Evolution or Emergence: Freedom and Paradox on a Saturated Beach

Tonight, I’m going out to discuss this article at a group I personally like better than last night’s (familiarity might be part of that; also, tonight’s group is smaller, which is better for deep discussion).

As far as I can tell, the point of this article is to say that we should choose to act as though there is a divine being in whose nature we share. In other words, even though evolution is true, we should still act as though we can be better than mere animals.

I agree and disagree. I certainly agree, despite my acceptance of evolution (and rejection of god), that humans are not “really just savage beasts”, although human beings are obviously capable of unspeakable horrors. I disagree, however, that acts of altruism are any more divine than acts of savagery. I, as well as experts in the field like Frans de Waal and Martin Nowak, see humans as super cooperators, just like all the other social animals that exist. Even a colony of ants will not fight its own members, no matter how huge the colony is. Lions do not kill their own young. Wolves fight for dominance, but are otherwise extremely cooperative, helping each other to raise young and bring down prey. Many experiments have shown that primates will act in an altruistic manner.

Humans are often good to each other because empathy allows us to exist as a species. Humans are also often nasty to each other, because selfishness has often aided the survival of an individual. Both instincts exist, and of course the better option for the group is better for the group – and often, through reciprocation, better for the individual as well.

I see no reason to bring anything supernatural into the debate.

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