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Author Topic:   What morality can be logically derived from Evolution?
RAZD
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Posts: 19869
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
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Message 1 of 32 (490926)
12-09-2008 7:32 PM


We see the issue of morality and evolution raised frequently on this forum. Usually it is in relationship to things like abortion and eugenics, most recently at Message 50:

quote:
That said (and you have my permission to call me heartless), I don't want them to reproduce.

I'm not going to call you Heartless, for I see it in the exact same way.

Eugenics on the rise at EvC

What I want to discuss is how individual behavior can be influenced by the concepts of evolution, in particular:

(1) evolution is the change in hereditary traits in a population from generation to generation.

(2) selection means that some individuals are better adapted to survive and breed than other individuals, but this is a relative scale.

(3) "success" - in evolutionary terms - is surviving and breeding as an initial condition, thus passing your hereditary traits to the next generation.

(4) long term success - in evolutionary terms - is ensuring the continued survival and breeding of your lineage, ensuring that your hereditary traits remain part of the population.

Given that an individual that concentrates on (3) and ignores (4) could be less successful in the long run than an individual that gives attention to (4) at the expense of some commitment to (3), it seems to me that certain behaviors that promote the long term survival of offspring (or of other relatives with shared hereditary traits) would be a selective advantage for those individuals, and would form a logical basis for "moral" behavior.

{ ... opens floodgates ... }

Enjoy.

Note: I want to exclude entirely the concept of "survival of the fittest" from this discussion, as it is missing the relevance of the survival of the barely able. Nor do I want to discuss eugenics or abortion, but to concentrate on the effect of (4) on behavior.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


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Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by CosmicChimp, posted 12-09-2008 8:39 PM RAZD has responded
 Message 6 by Deftil, posted 12-10-2008 12:11 AM RAZD has responded
 Message 7 by PaulK, posted 12-10-2008 1:25 AM RAZD has responded
 Message 9 by ikabod, posted 12-10-2008 7:21 AM RAZD has responded
 Message 30 by Otto Tellick, posted 12-14-2008 4:01 AM RAZD has responded

  
AdminNosy
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Posts: 4754
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joined: 11-11-2003


Message 2 of 32 (490928)
12-09-2008 7:36 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
CosmicChimp
Member
Posts: 306
From: Muenchen Bayern Deutschland
Joined: 06-15-2007


Message 3 of 32 (490930)
12-09-2008 8:39 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
12-09-2008 7:32 PM


I see this as a sort of religion founded by Vito "Godfather" Corleone. Nepotism is recognized in society, I'm not sure exactly what laws are in effect or where, but I would generally see it as being illegal.

Once you get a certain number of steps removed from your kin, there is no greater relatedness than the general population. Richard Dawkins goes into great detail of this in his book The Selfish Gene (pp. 92)

quote:
For relationships as distant as third cousin (1/128), we are getting down near the baseline probability that a particular gene possessed by A will be shared by any random individual taken from the population. A third cousin is not far from being equivalent to any old Tom, Dick, or Harry as far as an altruistic gene is concerned. A second cousin (relatedness = 1/32) is only a little bit special; a first cousin somewhat more so (1/8). Full brothers and sisters, and parents and children are very special (1/2), and identical twins (relatedness = 1) just as special as oneself. Uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, grandparents and grandchildren, and half brothers and half sisters, are intermediate with a relatedness of 3.

Cloning yourself would be then the ultimate expression of morality based upon number four (4) in your list RAZD.

{ABE} As long as I have the book out, I might as well restate a small part of what Dawkins (pp. 2-3) has to say about genetic morality in his same book The Selfish Gene.

quote:
Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense.

This brings me to the first point I want to make about what this book is not. I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. I stress this, because I know I am in danger of being misunderstood by those people, all too numerous, who cannot distinguish a statement of belief in what is the case from an advocacy of what ought to be the case. My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene's law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true. This book is mainly intended to be interesting, but if you would extract a moral from it, read it as a warning. Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to.


I agree with Dawkins, we have to go way beyond our genes for a morality. Altruism is widely accepted as moral and has to be taught as it will not come from our genes. So culture plays the significant role in modern society as opposed to genetics.

Edited by CosmicChimp, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by RAZD, posted 12-09-2008 7:32 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by RAZD, posted 12-09-2008 9:01 PM CosmicChimp has responded

  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19869
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 4 of 32 (490932)
12-09-2008 9:01 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by CosmicChimp
12-09-2008 8:39 PM


all the eggs in one basket approach
Thanks, CosmicChimp,

Cloning yourself would be then the ultimate expression of morality based upon number four (4) in your list RAZD.

