Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life Episode 1 Richard Dawkins (Subs)

Uploaded by BBUK0001 on 15.10.2012

More and more of us realise there is no God
and yet religion still has a hold over us.
I think ideas of saints and sinners, heaven and hell
still shape our thinking.
I want to give you a scientific alternative.
This series is not about whether God exists or not.
It explores more challenging questions.
I'm going to be asking what happens as we move on
and leave religion behind?
What will guide and inspire us in a world free of all gods?
How can an atheist find meaning in life?
How can we face death without the comfort of the afterlife?
And how should we think about right and wrong?
I have to believe there is a plan
and that God is going to accomplish something through this.
I suppose Jesus is an unpaid babysitter.
It's like, if I'm not watching you, Jesus is.
So, do you think that we in the West are too materialistic?
I think so.
This film is about sin.
Even today, most of us still carry around the religious
notion of sin to tell right from wrong.
People ask me,
"If you give up religion, doesn't that mean anything goes?
"Why not indulge in temptations, in lust, and greed?"
"Why not rape, why not steal?"
I'm going to explore the power the religious idea of sin
has over our lives, explain why it's unhelpful,
and show how we can use reason and science
to find a better way to be good.
(REPORTER) 'Cars were set alight, and shops looted.'
If we don't believe God is watching over us, we abandon morality.
That's what people say to me.
Are they right?
This is London in 2011.
For the past two nights there have been riots,
there have been windows smashed, there has been looting.
It's hard to know why.
There doesn't seem to be any very well articulated
political motive, no religious motive.
It seems to be just more or less anarchy for its own sake.
Looting for its own sake.
I suppose it's showing how fragile the bonds of society are.
How easily broken they can be.
It's really quite frightening in a way.
Before I look at what reason can tell us about this,
I want to explore the case for religious morality.
To understand the challenge facing atheists like me,
you need to meet someone like Ray Lewis.
Evening, boys.
(BOYS) Evening, sir.
(BOYS) Evening, sir. How are you?
Newham, east London.
In a neighbourhood ravaged by drugs and gang violence,
youth workers are fighting back with a tough love approach,
inspired by Christian faith.
Who's going to lead us in Grace today before supper?
Well done, Moses. Come down the front here, son.
Let's bow our heads in prayer.
God bless this food as we eat today.
'Some of the riots that we saw in different parts of England
reveal that we are in a great state of crisis.
I think what was going on was a sense in which...
Frankly, why not?
What is it that will restrain me from getting involved in that?
That's what we're working with, against that backdrop.
We've got to carve out something where the boys know where they are.
Is the discipline stricter here than it is at your normal school?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
And do you get taught about things like what's right and wrong?
What do you learn about that?
Leadership? Yeah?
We're told leadership traits, which is bearing, courage, decisiveness,
enthusiasm, initiative, integrity, judgement, knowledge, perseverance.
Very good. Perseverance? Very good.
'I think that this country, despite its riches,
is morally bankrupt.
I was talking to a young man recently the other day, and he said,
"I've been here 18 months,
"and I realise I don't have to lie and steal."
He realised that he doesn't have to do it.
Yeah. He's 14 years of age. I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "Well, every time somebody asked me a question,
"it never dawned on me to tell the truth.
"I've grown up in a culture where everybody lies,
"everybody cheats, everybody deceives."
Ray Lewis makes a powerful case for the clear-cut rules of religion.
For him, God and an afterlife
instil a sense of responsibility in this life.
I believe that there is a spirit in a man and a woman
that goes on beyond, and therefore
at some point that has to come into account.
Now, that's what I choose to believe.
I'm not going to argue for the science of it.
But what I would say is I actually do believe
that there will be a point at which
we have to give an account for the lives that we've been given.
I think there is no evidence that we do survive death.
And so, this life is what we've got, and we should...
