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Author Topic:   Morality! Thorn in Darwin's side or not?
Cedre
Member (Idle past 1160 days)
Posts: 350
From: Russia
Joined: 01-30-2009


Message 1 of 438 (504426)
03-28-2009 8:28 AM


It has been quite some time now that I have posted anything on EvC, and I guess one could say that this is my comeback endeavor. So rather than bumming about let me get right at it; for a long time now I have sat down and tried to understand an evolutionary world view against a moral world, that none of us will contend is the case.

I have weighed many efforts by many sincere researchers who have themselves been baffled by this enigma and so have gone out in search for answers, and however I have to say the answers they unearthed had a very stingy impact on the question being considered raising instead other questions.

The question that recurred in my mind was why there is goodness or in other words why righteous men exist who strive day by day to become less selfish and more selfless. Why do folks care about the feelings or welfare of others when it has no bearing on their own welfare? Put in evolutionary terms, why is there such a thing as if you would “unbeneficial humanitarianism” where an individual’ survival success will not be impacted or rather positively impacted directly or indirectly by his or her care giving/taking of others.
Someone once answered this question as follows that perhaps the giver of these seemingly selfless acts is committing them because he too may require them sometime in the future if he also falls into the same position that the current recipients of his love and care have fallen into at the moment. Therefore if one should judge it from this angle it turns out that it was never “unbeneficial humanitarianism” but still the same old selfishness. The problem with this reply is that it is cheap and tacky it hardly answers the question or even describes it well.

Lets for a second analyze what I actually mean by “unbeneficial humanitarianism”; many times when we are good to others almost never do we think about the future much less about our selfish futures we in fact try to concentrate on the present and how we can best help the person who is in need, this is the experience of even the individual who argues from the selfish standpoint that I have given above that is that we do good things to others because we will benefit in the end.

Yes we might benefit such that we will feel good about ourselves for being good to someone else, this brings us yet to another point that I will discuss in a while. Like I was saying we might benefit in some areas but how will this help us to survive, and reproduce, for this selfless acts to be dismissed as your typical selfishness in disguise they should ultimately increase the survival of the giver to be precise and not anyone else apart from the giver. Until that is proved these selfless acts should be regarded as being at odds with Darwin’s model of a cold impersonal selfish world and a solution must be sought.

Now what is that which I was about to get to, it is the feeling that we all get, I don’t care what color your skin is or how tall or short or scientific or unscientific you are, no one will claim that they don’t experience a surge of good feeling just after having been voluntarily kind to a fellow human being. This is a fact it could almost be grounded as a law, that we all feel good when we help others and that when we are bad or mean we feel bad about ourselves and even feel bad, I’m not saying that this is the rule of the day but it is for best part of the day.

Christians have provided one of the most satisfying answers to this enigma. Having been created in the image of God and since he is a good God they apologize we also enjoy doing good as a result but due to our fallen nature can’t help to be bad to the degree that we enjoy being bad in certain areas though not all. Allow me to give an example here. When you someone has wronged you you hate them for a while or in some cases for a long stretch of time, but try me on this when you finally forgive this individual it feels like a great stone has been lifted off of you, and you feel good and proud. The point of my babbling is that we shouldn't strive to be good to others and even worse feel good after being good.

Edited by Cedre, : No reason given.

Edited by Cedre, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by Admin, posted 03-28-2009 8:43 AM Cedre has responded
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 Message 9 by onifre, posted 03-29-2009 1:05 AM Cedre has not yet responded
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Admin
Director
Posts: 12528
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002


Message 2 of 438 (504429)
03-28-2009 8:43 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Cedre
03-28-2009 8:28 AM


Hi Cedre,

This is okay as is, but I see two problems, let me know if you want to address them. First one:

Cedre writes:

I have weighed many efforts by many sincere researchers who have themselves been baffled...

The result of the effort of the "many sincere researchers" in the field of altruism is not bafflement. Whether you agree with it or not, it isn't bafflement. Maybe you would like to conduct more research?

