My contribution to a LinkedIn Thread entitled “Does adherence to rationality result in atheism?
Martin: Thanks for your comments considering the role good and evil may play in species survival. My problem with those concepts is, they imply the pre-existence of universal truth. I know of no truth in the universe that says life should exist. As I see it, life exists only because we are possessed with the will to live, and with the instincts to behave in ways that enable our species to flourish. If no truth exists to justify our existence, how can truth be used to sustain it?
I noted in a previous comment how dividing a communal garden into separate plots destroys relational intimacy—instead of belonging to the community, at the moment of dividing it we would belong to the system that polices the garden. That example also reveals the origin of truth. Before dividing the garden, those who shared appropriately in maintaining it and in its resources, would remain loved members of the community. But, if an individual behaved sufficiently inappropriately regarding the garden, he may find himself shunned from the community. All this order, without truth.
Dividing the garden into plots, however, creates truth. In other words, if you plant something just a smidgen over this line, then you are wrong and I am right—absolutely. Likewise, if it is proven that you had sex with that young women thirty seconds before the clock strikes twelve on the night of her 16th birthday, then it is true that you belong in prison. If 30 seconds later, truth says you retain all your rights of citizenship.
Does that make sense? To spiritual prisoners it makes sense. Without such truth, spiritual prisons, on which we moderns depend to survive, could not exist. But to our instincts, that is, the survival wisdom of our species, it’s nonsense of a high order.
Without truth, crime doesn’t exist in natural cultures—how could it? But there are practical reasons crime doesn’t exist. For instance, an individual’s failure to appropriately behave regarding the garden, would not be due to evil or ill intent. In our natural state, his very life would depend on him on sharing in its resources. Why would he do things that might get him shunned? The only reason I can think of is: He suffers from a serious behavioral disfigurement. And if the disfigurement was genetic, shunning him would eliminate the defect from our species’ gene pool. But the objective of shunning would not be to eliminate defective genes, or dispel crime or evil. It would be because those who he was dependent on to survive could no longer tolerate his behavior.
It now becomes evident why humans are so possessed with the desire to please others. Throughout our evolution, pleasing others was our ticket, not only to unconditional love, but to our survival. The genes of humans who succeeded in pleasing their extended family members survived, just as do the genes of dogs who succeed in pleasing their masters. We don’t keep dogs around that offend us, nor do we keep humans around who offend us—that is, not if we were spiritually free. Dogs have been selectively bred by previous masters to please their masters. Likewise, we have been selectively bred by our distant ancestors to please one another.
Regarding the relationships among communities or tribes, I have little to say. The issue of when to fight over territory, and not to, are complex far beyond our imaginations. To deal with such issues is probably why our brains are so huge. Instinct reveals itself only through feelings—never words—and then only in response to immediate circumstances. Unless we regain our spiritual freedom, and thus free our instincts to express themselves, we will never know how such complex situations are managed on behalf of our species’. That, in spiritual freedom, they are, is evident by our existence.
At some point, regaining our spiritual freedom becomes simply a matter of faith. We believe in gods, institutions, money, law, truth, and good and evil. Why is it so difficult for us to believe in the human spirit? The answer is twofold. Until recently the word was: We are born as blank slates. Unaware that we are predisposed by genetic heritage to react to specific circumstances in specific ways, we did not know the human spirit exists. How can we believe in something that we didn’t know exists? The second reason we find it hard to believe in the human spirit is, it would require that we cease believing in all those other things—gods, institutions, money, law, truth, and good and evil.