Instinct vs. Choices

Homo sapiens have been provided some instincts such as self preservation and species preservation, but we seem to be different than all the other animals on this planet in that we also make choices, unrelated to obtaining food, shelter, or sex.  As an example, we may make decisions based on whether we consider the act as being right or wrong.  This seems to separate us from the others in our animal kingdom.

This gift of a decision-making process does not come without consequences, though.  Even if you do not believe in consequences in an afterlife, there are consequences within our lives.  If you choose the door with the tiger behind it, you will, more than likely, be eaten.

Biological psychologists wrestle with some very difficult questions.  (1) Can our minds work independently of our brains?  (2) Why do humans have an ethical basis for their decisions?  (3) How does heredity influence behavior?  We will discuss these questions later to see how they impact our choices.

But let’s start with instinct.  Instinct is a label for a category of behaviors that are found in different species.  When we say that female elephants take care of their babies based on a maternal instinct, this is only a label that does not explain how the behavior developed in elephants.  But these labels are important and seem fairly consistent throughout the animal kingdom.  Many species have a maternal instinct, which helps preserve the species.  Some biological psychologists avoid the term instinct as being offensive to their studies, but it is very beneficial when talking in general terms.

There is a strong maternal instinct in our species.  Our brains are hard-wired to protect our young since this allowed humans to survive predators in the wild.  Many mammals have young that are not strong enough to run away from a hungry predator, so an instinct to preserve our species is deep within us.  Humans don’t wonder whether there will be consequences to us.  We react instinctively when we protect our young.

Now, let’s examine choices.  When our species makes a decision, is it because biological factors forced a behavior or did they enable the behavior to occur?  For example, there are areas of your brain that increase the likelihood of you being pushed into aggressive behavior.  But you will make choices on your response to that force.  Your past experiences, the current social setting, the legal consequences, and current motivations will all come into play when you make a decision.  When murderers were asked if they chose to commit the murders, they answered in the affirmative.  You make choices every day and there are always consequences, which temper your decisions.

So, let’s examine the first question above:  can our minds work independently of our brains?  There are two theories:  (1) the dualists believe that our brains interact with our minds, while (2) the monists believe that the brain is a machine and consciousness is irrelevant to its functioning.  Most religions follow dualism since when our brains die, we arguably continue thinking with our minds.  And our ethical and moral values play a significant role in making choices.  Descartes, a French philosopher, was a dualist who believed that there was something other than the brain that recognized that “I think, therefore I am.”

If you believe that we respond like machines, then we really don’t have any choices.  We are predestined to do everything that we do.  We would be hard wired to make decisions.  If this were true, wouldn’t we all be making the same basic decisions?  For example if we found a lost wallet with $100,000 inside it, would everybody make the same decision on what to do with the money?  You would have some people who would return the wallet and money and others who would return only the wallet and pretend that they found it without the cash inside.  The final choice will be based on many complex factors and should not be a typical mechanical decision.

This is a transition to the second question: why do humans have an ethical basis for their decisions?  Is there a part of our brain that has a conscience?  There may be parts of the brain that may be stimulated to provide relief from pain or depression.  But it is not known if the brain can be manipulated to provide a conscious in the decision-making process.  In other words, can a portion of the brain be stimulated to make a person make better choices based on something other than personal gains?

The answer why our species seems to be unique when it struggles with ethical decisions is based on many factors.  Certainly, how we are perceived by others, our religious beliefs, and how penal systems will respond to our actions may forge a conscious.  Man struggles mightily with ethics, so there must be some reason that is lodged somewhere in our thoughts, different than in our brains.

Then the final question is: how does heredity influence behavior?  An ontogenetic explanation of our behavior starts with our genes and traces how the genes combine with the influence of the environment and our experiences to produce the final outcome.  The genes that were more successful were passed on to future generations as the genetic makeup that had weaknesses were phased out over the years.  For example Homo sapiens probably had a conservative gene that made our species more cautious and patient in our responses.  Those of our early species who were too impatient were eaten by predators, so natural selection preserved those genetic propensities to take our time and think things through before jumping into harm’s way.

