Ethics and morality without religion

There are two tactics believers take in regard to the ability to act ethically and morally. The most common is to say that one needs God and/or religion in order to do so. It’s a weak argument that is easily defeated again and again. For instance, Japan has reported rates of atheism near 64%. Another 20% on top of that claim no religious affiliation. Yet they act far and above what we see in many other parts of the world, including the hyper-religious US:

The earthquake and tsunami that walloped Japan left much of its coastline ravaged, but left one thing intact: the Japanese reputation for honesty.

In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets found in the debris, containing $48 million in cash.

More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along Japan’s tsunami-ravaged coast have also been hauled to police centers by volunteers and search and rescue crews. Inside those safes officials found $30 million in cash. One safe alone, contained the equivalent of $1 million.

The other tactic is to say, why, of course people can be good without believing in God or having a religion. After all, God has instilled within all of us a seed of morality. Believers then usually cite some noise Scripture as proof. It’s a vaguely clever argument in that it gets around the issue of being proven wrong so incredibly easily, but that is the real problem: it can’t be falsified. It is based upon the Bible and is therefore necessarily a faith based claim. Since the Bible provides no internal methods for deciding if what is says is true or not, not to mention the fact that there is no evidence for a key ingredient to the argument anyway (God), this is just a random claim that carries with it exactly zero weight. It’s not even an argument.

Japanese Researchers Begin to Pull Ahead

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the soon-to-thankfully-end Bush administration, the United States is beginning to fall behind in science and technology. One example to this effect is the recent advancements made by the well-funded research of Japanese scientists.

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese researchers said Thursday they had created functioning human brain tissues from stem cells, a world first that has raised new hopes for the treatment of disease.

Stem cells taken from human embryos have been used to form tissues of the cerebral cortex, the supreme control tower of the brain, according to researchers at the government-backed research institute Riken.

The tissues self-organised into four distinct zones very similar to the structure seen in human foetuses, and conducted neuro-activity such as transmitting electrical signals, the institute said.

Research on stem cells is seen as having the potential to save lives by helping to find cures for diseases such as cancer and diabetes or to replace damaged cells, tissues and organs.

The team’s previous studies showed stem cells differentiated into distinct cells but until now they had never organised into functioning tissues.

Let’s hope an Obama administration can finally give the scientific community the true support it has been needing for the past 8 anti-science years.