Thanks for your reply. I have been looking for a group of intelligent people to talk with about science/religion issues, and I certainly didn’t find it on Richard Dawkin’s forums. The atheists over there are so hostile towards anything that even remotely looks like it could be spiritual that you can’t really even have a discussion. They unfortunately feed the religious fanatics with lots of ammunition and ultimately accomplish nothing.
As for your second question:
#2 How do animals fit into the moral landscape?
Forgive me if I talk around the topic. But the first thing I feel like pointing out is that the process of evolution tends to build on what is, rather than knock over the experiment and start again from scratch. So, if you notice the evolutionary roots of the human brain, we might say that our conscious visual perception was gifted to us from our “inner fish brain,” and our sexuality and our “fight or flight” instincts come from the brain stem—our “inner reptile brain.” Our “inner mammal” gives us the limbic system we still use today, and on top of that is our more recent hominid brain modules.
We think of “animals” as something outside of our human nature and that is hilarious. Those animals really are right inside of us and dictating a whole 95% of who we are as humans (okay, I am making that percentage up but I might be close).
You could stop and ask at this point whether we have any moral obligation to our ancestral lineage. If so, then we have to include just about everything that came off of Noah’s Ark.
Morality is a big subject, so I want to narrow it down to just sexual morals for a closer look at humans and animals.
Let’s look at our closest evolutionary relatives; the Chimpanzees and the Bonobos. From what science has been able to decipher Chimpanzees developed north of the Conga river and Bonobos developed south of the Conga River. Since neither of these two species ever learned to swim, they didn’t interbreed. As I proceed, try to keep in mind that these creatures are our blood relatives.
The environment that nurtured Bonobos was much more plentiful in food—especially fruits and vegetation. Chimps on the other hand, are known to be cannabilistic. They had a much tougher job having enough food to go around. Chimps are more mean and agressive by nature whereas Bonobos are more peace-loving and well, sexy.
Chimpanzees run a male dominant society and for females the highest status one can achieve is still lower than the lowest male of the tribe. Bonobos are a female dominant society. While they do have an alpha male, females will gang up together and defeat the alpha male every time. This is a very interesting and unique trend in evolution.
According to genetic evidence, between the Chimps and Bonobos, our CLOSEST relative is not the Chimp but the Bonobo. So lets take a serious look and the social morals of Bonobos to maybe get a better clue to our deepest, inbred human nature.
Bonobos are sexaholics. They are certainly all rapists, pedophiles, obsessive compulsive masturbators and they can’t seem to go even a few minutes without sexual touching.
Scholars have stated again and again that the incest taboo almost singlehandedly created human civilization. Up until just that past 50 years or so, religion has given us the majority of our sexual taboos. And as they break down, we seem to be reverting back to our natural Bonobo sexaholic society.
These things still seem to be politically incorrect to talk about, even with atheists. But pornography is a multi billion dollar industry worldwide. Thank God for mirror neurons so men (and much fewer women) can get the experience by just watching and without actually having to be there in the flesh.
I remember back in the 80s when Madonna came out with her exclusive photo spread where she was having sex with a dog and so forth and I commented to the guys next door (who paid a premium price for the limited edition album) that we have run out of options for “nasty” and pretty soon we are going to start breaking down the pedophile taboo.
Science knows a lot of things that it doesn’t want to let out of the bag and what I am embracing with Sam Harris’s Project Reason is the notion of intellectual honesty. I am willing to bet that not even our staunch neo-atheists will want to take a honest look at what science will tell us about the morality of having sex with children, or having incestuous relationships.
But human sexuality is fueled by novelty. The Coolidge Effect is a fact even with goats and pigs. Humans get off having sex with new partners, and it seems that the more forbidden the better the sex is. Muslims will do suicide bombing just to get at those two dozen virgins in heaven!
And even more than that, humans, atheists included, will deny the fact that men are the one’s who can’t seem to get enough of the really sadistic kind of porn, where 8 or 10 guys take turns banging a female in the ass. The pornography that sells isn’t sweet and gentle lovemaking between two consenting adults. Its stuff that is degrading to women in the extreme and painful to her body. The only study ever done that I know of showed that 100% of all women doing this kind of porn are drugged and often also mentally ill.
The point is that we humans don’t look at these facts scientifically to make moral judgements, not even the scientifically pristine atheists!
Evolution has examples of where it reverted specific species backward. I think Richard Dawkins mentioned the example of the salamander that eliminated its precious eyes and eyesight when it began living underground. Humans seem to be reverting back to their Bonobo sexuality. Religion may have had some powerful benefits to keeping members of society from killing each other and creating law and order in the social group, but patriarchal sexual taboos have really stymied natures passion for genetic variation. The result is something along the lines of serial monogamy, where we marry monogamously but divorce and then marry into another monogamous relationship.
I think that when we all dump the religious nonsense, and stare our sexual taboos right in the eye, we will come to the conclusion that until we acknowledge our inner animal, we are not going to be able to make sense out of our human sexual appetite. We need to acknowledge the animal part of our existence because that is the most productive way to move forward into the future.