Evolution of Morality

Avicenna
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Evolution of Morality

While writing an article about Rabbi Moshe Averick's crazy argument during a break from exam revision (a slippery slope fest of immense silliness that links it to beastiality and paedophilia. Atheism... not exam revision that is...), I came up with something a bit sensible.

"And the human value system. AKA rules and morality is a survival skill. Human beings are weak and useless on their own. In groups our survival rises exponentially mainly because we can specialise in our efforts and make technology that enables this. You need a specific number of hunter gatherers to have a stone chipper who makes hunter gathering more effective. You need a specific number of carpenters to help make houses but to support them you need wood cutters and to support them you need farmers and to get all the different people to support each other we need a system of rules that helps us get along. That is what morality and rules come from. It's evolutionarily sound since societies without moral codes aren't nice places to live in while ones with liberal accepting codes are seen as nice places to live in. For instance Somalia plain sucks and is like living in a post apocalyptic wasteland, Saudi Arabia while a lot nicer than somalia excludes a lot of people and it's strict moral code means it is very exclusive but the UK has nice social rules that are accepting of a variety of people and thus is liked. The social acceptance of various groups in the UK makes it stronger than Saudi Arabia and Somalia and a much nicer place to live in because of that. It's why people want to go to the UK to live and work and not to Saudi Arabia or indeed Somalia. "

So what do people think? Would this be an evolutionary bonus to moral behaviour? That the rules of law that we have exist because it is advantageous to live by a unifying set of rules and that it would give you a benefit?

If you want to see the my whole argument against his nonsense...


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Morals are from our feelings

Morals are from our feelings of empathy.  Those who do not feel empathy are classified as sociopaths or psychopaths - depending on how little of anything they feel.

We feel for each other.  Because we need each other.  No one can survive alone for long.

I am reading The Social Animal by David Brooks who has a lot to say on the subject.  I am not sure I agree with everything he says, but overall the book is easy to read with interesting concepts.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

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Hi, Avicenna.  I like how you pointed out that morality evolves because people work better in groups.  It's really that simple.  I like to complicate it with biology because it's a more complete explanation of how our moral instincts are rooted in our brains, but the group theory works fine.

A loner doesn't have access to any of the benefits of hanging around people, like their ideas, company, knowledge, protection, food, supplies, etc.  100,000 years ago a tribe of ten people could attack, rob, and kill a loner, and his poor genes wouldn't get passed along.  This would eliminate any genetic influence on his being a loner from getting replicated.  There are still loners today, but the majority of them have inherited moral emotions like love, empathy, and generosity that were wired into their brains from hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.  

 

   


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I don't think we can call it

I don't think we can call it evolution but we can certainly call it darwinist (I do understand evolutionary theory. I used to study Human Genetics for my pre-med). I just wanted to see if other people think it is an appropriate argument rather than something a bit out there.

I get the genetics of it, although I don't think that we are hardwired for the whole love, empathy and generosity dealie. I think that those are more acquired as concepts from where we live and our parents and friends. I do however think that since society doesn't really ever stop we have all been brought up to have roughly universal (atleast in the west) ideas of love, empathy and generosity.

I do see some subversions of it such as in India it is considered bad to give money to beggars because it encourages another generation of beggars. Many beggars are forced into it and crippled to increase earnings.

So letting this generation of them starve and suffer may stop children today from becoming the beggars of tomorrow... Empathy is sometimes weird. So you will see people refuse to give beggars money... but have no qualms about feeding them because the money they give beggars goes into the pockets of (for want of a better word) their pimps while food cannot really be sold on. They may suffer for it but atleast the suffering stops with them. Without profits there is no need to injure some kid to make another beggar.

 


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Avicenna wrote:

I don't think we can call it evolution but we can certainly call it darwinist (I do understand evolutionary theory. I used to study Human Genetics for my pre-med). I just wanted to see if other people think it is an appropriate argument rather than something a bit out there.

I get the genetics of it, although I don't think that we are hardwired for the whole love, empathy and generosity dealie. I think that those are more acquired as concepts from where we live and our parents and friends. I do however think that since society doesn't really ever stop we have all been brought up to have roughly universal (atleast in the west) ideas of love, empathy and generosity.

I do see some subversions of it such as in India it is considered bad to give money to beggars because it encourages another generation of beggars. Many beggars are forced into it and crippled to increase earnings.

So letting this generation of them starve and suffer may stop children today from becoming the beggars of tomorrow... Empathy is sometimes weird. So you will see people refuse to give beggars money... but have no qualms about feeding them because the money they give beggars goes into the pockets of (for want of a better word) their pimps while food cannot really be sold on. They may suffer for it but atleast the suffering stops with them. Without profits there is no need to injure some kid to make another beggar.

