Houses in a Greek city-state faced inward, everything “out there” alien and hostile.
The Easter Islanders erected some one thousand giant stone statues, moai, weighing eighteen to sixty two tons. The statues faced inward, their backs to the sea, enclosing the group.
In Japan, “Country people want desperately to remain on the land. All births, weddings, funerals take place within the partitioned time and space of village walls.”
The Cave paintings at Chauvet were produced thirty two thousand years ago, those at Lascaux eighteen thousand. Both as regards subject matter and technique, they represent an unchanging art form. That’s fourteen thousand years! How many years between Rembrandt and van Gogh?
So what do cave painters and country people and islanders and city states and hunter-gatherers have in common?
THE MORAL SENSE – AN ENERGY SAVING DEVICE!
Remember the basic law of evolution – Follow the Energy!
And what powers The Moral Sense?
“Do as you’re told!”
Remember three year old Blondie? She came into my office. I was sitting quietly and harmlessly on the couch, next to a few puppets. Before exchanging even hellos, I was hauled before The Grand Poobah. I was treated like a dog and blamed for crimes I couldn’t remember committing. I got ordered into a dungeon, the Grand Poobah towering above me. Of course, Blondie was only three years old. She didn’t have kindling wood and a faggot in her hand.
Remember my use of The Quiet Room to contain a patient’s madness, so that the voice of reason might be heard above the howling and shrieking? And my nursing staff, whom I trusted and respected and who had trusted and respected me, turned on a dime into righteous avengers, bringing a litany of my sins to the authorities?
“Off with his head!”
The Moral Sense, a biologic structure, synaptically wired somewhere in the brain and passed on through our DNA, evolved for a group’s survival. The unforgivable sin is a failure to submit to the received wisdom of one’s group or the customs of its culture.
Heretics and rebels posed a far less effective threat under conditions of hunter-gathering than they have the last few thousand years. Without property, egalitarianism was a fact of life. Without writing, there was no history. The Moral Sense stayed active against The Other.
With the growth of political and religious polities, the Moral Sense has had to contend with dissent and apostasy within. Thus the Inquisition a few centuries ago, or the Stalin Purge Trials as recently as the 1930s.
Now, Simon, this will knock your socks off! The Moral Sense is a biologic operation – much as the conjoining of a sperm and an egg! It belongs to Nature. It is not a qualitative emergent. It acts on the human world, as biology does in unnumbered ways, but it does not serve as a vehicle for creating religion.
So when Dennett and Dawkins and company go after religion, they’re barking up the wrong category! Religion is a human creation, like art and music and poetry. These emerge through the power of humans.
Kathryn Hepburn got it exactly right while pouring Bogart’s gin out of the African Queen,
“Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we were put into this world to rise above.”
The Moral Sense belongs in Nature.