugation of other human beings.

          Then I said later in the post:

          You could say that actually loving others as yourself would cure every ill of moral wrongdoing in the world today. Yet, we clearly have not done so. We have not even come close to “evolving” to this ancient ideal.

          This is the ONLY point I’m making in this post. Commenting on anything else is arguing past my point and wasting my time having to respond to it.

          All you’ve done, PT, is given me ways we’ve improved loving others as ourselves. I agree. I have always agreed with that. And I’m very glad for that. But, first, we have not improved to the point of fully following this ancient precept and, two, this is not a new moral ideal. It’s all based on a very old religious one.

          So, what my question was getting at is how have we evolved into NEW, unique moral standards that aren’t based on ancient principles. I don’t see how we added anything new in this way. We’re only improving on specific ways to accomplish the ancient precept. Again, this is just my observation but no one has actually refuted this question yet.

        • So, what my question was getting at is how have we evolved into NEW, unique moral standards that aren’t based on ancient principles.

          Over the last several decades and last century there has indeed been a new form of reciprocity that has evolved, developed, refined, and continues to find popularity in various cultures and pockets of the world (including in one of my own personal Alternative Lifestyles growing in the U.S.), and depending on which religion one is studying or speaking about, it certainly did not explicitly evolve from the ancient origins or pre-origins of the ancient Abrahamic religions! It is Compersion.

          Let me know if you are completely unfamiliar with it beyond “reading about it.” I have many years of firsthand experience with it that I’ll be more than happy to share with you and your readers. 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          Compersion is certainly not a new thing in civilization! Simply putting a new spin on it. Depending on how one practices it (how far it goes and how it affects ALL involved) will depend on whether it’s morally a good thing or not. Certainly, not a superior ideal to other-centered, self-giving love. One can also argue that it can be used as a deceptive pretext for self-indulgence (for both parties in the relationship).

        • Makes no difference what you feel or think Mel. It IS an evolved form of reciprocity and “love” AND it did not come out of any of the Abrahamic religions. Period. But you are welcome to deny its existence and successful refining practice all you wish to as I’m sure you will continue to try. Since you have no experience in the least with it, you are obviously not qualified to speak on it in any depth or accuracy.

          Have a good weekend. 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          Possibly an “evolved” form of an ancient precept. But it’s certainly nothing new, which was my point. Of course, you are qualified to contradict me. LOL! But even a child can understand what I was saying, so…whatever.

  9. Citizen Tom says:

    Interesting post and topic. See you generated quite a discussion. Read some of it. Will have to read more.

    One thing that puzzles me is why anyone thinks evolution must proceed in what they think is a “positive” direction. Has anyone noticed all the parasites? It is the survival of the fittest, not the most virtuous.

    For all we know, modern civilization could disappear in matter of weeks because of a plague. A seemingly insignificant, apparently not much evolved, certainly amoral life form could humble us. If that happened, does anybody believe that most people would still be worrying about whether or not “I am a good person” in the eyes of others? If we don’t believe in God, what would our priorities be? Looking good to someone who could be dead tomorrow? Only if we love them.

    We like to think we control our own destiny. That is really what I think those who wish to believe in the evolution of morals want to believe. Yet we have no way of assuring that we will continue to plod forward. Without God and His revelation, the Bible, we don’t even have a yardstick by which to measure our progress.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Hi Tom. There have been almost 100 comments so far and they aren’t that interesting. I haven’t had one of them actually refute my point. They just keep arguing on and on about things I’m not arguing for (which is their usual M.O.). But if you have trouble sleeping I’m sure reading through them will help.

      Btw, yes, I was being hopeful but I may be realistic. 🙂

    • john zande says:

      One thing that puzzles me is why anyone thinks evolution must proceed in what they think is a “positive” direction.

      You don’t think survival is “positive”?

      • Citizen Tom says:

        No. A tapeworm can achieve survival. Don’t want to be one.