That should really redouble our efforts
to make this life worthwhile, not just for ourselves,
to make this life worthwhile, not just for ourselves, Right.
but for other people. Try to make the world a better place,
cos it's the only world we've got.
I wonder whether or not you have rejected the trappings,
the bullshit of religion,
rather than looking behind it.
Because, you see, for me, to look beyond this life
gives this life a greater sense of focus.
That, I think, is something that religion brings and gives
and celebrates.
And without that, Richard,
we've just got intellectual masturbation, haven't we?
We don't all have your intellect and your scientific genius,
so how are we going to get to the point that we can work it all out
in this kind of fuddy-duddy way?
I have no illusions. I mean, it's very, very difficult.
My solution would not be a religious one.
You try to educate people,
which you're doing brilliantly, it seems to me.
We could sit down together and talk to each other and say,
"I would not wish to live in the kind of society..."
But, Richard, I hear you, but without religion, do you not lose power?
What drives me in this work is some sense of the spirit.
Martin Luther King, he talked about soul force.
Gandhi was very much leaning on his spiritual sense of God, if you like.
If you don't have that, how is it going to happen? There's no power.
This is challenging.
There's no doubt that Ray Lewis is being very effective.
I can see the value of invoking God's authority,
and great leaders like Martin Luther King and Gandhi
who had religion, too. But there's a problem.
This approach is about persuading children that they'll be
held to account in an afterlife.
But there is no evidence for that,
and the more you think about it, the more implausible it seems.
And also, do we really want to take our morals
straight from the rather rigid rulebook of an ancient desert tribe?
It's your move.
All righty then.
You remember King Solomon?
Well, I never met him personally.
He was one of the most wisest kings
that ever walked the face of the planet Earth,
but his wisdom did not come overnight.
He had to humble his spirit and bow down to the true and living God.
People tell me that if there is no God, there is no morality.
It's true that throughout human history,
religion has handed down simple rules on what's good and bad.
But it's a belief system rooted in a Bronze Age view of the world,
obsessed with sex and policing the purity of the tribe.
Before I set out the rational view of morality,
I want to explain the problems with the old religious moral codes.
Here we go. Understanding the enemy - three enemies we face.
The world, the Devil and the flesh. I'm going to go quickly through the world and the Devil.
We're going to spend most of our time dealing with the flesh.
What we don't want to do is get hung up on, "Oh, the Devil made me do it."
We just want to see how the devil interacts and specifically
how Jesus modelled some countermeasures.
This is Every Man's Battle, a Christian ministry
that runs hundreds of workshops across America every year.
Here, they adapt ancient scriptures
to try to fight modern male temptations like internet porn.
Sin offers us the opportunity to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way.
Let's talk about the body for a minute and masturbation.
If you continue to do it, you will be perpetually locked
into this struggle with your sexual integrity.
Does this make sense?
Christianity has always been peculiarly judgemental
about what people get up to in the bedroom.
But do we really want to brand everyday thoughts as sinful?
"I don't deserve my family" is the shame message they would hear.
These are in a list of probably 40 or 50 different shame messages
they can choose from, or they can write in their own.
A couple of months ago, we had a guy here
who his shame message was "I'm a (BLEEP) idiot."
That wasn't on your list?
That was not on our list.
Aren't you being very hard on yourselves?
No, I don't think so.
My story is filled with pornography, masturbation, online affairs,
that eventually went offline.
I came to the point of really just being suicidal.
I hated my behaviour, I hated myself.
I prayed a bajillion times for God to show up and he wouldn't.
It's like he was silent.
I wasn't about to tell my wife or any of my friends.
My wife would divorce me and my friends would disown me, I thought.
I came to this place and the only way for this to end is for me to kill myself.
I had this moment in the shower
where I fell to the bottom of the shower
in this puddle of tears and vomit and soapy water
under the weight of the reality of my life, that I can't fix this.
I cried out to God in surrender.
"You have to fix this."
That's when everything changed for me.
