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Author Topic:   Morality! Thorn in Darwin's side or not?
Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 104 of 438 (504922)
04-05-2009 4:45 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by Cedre
04-03-2009 3:26 AM

Chocolate and cheese
You're just organized mass of chemicals and advanced animal so then why should I bother myself about your feelings.
Chocolate is just an organized mass of chemicals. It still tastes nice. If I see or smell chocolate I feel a desire to acquire and eat it. If I am eating something with cheese in it, my cat evidently feels the same way.
There is nothing intrinsically or objectively 'tasty' about chocolate or cheese. My desires to acquire chocolate are part of a mechanism that evolved because of its capacity to inspire those that had that mechanism to seek out fruits and other high sugar sources. This was beneficial since the bodies that evolved it tend to require lots of energy to run.
The feeling of desire is not because of something intrinsic about fruit, or sugar, or chocolate.
Eating nothing but sugar is bad for you. It is rare that anybody desires to eat nothing but sugar. It gets a little 'sickly', the diet is a little too 'rich'.
The point? The desire to be nice, the nice feeling once we have successfully been nice are the equivalent of the tastiness of chocolate and the happiness after eating it. But too much niceness is not good for you, being completely selfless comes at a high personal cost.
It might be the case that some people could get away with always being nice, and some people could get away with never being nice with some kind of mixture in the population. Or, what seems more in line with our observations, some people are nice some of the time, sometimes they are neutral, other times they are selfish. There is nothing intrinsically 'good' about being nice any more than there is something intrinsically 'sweet' about sugar.
Sometimes morality is tasty, but other times getting ahead is tastier.

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 Message 84 by Cedre, posted 04-03-2009 3:26 AM Cedre has not replied

Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 129 of 438 (505513)
04-13-2009 3:27 AM
Reply to: Message 124 by ICANT
04-11-2009 2:30 AM

My question is, how, where, and why did this innate ability get hardwired into us?
The how is more interesting than the where. The where is planet earth. The why and the how are pretty much the same question.
There are essentially two kinds of behaviour in animals: innate and learned. There is not necessarily a big disconnect between the two.
In simple terms there are two possible strategies for any given interaction with others: be nice or be nasty.
If any given animal is a little nicer to others, it might not do as well, but its children - should it have any - would also be nicer to others. If that family spends at least some of its life in proximity to one another, that family will be nicer to each other than other families.
This may, in certain circumstances, prove to be advantageous. If this is the case, then there will be a tendency for the members of the nice family to reproduce with greater probability than the members of the nastier families and we'd expect the proportion of nicer members to increase in the population.
It is almost certainly the case that being totally nice will not be advantageous. So we'd expect to see animals that are sometimes nice to one another, and sometimes nasty.
Naturally we cannot know what happened exactly - but we can show that it is feasible that it can happen appealing only to observable natural mechanisms.
1. Love God with everything you are.
2. Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
Now you and everybody else here can dispense with number one.
But if everyone in the world would keep number two.
Our jails would be empty.
There would be no homeless.
There would be no hunger.
Number two boils down to 'Be nice'. Hardly an instructive moral code. Do I beat my children (tough love)?, do I kill innocent commuters (better they died in glory than fall to sin)? And so on.
And there would be hunger. No matter how nice we are to each other, being nice doesn't magic food into the world. Famines happen no matter how nice we are to one another.

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Replies to this message:
 Message 132 by Cedre, posted 04-14-2009 6:54 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 135 of 438 (505644)
04-14-2009 1:23 PM
Reply to: Message 132 by Cedre
04-14-2009 6:54 AM

