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The Golden Rule is a Human construct.
on January 24, 2004
In my own studies I have often come across those who believe, for there exists no other term, that religion and a belief in some supreme being are the root, the very foundation of moral behavior. As a student of evolutionary psychology, Ecclesiastical History and later of Divinity, I feel
certain I can address this concept. It is, as history has proven time and again, simply incorrect. A better understanding of the Golden Rule as it has come to be known can be seen in Shermers latest book, as in the white papers of John Nash (especially Bargaining, Zero Sum Games and Economics), in the work of Charles Darwin, (most specifically his later ideas on an evolutionary ethics); the writings of Edward O. Wilson, (especially The Ants), and finaly with even a meager
observation of nature itself. We do bargain, we do make social deals. This is observable in Chimpanzee groups, and so far as I know, they have no religion as we might recognize it. That we have to make golden rules, not out of a religious ideal but for the survival of our species seems obvious to anyone. Shermers time line indicates that morality and a social ethic were in development some 100,000 years ago. This seems about right, as ample social anthropological evidence indicates a turn toward large group hunting, and social coopertation far before this period. That some form of norm is required for an understanding of allowable and un-allowable actions within the group seems at most apparent from simian studies. This seems to me common sense, despite some reviewers inability to follow it. That a divine figure is necessary to explain morality, especially a very human-like human deity, seems to me silly at best. In the fine tradition of Darwin, Wallace, Dawkins and Sagan, Shermer points out that, which once read, seems obvious. Shermer, in the fashion of Carl Sagan, uses plain and simple concepts to explain the formation of a morality, not as a divine order, but as a aid to survival and social progress. The few issues I have with this book are more semantic than substance. I cannot
scientifically, or in this case ?morally? argue with anything put forward in this excellent account the development of modern moral thinking. Clearly hunger motivates us to eat, and pair
bonding (love),besides the obvious advantage for child rearing (seen in avian species as well as many Mammalian)motivates us to cooperative hunting. That some reviewers fail to agree with this straightforward page-turner perhaps speaks more to their own beliefs than the evidence put forth in Shermers book. Sinply put, another brilliant work from a brilliant modern thinker.