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GDR
Member
Posts: 3704
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 61 of 140 (637356)
10-15-2011 2:44 AM
Reply to: Message 60 by Omnivorous
10-14-2011 10:03 PM


Re: Altruism
Omnivorous writes:

You have repeatedly rejected reciprocal altruism as being genuine altruism because the benefactor "thinks" he may benefit later or "hopes" for an eventual return.

In fact, that is not an evolutionary perspective on reciprocal altruism. The benefactor does not calculate future reciprocity but rather has evolved to act in a manner you would consider genuinely altruistic--spontaneously engaging in actions that entail risk or cost without any thought of future return. We often speak of strategies or pay-offs in an evolutionary context, but by that we don't actually mean the individual is employing a strategy or weighing a pay-off; rather, we use that as shorthand to describe how an inherited trait could succeed at increasing reproductive fitness.

Frankly this is a new term to me so I am not trying to suggest I’m knowledgeable in this field at all. When Straggler used it I looked it up on wiki and so I’ll quote it.

quote:
In evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism's fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time. The concept was initially developed by Robert Trivers to explain the evolution of cooperation as instances of mutually altruistic acts. The concept is close to the strategy of "tit for tat" used in game theory.

It then goes under the “Theory” of Reciprocal Altruism to say this:

quote:
The concept of “reciprocal altruism”, as introduced by Trivers, suggests that altruism, defined as an act of helping someone else although incurring some cost for this act, could have evolved since it might be beneficial to incur this cost if there is a chance of being in a reverse situation where the person whom I helped before may perform an altruistic act towards me.[1] Putting this into the form of a strategy in a repeated prisoner’s dilemma would mean to cooperate unconditionally in the first period and behave cooperatively (altruistically) as long as the other agent does as well.[1] If chances of meeting another reciprocal altruist are high enough or the game is repeated for a long enough amount of time, this form of altruism can evolve within a population. This is very close to the notion of "tit for tat" introduced by Anatol Rapoport, although there still seems a slight distinction in that "tit for tat" cooperates in the first period and from thereon always replicates an opponent’s previous action, whereas “reciprocal altruists” stop cooperation in the first instance of non-cooperation by an opponent and stay non-cooperative from thereon. This distinction leads to the fact that in contrast to reciprocal altruism, tit for tat may be able to restore cooperation under certain conditions despite cooperation having broken down.
Stephens shows a set of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions “… for an instance of reciprocal altruism:[2]
1. the behaviour must reduce a donor's fitness relative to a selfish alternative;
2. the fitness of the recipient must be elevated relative to non-recipients;
3. the performance of the behaviour must not depend on the receipt of an immediate benefit;
4. conditions 1, 2, and 3 must apply to both individuals engaging in reciprocal helping.”
There are two additional conditions necessary “…for reciprocal altruism to evolve:
5. A mechanism for detecting 'cheaters' must exist.
6. A large (indefinite) number of opportunities to exchange aid must exist.”
The first two conditions are necessary for altruism as such, while the third is distinguishing reciprocal altruism from simple mutualism and the fourth makes the interaction reciprocal. Condition number five is required as otherwise non-altruists may always exploit altruistic behaviour without any consequences and therefore evolution of reciprocal altruism would not be possible. However, it is pointed out that this “conditioning device” does not need to be conscious. Condition number six is required to avoid cooperation breakdown through backwards induction—a possibility suggested by game theoretical models.

It seems to me that I was correct as far as this wiki article is concerned. It appears to me that the benefactor does expect possible “future reciprocity” and there doesn’t seem to be any suggestion of this evolving into any form of pure altruism.

Omnivorous writes:

The evolutionary perspective on altruism is not one of conscious calculation but rather one that posits that altruistic acts improve the reproductive fitness of the benefactor in one or both of two ways. One is the kin altruism notion, where the genes you share with those in your small hunter-gatherer group benefit from your altruism, albeit in another carrier; the other is reciprocity, where the individual benefactor benefits from the group dynamic of reciprocity. Obviously these are not exclusive, and the plethora of theories is much more complex than I've suggested here.

I’ve mentioned before that I have no problem from a theistic standpoint to there being a genetic component in altruistic behaviour. I’m inclined to believe that there isn’t but I but that stems more from my views on consciousness. Regardless of how much of our altruism is genetic, cultural, social or spiritual we always are able to choose between selfishness and unselfishness.

Omnivorous writes:

But, in any event, we are discussing a spontaneous behavior, not a reasoned one. I have engaged in and benefited from apparently altruistic actions, and I can assure you there is no calculation involved, especially in the more dramatic examples.

Absolutely

Omnivorous writes:

The definition you seem to desire is one which requires a conscious decision to benefit another at expense to one's self without any expectation of reciprocity or gain. You are describing a theological or ideological altruism, which I see as a cultural appendage of our evolved altruism.

OK

Omnivorous writes:

As Straggler suggested, we have an evolved tendency to consume high calorie, high fat meals. This made sense when food was scarce or calorically expensive to obtain. We don't consciously decide to do that--to the contrary, our scientific culture increasingly urges us to act consciously against our instincts for own coronary good. Similarly, I don't slug people who disagree with me--but the fight-or-flight adrenaline makes me type faster.

