Joe Carlson’s editorial on injustice in the February 8th issue is interesting but fails to convince in two regards.
First, he asks how we can hope to “keep everyone in check” without something outside of the universe to define what is right and wrong. But even if we posit a God answering that description, who never changes and whose nature defines good and evil, our understanding of Him can and does change. Otherwise Christians, for instance, would still demand that gay men be stoned to death and that the consumption of shellfish be a criminal offense!
In real life, relying on such a God for our understanding of good and evil simply means relying on some other human being authorized or empowered to interpret the will of God, and we all know where that leads.
Second, he states that because we are made in the image of God as revealed in the Bible, we instinctively “know that stealing is wrong,” or, by extension, what injustice looks like. This fails on an empirical basis, because animal experiments consistently show that animals as disparate as dogs, monkeys, and crows have a very strong sense of fairness. Injustice is indeed something that evolution has equipped us to detect and punish, which encourages the altruism and cooperation that are the basis of civilization.
In the end, we can’t and shouldn’t look to anything but ourselves — the human race — for our understanding of good and evil and their consequences. We are perfectly capable of recognizing wise men and women who set and have set examples to be followed, even in the face of the most murderous injustice. Do we really need more than these shining lights to help us do the right thing, when we already instinctively know that they are right?
Dave Trowbridge, Boulder Creek