So you go for all your eggs in one basket approach rather than diversifying your portfolio.

When we look at other organisms, do we see this kind of behavior? Yes, we can see it in the reproduction of asexual organisms, except that mutation "corrupts" the genome: can you guarantee that cloning won't be corrupted by mutations? If we can control against this then one begins to wonder if one wouldn't be tempted to "improve" the basic model - remove a mole here or there ... or would alteration be immoral?

Wouldn't you also have the problem/s of matching development of your clone to the way you developed (phenotype preservation) and the education (memes) so that your offspring would appear and act like you?

"Ultimate expression" is, perhaps, a trifle bit towards overstatement, imho, as one could also consider pairing your traits with others of apparent "successful" value, so that your traits are kept going by those traits as well.

Would you think beyond one generation or not?

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : or


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by CosmicChimp, posted 12-09-2008 8:39 PM CosmicChimp has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by CosmicChimp, posted 12-09-2008 9:47 PM RAZD has responded

  
CosmicChimp
Member
Posts: 306
From: Muenchen Bayern Deutschland
Joined: 06-15-2007


Message 5 of 32 (490934)
12-09-2008 9:47 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by RAZD
12-09-2008 9:01 PM


Re: all the eggs in one basket approach
Oh, I added by edit some new stuff in my last post....

So you go for all your eggs in one basket approach rather than diversifying your portfolio.
This assumes that the environment would be radically altered. Not sure a morality based upon genetic self preservation takes any of that into consideration. It assumes the gene set is "ready for anything."

When we look at other organisms, do we see this kind of behavior? Yes, we can see it in the reproduction of asexual organisms, except that mutation "corrupts" the genome: can you guarantee that cloning won't be corrupted by mutations? If we can control against this then one begins to wonder if one wouldn't be tempted to "improve" the basic model - remove a mole here or there ... or would alteration be immoral?
I'm assuming that the technology is capable of working without mutations and then without them at any stage down the line. Improvement or changing the genome, I guess would have to be defined (in accordance with number four) as "immoral."

"Ultimate expression" is, perhaps, a trifle bit towards overstatement, imho, as one could also consider pairing your traits with others of apparent "successful" value, so that your traits are kept going by those traits as well.
Perfect genome preservation generation after generation seems to "fit the bill" according to number four. None of this is my personal opinion, I'm just trying to discuss the issue within the given parameters.

Would you think beyond one generation or not?
Multiple generations, indefinitely I suppose. I get the feeling I may not be on the trail of the discussion you're looking for. My added by edit material in my last post is more where I wanted to go actually, is it anything like you wanted in your OP?

{ABE} As far as the memes stuff goes, since it is not genetically related I would have to assume it is irrelevant/amoral, according to number four. What would generally be considered the best possible upbringing would be the goal, I suppose.

Edited by CosmicChimp, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by RAZD, posted 12-09-2008 9:01 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by RAZD, posted 12-10-2008 7:09 AM CosmicChimp has acknowledged this reply

  
Deftil
Member (Idle past 2619 days)
Posts: 128
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 04-19-2008


Message 6 of 32 (490937)
12-10-2008 12:11 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
12-09-2008 7:32 PM


Do we want to emulate evolution in our morality? Can we derive what we ought to do, directly from the way the world is? This gets into the Is-ought problem. Can we show that something is ethical because it is evolutionarily successful? This gets into the Naturalistic fallacy.

I find that the history of moral philosophy and the different concepts of what is right and wrong in different places in the world reveals that morality doesn't have an objective basis. It is subjective, and it's up to us, based on our feelings and thoughts, to decide what principles to follow in order to create the world we would most like to live in.

Do I value the long-term evolutionary success of my species (or my personal genotype) over the concept of treating all sentient beings as fairly as reasonably possible, so as to generally eliminate or reduce sufffering? No, because I do not see what would be good about our species existing far into the future if all or most of the individuals of our species were miserable in that future. So first and foremost I value the happiness and reduction of suffering of sentient beings over other values. Other values might seem noble, but they are only noble inasmuch as they serve the greater purpose of generating happiness and eliminating suffering. This is essentially a utilitarian view towards ethics.