This is my wife Shelly and my son Truman
a couple of years ago hiking in Vale.
When I think about the way that this day went,
or I think about that day there,
the last thing I want to do is cheat on that woman.
The last thing I want to do is tell this little boy,
"Hey, your dad was an adulterer and then he got his life right
"and then he wrecked it again."
I don't want to have that conversation.
Jason no doubt has laudable aims, but does this preaching work?
Do religious believers resist temptation better than anyone else?
In 2011, the psychologist Darrel Ray scoured the evidence.
Through an online survey,
he interrogated over 14,000 people who had left their churches
about their sex lives before and after religion.
We asked four questions - when did you start masturbating,
when did you start having oral sex, when did you start petting
and when did you start having intercourse?
We compared those people who were raised most religious
with those who were raised least religious.
We had thousands of people in both of these groups,
and what we found was there's almost no difference.
We did see a little bump in pornography.
The older religious people got, the more they use pornography
and they actually exceed non-religious people by 5 or 10%
in the use of pornography.
Whether you're religious or not, biology happens.
You're going to start masturbating,
you're going to start having sex, but what's the difference? Guilt.
The religious people feel a lot of guilt about the premarital sex they're having
or about the masturbation they've started.
They don't know what to do with it.
There's really no difference in the actual sexual behaviour
that religious and non-religious people indulge in.
What is different is the guilt they feel?
Religions preach against pornography, preach against masturbation,
preach against premarital sex, and it does no good.
The highest use of pornography in the United States
is in Utah and Mississippi.
These are things that churches preach against
and yet their members are using it even more than secular people do.
When I give my talks on sex, I often tend to ask,
"How many of you masturbate?"
I'll get people raising their hands all over the place, maybe 80 or 90%.
Some people will raise both hands!
If I ask that same question in a religious group,
nobody will raise their hand,
but we know that somewhere in the neighbourhood
of 95% of males masturbate, and 70 to 75% of females masturbate.
If nobody is raising their hand, that tells us they're lying.
Religious people lie.
My own grandmother lived 83 years,
she went to the grave denying that she was ever divorced,
because her religious beliefs
said divorced people are condemned and damned.
She never admitted it.
We all knew she had, but that's the power of religion
to hold an entire lifetime hostage. That's a lot of pain.
So the extraordinary thing
is that not only does religion fail to stop people sinning,
it also forces them to live a lie.
The most powerful example of this I found in Paris.
Here we can see religious tradition for what it is,
as the lies spiral into hypocrisy.
A few hundred metres from the smart boutiques of the Champs Elysee in Paris,
the plastic surgeon Dr Marc Abecassis
can cover up the sins of the past.
He specialises in repairing the hymen membrane in women's vaginas.
To all appearances, he turns women who have had sex
back into virgins again.
You can ask yourself as a surgeon, is it fair?
Am I in the right path to do that?
These are questions that we ask a lot to the patients.
Are you going to be sincere doing that, Miss?
Aren't you building a wedding or a relation on a lie?
More and more, I ask these questions,
more and more I have the same answers.
They just ask me, "Dr Abecassis, who do you think you are?
"Maybe I'm not going to be a virgin in the facts,
"but I want to rehabilitate myself. I want to restore my integrity.
"This is a pureness to give back to the person I shall love
"or I shall marry with."
But this hymen reconstruction,
it's just symbolic of something which is not there.
It's a lie.
It's a lie for you.
Dr Abecassis performs around four of these operations every week
and demand is growing.
The majority of patients are Algerian Muslims and for many,
sadly, this is not some luxury option but grim necessity.
They tell you, "My brother is going to kill me."
There is this bad situation in which they are going to be
if they don't present an intact membrane.
That means if they don't bleed, does it?
They know today more and more that they are not obliged to bleed,
but they know that if there will be a resistance
during the intercourse, things are going to be all right.
The husband is going to feel that there is something.
