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An article donated by Alton C. Thompson

The Ten Commandments are not enough!

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The Ten Commandments—i.e., the Decalogue—are insufficient!  As are other Decalogue-like passages in the Bible -- such as the “sheep and goats” passage in Matthew

Why are those passages of relatively little value?

They are based on a faulty theory of behavior.  The originators of those “codes” could not have known this about the codes that they created and promulgated, for evolutionary thinking is of recent origin.  Not that Charles Darwin’s [1809 - 1882] famous The Origin of Species (1859) has any relevance for this article; but evolutionary thinking as it was extended into the human realm by, e.g., Thorstein Veblen (1857 - 1929)—his The Instinct of Workmanship (1914), in particular—laid the groundwork for what I write here.

The “theory of behavior” upon which behavior codes—what one should, and should not do—are based is that:

One’s behavior is a function of—and only of—one’s choices; and one’s choices are always freely made.

This theory is not totally without merit, of course; but the fact of the matter is that the creation of codes of behavior—including civil laws—neither prevents the occurrence of objectionable (“bad”) behavior, nor does it cause desirable (“good”) behavior.  I ask you this question:  Were only “good” behavior to occur:

  1. What would journalists report on during “news” programs?

  2. Given this, would anyone ever turn on the “news”?!

That’s a rhetorical question, by the way!

For an adequate “theory of behavior” we must go far back in time—to just before the Neolithic (or Agricultural) Revolution, which began about 12,000 years ago.

Prior to that Revolution our ancestors were foragers, and:

  1. Lived in small groups.

  2. Had lives that were close to Earth—during both day and night.

  3. Were egalitarian.

  4. That fact implies that they treated one another well.

Humans, during that period, became “designed” for such a way of life.  That we were “designed” to treat others well is indicated by the fact that today, if one does good, one feels good.  The prophets of old “knew” that behaviors that harmed others were “wrong,” and said so. What they didn’t know, of course, is that we humans are “programmed” for “good” behavior, nor did they know how that came about.

The “bad” behavior that they observed—and we observe today—was caused by the societal “breakdown” that was precipitated by the Agricultural Revolution—and specifically the fact that groups that began to adopt agriculture, as their source of sustenance,

  • Began to grow in population size, and

  • That caused the bonds that had formerly connected one to other members of the group to begin to weaken.

The societal changes that have occurred over the past 12,000 years have placed individuals in situations that reduce their ability to act in a purely “natural” manner.  Those who composed the Ten Commandments not only did know this, but could not have.  Today, however, we have a better understanding of human behavior; we know, e.g., that it is:

  • (a) societal developments over the centuries,

  • (b) in conjunction with an ability to choose

that explain behavior.

An implication of what we now know about human behavior is that to get mainly “good” behavior, we will need to take the advice of anthropologist James Suzman, and try to learn from current foragers — and specifically develop, from such a study, ideas

  • (a) capable of being implemented in today’s world that will

  • (b) be “restorative” in a significant sense.

 Doing that is likely to be an extremely difficult task!

Not that we should abandon attempts to shape behavior via the creation of codes/laws, and their enforcement.  But we should have learned by now that code/law creation is only a partial answer to affecting behavior—whether it’s a matter of preventing “bad” behavior or encouraging “good” behavior.

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Original posting: 2019-NOV-01
Alton C. Thompson
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