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How did we get our "right and wrong"?

Do people have an inner sense of morality?

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project.
Used by permission from the Veritas Forum (www.Veritas.org).


See the article on: What compels us to care for others?

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Video transcript:

...the knowledge that there is such a thing as right, and there is such a thing as wrong, and that we are called to do the right thing.

And if you look down through history, across cultures, across times, you will not find a human population or a human culture that did not have that moral law. They interpreted it often very differently in terms of what was in the right column and what was in the wrong column, but they didn't disagree that there were such columns, and that we were supposed to try to do the things that were in the column called "right."

Where does that come from? Well, various arguments have been brought to bear on this that relate to evolutionary pressures. Cuz after all, you can imagine that if you do nice things to other people, maybe they'll do nice things to you and you'll be reproductively more successful. That's what evolution cares about. That would be called reciprocal altruism. A lot of this is about altruism. And of course, if you're nice to your relatives, they share your DNA, so their reproductive fitness is a good thing for the DNA that you're carrying. So you can kind of see why being nice to your relatives would also be something that evolution would care about, and you can see some manifestations of these things in animals.

But what about radical altruism? What about an Oscar Shindler, who decides to risk his life to save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. They are not of his particular tribe and yet he does this because he feels called to do so. And we, when we hear about it, we don't shake our heads and go, well that was stupid. No. We admire this. We think of this as the most noble kind of action that a human being can take. We wish that we were more like that. We aspire to that. We often fall short, but there is something calling us to do that.

Now evolution would say, that's a scandal. Oscar Shindler is really mixed up here about what his purpose in life is. So is Mother Teresa. So are all these people that have decided to risk their lives in Darfur, trying to save people from a terrible disaster, at the very risk of losing their own life in the process.

And yet when we look at that we think, that's what we should be doing. Where does that come from? Interesting. Now I'm not going to say any of these arguments are proofs, and if any of these arguments fell apart, my faith would not be shaken. But I hope you will see that these are the kind of points that can cause a previous atheist like myself to begin to really wonder, what's going on here?

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