Ok, here’s a bit of fun on a Wednesday (we all need a bit of fun on a Wednesday).
I’d like to point you towards two articles from the New York Times, both written by authors who as far as I can tell are firm believers in evolution and not at all in religion. But first, allow me to summarise a bit (the original articles are far better but I need to feel like I’ve put some effort in).
Some animals, including every single insect, operate exclusively for the community (they’re altruistic). An ant sacrificing its own life for the sake of the continuation of the colony is simple genetic instincts.
Others operate selfishly and would never sacrifice their own life willingly. As the articles say:
…within groups selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals.
Interesting. Of course, one key question from an evolutionary perspective would be: at what point in history did the first altriustic mutation appear? And how on earth did it survive and become a dominant gene for the entire insect population? Seems unlikely.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is in the sentence which follows the above quote, and please bear in mind that these are not Christians writing against evolution, they believe in it:
…risking oversimplification, individual selection promoted sin, while group selection promoted virtue.
I don’t want to risk oversimplification, but it’s a good point. Unselfishness is generally considered a virtue, and selfishness sin. Fair enough. But acknowledging this only admits the key way that humans are unique in creation:
…human action ranges to the extremes. People can perform extraordinary acts of altruism, including kindness toward other species — or they can utterly fail to be altruistic, even toward their own children.
It’s fascinating; in the rest of nature animal would appear to be either selfish or altruistic, but humans are simultaneously both in their most extreme versions! And the ultimately depressing thing is that according to evolution, being selfish or altruistic is simply genetics at work:
…the very idea of an “ought” is foreign to evolutionary theory.
Some might draw the self-contradictory conclusion that we ought to drop the word “ought.”
Indeed. Gotta love it.