Second one:

The point of my babbling is that we shouldn't strive to be good to others and even worse feel good after being good.

This concluding sentence seems to come out of the blue and not have anything to do with what went before. You seem to have forgotten to include the arguments leading up to such a conclusion.

--Percy


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Cedre
Member (Idle past 1160 days)
Posts: 350
From: Russia
Joined: 01-30-2009


Message 3 of 438 (504432)
03-28-2009 9:05 AM
Reply to: Message 2 by Admin
03-28-2009 8:43 AM


This isn't a strange word when it comes to science, to be sure many great discoveries were a result of being baffled by a phenomena, so I don't perceive what your issue is with this word. Perhaps we diverge at the meaning of the word, I mean the normal curiosity that arises as a result of not having a clear understanding of a phenomena. Perhaps this was the confusion.

Now your second point, what i meant here is that if in fact survival of the fittest is the natural order of things and what drives nature and survival than these selfless acts and states of mind should not exist but they do and everyone has them from time to time.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by Admin, posted 03-28-2009 8:43 AM Admin has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by Admin, posted 03-28-2009 9:36 AM Cedre has responded
 Message 385 by jasonlang, posted 12-03-2014 6:24 AM Cedre has not yet responded

    
Admin
Director
Posts: 12528
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002


Message 4 of 438 (504438)
03-28-2009 9:36 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Cedre
03-28-2009 9:05 AM


Cedre writes:

This isn't a strange word when it comes to science, to be sure many great discoveries were a result of being baffled by a phenomena, so I don't perceive what your issue is with this word. Perhaps we diverge at the meaning of the word, I mean the normal curiosity that arises as a result of not having a clear understanding of a phenomena. Perhaps this was the confusion.

You misunderstand. The word you chose has nothing to do with it.

The field of altruism is well researched, but you described the researchers as baffled. Other words like mystified, confused, perplexed and so forth are other inaccurate characterizations of researchers who think they understand the phenomenon pretty well.

Since you seem unaware of the current state of altruism research, I thought I'd ask if you wanted to look into a bit before this thread is promoted.

Now your second point, what i meant here is that if in fact survival of the fittest is the natural order of things and what drives nature and survival than these selfless acts and states of mind should not exist but they do and everyone has them from time to time.

If you look into altruism research a bit you'll find the answer to this question. Or I can promote this now and people can explain it to you in the thread. Your choice.


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

This message is a reply to:
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Cedre
Member (Idle past 1160 days)
Posts: 350
From: Russia
Joined: 01-30-2009


Message 5 of 438 (504439)
03-28-2009 9:59 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Admin
03-28-2009 9:36 AM


Do post the thread I'm not as ignorant about this subject as the impression you give of me. I'm more than eager to hear what new if there is anything new others have to add to this topic.

Edited by Cedre, : No reason given.


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Admin
Director
Posts: 12528
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002


Message 6 of 438 (504463)
03-28-2009 9:41 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Granny Magda
Member
Posts: 2320
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007
Member Rating: 4.8


Message 7 of 438 (504464)
03-28-2009 10:19 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Cedre
03-28-2009 8:28 AM


Selfish Gene
Hi Cedre,

First, I have to ask; have you read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins? It gets right to the heart of what you are talking about. If you want an evolutionary perspective on morality and unselfish behaviour, it is the place to start.

You should at least familiarise yourself with the general concept of the selfish gene. This wiki article is a start.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selfish_gene

The basic idea is that a behaviour will be selected for when it benefits a particular genotype, even though it may be detrimental to an individual organism. An example; a rabbit that spots a predator will, instead of simply running for cover, take the time to warn its fellows, by beating out a warning with its feet. This increases the risk of predation for the individual rabbit, but it is beneficial to the rabbit population as a whole, thus promoting the genes associated with the behaviour.

Morality may cost the individual, but it is of benefit to the population as a whole, so natural selection can favour it. I believe that human morality is a little way beyond such simplistic mechanisms, but I also think that our unselfish behaviours have their root in this kind of instinctive altruism.

Does that help?

