Category Archives: Nature

fairness is in our genes

there has been a lot said about the article i am going to quote later in this post, but none of it that i’ve seen calls out the glaringly obvious point that i’m seeing in this:

Consider one more experimental example to prove the point: the ultimatum game. You are given $100 to split between yourself and your game partner. Whatever division of the money you propose, if your partner accepts it, you each get to keep your share. If, however, your partner rejects it, neither of you gets any money.

How much should you offer? Why not suggest a $90-$10 split? If your game partner is a rational, self-interested money-maximizer — the very embodiment of Homo economicus — he isn’t going to turn down a free 10 bucks, is he? He is. Research shows that proposals that offer much less than a $70-$30 split are usually rejected.

Why? Because they aren’t fair. Says who? Says the moral emotion of “reciprocal altruism,” which evolved over the Paleolithic eons to demand fairness on the part of our potential exchange partners. “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” only works if I know you will respond with something approaching parity. The moral sense of fairness is hard-wired into our brains and is an emotion shared by most people and primates tested for it, including people from non-Western cultures and those living close to how our Paleolithic ancestors lived.

the idea that most people react this way is something in our selves so deep that it is something we share with other primates.

when we share so much DNA with monkeys, apes, and lemurs, and yet so many people deny that we come from common ancestors, it just seems dishonest to me.

intellectually at best, and plain-old lyin’ at worst.

as i get further and further away, as the months tick by, from my old christian self, i have trouble even remembering how it is i ignored so much evidence for evolution and spent so much time researching “science” that “disproved” it.

how was i able to accept as fact then what is so clearly horse-pooey?

this article explains it, in some small sense.

Why people believe weird things about money – Los Angeles Times:

altruism and evolution

First, a bit of background, from John Crane’s post entitled “Who Really Believes in the Virgin Birth”

Who really believes in the virgin birth?

A recent survey by the Barna Research Group, asked adults what they believed about the virgin birth of Jesus—Was this story literally true or not? Across all demographic spectrums most adults said they did believe in the truth of that biblical story. In fact, 3 out of 4 (75%) of all adults said they believe that Jesus was born to the virgin, Mary.


I have been intending to post something about this research myself, and John’s post gives me a good place to start. Both because his always well-written and well-thought-out posts are a very good summary of the Christian worldview (like there’s “a” christian worldview…) but also because he consistently (though never maliciously) misunderstands the agnostic/atheist outlook of the universe.
Now, I don’t begrudge him this. I myself totally misunderstood what the universe must look like to those who do not believe in god, before I came to not believe in god myself. It is one of those “walk a mile in their shoes” kinda things — until you really experience life from this side of the belief fence, you can only take mad stabs at what unbelief is really like.
And, as usual, John makes some gross simplifications about how an atheist or agnostic will or won’t think about the world.
I would like to clear up some of those misconceptions here, because I believe they are common ones.
Let us get started, shall we?

John goes on…

As one might expect, a large majority of those who do not profess religious faith or belief in God did not believe the story to be true.

Here we agree. I also think that we can expect a large majority of those who do not profess religious faith to believe in a virgin birth. In fact, I think we can be downright suprised that there are any, but then, human beings have an incredible capacity to holding conflicting beliefs. In another recent survey it was shown that twenty-five percent of Americans believe both that the Earth is around 10,000 years old and that evolution is true.
That warrents a repeat: they believed both to be true, at the same time.
No, really.
So we need not be all together surprised when we find that:

Only 15% of atheists/agnostics said they believe in the virgin birth as a literal story.

John then goes on to state:

But that is what is so particularly surprising, not so much because of the agnostic responses. One can understand a varying set of beliefs based on their “I’m not sure” agnostic perspective. But it was more specifically the responses of the atheists which caught my attention. Shouldn’t the percentage of atheists who believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ be?

Again, this surprises me as well, but do we have a breakdown of what percentage of atheists believe this versus the agnistics answering the question?
My conjecture is that few-to-none of the atheists expressed a positive belief in the virgin birth, while agnostics could have, and both are lumped together in the research.
Back to John:

I hesitate to conjecture too much about this,

…but I’m going to anyway:

but this inconsistency seems to indicate a desire to “have your cake and eat it too” as it were. I’ve talked about this in the past as it relates to morality in particular, that those who don’t believe in God (and who interpret the world through the lens of evolution) then want to embrace aspects of the world that are desirable, yet inconsistent, with their belief system (e.g. the notion of altruism—that noble idea that one sacrifices him/herself without expecting anything in return).

