Archive for August, 2006

The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule

Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic Magazine and a frequent contributor to Scientific American has produced a work that explains the basis of morality and ethics on a scientific basis. The system of ethics and definition of what is good and what is evil has usually been assigned to the realm of religion. In ancient times, the likes of Aristotle and Socraties wrestled with this subject with only provisional results.

Religious folk tell us that God establishes right and wrong, and assigns punishment to those who break God’s Law. The premise is that without God establishing the rules, humanity would fall into disarray with everyone making up their own rules. Under this view, the rules are rigid and established under the authority and pronouncements of God as interpreted by the leaders of the religion.
Shermer soundly refutes this viewpoint, and makes an excellent case for his Provisional Ethics and Provisional Morality. These ideas are founded on several insights: Moral Naturalism, an Evolved Moral Society, the Nature of Moral Nature, Provisional Morality, Provisional Right and Wrong, Provisional Justice, and Ennobling Evolutionary Ethics. (more…)

Svante PaaboDecoding genomes is getting cheaper. Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is busy decoding the genome for the Neanderthal. Decoding the genetic makeup of Neanderthals will allow us to see just where this human relative falls in our family tree. By comparing the makeup of this genome with that of the varous races of modern humans, and with bonobos and chimpanzees we can see a little more clearly where they fall. (more…)