As we discussed, birds do not need to be taught how to build nests since that behavior is largely instinctual.  However, humans need to be taught nearly everything we do.  We have a survival instinct for ourselves and our species, but we make most of our decisions with our minds in gear, not our brains.  We make many conscious choices every day based on our individual moral fiber.  So it may come as a shock to many people that genetic differences are also an important determinant of variation in a wide range of human behaviors.  A growing list of behaviors— including major measurable aspects of personality, political conservatism, religiosity, occupational attitudes, social attitudes, marital status, and even television watching—have all been shown to be inherited traits.

In conclusion, our decisions frame who we are and who we want to be during our lives.  But our decisions also play a significant role in the afterlife.  In other words if you are still thinking when you die, then your brain will decompose leaving your mind to continue into the afterlife.  The choices that you made during your lifetime will follow your thoughts after death.

Morality vs. Societal Values in the 21st Century

Introduction

Morality is no different in the 21st century than it was in any of the centuries past.  Morality has always been based on the right thing to do.  The right thing to do has remained the same over the millennia.  It is embedded in our conscience.

However, societal values and laws relating to ethics interpreting the right thing to do are different today than they were centuries ago because these moral guidelines fluctuate with the government, ruling class, free time, and the education of the citizenry.

Let’s start with determining what “the right thing to do” is.  Whenever you feel that hiccup before you take an action or whenever you feel a tinge of guilt while taking an action, you know this is not the right thing to do.  Remember Jiminy Cricket in the Walt Disney movie, Pinocchio, and how he and Pinocchio were instructed to always let their conscience be their guide?  Even when we know the right thing to do, we can rationalize or talk ourselves out of doing the right thing with little difficulty.

But society interprets “the right thing to do” through laws and ethical codes.  So how does society determine what the right thing is?  I believe that a fair and just society can use either one or both basic methods for making this decision.  The first is what individuals think, and the second is what others think.  Ideally, the law should coincide with one or both of these ethical perspectives, but that is not always the case.[1]  Many governments, including totalitarianism, impose arbitrary and capricious laws and codes on citizens.

Subjective ethics are relative to the individual.  This theory is common in America, a country of immigrants from a variety of cultures with differing ethical values; however this subjective theory has inherent weaknesses because of our humanness.[2]  Objective ethics, also called rational ethics or moral absolutism, deems actions right or wrong based on a consistent objective test.  It imposes a duty on all citizens to refrain from violating the rights of others.[3]  Sometimes, it is the better approach.

The closest objective test in law I could find was included within the elements of negligence.  A legal duty must first exist between the parties to establish liability through negligence.  As mentioned above, the duty in objective ethics is to refrain from violating the rights of others.  The next element is a breach of that duty.  This requires the actor to meet the standard of care, which in many cases is what a reasonable person would or would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.[4]  In other words, would a reasonable person believe this was the right thing to do?

For example, you are shopping at Kroger’s and you haven’t eaten for five hours, so you are tempted to take a grape and pop it in your mouth.  Nobody would miss one grape.  What is the right thing to do according to 21st century society?  Well, let’s apply the subjective test.  The majority of people in today’s society would not have a problem with this.  Most would rationalize that nobody would really be hurt by the loss of a one grape.  The store would still sell the bunch of grapes, and the purchaser would never know the difference because each bunch of grapes had a different amount of grapes anyway.

In earlier centuries, stealing a grape would have been different from stealing a horse only by the value of the item taken.  But clearly, the moral and right thing to do would be to not take the grape no matter what century you lived in at the time of the decision.

What happens when we utilize the objective test in the 21st century?  Let’s employ the quantum of proof required for negligence just like we learned in law school.  In a civil case, the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence also known as “more likely than not” and “greater weight of evidence.”[5]  A case under the Civil False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 2729, somewhat analogous to our determination whether an act is the wrong thing to do, also uses this burden of persuasion.[6]

Let’s first examine the preponderance of the evidence test.  If the scales are just a little lower with the weight of evidence on the side of this being the right thing to do, then it is the right thing to do.  We would have to examine all the evidence and place it on the scales of justice to see where the scales tip.