the where is a question relating to where in the organism morality got hardwired
Usually the brain - though knowing nature there are probably some interesting exceptions.
There are essentially two kinds of behaviour in animals: innate and learned. There is not necessarily a big disconnect between the two.
I would ask you to provide some evidence for this statement.
Sure thing. Human children who spend years in the company of language using adults learn language. This is almost universal. Cats that spend years in company of the same adults pick up very little human language.
The tendency to pick up and use languages is an innate behavioural trait. Picking up specifically 20th Century English with a Birmingham accent is a learned behavioural trait.
It seems to me that there isn't a large disconnect between the innate behaviour of language acquisition and the learned behaviour of a specific language.
Indeed, anthropology has studied a variety of human universals which includes a large range of pursuits - some of them require some learning but the drive to do in them seems innate.
There are also studies out there in neuroscience that shows that although the brain changes through learning - the more related we are to one another the more similar certain structures are that control certain behaviours. Identical twins, even those that have been separated since birth and share very different upbringing can still have very similar brain structures.
There are a number of studies regarding these twins, with some interesting observations such as hobbies, mannerisms, opinions, dress sense etc overlapping quite significantly even when the backgrounds of the two were quite markedly different.
Does that suffice?
If any given animal is a little nicer to others, it might not do as well, but its children - should it have any - would also be nicer to others.
I will happily disagree with the second part of your statement, I would have loved to disagree with the first part as well but sadly I don’t get what you’re trying convey with it.
If an animal shares some food that it has found with those around it, then that animal will get to eat less. This might lead to it being weaker or slower or what have you. Thus it might not do as well. Should it have children, and if that impulse to share food with others was heritable, then those children will tend to also share food with others.
If that family spends at least some of its life in proximity to one another, that family will be nicer to each other than other families.
This seems to be true for humans including other social animals, but I will doubt that it is out of being moral in other social animals.
My statement you quoted is tied to the previous point. Now we have a parent and some children that share food when they find it. That might mean that the family as a whole tends to do rather well if they live in proximity with one another as they will tend to help each other out. So while the parent might have gone hungry, now the family may get hungry less often than others. So the gene that has led to this sharing behaviour could increase in frequency in the genepool.
The 'motivation' factor I covered in an entirely separate post about chocolate that was addressed directly to you, so I won't repeat that here.
Animals display biological altruism, which is when an animal’s behavior benefits other organisms; at a cost to itself according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy it is not synonymous with human morality.
I was addressing a specific question about how an ability to empathize might become hard-wired into us. I gave a brief account of how a strategy of being nice might be able to evolve in nature. Empathy is the skill of working out what the other person is feeling so that we can 'be nice'. So once we have the drive to be nice, there is the possibility of evolving complex ways of specialising in nice behaviour.
I can’t figure out whether you are addressing animals or humans in this quote but I will take it that you are addressing humans, since animals do not choose their mating partners based on goodness of heart but on physical appearance or dominance or other traits safe goodness of heart.
I was talking about non specific animals - I was generalising. You have a very narrow view of animal mating choice. But I wasn't talking about mating choice, so your point seems irrelevant anyway.
It is almost certainly the case that being totally nice will not be advantageous.
This statement needs some kind of backing.
If an animal gives up all of its found food during a period of famine, it will starve to death. This is not advantageous. It seems to me that essentially giving everything for the benefit of others, ie., 'being totally nice', will result in disaster for the individual doing it.
It might work out for the genes to produce the occasional perfect altruist, but a passing glimpse at the literature on Game Theory should prove it is not a stable strategy for all organisms to be perfectly altruistic all the time.
Naturally we cannot know what happened exactly
And yet you hold almost religiously to natural explanations even when they refuse to provide answers, and won’t let a divine foot in the door, perhaps that is the only explanation, to claim it’s not is to claim all knowledge.
I don't hold onto natural explanations in any fashion that can be described as 'religious'. It seems to me that there only exist natural explanations. When the supernatural crops up, I fail to see any actual explanations. Like any good detective, I'm not going to postulate that a Djinn committed a murder when I can see a rough picture of how a human being might have done it even if I don't know the details moment by moment.
Still - if you think that postulaing lfar helps us explain missing children cases better than child abusers and runaways, then you have a lot of explaining to do.
I give you the permission to show that it is feasible.
I already gave a brief outline which you critically misunderstood. Hopefully my clarifications will help there. Do you find anything infeasible about my generic overview?
Number two boils down to 'Be nice'. Hardly an instructive moral code.
Why not?
Because it doesn't tell us anything about how to determine what is nice and what is not. Is killing one innocent man to save five innocent men from dying 'nice'? Is spanking a child 'nice'? Is going to war 'nice'? When is going to war 'nice'? And so on. It answers none of the moral questions that vex human society.
I disagree. There is adequate food supply in the world to feed the entire human population, what does lead to hunger is not a lack of food but more accurately the imbalance in distribution of wealth, namely money, money is the root of the problem not the solution.
A highly temporal view. It hasn't always been the case that humanity has over produced food, and it is quite possible that it won't always be the case. If/when human population levels outstrip our abilities to produce and distribute food (can the earth feed 60 trillion people?) then no matter how nice we are people will go hungry.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 132 by Cedre, posted 04-14-2009 6:54 AM Cedre has not replied

Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 149 of 438 (505992)
04-21-2009 9:22 AM
Reply to: Message 148 by Cedre
04-21-2009 6:45 AM

