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Evolution of Religion

Science answers many questions but not of morality or wisdom. Human judgment is responsible there.

But morality began with evolution. It was useful work that people did that had survival value. So, the tribe recognized that those who carried their load and were able to contribute above their need were desirable members of the tribe. They were selected for mating and their genes reproduced. Whatever gene copy accounted for this was, over time, inbred. People did for others really for their own benefit. To be selected for reproduction. And so, the circle goes. Until doing for others is part of the DNA, the gene pool, the selection process.

It becomes “second nature.” Instinctual. To do good work. It is human nature.

Human observation discerned the positive response to doing good work and found it good. Human curiosity sought to explain such goodness in an often bleak and unforgiving world. Nothing in the world seemed to explain it, so speculation arose it came from beyond this world. Over time, this speculation became religions.

Religions made sense in the face of insufficient knowledge. With the advent of scientific knowledge, the borders of the “out there” explanation becomes smaller and smaller. Human responsibility increases exponentially with every scientific advance. Surely, we know enough by now to realize “out there” is not coming to save us from ourselves. The science of nature’s god is astonishing. Our ability to use it stupefying. This god gave us a miraculous gift! But, our capacity to use it for self-destruction is not only appalling but insulting. It is the ultimate sacrilege in both religion and science.

To continue good works, this is the human imperative. Not all get it, there are mutations. But if this great good work is to go forward, there must be humans to do it. Given our creation of nuclear weapons, given our military’s massive consumption of fossil fuel and thus production of planet-killing greenhouse gases, rejection of war and violence has now become a species imperative. Lucky, we have been. Statistics and mathematics suggest that luck will run out. Human judgment alone stands in the way. Our second nature—to do good, to be kind—must become First Nature.

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Kary Love is a Michigan attorney.

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