For her own safety, this patient has asked to remain anonymous.
(TRANSLATION) I don't risk death.
I don't think so, because after all I have a family which remains quite humane,
but I do risk being set apart and judged.
In North African society, you don't wash your dirty linen in public.
Religious faith is supposed to make us pure,
but this woman is caught between two sins -
public shame and private deception.
I think in front of God, I shall be alone.
In front of my community, my image may also tarnish my family.
I am not alone. You see what I mean?
That's to say, it's not just me they'll be judging.
They'll be judging my parents, my grandparents, my uncles, my aunts.
When I looked around at where I was living, a society full of lies,
I don't feel guilty at all.
It's not just that the old notion of sin isn't relevant any more.
We've seen that it clashes with reality,
it creates guilt and a society full of lies.
Next, I want to leave God behind
and explore what science can tell us about the true origins of morality.
'Some people think that if we get rid of God
'and all religious values, all that's left is anarchy.
'But I want to show that there is order without religion.
'Let's look at the roots of morality through Darwinian eyes.
'One thing we must do is rid ourselves of the idea that
'sexual lust is inherently sinful.
'These impulses are universal,
'and all mammals have evolved ways to manage them.'
What's that funny patch I can see under his arm, there?
This lump you can see here is the brachial glands,
and it's where he'll scent mark
so the female can smell that he's a good, fit male.
'At Cotswold Wildlife Park, the keepers are trying to get
'a rare and endangered species,
'the greater bamboo lemur, to mate successfully.
'But to do that, they have to carefully observe
'the rituals of lemur courtship.'
He's being very good now,
he's giving her the calls, which are the beginning
of his courtship display, his call that he'll do.
There's the tail twitching, and all of this,
she becomes more and more interested in his behaviour.
'Perhaps we think of morality in completely the wrong way.
'By observing animals, we see it not as some set of lofty ideals,
'but as a practical system that enables animals
'to get along with each other, reproduce and survive.'
Jamie, I was once asked by a lawyer when he discovered that
I was a zoologist, whether animals have a sense of law.
And I said, "Well, not exactly law,
"but like many human societies that don't have lawyers
"and policeman, they have customs and taboos
"and rules that they follow."
Yeah, I would say they certainly do.
You know, there is almost a feeding order,
so the dominant animal would get the best of the food or the food first.
That doesn't mean that others may not try to get in there first,
very much like in human society,
but if they are seen, they'll certainly fall back into line.
It's the biggest male, generally, that will breed.
'Critical for any animal's genetic success
'are the customs surrounding sex,
'and the violence and competition that sex can unleash.'
364 days of the year, the females are the boss.
The male's very laid-back, he keeps out of the way.
Keeps himself to himself and just tries to avoid trouble, generally.
But on the one day of the year, sometimes more,
that the females become sexually receptive, things change.
Things become very, very lawless for the male,
and if there was more than one breeding male,
it really is a fight to the death.
So they fight to the death on that one day?
They can do.
Generally, one animal would be severely injured.
They do stink fighting, which is very interesting,
where they raise their tails towards each other,
waft them towards each other so they can deter the other male.
And then they do something called slash fighting,
where they'll run past each other,
and it's very hard to even see they've touched each other,
but then there will be some terrible slash injuries.
So like medieval lancers on their horses, rushing past each other.
Very much like that, yes.
So from a very coherent society most of the year,
it all falls to pieces where sex is concerned.
'This isn't what we'd call morality, but the customs and taboos
'we see here help us understand something about sex.'
Sex is, on the face of it, a rather bizarre way of passing on genes,
since it necessitates joining with another individual,
each contributing exactly half the genes to each offspring.
Many animals devote enormous energy to displaying their attributes
to would-be mates, signalling they are fit and healthy specimens.
They advertise through carrying vivid plumage,
vast antlers and horns, or an outsize tail.
You might think of it as nature's bling.
Humans also do this, just sometimes in a more roundabout way.
