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Author Topic:   Morality! Thorn in Darwin's side or not?
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 27 of 438 (504523)
03-30-2009 9:05 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Cedre
03-30-2009 3:34 AM


Re: Conscious Evolution
Cedre writes:
Let us assume that a strange disease is sweeping a squirrel population everyone’s affected save one squirrel that is somehow immune to it. Victims are defenseless and are much too in agony to mind their circumstances. Suddenly danger looms and the unaffected member spots it alone he sounds the relevant distress signal and the population right away reacts and starts finding safe haven. The only healthy member is quickly devoured by the fearsome predator having exposed his location and the others manage to sneak away on their last legs. The entire population may die down later on if the sickness is deadly or they may recover but they have lost the only gene that is resistant to the sickness. Here we have survival of the weakest and not the fittest.
Ask yourself how it could happen that this gene inhabits only a single squirrel in the population? By attempting to answer this question you'll discover how unlikely this is.
What is more commonly the case in a population is variation. Genes become distributed throughout a population roughly according to their ability to provide successful adaptation to the environment. Your squirrel scenario is certainly possible were the disease to strike in the very generation where the gene conferring resistance first appeared, but much more likely is that the gene would have been around a while and achieved a fair degree of distribution throughout the population, and there would be a number of resistant individuals to sound the alarm.
Competition between members of the same species tends not to become deadly to the point of threatening extinction because there is built in negative feedback. In the extreme case, a male that is so strong and aggressive that he wipes out all other males would have likely sounded the death knell for his species, since the removal of so much variation would leave it extremely vulnerable to a wide variety of threats, from disease to predators to competition from other species to environmental change.
For example, wolves tend to hunt in packs. A male wolf that wipes out all other males would be less successful in hunts because of the reduced pack size. The smaller population would be more vulnerable to the vagaries of surviving in the wild.
What seems to be selected for is the ability to display characteristics that correlate with strength and health (very desirable characteristics to potential females who seek a mate able to confer protection and strong, healthy offspring), but in ways that aren't fatal. What almost always happens in altercations between males for dominance is that one eventually becomes submissive. Non-deadly combat is one common way whereby populations establish dominance hierarchies so that the group functions without constant infighting.
The general principle is that cooperation provides a survival advantage. Species have evolved many different cooperative strategies, and altruism is one of them. There is strength in numbers, and strategies that increase numbers will be selected for.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 22 by Cedre, posted 03-30-2009 3:34 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 40 of 438 (504577)
03-31-2009 8:46 AM
Reply to: Message 36 by Cedre
03-31-2009 4:03 AM


Re: Conscious Evolution
Cedre writes:
It would only seem extremely unrealistic if viewed with a closed mind, but extremely unlikely events happen as well and no one who believes in beneficial mutations will dispute this statement.
To repeat what has already been explained about your squirrel example, it requires that the population be struck by disease in the very same generation that the resistant gene first appears. Not impossible, just very unlikely.
You're seeking examples of altruistic behavior that result in the removal of the altruistic gene from the population. Obviously that can happen, but as your squirrel example illustrates, it requires rather unique circumstances.
You also seem to be seeking examples of behaviors that run counter to altruism, and there will be no shortage of them. But that's not because there's no such thing as altruism. It's that altruism is just one of many different behavioral tendencies. Which behaviors are expressed at any given time will be dependent upon a host of factors.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 36 by Cedre, posted 03-31-2009 4:03 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 54 of 438 (504646)
04-01-2009 5:54 AM
Reply to: Message 53 by Cedre
04-01-2009 4:08 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
Cedre writes:
Well watch as I turn that very evidence back in your face. Let me start by saying that evidence is a like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say anything you‘d like it to say.
To the extent this is true, it is true for both sides in any debate. More telling is which side issues red herring claims like this.
Evolution encourages characteristics that improve the likelihood of contributing to the next generation. An evolutionary interpretation of morality holds that certain emotional instincts and behaviors provide survival advantages and so are more likely to be passed on. Whether you personally find this interpretation acceptable, the fact remains that it explains a great deal of behavioral phenomena.
You seem to be arguing that they are many, many behaviors that morality doesn't explain, or that run counter to morality, but no one would deny that such examples abound, indeed must abound. Morality is just one behavioral aspect among many.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 53 by Cedre, posted 04-01-2009 4:08 AM Cedre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 55 by Cedre, posted 04-01-2009 6:56 AM Percy has replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 59 of 438 (504669)
04-01-2009 9:45 AM
Reply to: Message 55 by Cedre
04-01-2009 6:56 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
Your peppered moth example is even more poorly conceived than your squirrel example. Light and dark moths already, as you say, "procreate together." What varies is the proportions of certain alleles across populations of peppered moths. And an entire generation of moth won't suddenly express the same characteristic everywhere. There will always be considerable variation, and variations not suitable for the environment will be selected against. If you could come up with a scenario that makes sense we could consider it.
You seem to be objecting to the possibility of evolutionary origins for morality and altruism on two different levels. First, you don't find evolution an acceptable framework for their origin. This objection is hard to understand, since most certainly evolution can explain them. The real question is whether this explanation is the correct one.
Which brings us to your second objection, which makes more sense, that the evidence is insufficient to justify acceptance of an evolutionary origin by the scientific community. I think you're primary complaint is that the evidence cited so far is circumstantial, a legitimate complaint. I wonder if there is any laboratory evidence, or some kind of more direct evidence, supporting the evolution of morality.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 55 by Cedre, posted 04-01-2009 6:56 AM Cedre has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 60 by dronestar, posted 04-01-2009 9:57 AM Percy has replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 63 of 438 (504683)
04-01-2009 2:11 PM
Reply to: Message 60 by dronestar
04-01-2009 9:57 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
I think what Cedre might find more convincing is not more evidence of altruistic behavior among animals, but of an evolutionary origin for the behavior.
--Percy