Here’s where John’s conjecturing has led him down the wrong path. He has picked up the ball on the 20 yard line and run the wrong way back towards his own endzone.
He shows a simplistic understanding of evolution in general and in survival of the fittest specifically, and this has brought him to the wrong conclusion.
Altruism is a great concept for a sentient species to develop, and it is one of the main attributes humans display that has helped us survive and adapt and, yes, evolve, to be the species we are today.
Without altruism, and the ability to sacrifice one’s self for others, we as individuals would be so selfish that we would consistently make decisions that are ultimately harmful to the species as a whole.
Self-sacrifice helps humans get a next generation born and raised. Of course, if we all sacrificed our very lives, the specieis would eventually die out. But there’s plenty of evidence that humanity is not in any danger of becoming too willing to die for one’s friends.

The inherently Christian idea of sacrificial love for others…

Sacrificial love for others is an older idea than Christianity is. It was co-opted, not created, by Christians.

…(as epitomized in the death of Christianity’s founder, Jesus)…

It was Paul of Tarsus that founded Christianity, not Jesus of Nazereth. It happened almost a full two generations after Jesus suposed ressurection, of which Paul states clearly he did not witness himself.
The organization that eventually became known as the Christian Church would be wholly unreckognizable to Jesus, whom John sets up as its founder.
Anyway, John’s still talking about sacrificial love for others…. certainly desirable and should be lauded in our society. And indeed it is, by Christians and non-religious people alike.


But I still haven’t been able to figure out in my own mind how one can embrace this noble idea of sacrifice for the welfare of others while holding to the theory of evolution for the explanation of the world—a worldview which is inherently built on the guiding principle of self-preservation above all else.

This last sentence of his is the major telling factor.
I know of no human being who believes in “self-preservation above all else”.
Every human being has an amazing drive to keep on living, just like every other living thing in the univsere that we have yet encountered.
But above all else?
Beleiving in evolution is like some magickal potion, in John’s view, that suddenly makes one selfish to the point of completely disregarding of life and other people’s right to it.
This view is clearly not squaring with reality, where athiests, agnostics, notional christians, Hindus, Muslims, and people of every kind of faith (or non-faith) exhibit laudable attributes every single day.
Morality is possible without belief in the Christian god, and to claim otherwise is to be unwilling to face the plain facts.

“Wow, what a load of horseshit.”

Here’s how to understand the Creation Museum:

Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit. And we’re not talking just your average load of horseshit; no, we’re talking colossal load of horsehit. An epic load of horseshit. The kind of load of horseshit that has accreted over decades and has developed its own sort of ecosystem, from the flyblown chunks at the perimeter, down into the heated and decomposing center, generating explosive levels of methane as bacteria feast merrily on vintage, liquified crap. This is a Herculean load of horseshit, friends, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Augeas.

And you look at it and you say, “Wow, what a load of horseshit.”

Your Creation Museum Report

oops: little boy with matches burns down LA

Officials blamed a wildfire that consumed more than 38,000 acres and destroyed 21 homes last week on a boy playing with matches, and said they would ask a prosecutor to consider the case.

The boy, whose name and age were not released, admitted to sparking the fire on Oct. 21, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht said Tuesday. Ferocious winds helped it quickly spread.

‘He admitted to playing with matches and accidentally starting the fire,’ Hecht said in a statement.

My Way News – Officials: Boy With Matches Started Fire

10,000 Wildebeest Drown in Migration “Pileup”

In a bizarre mishap that conservationists describe as “heartbreaking,” an estimated 10,000 wildebeest have drowned while attempting to cross Kenya’s Mara River during an annual migration.

The deaths, which occurred over the course of several days last week, are said to account for about one percent of the total species population.

The drownings created a grotesque wildlife pileup, after part of the migrating herd tried to ford the Mara at “a particularly treacherous crossing point,” according to Terilyn Lemaire, a conservation worker with the Mara Conservancy who witnessed the incident.

10,000 Wildebeest Drown in Migration “Pileup”

Technorati Tags: , , ,