Mutate and Survive


"The Bible is like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say almost anything you'd like it to say." -- Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade
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SammyJean
Member (Idle past 1604 days)
Posts: 87
From: Fremont, CA, USA
Joined: 03-28-2009


Message 8 of 438 (504465)
03-28-2009 11:45 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Cedre
03-28-2009 8:28 AM


mirror mirror in my mind
Morality is defiantly NOT a thorn in Darwin side. Researchers are very far from baffled by human altruism! Please look into the research on the newly discovered mirror neurons, which explains why humans tend to be altruistic.
Just to start, you may want to read here: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/11/05/mirror_neurons/
It is mirror neurons that are by far the most satisfying answer to this question.
Many agnostics and atheist are compassionate caring people without the need of a god, just as many Christians behave "morally" only to gain favor and/or to avoid punishment from theirs. Which is better; to do good for goodness's sake or to kiss a gods butt to save your own?

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onifre
Member (Idle past 481 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 9 of 438 (504466)
03-29-2009 1:05 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Cedre
03-28-2009 8:28 AM


Hi Cedre,

Quick question before I reply to the entire post, just to get a direction of where to go with my reply.

Cedre writes:

The question that recurred in my mind was why there is goodness or in other words why righteous men exist who strive day by day to become less selfish and more selfless.

Would you say that 90% of society, as a whole if you wish, acts the opposite way of what you say above, and only very few act in that manner?

The point of my babbling is that we shouldn't strive to be good to others and even worse feel good after being good.

I would agrue that most people don't strive to be good at the individual level, they strive to survive and their/our survival depends on our society being orderly and non-aggressive toward one another.

This ensures a better survival rate for our young. These traits are passed on to fuure generations who will also be less aggressive to ensure survival. And if you take history as an example, you would have to agree that in the last 6000 years society has become less aggressive toward one another - to include government punishment - and thus you can see how successful our species has been at procreating in the last 6000 years*.

*don't feel like researching the numbers.

Simply put, a society that is less aggressive will have a better success rate and pass these traits to their offspring. The decrease of aggression and increase of altruism will insure the future success of the species as a whole.

So we are altruistic because as a whole it is a better environment for us to live in and raise children.


"I smoke pot. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your mouth."--Bill Hicks

"I never knew there was another option other than to question everything"--Noam Chomsky


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Stagamancer
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 174
From: Oregon
Joined: 12-28-2008


Message 10 of 438 (504470)
03-29-2009 4:32 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by onifre
03-29-2009 1:05 AM


Onifre,

While I agree with much of what you said, I just want to caution your use of the following argument:

The decrease of aggression and increase of altruism will insure the future success of the species as a whole.

Natural selection is never directed by the future success of the species as a whole, and to use this argument puts you in a dangerous position (in terms of debate)

***************************************************************

While a seemingly good answer to the altruism question, group selection is still an idea that is being tested, and one that is not completely accepted by the scientific community.

In my opinion I think SammyJean is on a right track with mirror neurons. The human CNS is a very complex system that has given rise to many emergent properties, and to find an evolutionary explanation for all of them can be quite difficult. For example, people have wondered why we like music and art. There seems to be no obvious reproductive benefit, and yet appreciation of these things is nearly universal in the human species. Some have argued that enjoyment of music and art is probably a byproduct of our brains ability to use sounds and images abstractly. For example, speech is probably a trait that has benefitted us immensely. So, we've developed the parts of the brain that help us distinguish slight differences in sounds, and these are the same parts that are stimulated by music. Thus we enjoy it.

The point of this little detour is that the joy of altruism or "righteousness" may simply be a byproduct of the traits we've developed to live as social animals, of which mirror neurons are most definitely a part. There are probably other traits related to it as well.


"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
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kuresu
Member (Idle past 44 days)
Posts: 2544
From: boulder, colorado
Joined: 03-24-2006


Message 11 of 438 (504477)
03-29-2009 2:16 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by onifre
03-29-2009 1:05 AM


And if you take history as an example, you would have to agree that in the last 6000 years society has become less aggressive toward one another - to include government punishment - and thus you can see how successful our species has been at procreating in the last 6000 years*.