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 Message 60 by dronestar, posted 04-01-2009 9:57 AM dronestar has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 67 of 438 (504721)
04-02-2009 8:23 AM
Reply to: Message 66 by Cedre
04-02-2009 2:27 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
The passage mentions two techniques used to identify the areas in the brain where mirror mechanisms operate (noninvasive electrophysiological magnetoencepholography and brain imaging), and from this they infer that mirror neurons are there. You refer to this as guesswork. That's your rebuttal? No analysis or rationale for your conclusion, just denigration? You should have been on the OJ jury, Johnnie Cochran would have loved you.
Did you simply decide to ignore this quote or perhaps it was genuine mistake? I don't know.
Well, that's some kind of chutzpah given that your approach! And I could turn this about and level the same accusation at you, and where would that get us? Let's keep our focus on the topic and not on the participants, okay?
All science is tentative. There's no such thing as conclusive evidence. One common element in your approach so far is to just always require more evidence than already exists, in which case there's no point in discussion with you. It's not within the power of science to provide conclusive proof. But if you are interested in discussion and analysis of the information and evidence we have then there's a number of issues from other participants in the thread that you're ignoring.
--Pecy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 66 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 2:27 AM Cedre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 68 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 9:19 AM Percy has replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 69 of 438 (504726)
04-02-2009 9:41 AM
Reply to: Message 68 by Cedre
04-02-2009 9:19 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
Sorry, your analogy and the study results don't seem at all analogous to me. They correspond as poorly to each other as your squirrel and moth examples did to reality.
But you're letting yourself get distracted by side issues. The strength of a position is not measured by one's ability to issue denigrating judgments, but by its ability to persuade others through its evidence and explanatory power. You seem to like to support your position with examples and analogies, which is fine, but they have to actually correspond to the real world if you've to have a chance of convincing anyone.
There's a number of discussion choices open to you right now, just select from the criticisms of your arguments from the last few days and go from there.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 68 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 9:19 AM Cedre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 70 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 9:50 AM Percy has replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 73 of 438 (504731)
04-02-2009 10:20 AM
Reply to: Message 70 by Cedre
04-02-2009 9:50 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
Hi Cedre,
You're getting hung up on distractions. Do you want to talk about your topic or not? Because what you're doing is taking every opportunity to talk about other things.
Unlike your characterization of the conclusions of the brain imaging and magnetoencephalography studies as "guesswork", the criticisms of your squirrel and moth examples were specific and detailed. You chose to ignore them. You can't now complain that a brief and unfavorable characterization of your examples by way of reference to the earlier criticisms is unsupported denigration.
I suggest you go back and address the shortcomings. It's not like we were shy about pointing them out.
--Pecy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 70 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 9:50 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 76 of 438 (504736)
04-02-2009 10:37 AM
Reply to: Message 72 by Cedre
04-02-2009 10:17 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
Again I ask, is this really the way you want to proceed with discussion of your topic? Raise inapplicable analogies then insist endlessly that they're not at all inapplicable? Contrive examples that don't correspond to the real world, then ignore the criticisms, and anticipating your next step, endlessly defend them?
If you can't see that concluding ethnicity from things like shadows bears no resemblance to concluding increased neuron activity on the basis of brain imaging and magnetoencephalography studies, then any hope of rational discussion with you is lost.
If you want to work through analogies and examples that's fine, but adjust and improve them as the feedback comes in. Simply insisting that they are too excellent analogies and examples isn't going to get anywhere. The only thing you're convincing us of so far is that your opinions are based upon remarkably cloudy thinking.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 72 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 10:17 AM Cedre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 77 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 10:49 AM Percy has replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 78 of 438 (504738)
04-02-2009 10:52 AM
Reply to: Message 75 by Cedre
04-02-2009 10:32 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
There are probably other cells as well that can account for this and other factors may also account for this activity.
Basically the brain consists of neurons and glial cells. Glial cells can't send signals like neurons and aren't involved in the actual thinking process. So when someone thinks about a certain type of problem and the corresponding part of the brain lights up on a brain imaging device, by what reasoning could one conclude that the activity is due to glial cells and not neurons, and that the increased activity is unrelated to thinking processes?
Since you like analogies, take your example of a family living in a house next door, but this time they have cats. You hide a beeping device in their house (analogous to giving a test subject a problem to think about) and observe what happens. The shades are pulled so you can't see much, but from various indirect observations you can tell that there's an increase in activity in the house. By what logic would you conclude that the increased activity is due to the cats?
You wouldn't conclude it was the cats, of course, because you know about people and you know about cats. Just like we know about neurons and we know about glial cells. When there's increased activity in the brain in response to thought, it's no mystery what cells are involved.
I sure hope we don't have to get to this level of detail over every little thing.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 75 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 10:32 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 79 of 438 (504740)
04-02-2009 11:00 AM
Reply to: Message 77 by Cedre
04-02-2009 10:49 AM