You have yet to show how morality could evolve where exactly on the chromosome the morality gene is carried. And if it is a genetic in nature than why does it seem to vary greatly from culture to culture?
The culture to culture question has already been addressed. Language acquisition is genetic, but languages vary from culture to culture.
There are people with no, or very little moral sense such as psychopaths. In cases where they have a twin, their twin has a very significant chance of also being a psychopath. There are brain regions that are created under the influence of genes, which if damaged, result in people with little or no moral sense.
This would indicate that the brain and morality have links.
And these different genes belong to individuals, again evolution functions at an individual level. Mutations happen in individuals, selection chooses the fittest individuals, and that it what leads to unequal reproductive success. Natural selection doesn’t have a brain to choose a group it can only work on individuals. And to suggest that natural selection favors the survival of a species is to suggest that natural selection has a purpose, selection is a purposeless natural process, and it is not bothered if a gene survive or go extinct.
It’s just a process that occurs because it occurs; you can’t endow it with a purpose. Therefore when you declare that the group should survive so that the genes survive in turn you are suggesting that selection has a purpose namely that genes survive. This is foolishness if you ask me. Selection doesn’t possess any more brain power to be giving such purpose than a wind blowing through the city does. So why should it favor anything, much less the survival of a particular gene?
This is actually an interesting point. The thing is - you've missed a trick. There are individuals who are genetically sterile, and not in a bad mutation kind of way, but in a systematic fashion. This is commonly seen in the social insect world. Certain members of the hive or nest might be born sterile, their only purpose in life seems to be to defend the nest, for example. They aren't doing it so that they can reproduce but so that their genes can reproduce through the Queen.
But this brings us to a testable hypothesis. The more related two animals are, the more we should see them helping each other out. And indeed - a definite metric might be created here. Brothers share 1/2 of the same inherited genome and cousins 1/8. Where animals are likely to interact with brothers and cousins - we might expect to find some corresponding preference for brothers over cousins...if altruism for the benfit of the gene has any weight. Naturally, there is still going to be a general preference for self in this model since the self contains 100% of one's genes.

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 Message 148 by Cedre, posted 04-21-2009 6:45 AM Cedre has not replied

Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 159 of 438 (506078)
04-22-2009 8:41 AM
Reply to: Message 158 by Cedre
04-22-2009 6:24 AM

Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgements
Michael Koenigs, Liane Young, Ralph Adolphs, Daniel Tranel, Fiery Cushman, Marc Hauser & Antonio Damasio
The psychological and neurobiological processes underlying moral judgement have been the focus of many recent empirical studies. Of central interest is whether emotions play a causal role in moral judgement, and, in parallel, how emotion-related areas of the brain contribute to moral judgement. Here we show that six patients with focal bilateral damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a brain region necessary for the normal generation of emotions and, in particular, social produce an abnormally 'utilitarian' pattern of judgements on moral dilemmas that pit compelling considerations of aggregate welfare against highly emotionally aversive behaviours (for example, having to sacrifice one person's life to save a number of other lives). In contrast, the VMPC patients' judgements were normal in other classes of moral dilemmas. These findings indicate that, for a selective set of moral dilemmas, the VMPC is critical for normal judgements of right and wrong. The findings support a necessary role for emotion in the generation of those judgements.
Just in case you doubted that the brain and morality are linked - this study is not unique. Some genes that are of interest might be BDNF on Chromosome 11 or MAOA on the X Chromosome - variants in the latter have some interesting side effects such as increased propensity to crime. One mutation has led to the very rare Brunner syndrome which leads the handful of (related) sufferers to commit serious crimes such as rape and arson.

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Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 232 of 438 (740022)
10-30-2014 9:05 PM
Reply to: Message 220 by mike the wiz
10-28-2014 5:55 AM