With all that being said, I realize that the population in my country, and in the world, is growing. It's been growing for a while, and I don't know if/when it will stop or slow down. It's also true that we basically have limited resources. So it seems to me that at some point (soon, I suspect) we are going to have stop, or at least significantly slow, the current population growth so there will be enough resources available to meet everyone's basic needs. There won't be much happiness, and there will be much suffering, if we end up with a planet crowded full of 12 billion people, and too few resources to reasonably accomodate those people. So one way or another we apparently need to stop at least some people from reproducing freely. How in the hell to do that fairly, eludes me. Ethics is complicated.

RAZD, looking back more closely at your OP, I'm not sure I've responded along the lines you were looking for. Sorry if that's the case. You say you want to focus on the effect a concern for our long-term success will have on individual behavior? I guess that would be to cause us to amass resources and have as many children as we think those resources can provide for. You can't get your hereditary traits into the future population without having kids, and the more you have, the more likely your genes will remain part of the population. Of course, if you just have a bunch of kids without having a way to provide for them, you run into problems with keeping them healthy enough to pass on your genes further into the future, hence the part about amassing resources.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by RAZD, posted 12-09-2008 7:32 PM RAZD has responded

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PaulK
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Posts: 15034
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 7 of 32 (490939)
12-10-2008 1:25 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
12-09-2008 7:32 PM


No morality can be logically derived from evolution. Evolution is simply a fact about reality, it carries no moral weight at all. Like any other fact it may be a consideration in moral decisions but it has no impact on basic moral principles.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by RAZD, posted 12-09-2008 7:32 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by RAZD, posted 12-10-2008 7:36 AM PaulK has responded

    
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19869
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 8 of 32 (490944)
12-10-2008 7:09 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by CosmicChimp
12-09-2008 9:47 PM


Re: all the eggs in one basket approach
Thanks CosmicChimp, saw the edit.

I get the feeling I may not be on the trail of the discussion you're looking for.

Seeing as morality is about behavior to others, this does seem to be the case.

Perfect genome preservation generation after generation seems to "fit the bill" according to number four.

It preserves the genes, but it doesn't say anything about behavior based on that fit. One could conclude that this approach would be very selfish and self centered - would you agree with that?

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by CosmicChimp, posted 12-09-2008 9:47 PM CosmicChimp has acknowledged this reply

  
ikabod
Member (Idle past 2656 days)
Posts: 365
From: UK
Joined: 03-13-2006


Message 9 of 32 (490945)
12-10-2008 7:21 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by RAZD
12-09-2008 7:32 PM


it seems to me that certain behaviours that promote the long term survival of offspring (or of other relatives with shared hereditary traits) would be a selective advantage for those individuals, and would form a logical basis for "moral" behaviour.

Could you explain a bit more what you mean by logical basis , do you mean use to establish moral absolutes ?
I can think of a number of behaviours that would promote long term survival ,that I would not want as a basis for a moral code. For example..
a)Maximising childbirth so as to flood the population with your hereditary traits , males and females would clearly strive to achieve this by different routes
b)Preventing the competition from breeding , we can get into some very unpleasant areas from here .
c)Having a social system of positive discrimination for your offspring.
Personally I do not see nature as a source of a moral framework , morality is a unnatural condition that we impose upon our selves and acts to modify our instinctive behaviour . It is a produce of our intelligence , and I think we can see that in many cases the uses that we put that intelligence to does not seem to promote the long term survival of our offspring.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by RAZD, posted 12-09-2008 7:32 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 12 by RAZD, posted 12-10-2008 7:49 AM ikabod has responded

  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19869
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 10 of 32 (490947)
12-10-2008 7:29 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Deftil
12-10-2008 12:11 AM


reproductive strategies and their effect on behavior
Thanks Deftil,

Do we want to emulate evolution in our morality?

Not really, what I want to explore is how evolutionary processes affect what we see as moral.

You say you want to focus on the effect a concern for our long-term success will have on individual behavior? I guess that would be to cause us to amass resources and have as many children as we think those resources can provide for. You can't get your hereditary traits into the future population without having kids, and the more you have, the more likely your genes will remain part of the population. Of course, if you just have a bunch of kids without having a way to provide for them, you run into problems with keeping them healthy enough to pass on your genes further into the future, hence the part about amassing resources.

Yes, we can see this kind of behavior modeled in the reproductive approach of various organisms: the broadcast as many offspring as possible approach and the long term raising of a few offspring approach. One relies more on flooding the system hoping some will survive, and one relies more on providing resources and learned behavior to ensure survival.

In the former case it is moral to abandon the children as you proceed to have more.

In the later case it is moral to spend time with each offspring to teach them behavior and how to live. A bear cub stays with it's mother for 3 years, iirc.