Personally, I find the kin explanation of altruism most persuasive. In our ancestral social/breeding groups, the genes you saved really were your own, and the mirror neuron system we share as social animals reinforces the tendency to act because we really can feel each other's pain. As our numbers swell and the globe shrinks, the ranks of those we recognize as "kin" increases from hunter-gatherer band, to tribe, eventually to nation, and, hopefully, to species.

I find my moral order in the good of my kind.

Well our views are speculative. I’m inclined more to the still small voice that speaks to our consciousness but as I said earlier it appears that we have developed physically through an evolutionary process so there is some logic that we might evolve spiritually through an evolutionary process as well. I guess the question we are asking here is whether or not God is responsible for these processes, regardless of what the actual process is.

Omnivorous writes:

BTW, your notion that the absence of a higher or absolute moral order should have led to the evolution of selfishness instead of altruism doesn't hold up, partly because social creatures punish cheaters and partly because it's bad game theory.

I won’t be punished if I don’t participate in supporting third world countries and I can’t see where not doing it is bad game theory.

Omnivorous writes:

In any event, my main point is that your focus on a conscious calculation is leading you astray. That may well apply to a Christian determined to live out the maxims or ways of Christ, but that's not why people run into burning buildings to save strangers.

I didn’t mean to that altruism is a result of conscious calculation. I suppose that there are Christians who are determined to live the ways of Christ but that isn’t my understanding of the Christian message. I think you would agree with me when I say it is in many ways a learned behaviour. It’s a bit like learning music. The first few times when you see a “C” note you have to think about it prior to playing it. Eventually you see a “C” note and are able to play instinctively. I think altruism is something like that. At first we have to think about it but eventually unselfish love becomes the norm after a while if we practice it consistently. My understanding of the Christian message is that we are to have humble hearts that instinctively love kindness/mercy and act justly.

Cheers


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 60 by Omnivorous, posted 10-14-2011 10:03 PM Omnivorous has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 63 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 11:05 AM GDR has responded
 Message 66 by Omnivorous, posted 10-15-2011 12:59 PM GDR has responded

    
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9818
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 62 of 140 (637402)
10-15-2011 10:32 AM
Reply to: Message 59 by GDR
10-14-2011 2:46 PM


Re: Altruism
If you don't accept altruism as an evolved trait then I don't see how you can accept any of Robert Wright's argument that there is an objective morality or definite direction to moral progress. Reciprocal altruism forms the entire basis of his arguments on this.

If you do agree that altruism is an evolved trait then I am not sure what the disagreement is here.

Robert Wright writes:

Thanks to reciprocal altruism, people are “designed” to settle into mutually beneficial relationships with other people, people whom they can count on for things ranging from food to valuable gossip to social support, and who in turn can count on them. We enter these alliances almost without thinking about it, because our genetically based emotions draw us in. We feel gratitude for a favor received, along with a sense of obligation, which may lead us to return the favor. We feel growing trust of and affection for people who prove reliable reciprocators (aka “friends”), which keeps us entwined in beneficial relationships. This is what feelings like gratitude and trust are for—the reason they’re part of human nature.

GDR writes:

Straggler writes:

Take away evolved altruism and any mathematical notion of morality of the sort you have championed previously goes out the window too.

I’m afraid this time you’ve gone well over my head which isn’t really much of a challenge.

Have a look at this vid.

Robert Wright on Non-zero-sum game theory and compassion


This message is a reply to:
 Message 59 by GDR, posted 10-14-2011 2:46 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 64 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 11:52 AM Straggler has responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9818
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


(1)
Message 63 of 140 (637407)
10-15-2011 11:05 AM
Reply to: Message 61 by GDR
10-15-2011 2:44 AM


Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
GDR writes:

I won’t be punished if I don’t participate in supporting third world countries and I can’t see where not doing it is bad game theory.

We are evolved to seek out attractive mates, high calorie food and adrenaline inducing pursuits. The modern day result of these tendencies is pornography, Big Macs and the XBox. Not quite what nature intended.

Likewise our evolutionary past results in altruistic behaviour. Which means that when images of people starving on the other side of the world are beamed into our sitting rooms in many cases we feel compelled to do something about it.

If you are going to give God credit for making us altruistic to strangers in faraway lands you should also blame him for making us want to stuff our faces with burgers and cheesecake. Because it is all part of the same misplaced evolved natural tendencies at work.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 61 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 2:44 AM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 65 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 12:00 PM Straggler has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 3704
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 64 of 140 (637414)
10-15-2011 11:52 AM
Reply to: Message 62 by Straggler
10-15-2011 10:32 AM


Re: Altruism
Straggler writes:

Have a look at this vid.

Great video. He is such a clear logical thinker. By the way, did you notice his closing remark.

quote:
Nobody said that doing God’s work was going to be easy

Straggler writes:

If you don't accept altruism as an evolved trait then I don't see how you can accept any of Robert Wright's argument that there is an objective morality or definite direction to moral progress. Reciprocal altruism forms the entire basis of his arguments on this.
If you do agree that altruism is an evolved trait then I am not sure what the disagreement is here.