In this case, we have evidence indicating that taking the grape would be good for the decision-maker because it would stem the hunger until the groceries paid for get home.  We also have evidence that there will be little to no harm to Kroger’s or the ultimate purchaser of the grapes.  The theft of a grape would not be worth prosecuting since the value is so low.  Where do the scales tip in this instance?  A reasonable person would not consider the taking of a grape as the wrong thing to do or, in other words, the decision to take the grape was the right thing to do after examining all the circumstances.

In certain situations, you may find that the scales seem fairly balanced.  That is when we examine the “seven steps.”  These seven steps should be taken to determine if any of them tip the scales.

The magnificent seven are:

  1. Examine your “gut” feeling.  The NCIS “Gibb’s gut” is used.  If your “gut” tells you that the action is not right, then more than likely it is wrong.  This “gut” feeling could tip the scales for you on the side of deciding not to take that action.
  2. Take the “CNN test.”  You can substitute any newspaper or television news report for CNN, but you need to determine if the action could create “bad press.”  If you fear the action could lead to a problem with the media, you should, at least, run it by your public affairs experts.
  3. Examine the pragmatic angles.  If the action is not practical, then why gamble with it?
  4. Res ipsa loquitur – “the thing speaks for itself.”  This is an evidentiary rule that permits some degree of evidence from an inference of a breach by the outcome.
  5. Burden of persuasion is on proving that it is the right thing to do.  A tie goes to proving that it is the wrong thing to do.
  6. Err on the side of avoiding gray areas in the law.
  7. Avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

In this case with the single grape, how would the application of the seven steps work out?  Examine the seven potential tipping points.

  1. Your “gut” may be telling you that there are no real consequences to third parties.
  2. There will be no “bad press” because there is no potential for this being a violation of criminal law.
  3. Practical value of eating this grape to satisfy hunger is greater than problems encountered even if caught.
  4. A single grape makes little noise for itself.  It carries little significance in the scheme of things.
  5. The preponderance of evidence is that a reasonable person would do this and consider this the right thing to do.
  6. There is no legalistic gray area.
  7. If this appears to be a problem, then it is a problem.  This is where the 21st century ethics will not find this as even appearing to be a problem, while earlier centuries would find that the theft of anything would create the appearance of a problem.

And here is the tough part.  Even if the scales are level, the burden of proof has not been met, and you cannot take or recommend taking that action.  In other words, you cannot say that it was a “tie,” allowing you do nothing.  It doesn’t work that way.  Even if the scales are barely tipped to the side of not taking the action based on your “gut” feeling, the decision has been made, and you must argue to not take that action.

Who Makes the Final Ethics Decision?

Is there a judge or jury to decide the case for you?  Or is the decision entirely up to you?  Wouldn’t that be great if you could decide what the wrong thing was?  You could rig it so that you could never do the wrong thing.  All your choices would be spot on, dead center, right on target.  But if you “ain’t the king,” you are going to be second guessed by everybody.  Do I really mean everybody? Yes, I do, including: your supervisor, your co-workers, your secretary, your friends, your parents, your wife, your kids, and even your dog on bad days.

If your supervisor came into your office and asked you to change your opinion because it went against what the company wanted to do, how would you handle it?  Would you comply or would you refuse to change your opinion?  Would you apply the subjective test and rationalize that it wasn’t that big a deal to cave in to the boss?  Live to fight another day.  Or would you examine the situation using the objective test and present a logical argument to take to higher officials within the company, including checking with Public Affairs on their take on the issue?

When I was teaching the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) as an Air Force JAG to combat pilots, I always asked them to make their decisions after employing the “CNN Test.”  You can insert any news media in place of CNN, but CNN was big back during Desert Storm.

What did I mean by the “CNN Test”?  Any choices by pilots to fire or not to fire would be examined under the scrutiny of world opinion or the “CNN Test.”  What would the world think about this decision?  How would it appear in the newspapers tomorrow?  There was always the thought that in war, “you gotta do what you gotta do.”  We wanted the pilots to return safely from every mission, so if somebody were attempting to obtain a firing solution on them, they needed to fire immediately.  But if they had time to think through situations like in selecting targets, they should think about the consequences of world opinion.

Now, why should we care about what other people thought?  We are number one aren’t we?  We are more important than other people.  Who cares about other people’s opinion?  Well, we should care because society benefits from people doing the right thing.  We should place a high priority on doing the right thing and following laws.

