Collins has argued that one piece of evidence for god is the human moral sense, which he claims could not have evolved. I guess we’re going to have to call monkeys our brothers and sisters then, since researchers have found that monkeys have a sense of morality. (Let me guess; he’ll just push the magic moment of ensoulment back another 30 million years.) Furthermore, they have explanations for how altruism could have evolved.
Some researchers believe we could owe our consciences to climate change and, in particular, to a period of intense global warming between 50,000 and 800,000 years ago. The proto-humans living in the forests had to adapt to living on hostile open plains, where they would have been easy prey for formidable predators such as big cats.
This would have forced them to devise rules for hunting in groups and sharing food.
Christopher Boehm, director of the Jane Goodall Research Center, part of the University of Southern California’s anthropology department, believes such humans devised codes to stop bigger, stronger males hogging all the food.
“To ensure fair meat distribution, hunting bands had to gang up physically against alpha males,” he said. This theory has been borne out by studies of contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes.
In research released at the AAAS he argued that under such a system those who broke the rules would have been killed, their “amoral” genes lost to posterity. By contrast, those who abided by the rules would have had many more children.
It’s a little glib and speculative, but it’s enough to shut down the claim that morality couldn’t have evolved.
I also have deep reservations about some of the claims in the article.
Other studies have confirmed that the strength of a person’s conscience depends partly on their genes. Several researchers have shown, for example, that the children of habitual criminals will often become criminals too – even when they have had no contact with their biological parents.
Ugh. Criminality is too flexible and too easily influenced by the environment — strip me of my income and throw me on the streets, and I’ll become a criminal, too, if it keeps me and my family from going hungry. But then, I suppose anyone could claim those are just the genes of my roots in the lower socioeconomic classes.