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Evolution and Ethics

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Where does morality come from? Homo sapiens has existed for about 200,000 years, but only for about 10,000 years in civilised society. The rest of the time we existed as hunter gatherers, and the species from which we evolved were also hunter gatherers. Evolutionary characteristics, including ethics, are likely to have been formed long before the rise of civilisation. Some patterns of behaviour are inherited in societies but a large amount of experimental data has now shown that perhaps more than 80 per cent of our basic behaviour patterns are controlled by our genes. Greg Atkins was a Professor of Science (Virology) at Trinity College Dublin until he retired and a founder member of the Humanist Association of Ireland.