        • john zande says:

          You’re saying improved methods of survival are not ‘positive’?

          That’s a curious position to hold.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          Depends upon who defines what we call “improved”. God’s judgment is trustworthy. Mankind doesn’t have a good track record.Too often involves things like enslaving people and then asking them to thank you for improving their life.

        • john zande says:

          So you have difficulty in recognising the differences (and benefits) between the singular existence of an ancient creature with a handful of neurons (but no actual brain) and that of a biologically/culturally complex group of individuals who cooperate?

          OK.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          That’s cute. I don’t which complex group of individuals who cooperate keeps track of such things, but I guess you scored a point.

          Go back to the point of the post. Can a complex group of individuals who cooperate discern what constitutes progress in moral evolution? I think you just helped to illustrate the difficulty. We very easily confuse personal advantage with the overall good, so much so we have trouble defining the overall good.

        • john zande says:

          Already answered elsewhere, and the fact that social groups exist, and flourish, is exactly the evidence any person with two neurons to rub together would point to demonstrate that we can easily define the ‘overall good.’ The success of increasingly complex social groups has depended on just that ability.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          What you done is illustrate the problem. Consider your arguments just on this post. We can’t even agree upon what is moral.

          “Revenge is justice.” No, but you assert it is.

          Nobody but you has more than two neurons to rub together? Well, that would be the way some have resolved disagreements, just subjugate the opposition using some lame excuse. Hopefully, you have not quite reached that point.

        • john zande says:

          Justice addresses wrongdoing. It is revenge dressed in a civilised suit.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Not quite. Retributive justice may look like revenge (it isn’t), but restorative justice is concerned with BOTH the perpetrator and the victim (which is what God accomplished on the cross). Civil justice has to address ALL people involved for the betterment of society. That’s why we have rule of law. While retributive justice is the weaker form than restorative justice, the punishment is not a revenge but meant to be a deterrent to would-be criminals to committing such a crime. Even so, modern justice systems mitigate this with mercy (parole, assuming innocence until proven guilty). Revenge is emotional and personal retaliation. This is why we are not to engage in it; all it’s ever proven to do is escalate the violence, which was Jesus’ point in the first place.

        • john zande says:

          yes, revenge is emotional, which is why we have civilised it, calling it justice, and taking the punishment to be delivered away from the victim.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Of course. That’s what I said.

        • john zande says:

          Exactly, it is revenge dressed in a civilised coat.

        • Mel Wild says:

          …but that’s NOT the same thing as revenge.

        • Mel Wild says:

          No, it’s not! Revenge is defined as “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” (Dictionary) It is taking the law into your own hands. The justice system is designed for us to release our need to seek revenge to a higher authority (the justice system). The court system is designed to take the emotional factor out of it. It’s not the same thing as seeking revenge.

        • john zande says:

          Exactly, we trust the state to deliver the revenge. That is precisely why injustice hurts so much.

        • Mel Wild says:

          It’s NOT revenge! This is your problem. You can never admit to anything. And while injustice does hurt, it doesn’t mean we have the right to seek revenge. We should seek justice. And restorative justice would be the highest form of justice. In other words, we, the victim, SHOULD want the perpetrator ultimately restored, although, in practice, our justice systems do a poor job of this. But that’s the ideal of treating others as we would want to be treated. I’ve wasted enough time on this. Good-bye.

        • john zande says:

          It *is* revenge, delivered in a civilised manner.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          The Bible says vengeance belongs to God. If you don’t believe that God exists, I guess you won’t believe that revenge belongs to Him. Since revenge is so attractive you would want it for yourself.

          That is why the Romans crucified their enemies. They wanted revenge, and they did not believe in God. So they took revenge, sometimes for no good reason at all.