Dances like the tango, for example, are courtship rituals in human form.
Darwinian theory is really a sort of branch of economics.
You might think that the two sexes are kind of equal,
they both have the same amount to gain from mating.
Not so.
The goods that a female mammal brings to the deal are her womb,
time devoted to the baby inside it, and milk to feed it.
The male generally provides protection and food.
So far, so good.
But the male and female have very different genetic interests,
which is where it gets interesting.
The male has the most to gain, by, if he can,
persuading lots of females to mate with him
and leaving each one to fend for herself.
The female has the most to gain from persuading one male
to be loyal to her, faithful to her,
and to provide a full economic upbringing for her offspring.
It's this constant economic tussle between the sexes
which makes courtship so important.
There's a lot at stake.
The male tries to ensure that the female is faithful,
so he doesn't bring up another male's child
and perpetuate another male's genes.
The female must be faithful, or at least appear to be,
or the male may abandon her
and force her to bring up the offspring on her own.
So one key characteristic we see being displayed
in animal courtship is what we humans would call jealousy.
Females will tend to be coy and will tend to advertise
their fidelity, advertise their faithfulness to the male.
Males, on the other hand, will tend to go in for mate guarding.
Say, putting an arm round a woman at a social gathering.
So evolutionary science shows you don't need religion
to have order and even courtesy in relationships.
It's not just anything goes and sex in the street.
That's been tried in the past, with odd results.
Well, I think what's happening in San Francisco is the only
meaningful thing that's happening in this country
and quite possibly the world.
In the 1960s, the San Francisco Bay area
was at the heart of the hippy experiment in so-called free love.
I remember it well, because I was there.
Well, this is Telegraph Avenue, which used to be filled
with street people selling beads and carpets and drugs and things.
Can't see any sign of that activity today,
but possibly it's just because
it's only about nine o'clock in the morning.
Probably haven't got up yet.
I used to live here in the late 1960s.
I was a very junior faculty member at the University Of California.
And it was a time of great political unrest,
it was the time of the Vietnam War.
There was tear gas, there were riot police,
the National Guard, bayonets.
Part of the rebellion against authority came in
trying to throw off sexual inhibitions.
Coyness and mate guarding were out.
The sexual culture was pretty free. Rather shockingly so.
I remember once walking down this very street,
and there was a young man walking ahead of me, a sort of hippy type,
and every young woman who came towards him,
he would just reach out and feel her breast.
And then just walk on. And she took not the slightest notice.
Another time, I saw a young woman in Telegraph Avenue completely naked.
That is a very clear memory.
It definitely happened.
But that '60s culture of letting it all hang out didn't last.
I'm intrigued by why all that's left today are tourists,
grizzled street sellers and dirty needles in the park.
Perhaps the answer lies, once again,
in understanding our evolution as a species.
Science suggests that the rules we've evolved around courtship
and sex are attached to deep-rooted emotions and reactions
that are hard to jettison overnight.
This is the reaction that I have.
These are crabs that are used for seasoning.
'The man assaulting my senses is the psychologist David Pizarro.'
Oh, my God! That makes me want to retch.
'He is studying the science of disgust.'
This is from the film, Trainspotting.
Aptly titled the worst toilet in Scotland.
That's horrible.
OK, I've shown you a brief portion.
I could see the disgust in your face.
But what if I were, say, to present you with something like this.
And I asked you to handle it and maybe, uh...
I won't ask you to put that in your mouth, but...
Well, I mean, I can kind of tell that's a joke.
This actually wouldn't worry me all that much, I mean, I can see...
You might trust that I wouldn't put actual faeces.
And as it turns out, this is soap.
It's soap. So now you've told me,
I wouldn't mind washing my hands with that.
So now I'm going to show you a few other images.
They're different from the first ones I showed you.
You'll see immediately why.
Oh, God. Yes. Yes.
