One might ask why we need government at all, why can’t we all just get along? There seems to be a great myth that religion and scientists disagree about everything. Fortunately, evolutionist and atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins and Abrahamic religions have the same answer: humans are selfish jerks.
In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins describes how natural selection works at the genetic level. Natural selection, of course, is the process by whatever is best able to survive, does and reproduces; while whatever can’t survive, dies. According to Dawkins “The earliest form of natural selection was simply a selection of stable forms and a rejection of unstable forms.” This happened at the genetic level, genes that could survive, did and the ones that didn’t, died. Easy.
Dawkins also describes “Replicators”, genes that copied themselves sometimes perfectly and sometimes a bit differently. Those differences allowed some genes to be more stable thus survive and pass on stable differences to its copies. Overtime, the genes’ differences accumulated and gene became more complex “machines”, as Dawkins calls them, geared toward survival not because they want to, so much as the ones that didn’t want to died off. Feeling are an adaption that motivates survivak. Dawkins continues, “They [replicators] are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rational for our existence… we are their survival machines.” Humans are the descendants of these genes, they evolved to feel good to survive not necessarily be moral.
It seems to me some believe that evolution is “survival of the fittest”, a constant competition. They aren’t wrong, but according to Dawkins cooperation gives a competitive advantage. “It is easy to think of them [genes] joining up to form a stable chain…” Some replicators joined together, making them more stable. Cooperation became an advantage to the survival of the individual gene in natural selection.
More theories based on this idea have come forward. To summarize works by Batson, Cialdini, Sober, and Wilson animals’ and humans’ behaviors are also subject to natural selection. This makes perfect sense, if one has evolved to think eating poison is a good idea, that person will die. Likewise, cooperation makes life easier for individuals, as it did for genes binding together. Helping someone else, being nice (pros-social behavior) is an advantage to survival, but survival is the motivation. If pro-social behavior does not aid survival, pro-social behavior is unlikely.
All of this means pro-social behavior is grounded in selfishness. One only acts kindly to aid one’s own survival and evolved to feel good when one does. Even if one’s intention is to help someone else, one’s motivation to help is to feel good about one’s self.
We are selfish beings.
The lessons from WWII gave way to several experiments, including Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, which found that given no accountability (possibility of undesirable consequences) people will do whatever they want, even if it’s terrible. Bleak, right?
Well, let’s look at what the Judeo-Christian religions have to offer. According to The Bible, God is perfect. Keep in mind there is only one “perfect”, thus God is the only one that can be perfect. As such, even His creation cannot be perfect because they are not God.
Being that God is perfectly moral and we are not God, it would stand to reason that we are not perfectly moral. Furthermore, because what feels good isn’t always moral (Galatians 5:7), we have a constant temptation to do what feels good, not necessarily what is moral or helpful to others.
Since the nature of humans is either survival or imperfection people have banned together for their own self-intersts. What is to stop one from acting immorally toward another? As discussed in The Locust Effect, government is to apply the law to everyone, protecting people from each other. Rule of Law is The Social Contract by which individuals agree they will be governed by and the governement will be the judge of which indivdidual is maintianing the contract.
Individuals have two reasons grounded in selfishness to follow the contract.
1An individual who breaks the contract will face both his victim and the government.
2 By following the contract the individual receives protection by the government.
Receiving payment from both individuals, government should not have an interest in ruling in favor of one over the other, ruling only according to the contract the individuals agreed to. Understanding that, as Zimbardo found, lack of accountability (via absolute power) tends to corrupt the founders split the US government into three parts, gave states rights, and-the final safeguard of the individual’s rights-the 2nd Amendment. These factors make it in government’s interest to follow the contract as well.
Government is to be the arbiter between the selfishness of individuals.