15 x 32 Results and Monkey Morality

Well, it’s time to come clean. I fell short of my goal to achieve 15% body fat by age 32. My latest measurement based on my electronic scale has me at 20%–just 1% lower than when I started my quest. The main reason for my shortfall? Weekend binges. I have been opening up a Pandora’s Box of food every weekend starting Friday night lasting through and including Sunday night. No matter how disciplined I am during the week, I am easily negating those efforts with my weekend feasts. So while I admit to short-term defeat, I’m resolved to buckle down during the weekends and will continue to strive to hit my goal by the beginning of August.

On another note, I came across a fascinating article about several studies that I’m surprised I hadn’t heard about until recently. The article was mentioned briefly in a video that was posted on one of the blogs that I follow. The video is of a talk given by Sam Harris at the Aspen Ideas Festival a couple of years ago (I highly recommend you check it out):

The article summarizes the latest findings of scientists with respect to the evolutionary origins of human morality. Among some of the most amazing observations are a number of remarkable examples of empathy, the ability to learn and follow social rules, reciprocity, and peacemaking exhibited by various primates in their respective social groups. (The most striking example in my opinion being chimpanzees drowning in zoo moats while trying to save others.)

Aside from being simply fascinating, I believe these observations of our primate relatives’ social behavior lends tremendous support to the notion of a secular moral framework. Many people believe that morality must have roots in religion and that there can be no right or wrong without a God to command or show us what is wrong or right. There are numerous philosophical and practical arguments against that notion, but I think this observable evidence from our natural world is in a category all its own.

The evidence shows that generally speaking, morally acceptable actions support the health and welfare of the entire community; wrong actions do not. If we all sacrifice our own self interests for others in a reciprocal fashion (altruism), we will all be the better for it. It’s not rocket science, but now we know why: it’s deeply ingrained in our human makeup as a result of millions of years of evolution. This doesn’t by any means solve the complex ethical issues of our time (human societies are exponentially more complex than our primate cousins’), but I hope that it would at least lend itself toward greater common ground between religious and secular thinkers on the issue of morality and help squelch the notion that it’s impossible to be good without God.

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