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Author Topic:   An Evolutionary Basis for Ethics?
ATheist
Junior Member (Idle past 4282 days)
Posts: 11
From: Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
Joined: 12-20-2009


Message 16 of 57 (540180)
12-22-2009 3:43 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Dr Adequate
12-22-2009 3:36 PM


Re: More About Chimpanzees
These are some strong contentions Adequate. I'm not sure if I'm comfortable replying to them, because I am not sure I could defend myself to a respectable level (I am declaring these by fiat, unfortunately.) My only basis for believing the things I do, is due to reading various philosophies and making an informed judgment on what is and isn't true.

Given the new information I have regarding the possibility of ethics and morality being "evolved," I cannot make any comments until I discuss this further with a few of my professors. If this is in fact as highly evidenced as it appears to be, I may have to make a few changes in my ideology, radical changes.

I'll shoot a few of my prof's an email and see what their take is on this. Hopefully I'll have some new insights that I can share with everyone here.

Thanks


This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by Dr Adequate, posted 12-22-2009 3:36 PM Dr Adequate has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 17 by Briterican, posted 12-22-2009 4:18 PM ATheist has taken no action
 Message 19 by Dr Adequate, posted 12-22-2009 4:44 PM ATheist has taken no action

  
Briterican
Member (Idle past 3177 days)
Posts: 340
Joined: 05-29-2008


Message 17 of 57 (540188)
12-22-2009 4:18 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by ATheist
12-22-2009 3:43 PM


-tip for FightingIrish on db codes
--offtopic

Hi FightingIrish:

In the bottom right corner of posts is a button "Peek". Find someone's post with the fancy quote boxes and such and "peek" at it, or use the "dBCodes On (help)" button on the left of a new post screen. This will quickly let you utilise and learn the various features of the forum to full advantage.

Welcome to EVC, may you learn as much as I have.

Edited by Briterican, : No reason given.

Edited by Briterican, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by ATheist, posted 12-22-2009 3:43 PM ATheist has taken no action

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 280 days)
Posts: 16112
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 18 of 57 (540192)
12-22-2009 4:41 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by ATheist
12-22-2009 12:56 PM


"This is not clear. If we accept that ethics depends on being able to decide whether or not to care for other people, then arguably it would be better for our species if, like the ants, we couldn't choose not to." - Dr Adequate

Interesting contention. Isn't that the greatest reason proving that we are truly transcendent of the "survival of the fittest" mentality?

That we can choose to be immoral? If this is transcendence, then we could do with a bit less of it.

For the history of life, one organism survived by killing another.

This is, of course, still true of humans. Even vegetarians subsist on the blood of innocent carrots.

Throughout biological history, the "fittest" were the most adaptable. One horse couldn't help a less adapted horse survive (not familial help, but unrelated horses of the same or similar age, like the monkey acting out of "ethics" to save the female), it was just the opposite. If I were a dog, I would survive best by not having other dogs to compete with for food.

You have chosen some singularly inopportune examples. Horses, in the wild, live in herds. Wolves, of which dogs are the domestic version, live in packs --- they are dependent on cooperation for food. And feral dogs are also pack animals.

You seem to take a rather cynical view of natural history. Yes, there is, in the biological sense, always competition between members of the same species. But in social species, this involves a competition to be the best at co-operation.

Humans are the opposite, we survive better when we are cooperative. But again, I stress, we have the choice to cooperate. No other animal is social the way humans are social.

That statement is sweeping and, unless greatly qualified, inaccurate.

Ethics based on self-interest, like Machiavelli or Sartre or Nietzsche or Freud, etc, ...

I think you are oversimplifying their theses. But that's by-the-by.

... are naturally wrong if we accept that as a species, it is more advantageous to act for the good of the group rather than out of pure self-interest.

But is not acting for the good of the group a form of self-interest? The man who makes no effort to fit into society will be kicked out of it, by ostracism, exile, imprisonment, or execution. His life would be, to quote Hobbes, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".

---

Edited to add: I wrote this post before reading your latest. By all means talk to your professors.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by ATheist, posted 12-22-2009 12:56 PM ATheist has taken no action

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 280 days)
Posts: 16112
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 19 of 57 (540193)
12-22-2009 4:44 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by ATheist
12-22-2009 3:43 PM


Re: More About Chimpanzees
Thanks

My pleasure.


This message is a reply to:
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 1332 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 20 of 57 (540219)
12-22-2009 6:36 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by ATheist
12-22-2009 12:56 PM


Humans are the opposite, we survive better when we are cooperative. But again, I stress, we have the choice to cooperate. No other animal is social the way humans are social.