I do agree that altruism is an evolved trait. I am in agreement with Wright’s hypothesis completely. In fact, I find his polemic completely compatible with my Christian beliefs and actually supportive of them. Again I’ll point out that in one way or another we have evolved physically and from Wright’s point of view we have at the same time been evolving spiritually along the lines of the golden rule. IMHO it has the appearance of intelligent moral design .

At the same time this doesn’t preclude the idea that there is more going on as well. As has been pointed out, even though there might be a reciprocal aspect to a particular act of altruism it isn’t necessarily conscious. For example a soldier might throw himself on a grenade to save the life of an Afghani child. On the surface he loses, his kin loses, and his comrades in arms lose him as friend and as a soldier. However, there is the possibility that this Afghani child will grow up always remembering the soldier’s sacrifice and become a leader of his nation reaching out in peace to the western world. At the time though, from the soldier’s POV it appeared as a zero sum game in that he lost his life so that the other life could be saved.

The question is why did the soldier throw himself on the grenade. I think it is entirely consistent with the idea that we are more than just our genes. The soldier couldn’t know the huge positive outcome of his selfless act. He went to certain death as an act of pure altruism but at the same time it played out in a reciprocal way in the long term. I believe that it would take more than just a genetic trait to bring him to commit this selfless act. I believe that we have a spiritual side that develops in our lives and is formed by our social environment, but in addition I believe that it may be formed by the divine. As a Christian I believe that is the Holy Spirit of God in our lives.

As a Christian it is my belief that our job is to spread by infection, for lack of a better term, pure altruistic behaviour as part of God’s plan. So I agree that the process of reciprocal altruism is built into our nature, whether it be spiritual or genetic, but it requires pure altruism to make it work. Again, it certainly has the appearance of intelligent moral design.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 62 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 10:32 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 67 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 2:23 PM GDR has not yet responded

    
GDR
Member
Posts: 3704
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 65 of 140 (637415)
10-15-2011 12:00 PM
Reply to: Message 63 by Straggler
10-15-2011 11:05 AM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
Straggler writes:

We are evolved to seek out attractive mates, high calorie food and adrenaline inducing pursuits. The modern day result of these tendencies is pornography, Big Macs and the XBox. Not quite what nature intended.

Or God either.

Straggler writes:

Likewise our evolutionary past results in altruistic behaviour. Which means that when images of people starving on the other side of the world are beamed into our sitting rooms in many cases we feel compelled to do something about it.

If you are going to give God credit for making us altruistic to strangers in faraway lands you should also blame him for making us want to stuff our faces with burgers and cheesecake. Because it is all part of the same misplaced evolved natural tendencies at work.

Absolutely. That's the whole thing isn't it. We make choices. We have free will. We can choose mercy or we can choose to ignore it. It is all about selfish love or unselfish love. How much is genetic and how much is spiritual is of interest but that is the academic side, but IMHO it is all from the heart and mind of God. (I know I'm stuck with anthropomorphic terms but being human that's all I've got. )


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 63 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 11:05 AM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 68 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 2:30 PM GDR has responded

    
Omnivorous
Member
Posts: 3216
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005
Member Rating: 8.9


Message 66 of 140 (637420)
10-15-2011 12:59 PM
Reply to: Message 61 by GDR
10-15-2011 2:44 AM


Re: Altruism
GDR writes:

I didn’t mean to that altruism is a result of conscious calculation.

Yet you have repeatedly rejected reciprocal altruism as "true" altruism because the benefactor "thinks" or "hopes" for reciprocity.

I think you would agree with me when I say it is in many ways a learned behaviour. It’s a bit like learning music. The first few times when you see a “C” note you have to think about it prior to playing it. Eventually you see a “C” note and are able to play instinctively. I think altruism is something like that. At first we have to think about it but eventually unselfish love becomes the norm after a while if we practice it consistently.

Nope, I don't agree. I think that altruism is essentially hard-wired in our socially evolved nature and that the culturally learned component determines who we consider eligible.

Altruistic behavior is displayed by other creatures. Music never becomes instinctive, but is rather a highly complex motor and sensory skill. Our response to music, like language, is probably instinctive, i.e., hard-wired in some way--in that sense I can see a parallel to altruism.

Unselfish love may become the norm for a person who practices it, but that is an individual discipline rooted in intellectual or theological choice.

And we are definitely not limited to speculation--or at least I'm not. I can apprehend and cite evidence to support my view. You cannot.

I'd still pull you out of a burning building, though.


"If you can keep your head while those around you are losing theirs, you can collect a lot of heads."

This message is a reply to:
 Message 61 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 2:44 AM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 69 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 4:41 PM Omnivorous has acknowledged this reply

    
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9818
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 67 of 140 (637427)
10-15-2011 2:23 PM
Reply to: Message 64 by GDR
10-15-2011 11:52 AM


Re: Altruism
So you agree that altruism is a trait that is a product of biological evolution but you can't believe that certain acts of altruism are the result of purely physical biology at work.

You seem to be having your (high calorie) cake whilst scoffing it.