 

We're wired to care more for people we see as being in our tribe, they're extensions of ourselves.  This helps to explain why we don't help certain people. 

So you don't like biological explanations of moral emotion?  Consider this take: we are hardwired for the emotions of love, empathy, generosity, hate, selfishness, greed, etc., and our culture molds how we express them.  You might have said this much in your post, I don't want to misinterpret you. 

The good and the evil emotions both served their purposes for our ancestors, allowing them to survive and reproduce, passing along the genes that contributed to the adaptive emotions.

Our experiences with people and their moral and political philosophies, combined with our thoughts, shape how our evolved emotions of good and evil are expressed.  If there was too much evil among our ancestors they would have devoured each other and wouldn't be able to pass on any good or evil genes!

 

 

 


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Not don't like, just don't

Not don't like, just don't see that it's genetics. I have been a bit out of the genetics scene so I am unaware of any literature that has the "genes for empathy". It's more of a science point than a personal point. Smiling

I am working up the wherewithal to take on his second post but Moshe is quite mental. He is close to Godwinning his own thread.


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I agree with your original post though.  It's not out there at all.  But I'm going to have to check out this "Moshe" character...

 


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Hello! I'm back after almost

Hello! I'm back after almost one year! I see some of this forum's core posters are still around! How are you all? 

I can see we are still discussing WHY people behave as they do and not addressing the question if this is in fact the correct way to act.

Regarding the subject of morality (one of my favorites) I'm still, and more so, against the majority of people here. I'm not for subjective morals (a matter of taste). I believe (foregoing my empathy) on rational grounds that there is a fundamental difference in my dislike of tomatoes and asserting that killing people is wrong. Because if there is no difference then we must call Nietzsche Superman!

If you ask someone why they don't like tomatoes you are going to have a completely different answer from the question why don't you kill people.

In fact I agree! On face value I agree that most people behave as if morality is just a matter of preference. We behave most often as merely biological machines following instincts, emotions and "Gods" because we are too coward, too lazy to think or our truth is based on physicalism. But is this correct?

 On rational moral grounds I cannot judge Hitler if physicalism is my truth... but alas! it is not! I can only arrest him because he is a danger to social order and goes against my preferences, but he has done nothing wrong.

 Nietzsche Superman, freed from all restrains by absolute power over others, can be seen in countless and almost without exception on all dictators throughout history. The concept of empathy is funny. It seems to come forward when a human lacks a certain amount of power and starts to vanish as soon as one starts rising in the lather of power. Humans are a strange mix of animal instinctive beings with a brain capable of rational thought attached. At the end of the day we all seek happiness and pleasure and sometimes this takes priority over the so called empathy that force us to behave in "good" moral conduct.

there are countless examples in history that seem to prove that a man's moral actions depend on their power status; Luis XIV of France with his famous quotes "I am the state." "It is legal because I wish it." Hitler; Stalin, Mao Zedong, etc.

Whenever absolute power knocks on a man's door moral seems to change and becomes self centered rather than pluralistic.

We all embrace pluralist morality as the best one when we speak of it to others on a social context, like this forum. We use terms like justice, fairness, empathy, kindness, etc. Because they help a society to function. And thus us to function better and be more happy... it is only when you become God that society's purpose is to serve you, your morality, your super ego. Society can still function by pleasing you.

In physicalism I don't see nothing wrong with this  (actually there is no wrong or right) and it seems perfectly logical given our human, ignorant, condition. In fact even on pluralistic morality we seem sometimes to really stretch it and become almost hipocritical... Arguably it is wrong for a person with AIDS to have a baby that will have AIDS as well but it OK for a person with a genetic disorder to pass them on their descendancy. That is why we generally condemn eugenics.

As I believe that human conscience is a continuous entity in a dualistic world view, I also believe that this fact changes the moral issue.

I'm a consequencialist, there is no judge but you. There is no God to judge you. You can jump into the well, it is your decision, but you have to take the consequences of your decision. The problem arises when people like Luis XIV jump into the well of self ego satisfaction thinking that physical death is the absolute ending thus everything goes to ego pleasing. Only to discover that on the other side of the well things are very different and he falls in the crunching sadness of his own ignorance. Thus being judges of themselves.

The problem with Nietzsche Superman is that he believes that whatever he does there is no judge, moral is his own preference, he is alone with his own timely finite crave for happiness and pleasure, and that's all that matters...

Without a holistic and fundamental understanding of the eternal bond between all humans (we are essentially the same), we as a whole and as individuals can never hope to say what Aristotles said: "I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law."