I know you didn't feel like researching the numbers, but you really should have.

Tell me, how many ongoing conflicts are there right now? Those causing 1000 deaths/year number 7. Most aren't a decade old. There are 14 other conflicts ongoing that are causing less deaths per year. A plurality of those are less than a decade old.

The number of known wars in the 20th century is staggering. Approximately 215 (I screwed up the count, so +/- 5). Two wars per year! Are we really becoming less aggressive?

Shall we count the number dead? I'm not pulling a good rough figure figure yet, but hundreds of millions have died as a result of these wars or through state actions not necessarily related to war.
(I did manage to find this: http://democraticpeace.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/what-only-34000000-20th-century-battle-dead/).

We haven't gotten less aggressive. What we have gotten is a lot better at making sure infants survive. Infant mortality dropped from 126 to 51 (deaths per 1,000) from 1960 to 2001. We've also gotten a lot better at living longer. Currently, we have a global rate of 9.6. Compare this to a rate of 17 in 1900 in the US.

You can still be very aggressive and improve infant mortality and death rates, simply because most deaths aren't from battle, but natural causes or through shit we do to ourselves (such as smoking, thus lung cancer, or eating way too much salt, thus heart attack), or from accidents (41,059 people died from vehicular accidents in 2007 in the US). You can reduce these causes of death and still wage war and fight increasing number of conflicts and see the population increase.


This message is a reply to:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 822 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 12 of 438 (504485)
03-29-2009 5:30 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by kuresu
03-29-2009 2:16 PM


kuresu writes:

I know you didn't feel like researching the numbers, but you really should have.


Actually, oni got a point there. While the number of people dying in wars have increased quite a bit, but so have the total populations. If we go back to the bronze age, a war often resulted in the extinction of entire civilizations. The same can't be said about it today. The difference of the number of people dying in wars versus the number of people in existence have been increasing steadily throughout history.
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Sarawak
Member (Idle past 3008 days)
Posts: 47
Joined: 03-07-2009


Message 13 of 438 (504487)
03-29-2009 6:18 PM


There is a lot of talk about altruism upthread. But altruism is not a single concept. The dictionary definitions are kind of loose - basically "putting the interests of other people first". But that can be as simple as how I take care of the old lady next door. I cut her grass. I make sure she gets a few good meals a week. I buy her groceries. I take her to the doctor. She asked "Why are you being so nice to me?" I have two answers, "First because it's right to help your less fortunate neighbors. Second, some day I may need help and I hope, through example, that some one else will do the same for me". I have her interest at heart. I help her. I do it on my on volition, indeed if I were required to help, I would decline and fight it. I, at least potentially, get something in return. This is hardly non-Darwinian.

The opposite extreme to altruism is "Don't kill him, kill me instead" - i.e. a sacrifice of the ultimate type. While I would fight for a cause and maybe die, I would not not give what is most valuable to me for nothing. This is also hardly not-Darwinian.

I guess I don't see why being a good neighbor has anything to do with Darwin. Assuming evolution is cold and inhuman assumes facts not in evidence. The biological survival and evolution of the species will continue in spite of societal pressures, not because of them, even though they are inextricably intermixed.


  
kuresu
Member (Idle past 44 days)
Posts: 2544
From: boulder, colorado
Joined: 03-24-2006


Message 14 of 438 (504489)
03-29-2009 7:01 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Taz
03-29-2009 5:30 PM


But his point was more that it was because we were becoming less aggressive. Which isn't the case.

And that was my point.


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onifre
Member (Idle past 481 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 15 of 438 (504492)
03-29-2009 8:04 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Stagamancer
03-29-2009 4:32 AM


Natural selection is never directed by the future success of the species as a whole

That was not my point.

and to use this argument puts you in a dangerous position (in terms of debate)

Not my argument.


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 Message 10 by Stagamancer, posted 03-29-2009 4:32 AM Stagamancer has responded

Replies to this message:
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