In defense of animals and agnostics

Here's another reader's response to this statement made by one of the proponents of Intelligent Design: 

However, I'd love for Faye Flam to explain how humans got their consciences, the innate sense of right and wrong that commends right choices and condemns wrong choices, since animals don't possess them.

I do plan to explain some aspects of our moral behavior in Monday’s column. And in the future, I’ll take on the claim that animals don’t have any sense of right and wrong. Several scientists have recently published books on that very question. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from another reader’s e-mail. She points out that psychopaths lack a conscience. Some commit atrocities with no remorse. And yet some dogs seem to express remorse and guilt for being bad.

We had a black Lab at the same time we had a flock of chickens. The number of eggs dropped off mysteriously. One day I came outside and saw Gypsy coming out of the barn. As soon as she saw me, her whole demeanor changed. She started to slink (you know what I mean) with her tail between her legs and then gently laid an egg down on the walk. She was plainly guilty of eating the eggs and was feeling that guilt. I never made an issue to her of going into the barn or had ever reprimanded her for eating eggs that I dropped in the kitchen. She could have had no reason for feeling guilty, except that she somehow knew that this was not acceptable. She never ate another egg, even when urged by me.  I could give many examples of this sort of thing, and I'm sure others could too.

Most of us develop a conscience because we have a predisposition to developing one, and are surrounded by influences that guide us. And, yes a feeling of what is right and wrong based on sympathy and empathy  And these have come down to us through evolution, because those people with these abilities were the most successful in rearing young to maturity.

And anyway, why would God, ID or whichever, mess with us by putting every proof of the great age of the known universe and the solar system, the vast amount of evidence of evolution,  and all the other scientific background that drives this side of the debate out there? Does God have an evil sense of humor? Is that possible? Why would God put stuff in the Bible that contradicts what he has put in our world? I have a friend who contends that God has done this to test our faith. He expects us to believe the literal interpretation of the Bible (whatever that is) and not the evidence of our own senses. I think it's the other way around. Maybe He's testing the sense He gave us and expecting us to reject fairy tales. There I've said it. This doesn't make me an atheist, just a questioner, like most of us.