GDR writes:

As has been pointed out, even though there might be a reciprocal aspect to a particular act of altruism it isn’t necessarily conscious.

I thought that was my entire point regarding the evolved nature of altruism. Most of it is instinctive. Evolved from an evolutionary past when we were in closely related hunter gatherer communities. Thus making altruism, reciprocal or otherwise, very far from a conscious calculation of anything at all.

GDR writes:

So I agree that the process of reciprocal altruism is built into our nature, whether it be spiritual or genetic, but it requires pure altruism to make it work. Again, it certainly has the appearance of intelligent moral design.

You keep making this distinction between "reciprocal altruism" and "pure altruism". This kinda indicate that you are missing the entire point of how altruism has evolved.

GDR writes:

I am in agreement with Wright’s hypothesis completely.

But Wright's entire materialist hypothesis is based on altruism having evolved. There is no non-evolved divine "pure altruism" innate in humans because if there were the entire non-zero-sum game theory aspect would be utterly redundant. Wright's talk of a moral direction and objective morality is based on the maths of non-zero sum game theory. Not on inner "pure altruism" shaping things somehow separately.

GDR writes:

By the way, did you notice his closing remark.

Yes - But what exactly does Wright mean by "god"......?

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 64 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 11:52 AM GDR has not yet responded

  
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9818
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 68 of 140 (637429)
10-15-2011 2:30 PM
Reply to: Message 65 by GDR
10-15-2011 12:00 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
How on Earth are you deciding which human natural tendencies to credit God with and which not to?

Is he responsible for all such proclivities or only the ones you happen to consider godly and positive about?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 65 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 12:00 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 70 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 5:21 PM Straggler has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 3704
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 69 of 140 (637434)
10-15-2011 4:41 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by Omnivorous
10-15-2011 12:59 PM


Re: Altruism
GDR writes:

I didn’t mean to that altruism is a result of conscious calculation.

Omnivorous writes:

Yet you have repeatedly rejected reciprocal altruism as "true" altruism because the benefactor "thinks" or "hopes" for reciprocity.

I think I covered that in my example to Straggler. The hypothetical soldier was purely altruistic but in the end it turned out to be reciprocal. He didn’t consciously think that there might be a long term benefit in the end. He just believed it was what he should do and it was a truly selfish act. It seems to me that reciprocal altruism could possibly involve hoped for reciprocity or it may not.

Omniovorous writes:

Altruistic behavior is displayed by other creatures. Music never becomes instinctive, but is rather a highly complex motor and sensory skill. Our response to music, like language, is probably instinctive, i.e., hard-wired in some way--in that sense I can see a parallel to altruism.
Unselfish love may become the norm for a person who practices it, but that is an individual discipline rooted in intellectual or theological choice.

I would think that it becomes hard wired by practice. I think we agree.

Omnivorous writes:

And we are definitely not limited to speculation--or at least I'm not. I can apprehend and cite evidence to support my view. You cannot.

To be honest I might contest that if I understood what your view was. Essentially my view is that in some form or another, altruism is spread by many means of which one may well be genetic. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable in any of the pertinent fields so you’re right I can’t cite evidence to support my view. However altruistic centeredness is spread, I believe that it is a part of the divine plan and that is belief as the result of a subjective conclusion and isn’t objectively evidenced.

Omnivorous writes:

I'd still pull you out of a burning building, though.

I believe you and Straggler would work in tandem to do just that. It’s wonderful what God can do in the hearts of you atheists.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 66 by Omnivorous, posted 10-15-2011 12:59 PM Omnivorous has acknowledged this reply

    
GDR
Member
Posts: 3704
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 70 of 140 (637438)
10-15-2011 5:21 PM
Reply to: Message 68 by Straggler
10-15-2011 2:30 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
Straggler writes:

So you agree that altruism is a trait that is a product of biological evolution but you can't believe that certain acts of altruism are the result of purely physical biology at work.
You seem to be having your (high calorie) cake whilst scoffing it.

I agree that altruism may have a genetic component to it. Frankly I don’t know and to the best of my knowledge nobody does. I think you would agree that a someone with parents that have a strong altruistic streak are more likely to raise a child with similar tendencies than parents without that characteristic. The same thing could be said for someone growing up in a community or even a nation in which altruism was practiced and encouraged.

I don’t think that our kin or culture causes biological change so I have to assume that these influences impact us in a non-physical way. I’m only saying that there is more than the physical that influences our inclination to be altruistic or not.

Straggler writes:

But Wright's entire materialist hypothesis is based on altruism having evolved. There is no divine "pure altruism" because if there were the entire non-zero-sum game theory aspect would be utterly redundant. Wright's talk of a moral direction and objective morality is based on the maths of non-zero sum game theory. Not on divine inner altruism shaping things somehow separately.

The idea of a zero sum game is that if what is a benefit to me is equally detrimental to you. Like a game of tennis. I win you lose. If God influences me to act altruistically I can accept or reject the influence just as I can parental influence or any other influence. Yes Wright argues that evolution has involved but accepts that there may be a divine hand in that or there may not.