How would these different reproductive strategies then affect behavior towards other individuals?

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Deftil, posted 12-10-2008 12:11 AM Deftil has not yet responded

  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19869
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 11 of 32 (490949)
12-10-2008 7:36 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by PaulK
12-10-2008 1:25 AM


opt out option?
Thanks, PaulK

No morality can be logically derived from evolution.

Moral behavior is acceptable behavior, and evolution affects behavior, and it affects what one could consider acceptable.

In a predatory species, murder could be acceptable as long as the victim is consumed. The new male lion pride leader kills the children of his predecessor so that he can start spreading his hereditary traits.

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by PaulK, posted 12-10-2008 1:25 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by subbie, posted 12-10-2008 10:11 AM RAZD has acknowledged this reply
 Message 14 by PaulK, posted 12-10-2008 2:16 PM RAZD has responded
 Message 15 by fallacycop, posted 12-11-2008 12:35 AM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19869
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 12 of 32 (490951)
12-10-2008 7:49 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by ikabod
12-10-2008 7:21 AM


nature vs nurture?
Thanks ikabod,

Personally I do not see nature as a source of a moral framework , morality is a unnatural condition that we impose upon our selves and acts to modify our instinctive behaviour . It is a produce of our intelligence , ...

Yet what we chose to consider moral behavior is also based on the fact that we are a social species, and a species that requires attention to care for offspring to keep them alive.

a)Maximising childbirth so as to flood the population with your hereditary traits , males and females would clearly strive to achieve this by different routes

Having children with as many mates as possible to spread your genes into the population. However this would be at the expense of being able to care for those children to ensure their survival and health.

Having many children with one mate would concentrate your ability to care for them.

b)Preventing the competition from breeding , we can get into some very unpleasant areas from here .

Wholesale murder of other children, would have consequences for the survival of your own.

c)Having a social system of positive discrimination for your offspring.

Like a class system?

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by ikabod, posted 12-10-2008 7:21 AM ikabod has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 17 by ikabod, posted 12-11-2008 3:52 AM RAZD has responded

  
subbie
Member
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 13 of 32 (490964)
12-10-2008 10:11 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by RAZD
12-10-2008 7:36 AM


Re: opt out option?
quote:
Moral behavior is acceptable behavior, and evolution affects behavior, and it affects what one could consider acceptable.

In a predatory species, murder could be acceptable as long as the victim is consumed. The new male lion pride leader kills the children of his predecessor so that he can start spreading his hereditary traits.


One could certainly make an argument that traits that are evolutionarily favored in a particular species would be more likely to become a part of the generally accepted morality of that species. However, that does not equate to logically deriving those traits as being moral. PaulK is absolutely correct. The ToE could help us determine which traits or behaviors would most likely maximize the reproductive success of our species, but the ToE can never tell which of those traits or behaviors are moral. To arrive at that conclusion, one must graft onto the ToE the non-evolutionary premise that increased reproductive success is itself a morally desirable end.


Those who would sacrifice an essential liberty for a temporary security will lose both, and deserve neither. -- Benjamin Franklin

We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by RAZD, posted 12-10-2008 7:36 AM RAZD has acknowledged this reply

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 15034
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 14 of 32 (490988)
12-10-2008 2:16 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by RAZD
12-10-2008 7:36 AM


Re: opt out option?
I'll grant that evolution can tell us something about the behaviour an animal species is likely to find acceptable.

However as you implicitly admit that behaviour will depend a lot more on the nature of the species in question.

More importantly, so far as we know, only humans have full-fledged moral codes and those are largely learned and the details are hugely influenced by culture.

Most important of all there is a big difference between using evolutionary principles to predict or explain elements of morality and actually using evolution to prescribe morality.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by RAZD, posted 12-10-2008 7:36 AM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 19 by RAZD, posted 12-11-2008 9:03 PM PaulK has responded

    
fallacycop
Member (Idle past 3684 days)
Posts: 692
From: Fortaleza-CE Brazil
Joined: 02-18-2006


Message 15 of 32 (491034)
12-11-2008 12:35 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by RAZD
12-10-2008 7:36 AM


Re: opt out option?
In a predatory species, murder could be acceptable as long as the victim is consumed. The new male lion pride leader kills the children of his predecessor so that he can start spreading his here
ditary traits.

That's interesting. Humans are a predatory species. If your logic is correct, murder should be acceptable, as long as it's done for canibalism. Is it?


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