Do we? Neuroscience is showing us signs that many 'choices' are made before we are conscious of them, and this includes moral choices. For example, Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain, Chun Siong Soon, Marcel Brass, Hans-Jochen Heinze & John-Dylan Haynes.

quote:
There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively 'free' decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.

(At least) up to 10 seconds before you have the experience of choosing, the choice has been made - by an unconscious network of unconscious cells.*

Quite sobering really.

It is true that no other animal is social the way we are. But then, we aren't social in the way ants are.

Ethics based on self-interest, like Machiavelli or Sartre or Nietzsche or Freud, etc, are naturally wrong if we accept that as a species, it is more advantageous to act for the good of the group rather than out of pure self-interest.

Naturally wrong? What does that mean?

Of course, if we accept that non-self-interested based ethics are right then self-interested based ethics are wrong, but why would we accept that? You are making a qualitative decision, it seems, that we should desire what is advantageous for the species.

But if you increase the size of the group - so we include all mammals, then what is good for the group is that we cease to exist because we are doing phenomenal work in killing the rest of them off (except those that we domesticate), unless we consider it is good for the group that many of its members are eradicated, "For our Volk they are poison."

A self-interested based ethics can explain non-self-interested actions not in terms of being 'good for the species' but in terms of being self-interested ie., it is in one's self interest to do things which appear to be non-self-interested.

This has some problems, which should be apparent. And I think that a gene-interested view makes sense of both human reactions to moral problems and a suicidal bee 'defending the Queen' (in scare quotes because the bee probably doesn't comprehend that it is defending the Queen. No more than it understands that it defends the Queen because she is the source of genetic continuity.)


*And here, is a post by Ed Yong, an "award-winning science writer".


This message is a reply to:
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Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 280 days)
Posts: 16112
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 21 of 57 (540225)
12-22-2009 7:05 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by MikeDeich
12-22-2009 2:46 PM


Moral Monkeys
This article might interest you.....
http://www.primates.com/morality/index.html

Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.

I don't think I'll be alone if I say that I find the morality of the rhesus monkeys superior to that of the experimenters.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by MikeDeich, posted 12-22-2009 2:46 PM MikeDeich has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 22 by MikeDeich, posted 12-22-2009 11:00 PM Dr Adequate has taken no action

  
MikeDeich
Junior Member (Idle past 3787 days)
Posts: 24
From: Rosario, Argentina
Joined: 10-31-2009


Message 22 of 57 (540244)
12-22-2009 11:00 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by Dr Adequate
12-22-2009 7:05 PM


Re: Moral Monkeys
I don't think I'll be alone if I say that I find the morality of the rhesus monkeys superior to that of the experimenters.

I couldn't agree more


This message is a reply to:
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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 4170 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 23 of 57 (540265)
12-23-2009 4:51 AM
Reply to: Message 15 by ATheist
12-22-2009 3:37 PM


Astounding!
I never thought of it that way. I'll have to bring up some of these points in my paper, they're very strong arguments to the contrary of what most of the ethicists want to believe.

It's great that you've so quickly had your opinions challenged. I largely agree with MikeDeich's opinion.

I would also make the point that I don't think any choices made by humans are entirely rational in the sense that they are totally removed from instinct. Feelings and emotions are always involved.

Do you put money in a charity box every time you see one? Some days you feel you should, some days you don't. Why?

Do you always choose the healthy menu option? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Why?

Does a dog always let you take his bone? Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. Why?

Does a chimp always share his food or tools with other chimps? Again, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Why?

We're a moody bunch!


This message is a reply to:
 Message 15 by ATheist, posted 12-22-2009 3:37 PM ATheist has taken no action

  
ATheist
Junior Member (Idle past 4282 days)
Posts: 11
From: Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
Joined: 12-20-2009


Message 24 of 57 (540495)
12-25-2009 3:15 PM


Okay!

So, after talking with a few of my professors, they've pretty much garnered the same response to the questions I've brought up.

For the most part, they're all Aristotelians (a few Thomists in there, but most certainly not the majority). When I asked them if animals share the same ethical principles as humans, they scoffed resoundingly. Their reasoning behind that apparently laughable contention is that evolution has no "goals," so when an ape drowns trying to save a non-familial ape in a moat it is not a sacrifice as we interpret it. They argued that an ape does not have the ability to know that they may die if they try and save another ape. I responded in saying that "well, if the ape doesn't know that he may die, how does he know the other ape may die?" They said that apes simply don't have the concept of death.

