12 October 2009

Dogs, Altruism, and Morality

Francis Collins has argued that altruism isn't proof for God in the world but it is a strong indication for God in an essay contributed to the Templeton Foundation:

Do not get me wrong. I am not arguing that the existence of the moral law somehow proves God’s existence. Such proofs cannot be provided by the study of nature. And there is an inherent danger in arguing that the moral law points to some sort of supernatural intervention in the early days of human history; this has the flavor of a "God of the gaps" argument. After all, much still remains to be understood about evolution's influence on human nature. But even if radically altruistic human acts can ultimately be explained on the basis of evolutionary mechanisms, this would do nothing to exclude God’s hand. For if God chose the process of evolution in the beginning to create humans in imago Dei, it would also be perfectly reasonable for God to have used this same process to instill knowledge of the moral law.

However, it appears that altruism isn't uniquely human. Not only have we seen altruism and morality in our primate relatives.

We see morality in canines too.

01 October 2009

Unitarian Universalist History and Blasphemy Day

With the recent posts on MoxieLife and Chaliceblog about "Blasphemy Day" (30 September - remember to mark your calendars for next year's celebration), I thought it would be fun to point out a Unitarian Universalist historical connection with this celebration of blasphemy.

The last person to serve time in prison for blasphemy in the United States was Abner Kneeland.

He was found guilty of blasphemy by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1838 for saying the following blasphemous statements in violation of state law:
1. Universalists believe in a god which I do not; but believe that their god, with all his moral attributes (aside from nature itself) is nothing more than a mere chimera of their own imagination.

2. Universalists believe in Christ, which I do not; but believe that the whole story concerning him is as much a fable and a fiction as that of the god Prometheus, the tragedy of whose death is said to have been acted on the stage in the theatre at Athens, five hundred years before the Christian era.

3. Universalists believe in miracles, which I do not; but believe that every pretension to them can be accounted for on natural principles, or else is to be attributed to mere trick and imposture.

4. Universalists believe in the resurrection of the dead, in immortality and eternal life, which I do not; but believe that all life is mortal, that death is an eternal extinction of life to the individual who possesses it, and that no individual life is, ever was, or ever will be eternal.
Abner Kneeland was an ordained Universalist minister whose religious doubts and evolving theology challenged his ministerial colleagues.

And his pursuit of a free and responsible search for truth places his ideas firmly within the Unitarian Universalism as we know it today.