May 7, 2013

Morality much older than religion

Interesting article at CNN. It's an interview with Frans de Waal, director of Emory University's Living Links Center. He studies the origins of empathy and morality, and does this by looking at our closest primate relatives.
"...I find it very hard to believe that 100,000 or 200,000 years ago, our ancestors did not believe in right and wrong, and did not punish bad behavior, did not care about fairness. Very long ago our ancestors had moral systems. Our current institutions are only a couple of thousand years old, which is really not old in the eyes of a biologist. So I think religion came after morality."
I enjoyed reading the article. It traces the origins of empathy to mothers who must watch out for their offspring. That's caring, and it is probably the source of human morality. Religion is a late arrival on the scene. Though religious leaders will tell you otherwise, they didn't invent morality. In fact, that is religion's second-most ridiculous claim (behind the existence of gods, of course). If this intrigues you, do read the article. It's refreshing.

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