Anyways, I have to go to a family meeting, I'll finish responding when I have time tomorrow.

And, by all means, please criticize what they said, so I know what else to discuss.


Replies to this message:
 Message 25 by MikeDeich, posted 12-25-2009 7:27 PM ATheist has taken no action
 Message 26 by Dr Adequate, posted 12-25-2009 11:09 PM ATheist has taken no action
 Message 27 by Iblis, posted 12-26-2009 12:13 AM ATheist has taken no action
 Message 48 by jasonlang, posted 01-03-2010 11:06 AM ATheist has taken no action

  
MikeDeich
Junior Member (Idle past 3787 days)
Posts: 24
From: Rosario, Argentina
Joined: 10-31-2009


Message 25 of 57 (540512)
12-25-2009 7:27 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by ATheist
12-25-2009 3:15 PM


I assume these are philosophy professors you speak of. Ask a biology or anthropology professor about these things....they may have a different opinion. Like adequate said, we can't question apes for their motives & thought processes. However the only way to even speculate on them is by direct observation of their behavior. Unless you simply dismiss apes as instinctual automated species, which goes completely against all scientific studies of these animals. Such recorded observations & studies will not be found in the philosophy department. An ape may not have the same concept of death as we do, & may have a less "complex" thought process...but it certainly can ascertain a dangerous situation which would be totally avoided under normal circumstances.

I responded in saying that "well, if the ape doesn't know that he may die, how does he know the other ape may die?"

I think you are spot on here.

Their reasoning behind that apparently laughable contention is that evolution has no "goals," so when an ape drowns trying to save a non-familial ape in a moat it is not a sacrifice as we interpret it.

Evolution has no goals, except survival & reproduction. But even human beings are still a part of it, & no one suggests they have no morality. A sacrifice is a sacrifice even if the ape didn't think about it the exact way a human would. These professors sound like they are making statements & assumptions on things they know nothing about, especially since they can so easily laugh it off. If you want to make an informed decision on this topic, I suggest you find a second opinion to get a bigger picture. If your school lacks an expert in that area, then hit the net & find the real research. Maybe someone in the bio or anthro department can suggest an online database. Regardless, I find philosophy rarely holds up against observed reality & collected data. The natural world doesn't have to follow man made philosophy.


This message is a reply to:
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Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 280 days)
Posts: 16112
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 26 of 57 (540525)
12-25-2009 11:09 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by ATheist
12-25-2009 3:15 PM


For the most part, they're all Aristotelians (a few Thomists in there, but most certainly not the majority). When I asked them if animals share the same ethical principles as humans, they scoffed resoundingly.

Well, that's very philosophical of them. Wow, it's almost like I'm talking to Socrates.

Their reasoning behind that apparently laughable contention is that evolution has no "goals," so when an ape drowns trying to save a non-familial ape in a moat it is not a sacrifice as we interpret it.

But this is a non sequitur. It is in a sense true that evolution has no "goals", but that proposition doesn't mean that evolution can't have formed the eye of a vertebrate or the tail of a peacock. Evolution does stuff, and I presume that since you're at Notre Dame your professors will admit that.

Very well then --- if evolution can form the eye of an aardvark, why can it not be similarly responsible for the morality of a monkey?

---

And again, it seems that your professors are simply declaring what they want to be true to be true: it is true, not as a matter of observation, but by philosophical fiat. They have simply declared that monkeys have no morals, no matter how monkeys actually behave. Real-world observations of what monkeys actually do are, it seems, irrelevant to their conclusion.

Now to speak for myself, I treat observation as the most convincing source of knowledge. I observe that the other primates behave as though they have some concept of morality, and conclude that therefore they probably do. Whereas your professors reply that even though monkeys behave exactly as though they have some concept of morality, nonetheless they don't.

Well, really, one hardly knows how to argue with someone who undertakes this sort of retreat from reality. If I said: "The sky is blue", then it appears that your professors could say: "No, the sky isn't blue. It just looks exactly like it's blue."

I shall have more to say about this in my next post. Watch this space.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Iblis
Member (Idle past 3124 days)
Posts: 663
Joined: 11-17-2005


Message 27 of 57 (540530)
12-26-2009 12:13 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by ATheist
12-25-2009 3:15 PM


"people"
When I asked them if animals share the same ethical principles as humans, they scoffed resoundingly. Their reasoning behind that apparently laughable contention is that evolution has no "goals," so when an ape drowns trying to save a non-familial ape in a moat it is not a sacrifice as we interpret it. They argued that an ape does not have the ability to know that they may die if they try and save another ape. I responded in saying that "well, if the ape doesn't know that he may die, how does he know the other ape may die?" They said that apes simply don't have the concept of death.