Re: Defining Altruism
Cedre writes:
based upon remarkably cloudy thinking let them be, though I don't believe this why didn't you criticize BlueJays examples too, I sense favoritism in this chat room.
Again I ask you, do you want to discuss your topic or not? It sure doesn't seem like it. You seem to be trying to draw the thread into endless niggling about anything but your topic.
Anyway, why would I criticize Bluejay's examples when they make sense to me? I'm criticizing things in this thread that don't make sense, which seem to all be coming from you.
Anyway the bottom line remains you haven't been able to refute any of my examples significantly although accusing them of being poor, if they're so poor then why haven't you demolished them already. What's more I'm sensing that you're trying brush the evidence I provide aside and only focusing on such things as the examples I proved.
In other words, your response to all the detailed criticism is to ignore them and simply declare them to be just fine. I can see this discussion running out of gas soon.
Please quite trying to invalidate my style of making claims and start dealing with my claims.
We have dealt with your claims, specifically and in detail. You ignored them. What should we do, cut-and-paste them into a new message and post them to you again?
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 77 by Cedre, posted 04-02-2009 10:49 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 86 of 438 (504798)
04-03-2009 7:33 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by Cedre
04-03-2009 3:26 AM


Re: Avatar
Do you want to discuss your topic, or are you going to continue to talk about anything but?
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 84 by Cedre, posted 04-03-2009 3:26 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 94 of 438 (504835)
04-03-2009 11:37 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by Cedre
04-03-2009 3:26 AM


Re: Avatar
Hi Cedre,
I know people people have been telling you your avatar is a spoof, but I'm not so sure. You can read about how it was chosen for use by the blog site Christaddicts + story of a hooker who cannot kick the habit here:
And if you go to that blog site it looks like they're serious (or were, it hasn't been active in a few years), just a bit over the top.
It's incredible that your avatar isn't a spoof, that it was actually concocted in complete sincerity. It's the sort of work that The Onion usually does. It communicates such a strong negative message about Christianity that it's difficult to understand why you would want to keep it, and then compound it with completely unchristian expressions of uncaring insensitivity.
But I again urge you to stop letting yourself be distracted by side issues. Let's continue the discussion about the evolution of morality, which is the topic of this thread, your thread.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 84 by Cedre, posted 04-03-2009 3:26 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 99 of 438 (504842)
04-03-2009 2:03 PM
Reply to: Message 95 by Cedre
04-03-2009 11:55 AM


Re: looking forward.
Hi Cedre,
You're now discovering that there are problems with your chosen terminology. There's a reason science uses the term "altruism" and not "morality". Morality implies good versus evil, while altruism is something done that accrues to the benefit of others without any judgment as to whether it is good or evil. Science tries to avoid becoming caught up in subjective issues of good versus evil.
Bluejay asks the right questions. You need evidence that animals don't make conscious choices, and conversely that humans don't make instinctive ones. As you were informed early on in this thread, from an evolutionary perspective altruism is the result of the selection for behaviors that increase the possibility of one's genes contributing to the next generation. How would you go about determining experiments that demonstrate that human morality isn't instinctive (it sure doesn't seem to be religious, since society is rarely plagued with hordes of bloodthirsty atheists), or that animal behavior isn't actually conscious morality?
In other words, you've got to try to begin approaching the problem scientifically.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 95 by Cedre, posted 04-03-2009 11:55 AM Cedre has not replied

  
Percy
Member
Posts: 22687
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 107 of 438 (504990)
04-06-2009 9:23 AM
Reply to: Message 105 by Cedre
04-06-2009 7:14 AM


Re: Some freindly advice
Cedre writes:
This is the proposed definition of morality on this thread, by those who are against a normative view of morality, that is against the view that the knowledge of good and evil are universal and fixed.
Good and evil are not scientific concepts. We're not arguing against "a normative view of morality," whatever that is. We're arguing that morality based upon good and evil is not scientific. That's why science uses the term altruism. Altruism and morality are not synonyms.
You argue in your Hitler example that annihilating Jews became moral whereas before it was not, but scientists study reality, and the nature of reality is not a function of what people think. That morality is fluid is your clue that it isn't a scientific concept, that it is subjective, different from one person or culture to the next.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 105 by Cedre, posted 04-06-2009 7:14 AM Cedre has not replied

  
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