Christians often claim morals must come from God. I find this a weak argument; it is in no way proof of God. How can they prove there could be no morals without God? It is impossible. Likewise, it is impossible to say with absolute certainty that morals could exist without God. Anyway, here are my thoughts about the evolution of morals.
In the beginning, God created our morals. Oh, wait. Wrong story. In the beginning, life was somehow made. We have no answer as to how, but that does not make Christianity—of all religions—true by default. Anyhow, life came to be in some inexplicable way. Or rather, life maybe came to be with the evolution of molecules, with certain molecules being more successful because they replicated more efficiently. Where the replicating ability came from, I can’t say, but molecules became complex and were incased in a membrane of lipids, after which this first, primitive cell evolved further. I know, this, in and of itself, is fragile and certainly not satisfactory as an explanation for the origins of life, but we must have a beginning to our story. No? It has nothing to do with the topic, but I must bring it up: Christians claim there must be a beginning and thus God also must exist. But why mustn’t God have a beginning, a cause? They say everything requires a cause, meaning there’s either an eternity of events that have gone by or there must be an intelligent designer. But eternity can’t exist; everything needs a cause. Then let’s invent something—God—that doesn’t require a cause. Brilliant logic.
Moving on… Life has evolved for more time than you can shake a stick at. I’m not certain if you can, indeed, shake a stick at time. But if theists can use downright illogical arguments, should we not also do so? Back to my point: Life evolved into a host of different types. The creatures have lived in a myriad of different ways, and have become more intelligent and social.
Now, one thing I’d like to point out is that intellect is no requirement for survival. Predators are oft smarter; they must come up with ways with which to catch prey. The prey, however, must run. But, indeed, life has still become more intelligent and social. Primitive creatures, like sharks or spiders, are often solitary hunters (though one can argue what primitive means). But in the oceans, intelligent and social mammals—the whales—have claimed the top of the food chain.
Reptiles were dominant before mammals. I bring this up, because it could be a plot hole. Why were reptiles (dinosaurs) dominant, not mammals? Mammals are, as a group, more intelligent and social than reptiles. That is fact. In contemporary times, mammals are the dominant life. That is fact. So why did the dinosaurs become dominant? They were perfectly adapted for their world, and they were, in comparison to primates, wolves, and such, simple creatures to begin with, so they appeared first. Dinosaurs evolved from a group simpler than mammals on many levels, but they quickly evolved to be the definition of perfectly adapted to their world. They were reptiles evolved from reptiles, while mammals evolved from reptiles into mammal-like reptiles, into mammals; more fundamental changes do logically take more time. But I'm just conjecturing.
To really simplify things, I’d say there are three basic levels of social behavior: to be a solitary animal, a herd animal, and a pack animal. Humans are the third—pack animals. Dinosaurs also evolved toward social behavior. This is observable, not only in fossils, but in contemporary animals, like birds. Several species of birds are highly intelligent, maybe even social. Nonetheless, mammals are the most intelligent and the most social.
So how do I define these social levels? What do they have to do with evolution and morals? Solitary animals care for themselves, their own survival. They only care about feeding and breeding, which I guess humans do, as well, but not for the same reasons. A solitary animal has no morals or feelings; it has no metaphorical soul. A herd animal is one step up, in the evolutionary path toward morals. They don’t truly care about each other, but have come to realize that it is advantageous to live together. To live in a herd means it’s more likely for the individual to survive; the weak, sick, and old are picked off by the lions and the strong survive. Had the animals lived alone, by chance the strong might perish, because they were the only target. Likewise, in a herd, you have a thousand sets of eyes, not just one. More eyes, more coverage, more survival, more social.
The third social state in which an animal can be—a pack animal—is the closest to being human. There are varying degrees, but pack animals care for each other, love each other. What does it have to do with evolution? It is beneficial! If I care about you and would act to save your life in the face of danger, your survival odds greatly improve; likewise, you return the favor and save me. One cool example I saw in The Trials of Life (I think) by Sir David Attenborough (a personal hero of mine) was a bloodsucking bat. I know, it does not scream MORALS, right? The fact is that these bats sleep together (actual sleep) in clusters in the ceiling. They’d go out hunting, then return to snuggle. And—the part I love—whenever an animal didn’t feed for whatever reason, it could ask a neighbor to regurgitate some blood for it. Why would the other bat do it? If it doesn’t help the bat in need, no one will return the favor. Helping others does not only improve their chances for survival, but your own. So, it is logical and imperative to help others. Give some; get some—the Golden Rule.
From there, it is not tough to see how actual feelings could arise. I know, it is a leap, faith, but the faith that feelings and morals are the result of evolution has more proof than that they come from God. To help each other is beneficial, like it’s beneficial to help one’s younglings survive: the former improves the individual’s chance for survival; the latter improves the chance their genes are kept in the pool, not splashed up on dry land.
Let me give you another example, which is even better—wolves. They mate for life; they live in packs; they are social; they are intelligent; and Christians say they have no soul, even though they are remarkably human. I despise comparing everything to humans, because we are not at the center of the world; perhaps I should say wolves and humans have metaphorical souls.