 21st Century Decision Making

An eighty-year-old grandfather told his grandson that there was a battle going on between two wolves inside us all.  One was an evil wolf, filled with anger, jealousy, hate, greed, resentment, lies, and a huge ego.  The other was a good wolf with joy, love, peace, kindness, humility, truth, and empathy.

The grandson asked which wolf would finally win.  The old man leaned back and smiled, “The one you feed.”

I present 21 questions for the current century.[1]  I will first give the societal value answers of this century and then I will provide what I believe the moral answers should be.

  1. Why be good?
    21st century: There is no good reason to be the good wolf, so do what you want.
    Morality: Your conscience is a moderate, moral compass, telling you to be good.
  2. Is it ever permissible to lie?
    21st century: Yes, lying is permissible in many cases.
    Morality:  Your conscience permits lying only in moderate amounts, when it is beneficial to the listener.
  3. What’s wrong with gossip?
    21st century: Nothing.
    Morality: Your conscience tells you it is wrong when it is not done in moderation and harms others.
  4. Do you have an obligation to be healthy?
    21st century: No, you can do what you want.
    Morality: Yes, your conscience lets you know that you should live a temperate life and remain healthy so you are not a burden on others.
  5. May I take a grape while shopping?
    21st century:  Yes, because it doesn’t hurt anybody.
    Morality: No since quantity is not the issue in morality; moderation does not permit murdering of an infant because of their size; theft is theft and murder is murder.
  6. Is it wrong to make as much money as I can?
    21st century:  No, although this is changing as capitalism loses out to socialism in this century.
    Morality: you should live modestly and make as much money as you need to survive, avoiding greed.
  7. What are my obligations to the poor?
    21st century: None, although this is changing as capitalism loses out to socialism in this century.
    Morality: You should take care of the poor by teaching them to fish rather than giving them fish.
  8. Can we do better than the Golden Rule?
    21st century: Do unto others before they do unto you.
    Morality: Do more for others than you would do for yourself.
  9. Why can’t I just live for pleasure?
    21st century: You can.
    Morality: Your living for pleasure must be moderated by your conscience.
  10. Why can’t I date a married person?
    21st century: You can as long as the relationship is consensual.
    Morality: Because adultery runs afoul of your conscience and is not temperate sex.
  11. Are jealousy and resentment always wrong?
    21st century: No, these are human emotions that should be accepted.
    Morality: They are wrong when they are not controlled and you keep feeding them.
  12. What are the rules for respecting privacy?
    21st century: You have little privacy under capitalism and no privacy under totalitarian rule (socialism generally degrades into totalitarianism); both extremes in government take away your privacy.
    Morality: The Golden Rule applies to rules of privacy.
  13. What do I owe my aging parents?
    21st century: Nothing.
    Morality:  Your conscience will guide you to providing what your parents reasonably need.
  14. Should I help a suffering loved one die?
    21st century: Yes, if it means one less person on social security and an early inheritance.
    Morality: No, find a way to relieve their suffering other than killing them; murder is murder.
  15. Is “genetic enhancement” playing God.
    21st century: There is no God.
    Morality:  No, it is playing Hitler; genetic enhancement is a dangerous tool that extremists could misuse.
  16. Is conscientious objection a moral right?
    21st century: Yes, anybody can claim this right.
    Morality: It is a reasonable right based on our freedom of religion and convictions, but this right cannot be claimed for spurious and disingenuous reasons; conscientious objection must be done in moderation, following the conscience.
  17. Is it always wrong to fight back?
    21st century: You have the right to fight back as long as you aren’t going against the government.
    Morality: No, you can even go against the existing government if it is a bad government that does not support the citizens of that country; non-violent revolution is permissible.
  18. Should the death penalty be abolished?
    21st century: It should be permitted, especially for revolutionaries and crimes against the state.
    Morality: Yes, it is murder and thus is not permitted by our conscience.
  19. Is torture ever acceptable?
    21st century: Yes, it allows the government to obtain important information.
    Morality: No, it goes against the very fiber of our morality.
  20. Do animals have rights?
    21st century: No, humans are more important than animals.
    Morality: Yes, humans are animals, and your conscience tells you that all animals have rights.
  21. Why should I recycle?
    21st century: Because it is what everybody else is doing.
    Morality: Because it is the right thing to do.