'David Pizarro shows me
'a highly graphic image of three elderly men
'engaged in homosexual sex.'
Oh, God!
'Now I'm looking at a degrading sexual act involving vomit.'
I'll leave this at two, because these are actually
so disgusting that I feel bad having shown them to you.
Those two images were images of a sexual nature,
and as it turns out, the domain of sex
is one in which we are easily disgusted.
'The "Yuck!" reaction is an emotion
'that almost certainly evolved to help us survive,
'to make us back off from potential disease.
'But what's fascinating is how disgust seems to have been
'harnessed to reinforce our sense of judgement and moral disapproval.'
I kept finding that responses to questions like
"How disgusted would you be if you were to walk into a public restroom
"and found an unflushed toilet?"
were consistently correlated with political orientation.
The more likely you are to be disgusted in everyday life,
the more likely you are to hold attitudes,
in the sexual domain especially,
that are moral beliefs against, for instance,
the behaviour of two men having sex.
Yes, let me ask a question about that,
because I had a fairly strong disgust reaction
to some of the things you showed,
but the important difference is that I don't try to impose
my own dislikes on what other people are allowed to do.
It's nothing to do with me what people do in private.
I think that's the crucial distinction.
But it is a very common thought in moral codes across the world
that many things are wrong by dint of their being somehow impure.
I think that the real answer here comes from the fact that
we can now actually see what is harmful and what is not,
and we can decide to put our disgust to rest
when it comes to making moral judgements.
And one of the things that I ask my students in my class is,
imagine two very, very ugly people having sex.
But would you ever think to make it illegal for ugly people to have sex?
Well, of course not.
Well, maybe it's a case in which we might be able to say,
you know what? I'm grossed out by what you're doing,
but that has nothing to do with
whether you should be put in prison for it.
This is the key point.
We have instincts that used to protect our primitive ancestors.
Because of that, we may still find some things emotionally repellent.
But we have evolved also a sense of reason,
which curbs our tendency to project our disgust onto other people.
In our post-religion world,
we can look rationally at what we once called sinful behaviour.
We can weigh up actual harms and benefits, and temper our instincts.
In this way, advanced societies like ours can move on,
shifting the line on what is deemed right or wrong.
Probably the dominant change in my lifetime
is the change in attitude towards gays.
When I first entered Parliament in 1979, I started campaigning
not for equal rights -
we wouldn't have dared use a word like equal rights -
but I started campaigning for a measure of respect for homosexuals.
I thought, if I was very lucky, we might get the age of consent
reduced from 21 to 18 by the time I died.
I thought, if I was very lucky,
I could stop the police impersonating gays
in order to pick people up in public lavatories and then prosecute them.
These things seem to change so slowly, and then suddenly,
like an avalanche, everything changed
and long before the end of my life.
I cannot believe the speed with what seemed to be a really fixed
public loathing of homosexuality has changed to a shrug of the shoulders.
public loathing of homosexuality has changed to a shrug of the shoulders. Yes.
'Matthew Parris believes it is our capacity for reason
'that lies behind this growing tolerance.'
In our culture, the advance of science,
the advance of scientific, medical, psychological knowledge,
the understanding that things are not rooted in sin
that comes from demons and the devil,
but rooted in very deep internal aspects of our own...
the mechanisms of our mind.
So blame is much less important in these things,
and, of course, illnesses used to be attributed sometimes to sin too.
Well, it isn't a matter of sin, it isn't a matter blame.
And I think those attitudes
have probably been changing over 200 years,
and the change has accelerated in the last century.
'It seems like a wonderfully positive story.
'But Matthew Parris does have concerns.'
..They're getting... Well, what shall we say?
..more liberal, more tolerant.
What you and I would think of as better.
We are actually getting better.
I suppose, though, that a fear that certainly haunts me
and others in the gay liberation movement
is that if things could swing so rapidly in our favour
as they have, could we, in a sort of Third Reich-like world,
see things swinging very rapidly, equally rapidly the other way?
