The biology of sin
Recent biologically informed moralists, after flirting with the ethics of extreme individualism, have instead discovered that there are advantages, even for our genes, in being sociable. It is, after all, a good idea to do each other good, because until recently the beneficiaries were probably our kin, and might, in any case, do us good turns as well. Theft, rape and murder do not pay in the end - or not as well as commerce and seduction. The capacities and impulses to steal, rape and kill are not so self-destructive as to have been stripped away, but other, controlling systems have been evolved to counter them. Dame Nature has not relied on our good sense to keep us from such acts: people who only keep inside the law because they are afraid of being caught and punished are always criminals at heart. Remember the bad joke that rats are a 'morally bankrupt species' because they only obey the experimenter's prohibitions when they think they have to. Real moral prohibitions are constructed in our infancy: whatever we need to do to please our parents and our peers, we will learn - especially we will learn to be ashamed. Perhaps there are other social creatures who simply do not desire to do imprudent things: the calculation is completed even before their impulses are triggered. More probably, there can be no such calculation until we have desires, and those desires do not just evaporate in the face of shame, or common sense. Wolves, it has been said, have 'natural' inhibitions: they do not kill defeated wolves who make
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Publication information: Book title: Biology and Christian Ethics. Contributors: Stephen R. L. Clark - Editor. Publisher: Cambridge University Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, England. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 140.
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