 We need more rationality in ethics or we'll never solve the world's injustices.

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"I once prayed to god for a bike, but quickly found out he didnt work that way...so I stole a bike and prayed for his forgiveness"

"All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter." (Max Planck)

"the existence of mind in some organism on some planet in the universe is surely a fact of fundamental significance. Through conscious beings the universe has generated self-awareness. This can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here." Paul Davies


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Avicenna wrote:So what do

Avicenna wrote:

So what do people think? Would this be an evolutionary bonus to moral behaviour? That the rules of law that we have exist because it is advantageous to live by a unifying set of rules and that it would give you a benefit?

I think you are making the mistake of attributing a goal to evolution, one of gradual improvement, as in one evolutionary step is superior to the preceding step.  Morality is a complicated algorithm to judge actions and decisions, fundamentally unique to each and every individual.  If by moral behavior you mean, good moral behavior, then no.  There is no evolutionary "bonus" to good moral behavior.  It is simply our environment that has forced us to define empathetic behavior as good.  If the environment changes, whatever we define as "good" or advantageous would also change.  I think you are begging the question. 

Morality is purely subjective, it will change just as it has through the ages.  To think that we have somehow reached an apogee moral comprehension would be ignorant.  Think of the ancient Greeks that thought the same and found women inferior, barbarians as non humans, and slavery as perfectly acceptable.

That being said, your argument goes a long way to explain why morality is the way it is today, but it doesn't follow that it will continue in an acceding ideal of moral perfection in the future, and evolution will dictate that as well. 

"Don't seek these laws to understand. Only the mad can comprehend..." -- George Cosbuc


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Teralek wrote:At the end of

Teralek wrote:

At the end of the day we all seek happiness and pleasure and sometimes this takes priority over the so called empathy that force us to behave in "good" moral conduct.

 

I think what science has revealed is that empathy is also the pursuit of happiness and pleasure. We have a 'love' hormones(oxytocin)  that causes us to act in socially empathetic way. We are social animals so we crave the approval of others, empathy and kindness are great way to get our fix. We have no free will to choose otherwise.

Teralek wrote:

We need more rationality in ethics or we'll never solve the world's injustices.

How do you define an injustice?

The approach to take is just accept that we don't have free will. We are bundles of nerves seeking some pleasurable sensations while avoiding painful ones. In some cases cooperation is useful in other cases no.

So we need more real science like neuroscience and less pseudoscience like ethics and philosophy.

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Teralek wrote:Regarding the

Teralek wrote:

Regarding the subject of morality (one of my favorites) I'm still, and more so, against the majority of people here. I'm not for subjective morals (a matter of taste). I believe (foregoing my empathy) on rational grounds that there is a fundamental difference in my dislike of tomatoes and asserting that killing people is wrong. Because if there is no difference then we must call Nietzsche Superman!

So what is this objective moral frame of reference?  What limitations does it have?  Why does it have such a fundamental "moral" stand on murder relative to humans, "murdering" tomatoes, however, is left to subjectivity.  Is this frame of reference unable to care about tomatoes? 

"Don't seek these laws to understand. Only the mad can comprehend..." -- George Cosbuc


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EXC wrote:I think what

EXC wrote:

I think what science has revealed is that empathy is also the pursuit of happiness and pleasure. We have a 'love' hormones(oxytocin)  that causes us to act in socially empathetic way. We are social animals so we crave the approval of others, empathy and kindness are great way to get our fix. We have no free will to choose otherwise.
 

I never said this wasn't the case. I believe I already adressed many of the questions you guys pose. You keep focusing on explaining why people behave as they do by talking of neuroscience and things like that. You speak of the cause but make no attempt to verify the value of the actions, weather they are good or bad. Science just explains things, the value of things which are real, is something that often escapes seemingly educated heads of hard headed science worshipers.

Explaining why is just the beggining. We have to go further than that if we want to have some sort of rational authority to judge dictators.

EXC wrote:
How do you define an injustice?

The approach to take is just accept that we don't have free will. We are bundles of nerves seeking some pleasurable sensations while avoiding painful ones. In some cases cooperation is useful in other cases no.

So we need more real science like neuroscience and less pseudoscience like ethics and philosophy.
 

Like many definitions justice is not easy to define and whatever definition I come up with it will stir up controversy. This is because language is limited and our knowledge of reality is even more so.

I say again, I am a consequentialist in moral issues. There is no judge but you. The problem with physicalism is that it can bring out the worst in us. Our selfishness and self centered ego in search for pleasure at all costs... anything goes. Because we don't see the big picture, we are doomed to go blindly to this well unaware of the consequences of the wrongness and irrationality of our actions. 

