Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This week’s TIME magazine had a fascinating article entitled “What Makes us Moral.” The second paragraph speaks of the fact that “we’re a species that is capable of almost dumbfounding kindness” and then lists ways in which we demonstrate that kindness toward one another. It goes on in the same paragraph to point out that “at the same time we slaughter one another.” It points out the “paradox” (and the “shame”) that while we are “the highest, wisest, most principled species the planet has produced,” we are also “the lowest, cruelest, most blood-drenched.”

We’ve heard laments like this before. They’re not original thoughts. (See WHAT HAPPENED?) But the TIME editors are not writing as theologians or philosophers (or are they?). They are trying to resolve the paradox by comparing us with other “species” and examining brain function.

The article deals with many of what would be called moral dilemmas and does point out many interesting ways our ethics compares with that of animals. It’s a great read!

The article seems to seek to explain our behavior solely on the basis of biology. It wants to know why we behave the way we do. There are some creative explanations, though they aren’t that certain or adequate. The real problem is that all that we can get from this thinking are observations of what is. Everything else is tentative and uncertain. There are no statements of how we ought to behave, just how we behave even though there is a moral longing.

Apparently it’s all a matter of evolution. The article ends on a hopeful note – the hope that the nastiness of our dual nature will someday be overcome by the niceness, and we will finally “fully civilize ourselves.”

Don’t hold your breath!

This article, I believe shows (sadly) how lost we really are when we look at life only through what can be observed by our senses, or “under the sun” as Qohelet said.

The brilliant minds of today can explain natural phenomena through scientific studies and methods. The universe, the human body. We’ve made tremendous advances in knowledge. Yet man cannot be explained solely in this way. He is more than the sum of his parts. He is more than just another “species.” He is a moral being and this morality (or lack of morality) cannot be explained in this way.

Yet, without God, that is all we are left with.

Bill Ball

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