 Conclusion

Have you ever looked for a book on moderation?  There aren’t many.  Have you ever wondered why?  My guess is because the extremists are the squeaky wheels who are always getting the grease to get their books published.  Extremists also have better sound bites for television interviews.  Furthermore, extremists make better headlines and will sell more newspapers and books.  Extremists excite you, energize you, and win you over to their powerful magnetic force.

Moderates are boring because all they want to do is stay in the middle of every argument.  They are the weak force.  But have you ever thought about how difficult remaining neutral really is?  When you have two extreme forces tugging at you, it is actually extremely hard not picking a side.  As the magnetic field strengthens, you generally are drawn to either the north or south poles.  No wonder the world is becoming more polarized with moderates becoming an endangered species.

When we make decisions, we are generally influenced by extreme positions.  Our two-party political system is an example of how two opposite sides polarize America.  Moderate parties generally do not win elections.  However, my conclusion is that people should utilize moderation in making choices in life.  The “Golden Mean” of Aristotle, the “Middle Way” of Buddha, and the “Balanced Order” of Confucius are the heart of virtue ethics.

The 21st century societal value answers to the 21 questions were not moderate.  But the morality answers tended to be more balanced.  That is not to say that the morality answers were perfect.  Any human answers are flawed by humanness, which is found in us all.  But moderation is perhaps the best goal that we as humans can utilize to achieve a heightened sens of morality.

Unfortunately, a revolution generally does not lead to the reinstatement of morality.  Typically, it leads to a new government with new laws, which more than likely will be based on something other than morality, subjective ethics, or objective ethics.  The new leadership will have its own self-interests to serve.  Even communistic revolutions, promising power to the people, have ended up with totalitarian governments taking away everything from the people, including their lives.

Perhaps, this is why morality should be the choice of the people rather than societal or governmental values.



[1] Gordon W. Brown, Paul A. Sukys, and Mary Ann Lawlor, Business Law with UCC Applications, 8th Ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995), 3 and 8-9.

[2] Brown, 4.

[3] Brown, 7.

[4] Richard A. Mann and Barry S. Roberts, Smith and Roberson’s Business Law, 9th Ed. (New York: West Publishing Company, 1994), 175.

[5] Roger C. Park, David P. Leonard, and Steven H. Goldberg, Evidence Law, A Student’s Guide to the Law of Evidence as Applied in American Trials, 2nd Ed. (St. Paul, MN: Thomson West, 2004), 93.

[6] Brian C. Elmer, et al., Fraud in Government Contracts (Washington, D.C.: Federal Publications Inc., 1993), 3-15.

[7] Many of these questions are found in “Moral Decision Making: How to Approach Everyday Ethics” by Clancy Martin, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.  The answers are my own.

Scientific Evidence of God

About 16% of the world’s population is not affiliated with a religion, which makes it the third largest group coming in behind Christians with 31.5% and Muslims with 23% of the world population.  Overall, 84% of the world’s inhabitants, which it estimated at 6.9 billion, identify with a religion, according to the study entitled “The Global Religious Landscape” issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.  The unaffiliated category covers all those who profess no religion, from atheists and agnostics to people with spiritual beliefs with no link to any established faith.

But the most interesting aspect of this Pew Forum study was that religious affiliations are growing throughout the world, but are declining in America.  In 2007, about 15% of American adults were not affiliated with a religion.  But in 2012, the unaffiliated group of adults increased to 19.6%.  This is about a 1% increase each year.   The agnostics are about twice as large a group as the atheists, but those who are nonbelievers through apathy or beliefs without a God or lack of information or distractions of life are, by far, the leading cause of this loss of Christians in the United States.  We cannot determine with certainty what is causing this 1% loss each year, but it may be from an increase in immigrants and younger adults who are unbelievers entering this census each year.

So, what could you say to turn the tide of nonbelievers?  Well, it is difficult to determine since there are many reasons for this upswing in America.  For example if the problem is primarily because of apathy and distractions by worldly problems and materialistic and self-serving concerns, then a logical discourse on why you should believe in God is probably not going to change anything.  Sometimes, it takes a life-shattering event to stem the tide of disbelief.  In other words, if we saw that earth was in the path of an asteroid that was going to cause a global disaster, killing off over 90% of our population, you would see a sharp rise in believers.  It is human nature for this to happen.  You turn to God when you need God and sometimes not before.

