Several months ago, I touched on this topic of morality, expounding how morality is not necessarily a product of religious teachings, or religious sentiments for that matter, but rather it is innate. (The article can be accessed through this link.) And as I delved further into this matter, it came to my realization that the details surrounding the emergence and evolution of religion have yet to be clearly established. Hence, it continues to remain a source of much debate among numerous “scholars/experts.”
Although, there is no doubt that spiritual experiences and religion, which are ubiquitous across diverse cultures, are ultimately based in the brain. There are still many unanswered questions about how and why these behaviors originated, and how they may have been shaped during evolution.
Religious folks often argue that evolution undermines morality, and that “Darwinism” is wrong, because it leads to immorality. Why? Because evolution challenges creationism, and these challenges are, in turn, used to justify behaviours that some would regard as “immoral.” Of course, as asinine as this justification sounds, even if it were true that accepting the theory of evolution undermined peoples’ sense of morality, it is still not a valid enough justification to doubt the reality of evolution altogether.
And, so, when it comes to the question of morality, there is no doubt in my mind that it is evolutionary. Individuals, despite differences in or even in the absence of religion, show no difference in moral judgments from their religious counterparts. This assertion is supported through research conducted by both Dr. Pyysiainen and Dr. Marc Hauser, from the Departments of Psychology and Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, earlier this year. Their research suggested that intuitive judgments of “right” and “wrong” seemed to operate independently of explicit religious commitments. This, in turn, suggests that human intuitions and emotions generally drive our moral judgments. And because humans, by nature, are social animals, morality is the only key driving force for the evolution of humankind’s ultra-sociality, which allows us to live in vast, well-organized, and segregated groups.
Further, there are actually two kinds of moral decisions – instinctive and reasoned. And from an evolutionary perspective, both these responses are consistent with aiding the individual’s or group’s survival and reproduction.
It appears to me that all moral systems, supposedly based on reason, can be traced back to some moral principle, which is the “rightness” or “wrongness” that cannot simply be proven by reason alone. It has to be seen as being self-evident; in other words, it will rely on our instinctive idea of what is “good” and “bad.” And this instructive idea is then pretty much centered in different parts of our brains. The brain, as a result, is responsible for our emotions, our ability to reason, and our ability to have self-control in order to produce a tangible moral judgment. And since our brains have the ability to reason and determine our moral judgments, morality, then, is embodied in the brain.
For this reason, one must bear in mind that the acceptance of religion does not necessarily promote moral behaviour, nor that evolution promotes immoral behaviour. For this topic is far too complex for us to come to a clear-cut conclusion. But it does prove that accepting evolution does not immediately lead to the moral breakdown of society, as some close-minded creationists/religious bigots often seem to claim.