Thursday, 26 August 2010

Nice to be nice

I have heard a number of times from religious people that their ethics are either informed by or totally derived from their faith. It happened again recently. At times, this is meant to imply my lack of faith leads automatically to a lack of moral code. Which, naturally, I find more than a little offensive. Personally, I feel if you need to learn what's right and wrong from a book written a very long time ago, then there's something amiss. I believe myself to be a moral person and have always thought that people have an innate sense of ethics, that it is a beneficial attribute for both society and the individual. Ultimately, if it is innate and broadly beneficial, then 'niceness' is likely to be a trait passed on.

I was pleased to find this article on Nature's website suggesting a broader effect of the benefits of altruism, outwith the family structure. The evolution of morality has been accepted for some time, but these findings from mathematical analysis show that the general process of natural selection can result in inherited altruism and that no specific set of circumstances is necessary. Maybe all those ants carrying bits of leaf everywhere are going to parties.

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