I am not claiming that there is a clear, hard theoretical line which would distinguish a fully developed morality. I AM claiming that there is a major gap between modern humans and all other species currently existing on this planet. Historically, of course, this gap has been bridged but thoss e species are extinct and we have little information on their behaviour.
Agreed. It is interesting that Neanders had ceremonial burials, however not much other is known. Some hints of culture, but scarce and questionable.
Evolution is the historical explanation for why we have the basic instincts that morality is built on. But we must be clear that they are part of a package - including other behavioural and even physical aspects - and that that package is just one of the possibilities that evolution allows.
Again, agreed. A predisposition for certain behaviors to be regarded as moral at best.
intellectually guided preservation of life, rather than of self?
Thanks Otto Tellik, for joining us.
I sense some problems with this description. To begin with, given that evolution is the interaction between (usually random) mutation and (usually externally driven) selection, how can the individuals of one generation possibly select behaviors that will ensure the indefinite continuation of their particular traits, against the potential challenges of mutations and environmental forces that are as yet unseen and unknowable? ... We could probably envision a few rare scenarios where that sort of consideration would lead to a conclusion like "all members of X must be killed", (where X may be a viral or bacterial strain, or some insect or animal species ravaging a specific location) but one of the lessons taught to us repeatedly by observing evolution is that increasing diversity is both inevitable and successful, whereas decreasing diversity goes against the general trend and can increase risks to overall success.
I've been waiting for someone to question the premise that preservation of hereditary traits is a desirable goal based on evolution. What we see in evolution is that traits are selected generation to generation, and that the mix of traits is always in flux, even when a species is in temporary "stasis" (with complete stasis being an inevitable result of total preservation).
Of course, if it is sufficient that some subset of your (presumably desirable) traits ...
And the question is how does one determine which traits are desirable without assuming they are just because they are yours (and you are, presumably, a successful organism, having survived and being able to breed).
Of course, if it is sufficient that some subset of your (presumably desirable) traits simply remain part of a population, which happens to also include traits (due to mutation and/or mixture) that you never had, then it would be easier to frame a logical basis for moral behavior. But then, where/how does one draw the line for deciding "long term success": How many traits need to survive, and which ones? If all of the "relevant" traits that came directly from you via inheritance were to be replaced by traits from other sources, would you have failed despite continuation of your lineage? Even if the replacement traits turn out to be not that different from your originals? (Apologies if these hypotheticals are nonsensical -- I'm not well educated in the detailed mechanics of genetic inheritance.)
No apologies necessary. Sticking with hereditary traits (rather than getting into the mechanics of genetics) we can observe that organisms are composed of many traits, and that some traits are more successful than others in certain environments. This also does not mean that they will be similarly successful in other environments. This then raises the question of what we are trying to preserve, when preserving our lineage.
But apart from that, the "definition" provided seems too limited in scope for the notion of "long term success" as I would view that term. Or perhaps it's simply a matter of not following through and presenting the necessary entailments, which might go something like this; In order to ensure continued survival, all of the following factors come into play:
Ability to exert control over the environment, ...
Ability to comprehend the limitations of your control over the environment, ...
Ability to understand how your own lineage is dependent for its survival on other lineages, ... I think the last item there is the crucial point -- the irrefutably and inescapably logical basis for moral behavior. ... We could take the view that the basic premise of current evolutionary theory -- that all life on Earth is descended from a common origin -- should properly be interpreted to mean that our own goal of "long-term success" encompasses all life on the planet, despite the fact that in many cases, certain sub-branches of the whole geneological tree (including various distinct groups of humans) are in direct conflict with other sub-branches, due to competition for common resources, etc.
So the first moral precept for behavior that one could derive from evolution would be the preservation of the diversity and inter-relationships of life in general, from bacterium to Nobel Prize winner?
Ability to understand conflict as a natural component of life within the given environment, to discern as fully as possible and without bias, how the possible outcomes of a given conflict will affect long-term success viewed in the largest possible scope of that term, and to actively support the outcome that maximizes the likelihood of success for all current forms of life (or at least, for all living things directly involved in the conflict).
A universal "do unto others" code, coupled with the awareness that "we are all in this together" ...
This sort of perspective does not end debates about the justifiability of killing people (self-defense, death penalty, abortion to save the mother's life, wars for independence / liberation / whatever), though it does place a heavier burden on those who would kill, to establish adequate cause, and prove how the result would be an overall benefit.
But it does give a basis for a rational argument for such behavior, but the application to morality overall is small.
Is the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo justified by the long term preservation of life? I think not, however it does not affect the long term preservation of life either. Same with abortion and genocide.
Is global warming a threat to the long term preservation of life? Possible, it depends on the rate of change and how much life can survive.