This is from the book cover of “The Evolution of God”.

quote:
Wright shows that, however mistaken our traditional ideas about God or gods, their evolution points to a transcendent prospect: that the religious quest is valid, and that a modern, scientific worldview leaves room for something that can meaningly be called divine.”

Straggler writes:

Yes - But what exactly does Wright mean by "god"......?

You’d have to ask him but after reading his book it seems to me that he is more of a deist than anything else.

Straggler writes:

How on Earth are you deciding which human natural tendencies to credit God with and which not to?
Is he responsible for all such proclivities or only the ones you happen to consider godly and positive about?

IMHO God gave us choices. He has given us freedom to choose selfishness or unselfishness. In that sense he is responsible for it all; the good, the bad and the ugly He encourages to choose the good.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 68 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 2:30 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 71 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 6:21 PM GDR has responded

    
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9818
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 71 of 140 (637441)
10-15-2011 6:21 PM
Reply to: Message 70 by GDR
10-15-2011 5:21 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
I am not convinced you understand the role of non-zero-sum game theory in Wright's analysis. It forms the entire basis of his objective morality and moral compass analysis. What he calls "divine" is essentially a form of mathematical truth. It shares more in common with the Platonic notion of a perfect circle than it does the Christian (or indeed any religious) notion of God when you really look at it. It isn't even really deistic in any sense that I understand deism as realting to some sort of supernatural being of some sort.

Robert Wright writes:

All these elements of human nature—all these ingredients of the sense of contact with a personal and sometimes judgmental God—are the product of non-zero-sum logic as realized via evolution; they are natural selection’s way of steering us toward fruitful relationships; they embody natural selection’s “recognition” that by cooperating with people (some people, at least) we can serve our own interests. And this non-zero-sum dynamic, remember, is central to the “Logos,” the underlying logic of life that Philo of Alexandria, for one, considered a direct extension of God. So you might say that the evolution of the human moral equipment by natural selection was the Logos at work during a particular phase of organic aggregation; it was what allowed our distant ancestors to work together in small groups, and it set the stage for them to work together in much larger groups, including, eventually, transcontinental ones.

If you accept this argument—if you buy into this particular theology of the Logos—then feeling the presence of a personal god has a kind of ironic validity. On the one hand, you’re imagining things; the divine being you sense “out there” is actually something inside you. On the other hand, this something inside you is an expression of forces “out there”; it’s an incarnation of a non-zero-sum logic that predates and transcends individual people, a kind of logic that—in this theology of the Logos, at least—can be called divine. The feeling of contact with a transcendent divinity is in that sense solid.

Wright writes:

There’s an even deeper association between love and the moral order. The expanding moral compass sponsored by the moral order, as we’ve seen, is a manifestation of non-zero-sumness, of the fact that cultural (and in particular technological) evolution leads more and more people to play non-zero-sum games at greater and greater distances. And natural selection’s invention of love, it turns out, was itself a manifestation of non-zero-sumness. Love was invented because, from the point of view of genetic proliferation—the point of view from which natural selection works—close kin are playing a non-zero-sum game; they share so many genes that they have a common Darwinian “interest” in getting each other’s genes into subsequent generations.

Of course, the organisms aren’t aware of this “interest.” Even in our species—smart, as species go—the Darwinian logic isn’t conscious logic; we don’t go around thinking, “By loving my daugher I’ll be more inclined to keep her alive and healthy until reproductive age, so through my love my genes will be playing a non-zero-sum game with the copies of them that reside in her.” Indeed, the whole Darwinian point of love is to be a proxy for this logic; love gets us to behave as if we understood the logic; the invention of love, in some animal many millions of years ago, was nature’s way of getting dim-witted organisms to seek a win-win outcome (win-win from a gene’s-eye view), notwithstanding their inability to do so out of conscious strategy.

Wright writes:

Then, having been spawned by this biological non-zero-sumness, sympathy could be harnessed by a later wave of non-zero-sumness, a wave driven by cultural, and specifically technological, evolution. As interdependence, and hence social structure, grew beyond the bounds of family—and then beyond the bounds of hunter-gatherer band, of chiefdom, of state—the way was paved by extensions of sympathy. This sympathy didn’t have to involve its initial sponsor, love; you don’t have to love someone to trade with them or even to consider them compatriots. But there has to be enough moral imagination, enough sympathetic consideration, to keep them out of the cognitive category of enemy; you have to consider them, in some sense, one of you.

Now I don't completely buy into this whole analysis - It seems to be very subjectively picking and choosing which human evolved traits to consider special in some sense - And I certainly wouldn't use the words "god" or "divine" to describe any non-zero-sum game theory abstractions. No matter how mathematically "true" they may arguably be. But I think I understand what he is saying.

Frankly I think his terminology is a bit of an act of appeasement.

GDR writes:

Straggler writes:

How on Earth are you deciding which human natural tendencies to credit God with and which not to?
Is he responsible for all such proclivities or only the ones you happen to consider godly and positive about?

IMHO God gave us choices.

