RE: 2001's gospel message

mortongr@flash.net
Mon, 08 Nov 1999 19:26:24 +0000

At 10:39 AM 11/08/1999 -0600, rice@mcc.com wrote:
>>>Looking at mankind as a whole, even without a Calvinist view point, it
is not a pretty picture. And yet individuals are capable of acts of
selfless courage - why? Where does that impetus to risk one's life or
property or sanity for a stranger come from? Why would a family choose to
adopt four or five children because they are siblings and need a home, why
would two guys driving to work and seeing smoke from a house run in and get
the people there out to safety or strangers rush to a burning car to save
the occupants? Why would a wealthy man in a city fork over a couple of
hundred thousand dollars to keep a center for crippled children open when
nothing they do affects his family? Why do we show kindness to people
outside our family or our close community at all - there's no logic to any
of those behaviors - nothing that furthers one's own survival. And yet
such things do happen. It has always seemed to me that such acts ARE God's
fingerprints on the world. <<<

Hi Janet,

I am not sure if altruism can be a fingerprint of God. Animals display much
altruism. Examples:

"Eugene Marais watched two baboons cautiously move along the edge
of a cliff above a leopard who was preparing to attack their
troop. Both baboons dropped onto the leopard at the same time
from a height of twelve feet. One landed on the leopard's back
the other struck at his throat. The leopard disemboweled the
baboon on his neck with one swipe of the paws and caught the one
on his back in his jaws. But alas it was too late for the
leopard because the baboon hanging on his neck had reached the
juggler vein."~Robert Ardrey, African Genesis, (New York: Dell
Publishing Co., 1961), p. 83

Probably the classic book on the topic is _Mutual Aid_ by Sir Petre
Kropotkin, a Russian prince. Kropotkin gives in a foot note 3 examples of
compassion between animals
1. A wounded badger was carried away by another badger suddenly
appearing on the scene.
2. Rats have been seen feeding a blind couple
3. Brehm saw two crows feeding in a hollow tree a third crow
which was wounded; it wound was several weeks old.
~Max Perty and L. Buchner cited by Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid,
(New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1909), p. 59

There is even interspecies aaltruism among animals: "Eckerman told to
Goethe (in 1827) that two little wren
fledglings, which had run away from him were found by him the
next day in a nest of robin redbreasts which fed the little ones
together with their own youngsters."~Gesprache, III, 1848, p.
219,221 cited in Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, (New York:
Doubleday, Page & Co., 1909), p. xi

Mutual Aid is an excellent book and well worth the reading. The question
is in relation to your note, is animal altruism also a fingerprint of God?
And how do we differentiate between what is and what isn't?

glenn

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