I'm guessing you don't know much about Koko then.

She's indubitably capable of abstract thought. This first came up when she created her own sign for feces, which was a combo "toilet-smell". There was still a lot of doubt at this point, basically the objection was that she might just be talking about the smell itself. But then she started referring to a researcher that she didn't get along with as "toilet-smell-scientist". She was calling him a shithead !!!

She's proceeded a long way since then. She also tends to make puns, based on her study of human sounds. She refers to humans as "nipple" for example, because the spoken word sounds similar to "people" to her. She has worked with other gorillas, some of whom sign and some of whom do not. She does not refer to the non-signers as "not-speaking", the way she does her pet cats, but rather as "speaking-not-scientist". This seems to indicate that gorillas have a language of their own. When questioned about this, she says it is "closed-box", meaning, a secret.

She has a conception of the future; but unlike humans, who think of it as being ahead of them, because it is where we are going, she thinks of the future as being behind her, because she cannot see it. One of the gorillas she worked with, Michael, after learning sign was apparently able to tell the story of his mother's death at the hands of poachers. They do understand death; gorillas in the wild have a simple but touching funeral ritual, involving members of the family getting together and sharing their grief while the body sits in state.

Koko is currently working in Africa, teaching sign language to human children, not only those who are deaf but also those who wish to work with the deaf. She is a good teacher, encouraging kids who do well and utilizing them to help her with those who fall behind. She has expressed the idea that while her scientists and students are "not-gorilla", they are "like-gorilla". In other words, we are people too.

No one has had the heart to explain to her about "bush meat", however.


This message is a reply to:
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ATheist
Junior Member (Idle past 4282 days)
Posts: 11
From: Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
Joined: 12-20-2009


Message 28 of 57 (540580)
12-26-2009 1:47 PM


I have to agree with you Adequate, they are arguing philosophically about things which have been answered fairly conclusively in scientific study. However, they are leading philosophers, so don't dismiss them as ignoramuses who have no valuable knowledge.

I will contact the microbiologists and some of the behavioral sciences professors and see what their takes are on this matter (I imagine they will be carbon-copies of your beliefs, because they are Atheist, so they have no reasons to have to disprove the conceptual ability of an ape (or any other animal for that reason)).

I will return with more information soon, thanks for the prompt responses guys!


Replies to this message:
 Message 29 by MikeDeich, posted 12-26-2009 7:13 PM ATheist has taken no action
 Message 30 by bluescat48, posted 12-26-2009 7:34 PM ATheist has replied

  
MikeDeich
Junior Member (Idle past 3787 days)
Posts: 24
From: Rosario, Argentina
Joined: 10-31-2009


Message 29 of 57 (540602)
12-26-2009 7:13 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by ATheist
12-26-2009 1:47 PM


However, they are leading philosophers, so don't dismiss them as ignoramuses who have no valuable knowledge.

Philosophy certainly has its place & value in itself....but sometimes professors can get big heads & make sweeping statements about topics not in their field. I know this from my own college years, which were not long ago.

I imagine they will be carbon-copies of your beliefs, because they are Atheist, so they have no reasons to have to disprove the conceptual ability of an ape (or any other animal for that reason)).

Lol.....I can't speak for adequate, but I am not an atheist & I see no need to disprove the conceptual abilities of apes. I do however claim no specific religion....so I don't feel the need to prove to myself that human beings are god's special little creatures, made in his image, dominion over all creatures, etc.....I guess here, like you pointed out, lies the motivation of some to prove other species are incapable of the same motivations we are. Let us know how your search develops.


This message is a reply to:
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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 3418 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 30 of 57 (540603)
12-26-2009 7:34 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by ATheist
12-26-2009 1:47 PM


I will contact the microbiologists and some of the behavioral sciences professors and see what their takes are on this matter (I imagine they will be carbon-copies of your beliefs, because they are Atheist, so they have no reasons to have to disprove the conceptual ability of an ape (or any other animal for that reason)).

What has atheism got to do with science? All scientists aren't atheists. There is no atheist doctrine scientific or otherwise.
All atheism states is that there are no deities.


There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002

Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

Since Evolution is only ~90% correct it should be thrown out and replaced by Creation which has even a lower % of correctness. W T Young, 2008


This message is a reply to:
 Message 28 by ATheist, posted 12-26-2009 1:47 PM ATheist has replied

Replies to this message:
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