Let's for the sake of argument accept this as true. Do you then accept that God has also given us psychological proclivities? Is he responsible for ALL human psychological tendencies? Or just the ones you think are positive?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 70 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 5:21 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 72 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 8:29 PM Straggler has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 3704
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 72 of 140 (637451)
10-15-2011 8:29 PM
Reply to: Message 71 by Straggler
10-15-2011 6:21 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
Straggler writes:

I am not convinced you understand the role of non-zero-sum game theory in Wright's analysis. It forms the entire basis of his objective morality and moral compass analysis. What he calls "divine" is essentially a form of mathematical truth. It shares more in common with the Platonic notion of a perfect circle than it does the Christian (or indeed any religious) notion of God when you really look at it. It isn't even really deistic in any sense that I understand deism as realting to some sort of supernatural being of some sort.

Actually I think I do understand it but I don’t draw the same conclusions about design as you do. Here is a Wright quote that I think is the simplest explanation of non-zero sum game.

quote:
The basic idea of a nonzero sum game is just that there doesn't have to be a winner and a loser. When you play tennis against somebody, every point is good for one player and bad for the other one. That's a zero sum game. But if you're playing doubles, then the relationship between you and the other person on your team is nonzero sum because the point can be good for both of you or bad for both of you. You are in the same boat. Your fortunes are correlated positively. So you can both come out winners—that is, both people on a doubles team—or both be losers. In most real-life situations, what you have is a mixture of nonzero sum and zero sum dynamics. Rarely are you so completely in the same boat with someone as you would be in doubles tennis. But that's where the term "nonzero sum" comes from.

The main point is that in a nonzero sum game, it's usually in your self-interest to cooperate with another person, and it is in your self-interest to do something that is good for the other person. Being in a nonzero sum situation is, in a sense, a somewhat cynical basis for moral behavior, which you might consider to be a contradiction. In other words, it's a reason to worry about the welfare of other people, but it's a reason that's grounded ultimately in your own self-interest. For example, one reason you don't want to launch a nuclear war against Russia and have a bunch of Russians die is because that would probably lead to a bunch of Americans dying. That's not a really pure form of moral concern but, on the other hand, its practical upshot is to make the world better off. Its practical consequences are, in many ways, like the consequences of truly moral behavior.


I think the logic of this is undeniable. The question is once again, ultimately did all this evolve by chance from non-intelligent origins or are we the result of a higher intelligence with purpose? Wright was asked the following question.

“Let's talk about purpose and evolution. You're very clear that evolution has direction. What are you saying about purpose?”

quote:
Well, I'm saying that the direction is at least suggestive of purpose but at the same time I'm conceding that that's all it can be. Suggestive is the most it can be because whether something has purpose is just a very difficult question. Unless you know that it was designed and you know what the designer was, you can never be sure whether something has purpose. You can make an educated guess, based on the way it looks.

In order to confidently assert the purpose of something, you have to know what the thing or process was that designed it. And so, too, with any human artifact. You can look at a car and be pretty confident that it's designed to move along the road, but the reason you are 100 percent sure is because you know who designed it and why.

Now when we look at the process of evolution, we're in the dark about the designer. That's the question we are grappling with here. If you accept directionality in evolution, you can say things like, "Well, like an animal, evolution seems to develop in a certain direction." Just as an animal matures in a certain direction, evolution seems to develop in a certain direction. And in fact, the combinations of genetic and cultural evolution have led the entire planet to seem increasingly like an integrated organism. Every decade it seems more like that. Every year the Internet seems more like it's drawing people into a giant planetary brain.

So you can point to these patterns that are suggestive of a larger purpose, but you just can't say for sure. My only point is that a scientific worldview gives you more evidence of some larger purpose at work than most scientists concede. And you can argue about what the purpose is, and you can argue about what the nature of the designer would be. It could be that some intelligence set evolution in motion and then went to another universe or something. But I think there is more evidence of purpose than most people concede.


I think the problem lies for both of us in our starting points or our biases. You are convinced of your atheism. I am firmly convinced of my Christian faith as I understand it. Mind you, even in saying that I know that based on all the different ideas out there and that we are all individuals, it is highly unlikely that I alone have been given the gift of infallible knowledge so I assume that some of what I believe is wrong no matter how convinced I am.

In thinking about the discussion in the thread “The Study of the Supernatural” I think I could have said that there is no such thing as the natural and that it is all supernatural, in the same way that some said that something is supernatural only until we investigate it then it becomes natural.

From my Christian perspective I’m not bothered about how God has instilled in us the concept of good and evil, or of selfish and unselfish love. If he chose to do it through a process of social evolution, for which I agree there is historical evidence of, that’s fine by me.

The point is that I look to science to tell me how God did it and I look to other sources, primarily the Bible to understand the interaction of God with us and what that should mean for my life.

I have been really interested in how consciousness fits into the overall scheme of things. He was asked the following question.

