Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 6, 2009

Don’t need religion to be nice

From Christine Kenneally on Slate:

Philosophy and religion, as well as science, have long suggested that caring and kindness do not come from our biology but instead are ways in which we overcome our biology: Niceness is a refinement. …

But lately scientists, from biologists to psychologists—with de Waal at the forefront—have begun suggesting that nature is filled with compassion, too. This isn’t a mere pendulum swing to warmth and cuddliness. Research on social animals—like elephants, dolphins, baboons, chimpanzees ([primate expert and The Age of Empathy author Frans] deWaal’s specialty), and even hyenas—has complicated what has for too long been a reductive picture. These animals participate in dynamic societies made up of individuals, and their lives are replete with feelings, decisions, and intentions, rooted in biology yet elaborated in cooperative—and competitive—interaction. By comparing their worlds, with each other and with our own, de Waal explains, we can learn about the true anatomy of the social psyche. The result should deliver a jolt: Nature isn’t so red in tooth and claw, and civilization may not be so neatly edifying. In fact, if we have a destructive impulse to watch out for, it may be our readiness to embrace the “civilized” view that deep down we’re horrible.

This is just one example of why I prefer science and reason to religion and faith: as new evidence becomes available, science adjusts its theories to accommodate it, while religion condemns the evidence and those who gather it (see creationists like Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, for example).



  1. The problem with the above story is that it ignores the other aspects of those animals behavior. Scientists have observed for decades how some animal groups will eat their young and then care for the living ones.

    Do you only look at the instinct to care for the living off spring to say they exhibit traits of a person? No, you have to look at their behavior as a whole and realize that animals do not act through morals only through instinct. See this study.

    And to show how a belief in Darwinian evolution can obscure a “scientist’s” observation of data:

    “If it doesn’t confer some sort of benefit, you wouldn’t expect it to have evolved,” said the study’s lead author Hope Klug, a graduate student at the University of Florida.

    Hope Klug shows that if data does not fit the Darwinian evolution model it is discarded until it can be explained within that model, this is not real science. Animal behavior is based solely on instinct, humans are the only creatures on earth that have ever been observed to consistently demonstrate morals.

    • That’s not at all what Klug was doing. You need to look in the mirror, as you’re doing what you accuse Klug of. You’re taking one quote out of context and trying to give it your own creationism spin. Science — unlike religion — doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. Scientists will study the behavior, adjusting their theories as the evidence demands, until they have a valid explanation.

    • “Scientists will study the behavior, adjusting their theories as the evidence demands, until they have a valid explanation.” This is true. Unfortunately Darwinian evolutionists adjust the evidence until it matches their theory.

      And I was not taking her quote out of context, I gave you a link to the entire context of the story. I used it as an example, how was I spinning it?

      “Science — unlike religion — doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.” This is a logical fallacy. You assume that religion “pretends” to know the answers, what if Christianity is true, you have no proof it is not. And I do agree that religion does not pretend to have all the answers, it does admit as a fact that is has very few of the answers that Christianity asserts. I think that is the one of the hurdles for atheists, you think it is “arrogant” to say you know that answer to a question but then you say you know there is no God… is this not arrogant also?

  2. I hope I don’t upset anyone with this comment. I’m a Christian.
    Just on a little sidenote, God is meant to be unchanging. That’s one of the biggest things in the Bible. Something that Christians have hope in and depend on.
    Ok, so here it is, in my view:

    Men are sinners. Fact.
    In view of Biblical beliefs and doctrine, not a single human being can state that they aren’t a sinner.
    Here’s another fact:
    We are God’s creation. So naturally we would have inside us the capacity for caring, kindness, and compassion. All things that we see in our creator.

    Yes, Man is by nature, a sinner.
    But at the same time we are capable of kindness and love *because* of God. This is, again, from a Christian mindset.

    Hence, Christianity does not neglect or ignore these findings, but is able, without changing, to embrace them.

    Blessings on your day,


  3. Sketch,

    You assert things as facts that are simply matters of faith (remember, faith is defined as “belief that is not based on proof”

    It is not a fact that men are sinners. We don’t even agree across the world and across the centuries what constitutes sin. Many Mormons believe that it’s a sin to consume caffeine or alcohol. Christian Scientists believe that its a sin to get medical care. The ten commandments say to honor your parents, but the Gospels say you should hate your parents.

    When the Bible contradicts itself on the matter, it’s pretty nervy of you to state that all men are sinners. So, what’s a sin to you might not be a sin to your neighbor of a different or of no religion.

    Second, just because YOU believe that man is god’s creation doesn’t make it so. You have no evidence, only your faith that the stories in the Bible are true and that other creation stories created by other cultures are not.

    Finally, you assert that Christianity embraces “these findings” but don’t bother to support that allegation. There’s no way to interpret the Bible literally (as many Christians do) AND accept evolution.

    • Christian sects often disagree, but unless they can find scriptural proof for their ideas of “sin”, then they have no reason to say that it is a sin, if that makes sense.
      If you can find it in the Bible as a “sin”, then it is a sin. Easy as that. There are diffferences between “sins” and morals or values. Sin is, as in Biblically speaking, whatever the Bible depicts as sin.