However, since there are some who can be persuaded by logic, I will offer three items of scientific proof or evidence:  (1) cosmological evidence, (2) teleological evidence, and (3) metaphysical evidence. 

First, cosmological  evidence.  As you gaze at the night sky, you see the evidence.  The universe is vast, stretching out for millions of light years in all directions.  Since the speed of light is faster than the speed of the expansion of our universe, there is much of our former universe that cannot be seen because the light of that time period has long passed us.  So, we are limited in what we can see.  Only about 4% of the universe is visible anyway as dark matter and dark energy comprise about 96%.  And if the universe is closed, it could be an ellipse like many of the other orbit in our systems, thus making it impossible for us to view the entire universe.  This may be analogous to standing on earth and trying to see the entire world.  The point is that we are impressed by the visible evidence and might be even more impressed if we could see the entire universe.

Some scientists might argue that this elegant universe could have just popped into existence from nothing, but there is little logic in that.  How could you even define nothing without something?  We know we are living in something, so how would you reverse engineer something back to nothing?  I suppose that if you had exactly the same amount of matter and anti-matter, they would cancel each other out.  But you would still have the energy that remained from the annihilation. 

In a closed universe like we probably have, matter and energy can only be transformed.  The total amount of matter and energy can neither be destroyed nor created.  In effect, creation had to occur outside our universe.  Scientists might argue that there was no creation since our universe has always existed in a perpetual recycling pattern. 

However, the Big Bang is the accepted theory that disproves the perpetual universe.  There is strong evidence for the Big Bang theory, including background noise of the event still being heard today.  It is not likely that we will ever see any evidence of the Big Bang because the light from that event would have long passed us unless it circles back around and laps us in a cosmic orbit.  So, the Big Bang is perhaps the best scientific evidence of creation. 

Of course, scientists can always ask what happened before the Big Bang.  The answer is that we do not know.  But if there were a creation known as the Big Bang, then there had to be a creator because creation must logically have a creator.  Even if you still believe that our universe was created from nothing, there must have been a creator to accomplish this.  But logically this does not work because the creator is something and with creation, there is always something that creates and something to create from.

When Frank Borman, the American astronaut, returned from Apollo 8’s flight around the moon, he was asked by a reporter if he saw God.  Borman smiled and said, “No, I did not see him, but I saw his evidence.”

Second, Teleological Evidence.  The design in nature is astounding.   The strands of connecting gasses and dust clouds in the universe stretching out to clusters of galaxies start to look like fibers of connecting tissue in our bodies.  The universal laws of physics and relativity and genetics and evolution and quantum mechanics are all elegant in their design.  The fragility of life that is found in the “goldilocks zone” where everything had to be just right for it to even exist also points to a design. 

Many believers argue that evolution runs counter to God’s design.  This simply is not true.  There is no conflict between God’s design in nature and the laws of evolution.  Clearly, the finches on the island of Galapagos developed their different beaks through adaptation, allowing them to break open the unique seeds on the island.  Survival of the fittest applies as well without disproving God’s design.  Darwin’s theory fits in rather nicely with nature’s design.

And who could examine DNA and not believe in a design and designer?  And who could examine the micro-world of quantum mechanics and not believe in a design and designer?  The complexity of both of these sciences is mind-numbing.  And just like in our discussion of a creation and a creator, a design begs to have a designer.  Some scientists argue that the randomness of the quantum world can satisfy the need of design through its roll of the dice.  But even Albert Einstein said, “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos.”

The mechanism of quantum theory could be like an engine propelling our universe in perpetuity, leaving the question of who designed the quantum world?  In effect, even if the quantum world is the basis for the recycling in our closed universe, it is still in our universe and had to be designed like all the other designs in our universe.  Thus, behind the elegant designs within our universe is a designer.

Third, Metaphysical Evidence.  This is the evidence that transcends physical evidence.  When we look through our eyes, we see a physical world.  All our senses detect this physical world, but sensory deprivation would leave us with a metaphysical world.  If we were not distracted by the physical universe around us, we could focus more on this metaphysical world. 