“I found it very intriguing in Nonzero that you talk about consciousness as a mystery that science, I think you say, can't solve. It hasn't, certainly.”

quote:
It certainly hasn't solved the mystery and it's hard to imagine that it would, in part because consciousness doesn't have what scientifically explicable phenomena need, which is public observability. Anything that is to be explained scientifically has to be something that you can point to—point to the physical phenomena and say, "See, I'm predicting that it will behave like this when you do that." Consciousness, by definition, doesn't fall into that category. Now, of course, you can register brain waves and you can do MRIs, and you can look at various physical manifestations of consciousness, but by definition that's not consciousness itself. Consciousness itself is a subjective experience. So it's very hard to imagine how science would really go about tackling the fundamental problem of consciousness. In any event, I certainly don't think it has handled it successfully to date. And there are too many people who are under the impression that science has answered all the important questions in the world or can answer them.

One reason I think it's fascinating that science can't handle this question, at least so far, is that the existence of subjective experience, of consciousness, is the source of all the meaning in the world, so far as I can tell. If I told you that there was a planet out there that looks just like Earth, and there are these things that look just like people, and they walk around doing exactly the things we do, and they utter phrases and stuff, but they have no subjective experience, it isn't like anything to be them. They are zombies. You would probably think, "Well, who cares what happens to that planet?" And I would agree. I would think, "Well, there's really nothing especially immoral about annihilating some of those creatures on that planet because we are not going to cause them any pain by doing that, and we are not going to deprive them of any future happiness or anything. So, who cares?" In my view, the whole basis of meaning and of moral significance is the fact that it is like something to be alive. And that is the one thing that, it seems to me, science cannot explain.


What role do you see consciousness playing in human evolution?

quote:
Well, that's the mystery. A common view among scientists, and one that is not entirely implausible, is that consciousness is a mere side effect. It's an epiphenomenon. In other words, it really plays no role. Like when you move your hand and it makes a shadow, all the action is in the hand, not in the shadow. The shadow's not doing anything. That's what an epiphenomenon is. It's at least an easy answer to visualize clearly. I know exactly what they mean when they say that. In a way, it's intuitively attractive to me precisely because it's a clear, comprehensible answer.

So let's take the example of love: what's being selected for by natural selection is altruistic behavior. And then as it happens, the neural processes that give rise to altruistic behavior also give you the feeling of love. But that's just a kind of lucky coincidence in this view. So what's always being selected for is behavior, or the neural mechanisms governing the behavior, but the subjective experience per se is not being selected for; it is just a by-product. That is the view of consciousness as an epiphenomenon. And as I said, it's in many ways an attractive view, but it does raise the question of what consciousness is doing here if it doesn't have a function. So the epiphenomenalist position is, in a way, the scientifically most attractive view, precisely because it is so clear and doesn't force you to rethink the nature of causality.

But it does pose that one very challenging question, "Well, then, why is consciousness here if it has no function?" Now, the alternative to that, at least the main alternative as I see it, is to say that consciousness actually does play a causal role in the world. But then you are getting back to some kind of Cartesian dualism that is itself a challenge to the principles of science because science sees all the causality as residing in the material world. So one way or another, it seems to me, consciousness is this profound problem for science. Now, there are people who think they have a way around this, but I disagree. Yet, I have to add, consciousness is such a perplexing problem that I don't think anyone's view deserves to be dismissed out of hand. I don't know of anybody who seems to have the problem totally under control.

As I see it, there is really no way around consciousness being a fundamental mystery to science. If you take the Cartesian dualist approach, then it's a real problem for science at the most fundamental level, because it challenges the whole basic assumption of science that all causally significant things are happening in the material, publicly observable world. If you take the epiphenomenalist approach, it's reduced to not necessarily a fundamental problem, but a really perplexing question.


I’m not sure if we are off topic here or not. The thread was about Jazzn’s cycle away from Christianity so I’m not sure if talking about my understanding of the Christian faith is on topic or not.

Here is the link to the whole interview. It is fascinating. He has such a logical mind.

Suggestions of a Larger Purpose – An Interview with Robert Wright by Enlighten Next magazine – The magazine for evolutionaries

Straggler writes:

Let's for the sake of argument accept this as true. Do you then accept that God has also given us psychological proclivities? Is he responsible for ALL human psychological tendencies? Or just the ones you think are positive?

All of them. We are capable of tremendous good and tremendous evil. Ultimately though I believe that perfect justice will be done.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 71 by Straggler, posted 10-15-2011 6:21 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 73 by Straggler, posted 10-16-2011 1:36 PM GDR has responded

    
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9818
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 73 of 140 (637559)
10-16-2011 1:36 PM
Reply to: Message 72 by GDR
10-15-2011 8:29 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
Nowhere that I have seen does Wright equate his description of "god" or "divinity" or "purpose" with anything other than the mathematical Platonic notion of non-zero-sumness. Whilst the language he uses certainly provides the leeway theists desire he never explicitly advocates anything that could be considered an intelligent conscious designer of any sort. That you interpret his arguments in a way that is compatible with your theism points to his non-explicit appeasement of such beliefs. I would argue that his language is misplaced. By the terms of his own argument you might as well call Pythagoras theorem "divine".

Furthermore his examples are deeply selective. One could equally argue that selfishness is as innate and necessary as altruism for evolutionary success. An entirely selfless species wouldn't last long would it? So actually it is the balance between individual selfishness and evolved altruism that is the interesting question here. This question of balance and how it is achieved he entirely ignores in his thesis. Instead he focuses entirely on the altruistic aspect because, he like you, consider this "special".

