Morality and Ethics from an Evolutionary Standpoint
Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection can be used to explain many of the otherwise inexplicable traits of modern humans from mate selection, to social interactions, and even child rearing. What many people don’t realize is that such a theory can also explain the sense of ‘morality’ among humans in absence of a theological (and therefore supernatural) definition.
Morality is always changing; for example, a few hundred years ago, it would have been perfectly acceptable to own and sell human beings as slaves. Yet today, this practice is condemned as, many would argue, universally immoral. This development, progression, and fluidity of cultural ethics and norms are precisely what make biblical teachings a poor, stagnant, moral compass for today’s society. Not only does the Holy Bible condone acts which our modern society would find completely unethical such as rape, murder, and slavery, but it also condemns acts like homosexual orientation and working on Sundays- acts that, today, could be considered normal and completely separate from “morality.”
Homo Sapien is a social animal by nature, much like some other primates in the animal kingdom; it is only natural that, in order to live and thrive in a society, there must be some level of cooperation amongst the members of the group. This basic, evolutionary, fact is what undoubtedly led to the eventual formation of what is “moral” and what is not. If our ancestors had not realized the importance of communal cooperation, they may have become a weaker species which wouldn’t have survived on a long-term timeline. In other words, if our primitive common ancestors had decided that it would be beneficial to murder one’s own family member, have incestuous relationships from which less capable children could be born, or acting outside of societal rules- humanity, as it exists today, may not have become a reality.
In order to ensure that others in the society followed these same ethical values, social contracts may have- at one time- not been enough. And promising eternal damnation or rewards in the afterlife based on behavior in this life was probably a useful way to keep people in line- in addition to the obvious benefits of dissuading revolution from the oppressed. But today, in modern America for example, our values have grown and groups advocating for religious morality have become in opposition to twenty-first century morality; such groups include religious extremists, the Ku Klux Klan, Jihadists, Crusader, Nazis, and anti-abortion terrorist organizations. We have in place a system, however, in which people are employed by the government to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and detain offenders based on the violation of laws which are as fluid as our cultural ideals- and can be amended as such. This system eliminates to need for a punishment/reward system like the ones often presented in ancient Holy Texts.