        • tildeb says:

          Evolution requires heritability. Specific moral values are not heritable because they are not biological. What IS biological is the neurology that responds to reciprocity and fairness. These are the fundamental principles of morality and they ARE biologically inherited. All the other moral values relate directly to this sense in that social groups are social and that this aspect of social interaction is what activates the neurology when disturbances to reciprocal and fair behaviour occurs.

          Understood this way, behaviours that reveal the moral value of reciprocity and fairness are based wholly on relationships. Relationships are not heritable! Evolution plays no direct part in how these relationships develop into codes of behaviour other than how they affect reciprocity and fairness. Moral coding for social behaviour is a social development. And we have gobs and gobs of strong evidence that these codes do develop sophistication and nuance and complexity over time that reduce disturbances in reciprocity and fairness. That’s why we codify behaviour and why morality is a central consideration.

          What the religious do is try to codify behaviour favourable to the supremacy of their dogma in all social relationships even if that dogma deeply disturbs reciprocity and fairness. They do this by claiming ownership of ‘morality’ and claim the authority to do so comes from some god. And god has a claim because god is responsible for your creation. He owns you, whether you agree or not. So what god says, what god does (through the priestly caste), is okay… even if he deeply disturbs your innate sense of reciprocity and fairness because he owns those, too, you see, and has gifted you with them so that you either capitulate your moral authority to him/her/it or suffer the immoral consequences.

          And look at all the suffering. A whole (designed) world of suffering (an ecosystem based on predator and prey).

          So that suffering must be the fault of man because god loves you and would never not allow you the opportunity to capitulate your innate sense of right and wrong to his care, to put aside your innate sense of such a whacked model of designed suffering wrong and replace it with God’s arbitration of right and wrong.

          Religious authority is the fundamental corruption of moral autonomy and personal responsibility. It is slave/slave owner model totalitarian to its core.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Evolution requires heritability. Specific moral values are not heritable because they are not biological. What IS biological is the neurology that responds to reciprocity and fairness.

          Exactly! Thank you for making my point (and ONLY point of this post). You are the first one in over 100 comments to get this. Moral values have not evolved. We are still trying to actually live out loving others as ourselves (and others), which was an ancient religious moral value. I have no argument or comment on how our biology helps us to respond to this. That was not my point.

          Religious authority is the fundamental corruption of moral autonomy and personal responsibility. It is slave/slave owner model totalitarian to its core.

          That has some historical credence. I won’t argue that. But it’s a straw man and not fundamentally true. I could just as easily argue that this corruption came from human beings behaving badly, not from the religious precepts like loving others like ourselves. In fact, they were acting contrary to those values. It was a corruption of political authorities using religion as a pretext to do evil things. We can also point to secular dictators who were just as corrupted. The 20th century gives us a litany of horrific abuse of secular authority. It reflects upon the dark side of human nature, not the religious moral values themselves. That is simply trying to conflate the two.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          Hmmm. Interesting act of faith. Some people start to study something, and you already know and have the results.

        • tildeb says:

          Shocking to allow reality to arbitrate one’s beliefs about it. You should try that regarding your religious beliefs, CT. Then you, too, could start to substitute knowledge in place of pious ignorance.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          God is real. Instead of speculative “science”, the Bible is based upon eyewitness reports, witnesses who died for their beliefs. What the Bible teaches actually works, helping me and others to become better servants of our Lord.

          You don’t like the Bible? You despise God?That is between you and God. You can pretend He does not exist, but you know He does. Until you let Him fill it, that hole in your heart will remain. Speculative “science” cannot fill it. Preaching a pointless “reality” will not make your life meaningful.

        • tildeb says:

          Obviously, counselling is not your calling… thank goodness. You look very silly trying.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          Counselling? You need counselling? I am sorry you think me inadequate. Not much instruction in that area. Have you considered professional help?

  10. Pingback: GOD-GIVEN OR GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS? — PART 6 – Citizen Tom

  11. Anonymous says:

    Mel Wild, thanks so much for the post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

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