Genesis 2:7, Altruism and the Moral Law
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
//I’ve speculated before about the existence of a God-given moral law. Why is it that we humans in general agree upon right and wrong, and why do our “rights” generally coincide with whether or not an action helps or hurts another? Is altruism a gift from God?
Let’s compare humans to other animals for a moment. Believers in God tend to place humans in a separate category altogether, sort of like a human kingdom above the animal kingdom, often with the explanation that “humans have been given a soul.” Nonbelievers, in contrast, tend toward reductionism and point to the evidence of evolution, claiming that humans are nothing more than primates with the organ in the top of our head gone wild.
Both positions have merit. This oversized brain DOES make humans different from animals, and one area of difference is in the study of altruistic behavior. Here is what evolutionary psychologist Frans de Waal has to say:
“Animals at times do exhibit what appears to be moral behavior, but this behavior does not necessarily rest on deliberations of the kind we engage in. It is hard to believe that animals weigh their own interests against the rights of others, that they develop a vision of the greater good of society, or that they feel lifelong guilt about something they should not have done. To communicate intentions and feelings is one thing; to clarify what is right, and why, and what is wrong, and why, is quite something else. Animals are no moral philosophers.”
Are you able to disagree? I doubt it. Humans are different, in that our brains have evolved to the point of comprehending morals. I wonder: is it fair to say that that moment in evolution was the moment, in today’s verse, where “man became a living soul?”