A backlash.
A backlash. How little anchored, perhaps, are these categories.
There's a sort of feeling of hatred for bankers, for rich people,
for plutocrats, at the moment. I could imagine a little winter,
a little ice age for the richest in society coming
as the Western economy sinks,
and as people are looking for somebody to blame,
just as the Jews got it in the neck, so to speak, between the two wars.
I understand what Matthew Parris is getting at,
but I think I'm more optimistic about human nature.
I want to argue that, now we've left religion behind,
we're getting better, more moral, and kinder.
'If you want to understand what makes a human being good,
'watch them with a pet.
'Tiko is a wolf, or he thinks he's a wolf.
'His not very distant ancestors were wolves.'
Good dog, Tiko.
'He loves going for a walk because he sees what happened overnight,
'which he can tell from the smells that were left.'
Come on, Tiko.
'He stops at every corner, stops at every lamppost.
'It's sort of like reading the newspaper for him, I think.'
Off we go.
It's a very different world to be in, a dog's world,
and we anthropomorphise,
we put ourselves in the position of the dog,
project ourselves into the body of the dog
and we think we know what it's like to be a dog, and we don't.
We delude ourselves.
But that's part of what goes on when we love a dog.
Tiko, do you like going to puppy class?
Do you? And do you play with Figgy?
And do you play with Denis? Do you?
'What am I doing with my dog?'
Do you play with Watson?
'I'm empathising,
'I'm making an imaginative leap to see the world
'from a dog's perspective.'
Good boy.
'Humans are extraordinarily good at identifying with other humans
'and other species.
'And it has a profoundly moral effect.'
When we see a dog or a person suffering, we suffer, too.
We suffer vicariously, it's a very powerful emotion.
If I see Tiko suffering, if he's ill, in pain,
I feel devastated.
It's exactly as though it was my own child, I suppose.
Tiko, uppity-paw.
Empathy is important for morality
because perhaps the most fundamental principle of morality,
the golden rule, involves putting yourself in the position of another.
Do as you would be done by.
How would you like it if you were treated like that?
We don't need God telling us the rule.
Science shows we humans are hardwired
to have empathy.
Scientists can now scan which parts of the brain register
vicarious pain or pleasure.
They can track how hormones,
like oxytocin, which encourage compassion and nurturing,
act on the emotion systems in the brain.
Brain science helps us to see why we find it a bad idea to steal,
why we hate to see somebody kicking a dog.
We can trace the chemicals in the brain that reward kindness.
We can see what goes on in the brain when we feel for others.
Goodness is natural to us.
Kindness is in our physiology.
So, you might ask, quite rightly,
if humans have this innate capacity for good, why does it go wrong?
Why do we still do bad things?
Perhaps there's a scientific answer to that, too.
Here, we go back to those primitive moral emotions
that helped us survive.
You've got empathy,
you've got kindness, you've got nurturing,
you've got all of this,
but you also have disgust, cruelty, fear.
All of those are evolved to protect you and your kin.
The neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor has studied what happens
when people decide that others are not included in their tribe.
She calls it "otherisation".
The others are commonly classed as beasts or subhuman.
You're not just saying that's my enemy, you're actually saying,
that is a less than human person, I am not going to call that person
the same moral status as I would to my nearest and dearest.
Those who carried out the final solution in Nazi Germany
could only have done it, presumably, by otherisation of the Jews?
Yes, because one of the things that it does is, it suppresses empathy.
So, for example, the groups who were committing the worst
atrocities on the Eastern Front in the Second World War,
they're not just
forgetting about morality altogether and just engaging in cruelty.
Their cruelty is very targeted and very directed
and people who are part of their group escape cruelty, on the whole.
And people who are not part of their group are the ones who
bear the brunt of it.
But even in the times of horror, there are moments
which should be cherished where empathy breaks through.
