What matters most is how we live our lives

By Mike Dishnow, August 24, 2011

Who or what is the creator of “the creator”? The “first cause argument” is without merit. One can always seek a reduction of one more step.

As Dean Stroud wrote in a column in Sunday’s Tribune, simplicity has its virtues. The concept of a creator God sounds complex to me — omniscient, omnipotent and Omnipresent are not simple ideas.

For this man, it is reasonable to believe it more likely that “man created God in his own image” than that “God created man in his own image” — incredibly more logical and more simple.

A simple review of the various religious and philosophical views, theist and non-theist, through historical and contemporary time suggests this is true.

Stroud is not wrong, nor is he right. There is a God. There is not a God. He cannot prove his thesis, nor can I prove mine.

Belief does not equal goodness or evil.

Disbelief does not equal goodness or evil.

What counts is how one lives this life; standards of conduct, ethics and values reign supreme.

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One Response to What matters most is how we live our lives

  1. An increasing number of people, and increasing numbers of well designed experiments, in increasing numbers of fields, are increasingly convincingly showing that our emotional capacities for ethical considerations are based on a simple emotional framework shared with most mammals, and possibly other animals as well.

    To say that only humans can be moral, much less only certain kinds of humans, is to be relatively ignorant of the state of modern studies in behavior, brains, genetics, and evolution, of humans and other animals.

    In the last decade there has been a great deal of growth in the study of moral or ethical behaviors in animals other than humans in a variety of emerging and established sciences.

    Almost from the formation of Ethology (the study of animal behavior, often in a natural setting) there was an almost conscious attempt to counter psychology’s insistence that any attribution of human emotional states to animals is anthropomorphism. Ecological and evolutionary considerations and concerns have also added motive to these studies. In the interim, brain sciences have essentially demolished the idea that there is any basic difference in kind between human and animal emotions.

    Now many are doing experiments that invariably prove that social mammals, at least, have many of the same, or similar, brain structures and behaviors that we associate with moral or ethical considerations, and that these are founded firmly upon shared emotional bases for behaviors such as altruism, reciprocity, and sharing, mainly mediated by feelings of empathy and common cause.

    It has been shown, on a neurological level, that some aquatic social mammals have more spindle cells, and larger volumes of certain brain regions, both of which are involved in human moral considerations. Arguably, at this point, dolphins are biologically more moral than humans.

    I did a search on Google and found it difficult to choose words well enough to sort the science from the arguments surrounding the human ethics and politics of animal experimentation and animal rights.

    I was unable to find any of the many studies that I already knew about, but there was no shortage of similar materials. It seems to me that every time the question is posed well the answer is that many animals have strong ethical drives, inhibitions, and distinctions, often quite clearly subject to basic evolution through reasoning and response to changing social and material environments.

    A small sample of overviews of such results:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5373379/Animals-can-tell-right-from-wrong.html

    http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/10/animal-morality-research_n_1859579.html

    These links survey just some of the historical and evolving fields of inquiry involved in what seems like a consistent slide away from humans being the center of the moral universe.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3014747.stm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_morality

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethology

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Animal

    As much as science has done to illuminate these questions, esp. in the last decade or two, it seems to me that for most of us it’s really a gut-check kind of thing. Some people look some non-humans in the eye, or observe their behaviors, and feel empathy, connectivity, and a moral similarity, others don’t.

    I am increasingly convinced that the blinders of religion, and supposed reasoning based upon such, are a critical part of human culture’s ability to turn a blind eye to how much more we have in common with other social mammals than we lead each other to believe.

    While it is clear now that some animals have shown a capacity to apply their species’ ethics to members of others species, it is not at all clear that we have any less capacity in this regards than any other species. I am not yet ready to commit humans to a higher order of morality, where our own species, and it’s innate moral framework, are no more important than those of other communicable animals. I still eat way too many McDoubles for my own health, and way too many McChickens for the Gulf’s dead zone, anyway.

    Yet, I am unequivocally in the camp that sees little moral difference between humans and other mammals. I am also in the camp that imbues the human world with more of a need for respect and communication with nature generally. I strongly feel we need to see the air, water, and species diversity, as far too “holy”, or just plain valuable and “necessary”! to dirty with toxins, or pave over with asphalt.

    Nonetheless, once you broach the essentially ethical question of animals’ ethics, then you must address the real violent and oppressive conflict, political and power inequality, and need for more information exchange, between humans and other possible “persons”.

    I’m convinced that just as much as the holier than thou, even though not always that religous, attitude is more and more common among those who refuse to eat meat, there are also multiple well reasoned needs to cut one’s meat consumption – mainly for economic, ecologic, and health related reasons.

    However, in as much as one’s veganism is driven by actual mutual mammalian empathy, it is still technically only a little more scientific, and a little less religious, than religion organized for religion’s sake.

    To many it is overtly a religion, as ethics usually are to those who “believe”.

    So, the whole concept of the morality of animals, and the human morality of our behavior in relation to others, will always be inextricably linked, making it hard to find the science in the Google results, buried underneath all the politics, religion, and proselytization.

    Fortunately for those who would rather not have such clear cut and dried choices, there are those who have been working on growing brainless meat in a vat.

    To a deep ecologist this just means further driving a wedge between the human and it’s environment, but to a pragmatist it is a less disruptive and more efficient way to pursue corporatist petroleum derived food production.

    Some vegans proclaim they would try it, others consider the very concept antithetical heresy.

    Here are 3 recent movies that use the concept that human morals are not different by kind as much as by degree of complexity to advance the cause of animal rights to one degree or another. I do not necessarily support these arguments in any more than a philosophic sense. My own politics and philosophies are far to consensually oriented towards freedom and moral relativity to fully support such proselytization and emotional chain jerking, whether based in good science and facts, or not.

    http://speciesismthemovie.com/

    Earthlings – Animal Justice – Full Film
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky4RGYva90E

    [Environment|Animal Rights|Speciesism] The Superior Human? – Full