As an example, we know some things without experiences to guide us or a priori.  We intuitively know that we should not do certain things because they are wrong.  Our conscience is our moral compass that helps us in making choices every day.  No scientists has dissected a brain and discovered the conscience yet, probably because it is beyond physical.  This concept of doing the right thing originates somewhere or from something.  Perhaps it is similar to how birds instinctively know where to fly in the fall.  They don’t have maps or a global positioning system.  Yet, they know how to fly to a specific location each year.  This is metaphysical evidence of something higher than us, giving us innate guidance as part of creation.  But this is different than God creating physical things.  This is God creating metaphysical things.

In many ways, this may be the most important evidence of God because it is something inside us that we subjectively know.  The first two sets of evidence relate to objective tests, but the metaphysical evidence is deep inside you.  You either know it exists or you don’t. 

My guess is that atheists would say that they know that this evidence does not exist, and I cannot argue against them since, as I said, the test is very subjective.  However, I can state with certainty that I detect the Holy Spirit within me, enhancing the conscience.  I sometimes describe the Holy Spirit as my conscience “on steroids.”  It seems to me that if I feel guilty if I do not do the right thing, and the atheist says that he does not feel guilty because there is no right thing, these two statements cannot both be correct. 

Which one is wrong?  Well, it seems logical that the positive statement disproves the negative statement.  I would not feel guilty unless there were some emotions precipitating that feeling.  It is more likely that there is a conscience than there is none, because if there were no conscience, right and wrong would not exist and the atheist could not say there is no right thing.  The atheist would not know of the existence of good to deny its existence.

Relativists believe that everything is relative and that there is no absolute good or absolute evil.  They might say, “There are absolutely no absolutes.”  Since the absolutes cancel each other out, making the statement nonsensical, there must be absolute good and evil.  Mankind has dealt with good and evil since the Garden of Eden.  It has carried forward through the centuries and is part of our metaphysical being.  We have been given free will and so we make choices every day.  The consequences for our decisions are provided in some cases by society through peer pressure and laws, but the internal personal moral code is the primary barometer of the pressure you place on yourself for your acts.  This freedom of choice was given to us by a creator and the consequences are administered by the same creator.  

One of the gifts of Christianity is God’s grace, forgiving our sins through the death of Christ.  This allows us to erase the guilt within our souls, giving us a clean slate so that when we are thinking in the afterlife, we will not agonize over our past sins, punishing ourselves for what we either did or failed to do.

So, do you believe?

True Believer – Giving and Accepting

We humans are almost identical in our genes, proving that there was a bottleneck about 75,000 years ago when our species was reduced to about a thousand scattered around the world.  Some scientists speculate that the super-massive eruption of Mt. Toba in Indonesia was the culprit that nearly caused the extermination of mankind.

Yet, we are all different in how we deal with the gift of life.  You might think that Homo sapiens would act the same since the genetic material is so close to being the same.  But you would be wrong.  We are given choices, and we are very creative in how we make the billions of choices in our lifetimes.  That’s why our species uniquely decides to commit mass murders, to torture, to rape, to mutilate, to sodomize, etc.  There is no bottom in the depths of depravity.

But some of our species go in the opposite direction, finding religion and becoming better humans as each day passes.  Generally, these people thank God for His gift of life and accept His gift of life with humility and deep appreciation.  Then they accept God’s gift of eternal life.  Then some take another step to give His gift to others.  They pass on the secret gift of eternal life to nonbelievers.

Many turn away from religion since they associate it with cults and mindless followers or, in other cases, with extremists who will burn witches, who will become suicide terrorists, or who will murder under the guise of doing God’s will.  Even though man’s history is littered with these sordid tales, these faux religious leaders and followers were not true believers. 

A true believer is a good solid thinker and would never allow evil thoughts to prevail.  A true believer is a complex thinker and is not tempted to follow simplistic, hollow thoughts.  In effect, a true believer both gives and accepts with great thought.  A true believer gives of himself/herself by explaining the deceptions of life to others.  The great deception is that man is the center of his life, and is deceived into believing that he should enjoy it, taking whatever he wants, because he will soon die and there will be no consequences for his actions. 