There's an interesting example from the SS of a man who is helping
to dispose, as they put it, of some Jewish children.
His parents had already been killed.
And he talks about how he was doing it,
and he had to take the hand of a little girl
and he just couldn't do it. His empathy came back.
It overwhelmed him, so he's got a lot of ideology,
a lot of group pressure saying these people are not human,
you will not treat them as human, but it's obvious that
if the cues are sufficiently powerful, if you like,
that can go, that can be reversed.
He was on his own for a little while, with this little girl,
and suddenly he was a dad...
He realised he was human.
He realised he was human. Yeah.
If we are to build a non-religious morality,
one thing we must strenuously avoid is demonising
another set of humans, or treating them as unequal.
Quite apart from anything else, this leads to a collapse of empathy.
What we need to do is expand the circle of those to whom
we feel empathy.
Break down the barriers that divide us,
the tribalisms of religion, class, race and ideology.
Our scientific understanding of empathy,
and the memory of how we've got it wrong in the past, can help.
And the good news is, we're already doing it.
200 years ago, it was normal, acceptable, to keep slaves.
Now, it would be considered barbaric.
The same with racism.
I was brought up in British colonial Africa,
and I vividly remember the patronising attitude at the time.
The Africans are like children, they can't look after themselves.
We have to do it for them.
Today, such an attitude would be unthinkable.
Our capacity for empathy, together with a more rational,
tolerant society, is, I believe,
making us more moral than ever before.
And yet, if you were to believe some moralists and some newspapers,
society is going to hell in a handcart.
But is it?
The psychologist Steven Pinker has looked at the figures in detail,
including data from the British Home Office and the US Bureau of Justice,
and found that as religion declines, we're becoming ever more civilised.
I had no idea that, say, in the last 40 years,
the rate of rape had declined by 80%.
80% in the United States.
The rate of domestic abuse in both the UK and the US...
That rape figure is even more surprising,
because presumably the number of reportings has gone up.
Exactly. That's right.
Child abuse has gone down, attitudes towards racial minorities,
attitudes towards homosexuals, treatment of animals in laboratories.
Yet the perception of these things has gone in the other direction,
because everybody thinks that child abuse has been climbing.
It may be because of the increased concern
that we both think that it's more prevalent than ever before,
and we've managed to put it down because people care about it,
take steps to minimise it and those steps clearly succeed.
And there are many positive developments that we take for granted
because they are non-events, they're dogs that don't bark.
An example would be the disappearance of war between developed states.
Even in the developing world,
where we think of as a war-torn hell-hole,
the numbers show that the number of wars and the numbers of deaths
in war have plummeted worldwide in the last 20 years,
since the end of the Cold War.
Deaths are lower in absolute numbers.
In a world of seven billion people,
fewer people are dying in warfare than ever before.
Are we too down on ourselves?
Do you think that, actually, we're becoming more moral?
I don't know if we're becoming more moral biologically,
but I think there is something about a society with free speech,
with open enquiry, with rational debate,
with the accumulation of evidence,
that will tend to push us in a moral direction.
In particular, the whole current that we call humanism,
which almost sounds banal and boring and treacly nowadays,
simply because it's become second nature to us,
but I think it's a radical idea in human history.
A cynic about human nature might say that religious morality
is an effective way of keeping people in line.
The threat of hell, the reward of heaven.
But the rules of the holy books are out of date and often barbaric.
Science shows that we're governed by quite logical hidden rules
and customs, and the highly evolved senses that humans
have, of reason and empathy.
More important, we now live in a rational age
and can look at where we've gone wrong in history,
and avoid the tribalism that divides and harms us.
This, surely, is real progress.
We live in what may be a more peaceful,
more civilised world than ever before.
We have the opportunity to develop a new morality,
and that is an exciting part of what it means to be human.
In the next programme - the meaning of life.
What's the point if this life is all there is?
Why does an atheist get up in the morning?
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