A reader writes:
It's true that 21st century genetics and neuroscience have yet to fill in details of how natural selection gave us a sense of good and evil that appears in most of us as surely as walking and talking. Which genes code for which proteins that cause various desires to form in our brain, including the desire to be good, which one can't be if one hurts other people without a good reason? Science needs more than my lifetime to go through all 20,000 of our genes and follow their products out into who and what we are, but it's straightforward how to do that. It's not a fantasy. What will be left unexplained at the end of that?
Not only will this process show what biological evolution has done to us, it will show how cultural evolution has built on that, what is not strictly biological, even though culture needs biology to exist and shows the effects of that collaboration. I'm sure many aspects of hatred, indifference, and falseness will be examined in this. Biology surely gives us a physiological foundation for these, and culture shapes when and how we think such evil is OK. Of course a limited amount of hate isn't evil. It might be righteous indignation that helps other people more than it hurts them. A limited amount of indifference is simply practical. So is some limited spin on the truth. Yes, evil is subjective and relative, even if it certainly exists in some sense.
That is certainly one reason I looked to God for help. Life is not about following a clear set of rules. It's not that easy. People who say it is that easy are being false. The gospels taught me that. Reaching for God directly taught me more. Yet God not only helped me with what I should do with my innate sense of morality, otherwise known as my pesky conscience, God also helped me with what I should do with my walking and talking, two processes almost everyone would accept as biological. So why is there such resistance to morality being biological? Is it that cognitive sciences are so new? Is it that scientific illiteracy is so much worse than the 40% of Americans who think the Bible sould be taken literally? I'm sure it's a lot of things, but there is a God who will help.
I reached for that God and found something. Perhaps I overgeneralize from my own experience as human beings naturally do. Maybe my way isn't for everyone any more than Niebuhr is for everyone. But it's not ignorant, and it's not evil. Read academic anthropologist Pascal Boyer's book. Read the ongoing scientific literature. Or just read old books that will help you relax about what you already believe, in your cocoon or otherwise. It's a free country. Then you die. Then new people come along who are somewhat different.
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