As I point out humans are mostly flawed and hypocrits. empathy only extends so much depending on each circumstances... hypocrisy is another word for irrationality, and most of us are being irrational. If we weren't irrational we didn't need any police.

Yes I believe most ruthless people in the world are physicalists or have distorted religious view of reality. They don't actually believe what I've just said previously about the bond of love between all humans.

Yes we need more science to understand why we behave the way we do and we also need philosophy and ethics to give a direction and order in a caos and non responsive science regarding the quality of the actions.

Also I don't think we have no freedom at all, no choice at all... that is just a naive thought. Thought itself is the freest thing in the world! Actually I'm beggining to think that defenders of determinism are setting a trap to themselves! The way they defend determinism is not falsifiable!

______________________________________________________________
"I once prayed to god for a bike, but quickly found out he didnt work that way...so I stole a bike and prayed for his forgiveness"

"All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter." (Max Planck)

"the existence of mind in some organism on some planet in the universe is surely a fact of fundamental significance. Through conscious beings the universe has generated self-awareness. This can be no trivial detail, no minor byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces. We are truly meant to be here." Paul Davies


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Teralek wrote:I never said

Teralek wrote:

I never said this wasn't the case. I believe I already adressed many of the questions you guys pose. You keep focusing on explaining why people behave as they do by talking of neuroscience and things like that.

You seemed to suggest that empathy is not consistent with ego-centric pusuit of happiness and pleasure. So we agree that so-called unselfish and empathic behaviors are at their core ego-centric hedonistic pursuits?

Teralek wrote:

You speak of the cause but make no attempt to verify the value of the actions, weather they are good or bad. Science just explains things, the value of things which are real, is something that often escapes seemingly educated heads of hard headed science worshipers.

The problem is only you can experience your own pleasure and pain. So therefore you have to be the judge of your own good and bad because others can not experience it to be able to judge.

Science can now measure the levels of pain and pleasure in the brain, by analyzing brain waves, MRI, etc... So this can be the only measure of value. Unfortunately it's not yet practical to wear this equipment outside the laboratory.

Teralek wrote:

Explaining why is just the beggining. We have to go further than that if we want to have some sort of rational authority to judge dictators.

Cruel dictators are a threat to survival and the pursuit of hapiness. Therefore they are judged negatively. The Nazis view Jews this way, therefore they judged Jews worthy of extermination, they were acting in self-defence. So the problem is not one of ethics and morality, it's a problem of delusion and understanding. The only means we have of reducing delusion and increasing understanding is through rationality/science.

Teralek wrote:

Like many definitions justice is not easy to define and whatever definition I come up with it will stir up controversy. This is because language is limited and our knowledge of reality is even more so.

And science is the only means of increasing our knowleged of reality. So why would you go with anything else?

Teralek wrote:

I say again, I am a consequentialist in moral issues. There is no judge but you. The problem with physicalism is that it can bring out the worst in us. Our selfishness and self centered ego in search for pleasure at all costs... anything goes. Because we don't see the big picture, we are doomed to go blindly to this well unaware of the consequences of the wrongness and irrationality of our actions. 

I think you are confusing self-centeredness with immediate gratification. I'm an unabashed hedonist, but I still have to do long term planning to maximize pleaseure/minimize pain. What you're really encouraging is delayed gratification because the net benefits are greater.

Teralek wrote:

As I point out humans are mostly flawed and hypocrites. empathy only extends so much depending on each circumstances... hypocrisy is another word for irrationality, and most of us are being irrational.

Because we have to play the game of at least appearing to be unselfish to get along with people and get what we want. All the world is a stage, that is why there are so may hypocrites. The way to avoid this is for everyone to just accept with are all ego-centric hedonists and then try to cooperate to maximize our common pursuit of pleasure.

Teralek wrote:

Also I don't think we have no freedom at all, no choice at all... that is just a naive thought. Thought itself is the freest thing in the world! Actually I'm beginning to think that defenders of determinism are setting a trap to themselves! The way they defend determinism is not falsifiable!

How do you freely decide what to think about? If I tell you to not think about aliens on Mars. You think about aliens on Mars because you just respond to stimuli.

I think there is a lot of determinism in how humans behave. But there also completely random variations as the quantum level that often make outcomes unpredictable. But there is no free will, it makes no sense at all. If you were given a 'free will' by God or nature, then God or nature would have determined how your so-called free-will works. So you always go back to determinism.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Teralek wrote:I never said

Double Post. Perdon.