Now, I will not claim monogamy is proof that wolves are moral. Monogamy is the result of evolution, as well, but doesn’t imply emotion. Why, you ask? Well, it both is and isn’t the result of evolution. There are problems with breeding, if creatures live solitary lives. When and where should they meet to procreate? Certain animals, which could be said not to have souls, have solved this by having mating seasons at a predetermined location, lodged in the subconscious through basic instinct, the genes. That’s one good way of solving the problem. But when you start living in a herd, why wait? Why have a predetermined location? You have penises and vaginas right there in the same place, all year round. Even herd animals often have a breeding period, though, when the female is in heat. The males fight each other to try and impress her, and the strongest gets her. Maybe they do it this way because they migrate. I don't know.
Some creatures evolved as such that the female is in heat regularly, throughout the year. This is how it is for women. Roughly once a month, they are susceptible to being impregnated. If they’re not, they bleed out the egg and all the gooey stuff that’s there to make a hospitable environment for the cells that will become a human life. And if females are in heat regularly, then it is great for them, as they can have more younglings. But it’s not so great for the males. If a female is regularly in heat and has access to multiple partners, how could any male be assured her babies are his? How could any male know they’ve spread their genes onward? They cannot; that’s the point. That is what created the pack, and why some species are monogamous or polygamous, but within the confines of what may arguably be called a relationship. The male wants to own (sorry) one or more females, so he can be sure his genes are passed onward. There are no other males to impregnate the female, before he can do so. By consistently inseminating her, she gives him offspring often.
Relationships, monogamous or otherwise, centered on the male are advantageous for, at least, the male. That’s why monogamy could partially be a result of evolution and partially the result of morals that may or may not come from evolution. I say this because we are not polygamous, except on Friday nights; we don’t see polygamy as something good, though it arguably is for the male, from a purely scientific perspective. However, I must say a monogamous relationship provides a deeper, more meaningful connection than polygamy. Of course you can care about numerous partners, but you don’t get that we-have-a-secret-only-the-two-of-us-know feeling, or whatever. Besides, men with countless wives likely don’t respect the female gender and see them as property. It’s counterintuitive, even for the male. We, as a species, perpetually seek connections to anything that’s meaningful, be it God or another human being.
Relationships are, of course, not only the result because they are a necessity for breeding; they also serve as the foundation for the pack. I believe packs began as a way for males to assure their genes pass on. Packs—relationships, families, if you will—probably arose from herds, with males wanting to perpetually have a female that consistently is in heat. And from there, with such a tight, perpetual bond, the pack mentality may evolve. They started thinking like the bats I mentioned: If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. It is not inconceivable that morals come from that concept; it is not inconceivable that morals come from the biological need to survive and pass on genes, thus confining mating to a relationship in which the partners protect each other, not to mention support each other in domestic responsibilities, such as protecting younglings and providing sustenance for them.
I do not really know. I know not what was before the big bang. I know not the origin of life. I know not from where consciousness originated. I just don’t know from where morals and the metaphorical soul came. All I can say is that not only humans have morals and feelings. Dogs care about the pack leader; some dogs, like golden retrievers, care about everyone, while others are loyal to the pack leader. Several mammals live in groups; they are social and even talk, in a sense. Whales even have names, calling on each other with a certain pitch. Many animals care; it’s not exclusive to humanity.
There are so many amazing examples. Certain pack animals live in larger groups with several families, and they may actually help take care of others’ younglings. It is possible that they only do so to be scratched back, of course. But what about the dolphins that have been recorded to protect humans from sharks? They have no logical reason to do so, unless they cherish life and see us as a fellow living creature in need of help. The theist dogma that only humans matter and only humans have feelings and morals is reprehensible. More living beings are intelligent and have feelings. They can love or hate. In fact, it is remarkable how human animals can be. Or rather, it is remarkable how animal humans are.
Life is truly amazing. Not only does evolution lead to different solutions to the same problem, but it leads to the same solution to the same problems. For example, many creatures that are unrelated (except distantly, of course) have evolved into a four-legged posture perfect for great speeds of running, on both sides of the dinner table. Dogs and cats do look remarkably alike. Whales are similar to fish with the streamlined bodies and fins. Similarly, is it not plausible the objective morals theists go on about are actually the same solution to the same problem? Murder, thievery, and rape are unpleasant to the victim. Like how we must scratch another’s back to get them to scratch ours, as I’ve discussed in this blog post, I believe the objective morals Christians say must come from God are merely the result of logic and every civilization facing similar problems. If one person does not agree and does indeed steal, the ones who do agree will not want to live with him. He must fend for himself, and thus death is sure to catch up, no matter how fast and far he runs.
One thing I must admit is that the human species is the most advanced one. We are the most intelligent and the most social. But how can we be sure other animals are not far behind us? Dolphins are arguably altruistic. Primates likely not only care about each other, but also have a great capability for language. Because language, a means with which to express oneself, does seem like a cornerstone for deep connections and thus morals. If that is true, why wouldn’t our cousins share the same close bonds and feelings?
While Jurassic Park is blasphemous to both religion and science, with inaccuraties and plot holes, the films are enjoyable and give me a great quote. Like that idiot Malcolm said in the first film in the series: Life, uh, uh, uh, finds a way.