GDR writes:

Straggler writes:

Let's for the sake of argument accept this as true. Do you then accept that God has also given us psychological proclivities? Is he responsible for ALL human psychological tendencies? Or just the ones you think are positive?

All of them.

OK. Do you agree that humans are psychologically predisposed to various things which are not particularly positive in a modern day context (food choices, sexual urges etc.)?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 72 by GDR, posted 10-15-2011 8:29 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 74 by GDR, posted 10-16-2011 5:12 PM Straggler has responded

  
GDR
Member
Posts: 3704
From: Sidney, BC, Canada
Joined: 05-22-2005
Member Rating: 1.0


Message 74 of 140 (637568)
10-16-2011 5:12 PM
Reply to: Message 73 by Straggler
10-16-2011 1:36 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
Straggler writes:

Nowhere that I have seen does Wright equate his description of "god" or "divinity" or "purpose" with anything other than the mathematical Platonic notion of non-zero-sumness. Whilst the language he uses certainly provides the leeway theists desire he never explicitly advocates anything that could be considered an intelligent conscious designer of any sort. That you interpret his arguments in a way that is compatible with your theism points to his non-explicit appeasement of such beliefs. I would argue that his language is misplaced. By the terms of his own argument you might as well call Pythagoras theorem "divine".

I think he covers it to a large degree in the interview I sent you the link to. Personally I think that there is a lot to learn from Wright from either the Atheistic or Theistic POV. The information as presented by Wright is meaningful and useful from either perspective. It gave me a look and understanding of my Christianity from a very different angle. He does call himself agnostic, not atheistic so we should expect that he would be open to the possibility of the either view. (Frankly I think he leans towards theism but that is just my opinion. )

He writes this in “The Evolution of God”.

quote:
But occasionally I’ve suggested that there might be a kind of god that is real. This prospect was raised by the manifest existence of a moral order—that is, by the stubborn, if erratic, expansion of humankind’s moral imagination over the millennia, and the fact that the ongoing maintenance of social order depends on the further expansion of the moral imagination, on movement toward moral truth. The existence of a moral order, I’ve said, makes it reasonable to suspect that humankind in some sense has a “higher purpose.” And maybe the source of this higher purpose, the source of the moral order, is something that qualifies for the label “god” in at least some sense of that word.

Straggler writes:

OK. Do you agree that humans are psychologically predisposed to various things which are not particularly positive in a modern day context (food choices, sexual urges etc.)?

I know a trap when I see one but we’ll go with it. Yes, but predisposed is maybe a bit strong. I think a lot of those things are partly, and in some cases largely culturally driven. We also are given the same predisposition to reject less than positive urges. We have free will. We make choices. Life is just a constant sting of choices.


Everybody is entitled to my opinion. :)

This message is a reply to:
 Message 73 by Straggler, posted 10-16-2011 1:36 PM Straggler has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 75 by Straggler, posted 10-17-2011 8:18 AM GDR has responded

    
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9818
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 75 of 140 (637624)
10-17-2011 8:18 AM
Reply to: Message 74 by GDR
10-16-2011 5:12 PM


Re: Altruism - The Big Mac Effect
GDR about Robert Wright writes:

He writes this in “The Evolution of God”.

Indeed he does. But all of my quotes from Message 71 were from later on in the same chapter you are quoting the beginning of. A chapter called "Afterword: By the way what is God". And what is being called "god" ultimately amounts to little more than the abstract existence of non-zero-sum logic jazzed up with some (IMHO) inappropriate terminology.

GDR writes:

Frankly I think he leans towards theism but that is just my opinion.

His language certainly follows that path. But the concepts he applies such language to don't seem to be any more godly than perfect circles, Pythagoras theorem or some mathematical notion of the electron.

Straggler writes:

OK. Do you agree that humans are psychologically predisposed to various things which are not particularly positive in a modern day context (food choices, sexual urges etc.)?

GDR writes:

I know a trap when I see one but we’ll go with it.

Not so much a trap as me seeing how far and how consistently you will follow the logic of your thinking.

GDR writes:

Yes, but predisposed is maybe a bit strong. I think a lot of those things are partly, and in some cases largely culturally driven. We also are given the same predisposition to reject less than positive urges. We have free will. We make choices. Life is just a constant sting of choices.

But humans do have evolved psychological predispositions. Right?

Would you agree that humans are instinctively altruistic at times?
Would you agree that humans are instinctively selfish at times?
Would you agree that humans are predisposed towards certain food types?
Would you agree that humans possess instinctive sexual urges which are not always conducive to lifetime monogamy?

Which of our psychological proclivities should we give God credit for? All of them? Some of them?

GDR writes:

We have free will. We make choices.

Do we? In fact who is "we"....? Link. Increasingly it seems that common conceptions of freewill are illusory.

Edited by Straggler, : Chnage link to message 71


This message is a reply to:
 Message 74 by GDR, posted 10-16-2011 5:12 PM GDR has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 76 by GDR, posted 10-17-2011 1:43 PM Straggler has responded

  
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