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November 3, 2008

So… Where’s My Cookie?

Someone asked about why people should be civil to each other if there were no afterlife, and asked to keep it non-religious…so I had to figure out an answer…

I’ll keep it non-religious and still explain why there are reasons to behave even in the face of no afterlife. The reason is called sociological norming.

People that have no religious basis can be thrown together and forced to deal with each other. At first, noone will see any repercussion for their actions and realize that they can act any way they want. The difficulty in this, is that while one person can act this way and seemingly get away with it, an entire sociey cannot. Why? Society cannot exist without mutually agreed upon norms for behavior. This can take the shape of codified law, or religion, or just simply etiquette of polite society.

While people like to pull out the golden rule ideology (which happens to be valid regardless of theological slant), I tend to explain it as the “Rule of the A**hole”. If everyone in society could act any way they wanted with no worry of an afterlife, that’s fine, but lifespans would shorten drastically. The reason is that while one person identifies with not having to worry about repercussions, the people around him would also realize there is no cost to eliminating the ‘a**hole’. This relays a message, be it inherent or overt, that acting like an a**hole can get you killed. The remedy? Behave. We all want to live long happy lives, and we have higher brain functions to identify with the concept that acting like an a**hole can drastically shorten said lifespan. Sure, religion and law have used their means to get the same result, but the effect is the same. Law rectifies ill behavior with punishment, all the way up to death (although not practiced on a regular basis). Religion takes a different tact, and threatens punishment based upon the faith or belief in a different plane of existence after one expires. My rule sticks to basic sociological theory which human beings have conformed to even before they had working vocabularies, or were afraid of the big shiny creature in the sky that created everything and will punish you after you die if you bonk Grog on the head with your club.

Regardless of the method of societal control you choose to identify (law, religion, sociological norming) it’s all based in some degree of fear. Being afraid of some sort of retribution, or basic deterrence theory, is the rationale behind any of these ideas. Deterrence is somewhat of a myth with regard to codified law, as some people ignore it, but it works on some. Deterrence is somewhat of a myth with regard to religion, as some people don’t believe, but it works on some. Deterrence is even problematic with regard to sociological norming, as some people are a**holes regardless of the repercussions, but it does work on some. In other words, no method of sociological control is perfect, but they’re moderately effective.

I know, I explained WAY more than necessary, but I did manage to give a reason why people behave even in the face of the non-existence of an afterlife. So, where’s my cookie?

Another Awesome Semi Rant by our own G 🙂
Love Kat!
Filed under: Rants by Kat at 9:42 pm
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