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Lecture 24

BIOL 350 Lecture Notes - Lecture 24: Kin Selection, Norm (Social), Golden Rule

Course Code
BIOL 350
Lonnie William Aarssen

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Religion and Morality
Time magazine: 53% of those surveyed said they would be less likely to support a candidate
who was an atheist
culture bias that religion is necessary to have morals
Do we need religion in order to have an objective basis for moral standards?
Prevailing view in general public: you do!
In vast majority of cultures, incl. present-day hunter/gatherer societies, secular laws promote
goodness/morality without requiring any adherence to religious beliefs
in fact,moral standards, which promote group cooperation,are founded primarily on societal
imperatives, and to a large extent, religion has been used historically as a tool for enforcing
moral societal imperatives
laws helped societies to work better and so members were more likely to leave descendants
(gene transmission) and the laws were easier to enforce if citizens believed that “God is always
watching”, and that the consequence of breaking them, would be punishment from God (ex:
eternal damnation in hell)
Article: Religion: It's the hell part that makes us behave, study finds
hence, moral behaviour is not a product of religion but we can expect to see more evidence of it
when the religion has a punitive component
a great tool for leaders (even wise and benevolent)
at the same time, religious imperatives have often been used to justify immorality
abusive patriarchy, genital mutilation, forced child mutilations
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”-
Pascal, french mathematician and philosopher
Do we need religion in order to have an objective basis for moral standards?
The reprod success of our predecessors was rewarded by moral thinking and associated helpful
behaviour (that may or may not be associated with religion)
in other words, our predecessors that were at least somewhat helpful and cooperative (and
hence 'moral') in their interaction with other members of the tribe or society, on average left
more descendants than those who were purely immoral
helpful behaviour evolves more readily evolves more readily when recipients are kin (since they
share genes), through 'kin-selection' but can also evolve through mutualism and reciprocal
exchanges between non-relatives
The Golden Rule
“treat others as you would like to be treated”
is found in virtually every known religion
points to evolutionary roots!
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