Matt Arnold (matt_arnold) wrote,
Matt Arnold

The Alpha Male Monkey In The Sky

The phrase "the Alpha Male Monkey" may be the most useful new explanatory tool I've encountered in years. paranthropus gave it to me in a recent LJ post about primate group psychology. It was an inspirational and motivational insight into the evolutionary biology of my psychology which has kept me up at night thinking of the implications. I wrote about it in this subsequent LJ post, but it occurred to me that this is valuable for explaining myself to bible-believing Christians.

We're genetically programmed to see an Alpha Male in our primate pack as the source of truth and moral law. This explains the difficulty I have in communicating alternative models of truth and moral law to bible believers. It's not that they reject the model I present, it's that they literally don't know what I'm saying. It's a mental block. We take away the concept of the Alpha Male Monkey in the sky, and they think we've declared truth and morality to be nonexistent, because to them, "right" is defined as: "whatever the Alpha Male Monkey says." By definition. The discussion goes like this:

Bible Believer: "So... where is the Alpha Male Monkey in your model? Is it you? Why should I have to do what you say?"

Me: "No no, there isn't one. Right and wrong are based on the suffering of the victim, not obedience to laws."

Bible Believer: "Um. So we're abolishing laws? There's no law against, for instance, rape?"

Me: "No, if somebody says 'don't rape me', it's wrong."

Bible Believer: "So, she's the Alpha Male Monkey?"

Me: "THERE IS NO ALPHA MALE MONKEY. Morality doesn't look like this:

It looks like this:

We're all equally at the top."

Bible Believer: "We're all Alpha Male Monkeys? I can't believe you're arrogant enough to think you have omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence."

Me: "We're all equally at the top, but the top is a lot lower than perfection. We don't need that; it still works just fine."

Bible Believer: "So what if it works? You don't have a replacement Alpha Male Monkey to obey, so why should I care? I define 'morality' as 'obedience' as you depicted in the first chart. Therefore you have no basis for morality."

Me: "But it works! If you want to be moral, just do unto others as you would have them do unto you!"

Bible Believer: "There you go trying to command me again. Who died and made you Alpha Male Monkey?"

Me: "I didn't command you. I said 'if' you want to be moral. I'm pointing out to you how to accomplish something you said you wanted to accomplish, and how to measure how whether you've acheived it. If you don't want to be moral, I'll let you deal with the problems that come along with that."

Bible Believer: "Hold on a minute... I'm trying to find a command from an Alpha Male Monkey in that... where was he again?"

Me: *facepalm*

As the old tract goes, "only two choices on the shelf: live for God or live for self." It literally doesn't occur to them to see beyond that fase dichotomy. Notice that I didn't get around to defending my model because I literally couldn't get across what it was. Hopefully the concept of an Alpha Male Monkey will help to explain this in the future.
Tags: art, atheism, authoritarianism, bible, christian, christianity, humanism, secular, secularism

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