Altruism and Christian Ethics (New studies in Christian by Colin Grant

By Colin Grant

Separated from its anchorage in faith, ethics has the social sciences in seeing humans as essentially characterised via self-interest, in order that altruism is both naively idealistic or arrogantly self-sufficient. Colin furnish contends that, as a latest secular notion, altruism is a parody at the self-giving love of Christianity, in order that its dismissal represents a social leveling that loses the depths that theology makes intelligible and faith makes attainable. He argues that to dispense with altruism is to dispense with God and with the divine transformation of human probabilities.

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65 Conversely, if the fundamental thrust of life is as uncompromisingly sel®sh as Dawkins claims, how does the vision of altruism ever arise? ``For what reason does Dawkins wish `to build a society in which individuals co-operate generously and unselfishly towards a common good', if it is true that such a desire is 63 64 65 Ibid. Peter Singer, ``Ethics and Sociobiology,'' Zygon 19/2 (1984): 155. Hefner, ``Sociobiology, Ethics and Theology,'' 198. W. ''67 The unrelenting insistence on the utterly sel®sh orientation of the most formative life forces is bound to render any account of altruism from within this kind of sociobiological perspective arbitrary.

The foundational role that the self-interest assumption has played in the formation of our world obscures the radical nature of the transition involved in its triumph. From an indicator of vice ± the seven deadly sins being variations on sel®shness ± self-interest takes on this neutral, and even positive, connotation. Such a dramatic reversal demands explanation. It is hardly credible that people like Hobbes and Locke and Smith suddenly decided that bad was good. If that is the import of the shift that they signal, there must have been reasons for reconsidering what makes for good and bad.

One possible strategy would be to spurn the male's amorous advances until the nest is built, on the theory that having invested in the nest building, the male will have too much at stake to abandon his family for new prospects. Although this line of reasoning appealed to fellow sociobiologist, Robert Trivers, Dawkins challenges it. The challenge, however, is based on economics, not on biology. ``This is fallacious economics,''41 Dawkins charges. ''42 It is no wonder that we have to remind ourselves sometimes that it is biology, and not economics, that we are reading.

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Altruism and Christian Ethics (New studies in Christian by Colin Grant
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