      Your second point on how the Bible contradicts itself…Yes, you are supposed to honor your parents. It then says to hate your parents and your family (Luke 14:26) Here you go:

      //Admittedly, if the word “hate” in Luke 14:26 means what most twenty-first century Americans use the word to mean, then Jesus’ statement is a contradiction, unjust, and goes against decent family values. What anyone who studies the verse should quickly discover, however, is that the word translated “hate” does not always mean “to despise, detest, loathe, and abhor,” which are synonymous with the general use of the word “hate” in our modern culture. Instead, the word also can include the meaning “to love less.”

      Atheist Dan Barker has disavowed such an explanation, saying, “Most Christians feel obligated to soften the face meaning of the word ‘hate’ to something like ‘love less than me,’ even though the Greek word miseo means ‘hate’ ” (1999, p. 158). Barker failed to explore, however, the legitimate times in the Bible (and in secular documents) where the word or its Hebrew equivalent is given the meaning “to love less,” and is not forced into a strict, uncompromising, literal usage of detest, loathe, or abhor.//

      I am speaking from a Christian perspective. So of course I was say that we are God’s creation, because that is what I do believe. I was supporting my allegation that Christianity can support the findings by explaining that, yes, man is not just all evil, but can have compassion. That was the main point of the article, that men aren’t just evil. I was supporting that, but from a Christian perspective.

      I’m not sure when evolution was brought into this, or if you just decided to bring it in last minute? I believe in creationism. As to whether Biblical concepts can be molded together with that, I don’t know. But I do believe that my God is bigger than any science out there.

      • The original post was about evolution and creationism — an example of how many Christians condemn science and scientists that contradict the Bible.

        I have no interest in your pretzel logic attempts to explain away one of the many, many contradictions in the Bible. They’re further evidence of how much your faith has required you to give up on reason and logic (things that, if you’re a creationist, as you say, you must believe that God gave you), and it’s just really very sad.

        Look, you can believe whatever you want. But you have to realize that your faith — something that by definition cannot be proven — is not a replacement for science. It, in fact, is inferior to science because faith is unchanging in the face of new evidence, while science adapts to include new evidence.

        You can “believe” that your god is bigger than science, but know that you cannot prove it.

      • Faith in an unchanging God and belief aren’t neceasarry inadequate at all, or inferior…seeing as how it’s had answers to every question for thousands of year. In contrast with science which does change every day to adapt to new evidence, correcting itself. In fact, God can even explain things with such simple explanations that science cannot yet explain.
        While God is already perfect, and does not need to. Whether than answer be something you consider “pretzel logic” or something as simple as “My God is bigger than your findings”.
        I do not condemn science. Science every day attempts to condemn faith, religion, and God.

        You can never disprove the existence of God with science. If you find something that goes against the Bible, honestly…God, as is described in the Bible, would be bigger than any instrument of science you have.
        Call it pretzel logic if you’d like. But at least you’re admitting that I still AM using logic and reason, in which you have no way to disprove. 🙂


    • “It is not a fact that men are sinners.” Show me a person that has never lied?

      • So who says lying is a sin? In some cases it can be a kindness (hence the term “white lie”). If you say the Bible says lying is a sin, then you must prove to me that the Bible is an infallible, inerrant authority on this matter. And the only thing you can do there is to say that the Bible is inerrant and infallible because the Bible says it is. And that’s a logical fallacy called circular reasoning.

      • Are you saying that all lies are ok or just the ones you say are ok to tell? How do you determine what lies are ok to tell?

        And if we agree to ignore white lies, show me a person that has never told a harmful lie?

  4. Pretzel logic is not logic at all.

    The fact that you can’t see an insult when it’s right in front of you should be evidence of how much you’ve given up reason in favor of your favorite fairy tale.

    Science does not attempt to condemn God. Science is a search for truth. If one theory is proven inadequate, science adjusts.

    Religion does not. Which is why we have people rejecting scientific explanations about the origins of the universe and evolution of Man because it doesn’t square with the fairy tale in the Bible.

  5. I asked you why you assumed that lies are wrong. You haven’t answered that question.

    Here’s how I determine right and wrong, neatly summarized by Biologist PZ Myers:

    I derive my sense of what is right and wrong from intrinsic properties such as empathy and other social impulses, and from acculturation in a stable, successful society that has expectations of parents to introduce their children to what constitutes reasonable behavior. I also derive it rationally from what I can see as a robust strategy for long term security and happiness within my culture — that is, robbing banks has a very poor long term return on the effort.

    So, I do believe in right and wrong. It’s just not handed down from a magical sky-lawyer.


    You go right on getting your sense of right and wrong from the self-contradictory and error-ridden Bible (Myers’ sky-lawyer), but don’t expect me to pretend that it’s an authoritative source. It’s not.

  6. Lies are wrong, all they do is delay the truth for your own protection.

    Why do you feel it is okay to lie to people?

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