I cannot prove that this is incorrect.  But, on the other hand, nobody can prove that we will not continue thinking after we die.  It’s possible that evil could consume mankind with no consequences, but there is always the question of what is behind the door of death.  Nobody knows with any degree of certainty exactly what happens in the afterlife. 

But a true believer would be prepared for whatever may come.  If a true believer is still thinking after death, all the anguish from poor decisions and self-torture will not come to pass.  The true believer has accepted Jesus death on the cross as dying for his sins, so will not think of them anymore.  Acceptance is critical.  Many people would have trouble accepting somebody dying for them, but a true believer does because that person knows that Jesus already gave His life for that purpose, so it would be a waste to cast this gift aside.  Also, it is the only way to completely eradicate the guilt that would pull you down into deep dark thoughts, leading to the gates of Hell.     

Mass Extinction is Our Future

There have been numerous mass extinctions on earth, but the most significant was the Permian extinction, “The Great Dying,” which occurred about 250 million years ago.  What caused this mass extinction? 

There are several theories, most of which center around climatic disturbances.  There were glaciations in the pole regions and desertification in temperate zones.  Severe weather fluctuations on earth occurred when the Permian mass extinction occurred.  But why did these climatic conditions kill off so many species?  We have seen ice ages and other weather patterns that haven’t wiped out so many creatures.  What was different about the Permian extinction?

One difference was there was primarily one giant land mass, Pangea, which was formed during the middle of the Permian era.  By the end of the Permian, the variety of species was on the downswing.  As a general rule, it takes isolated conditions to trigger evolution of new species.

Pangea was not conducive to creating new species that adapted to isolated environments.  We have seen extinctions when the continents were separated that did not have the same devastating effect as when there was only one continent.  Once the Permian extinction started, there were no new species that were available that could adapt to the weather changes.  Only a handful of species survived the Permian extinction to repopulate the world.  When the continents split breaking up Pangea, this triggered the development of new species.  For example, South America became the birthplace for the first dinosaurs in the Triassic, which did not exist in the Permian.

Even though the continents are separated today, our species, which is almost genetically identical worldwide, is overpopulating and is setting itself up for a mass extinction just as if we were on Pangea.  This is because Homo sapiens is homogeneous and exists as if we were all connected.  About 28,000 years ago, the Neanderthals, either a separate species from or subspecies of Homo sapiens, died off in Europe.  About 10,000 years ago, Homo erectus was last found in Java.  Neanderthals and Homo erectus went extinct, leaving Homo sapiens to stand alone as the last hominids on earth. 

There will be no additional hominids created as long as our species is globally connected and lives on the blue planet like it were Pangea.  Homo sapiens beat out the other hominids, surviving the last ice age.  Of the three hominids, the strongest survived.  There was true separation on Java, allowing Homo erectus to live on an island, separated from the mainland.  Today, there is global movement among ethnic groups, so there are few areas that are isolated.    

A genetic bottleneck in our species occurred about 71,000 years ago when a mega-volcano, Mt. Toba, erupted, creating a nuclear winter which killed all but a few thousand Homo sapiens on the earth.  Two points may be made from this event:  (1) this mass killing of our species is why our genetic makeup has very little variety today and (2) this shows how hominids prevailed by having multiple species to compete for survival.  But today’s lack of variety could lead to a mass extinction of hominids because there is only one point of failure.  The survival of the fittest only works when there are multiple species competing.  In our case, Homo sapiens, the last hominid, is vulnerable to weather changes.  Homo sapiens could be completely wiped out just like the animals who died on Pangea 250 million years ago.

Races Are Basically Identical

The Kingston Trio’s lyrics in “The Merry Minuet” still carry meaning today.

“They’re rioting in Africa. They’re starving in Spain. There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain. The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles. Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch. And I don’t like anybody very much. But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud for man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud. And we know for certain that some lovely day, someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away. They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran. What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.”

The most interesting thing about Homo sapiens sapiens is that we think we are better than our fellow man.  And yet, we are basically identical.  Even though no two humans are genetically identical, human genetic variation is estimated to be about 0.5%.  In effect, there is 99.5% similarity among the different races of Homo sapiens sapiens throughout the world. Continue reading