Logically, there isn't an "evolutionary" answer that is NOT an excuse.
Every single suggestion for an answer with the selfish gene, is plastic and conjectural.
I shouldn't confuse informal debate with science. We can show how selfless organisms are consistent with selfish genes, despite some critics claiming selfish genes necessitate selfish organisms.
Think about it, if you help mother, it's your selfish gene, if you help mother's friend it's the selfish gene, if you help mother's friend's dog, it's the selfish gene, if you commit suicide it's the selfish gene, if you stand on four legs howling at the moon it's the selfish gene if you're Elvis Johnny-cake Jonah from the planet Mars it's the selfish gene.
Those may or may not be consistent and explainable in terms of selfish genes.
Please somebody show me how to refute something that is so plastic that any answer you give is, "evolution". RIDICULOUS
That wouldn't be an answer I would give as to why I speak English. Though it would be an answer I would give if I was explaining why language is universal among humans.
It's exactly the same thing as invoking the insanely improbable.
Except evolution is something you know happens, how can you conclude that it is insanely improbable that selfless acts by an organism might be able to propagate selfish genes better than selfish acts?
Not true.
Therefore the PHILOSOPHY of evolution is logically IRRELEVANT to the died-in-the-wool FACTS you have just stated.
Not really. Reciprocal altruism is a strategy that can work in a number of situations and can be modelled to fun effect (see the iterated prisoner's dilemma as a classic example).
Any direct FACTS that favour theism, and favour Christianity, have to be dealt with by materialists in one of two ways;
1. Say the fact is illusory.
2. Deny the fact.
Or 3. Dispute that the facts favour theism.
-Freewill. (doesn't really exist")
Freewill is either incoherent, undesirable or it exists. That's my view. It does not favour theism.
- Design. ( only and "appearance")
I'm happy to call it design if it makes you feel better. Evolution is a designer. The designs have peculiarities that are almost obvious in light of evolution that make no sense as a pre-planned design. It does not favour theism.
- Morality (only "relative")
Nope, both relative and absolute. See? You don't seem to understand your opponents very well at all! Absolute morality does not favour theism. Morality is only subjective, and is not objective. If this is not true, we have no way of accessing the objective morality in such a way as we can agree upon it, so it ends up being de facto subjective any way. This does not favour theism.
- Human uniqueness. (By giving example of rudimentary, irrelevant similarities in animals, playing the "quantitive" game.)
Humans are as unique as the platypus and Yersinia pestis. The main unique feature of humans vs other great apes is the nature of our brain. Everything else is stupendously similar. This does not favour theism.
- DNA, (not really "information")
DNA is information that has been copied from the environment. A lot of that copying is noise. The environment exerts a selection bias in the kinds of information that get copied more regularly than others. In this way, the environment can impress upon the DNA information regarding those selection biases. For instance, if the DNA contains information that can develop into a wing, we can infer information about the atmosphere in the environment the wing seems suited to. It must be remembered that the information that is in the DNA however, is not really all that intrinsically meaningful. It will only lead to the development of an organism in a highly specific environment (eg., a fertilized egg at the right temperature and adequate resources to grow etc). It's not really possible to study DNA and infer the intended design without recourse to the environment the DNA was evolved to be expressed in meaning it isn't so much a recipe book as a string of ingredients that fall off a shelf and bounce around through some insanely incomprehensibly arranged Pachinko game so as to fall into a pot in the right order and with the right timings to make a meal. Evolution is tinkering with the ingredients and their order of expression which in turn leads to a change in the Pachinko games pins and if the food can't make a meal, that Pachinko arrangement stops being a chef. There is no intelligent chef tinkering with pins or putting a finger to block an ingredient for a second needed as far as I can see.
After that strange trip, I come back to how information in DNA does not favour theism.
Evolution doesn't explain the human condition, and never did.
Who knows if it does or does not? We don't know what the explanation is yet. We have some pretty decent ideas about it, but we are a long way of having a full explanation.
But science has given us a more detailed view of the human condition than anything else has to date, so I say we should be confident it will continue to enlighten us.
They can give excuses, but we don't have to buy them.
No excuses, just pointing out that 'survival of the fittest' does not in fact come down to 'the strong kills the weak' and thus fails to explain morality. On the contrary, the argument is a little more complex and at times subtle than that, but absolutely leads to the conclusion that a moral sense of sorts can in principle evolve.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 220 by mike the wiz, posted 10-28-2014 5:55 AM mike the wiz has not replied

Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 251 of 438 (740511)
11-05-2014 2:09 PM
Reply to: Message 250 by ringo
11-05-2014 11:48 AM

Re: Good and Bad
Is there an evolutionary advantage to risking our lives for "fun"?
If you survive, you get laid.
Well that's the plan anyway. Not the person who is having fun's plan, necessarily, but evolution's 'plan'. Why would this be? A selection pressure to find brave, non risk-averse, and competent partners as well as a similar one for advertising one's risk tolerance and competence.
That's the easiest advantage I could find, but I'm sure there are other possibilities. Like maybe its not just about attracting mates, but also dissuading enemies or just sexual competition.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 250 by ringo, posted 11-05-2014 11:48 AM ringo has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 252 by ringo, posted 11-05-2014 2:21 PM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 253 of 438 (740531)
11-05-2014 3:17 PM
Reply to: Message 252 by ringo
11-05-2014 2:21 PM

Re: Good and Bad
But who's more likely to get laid? The guy who climbs Mount Everest or the guy with a big roll of cash?
The guy with the cash, I would expect, all things being equal.
But guys with lots of wealth and secure power were rare as hen's teeth during our evolutionary history, so I expect there was still plenty of scope for other displays to evolve for the rest of the men who are competing.
I would suggest that the "best course of action" would be to stay home, play it safe and make a lot of money to show your ability to take care of the children.
Sure, in a secure nation state that may well be the best course of action, and maybe passivity will get enough generations to become something that may result in passivity related changes in biology.
But in a world of regular male coalitionary violence, staying at home will get you killed by a rival tribesman (or more likely, from angry members of your own tribe as you aren't pulling your weight while gaining the benefits of protection).
On the other hand, when soldiers go off to war to protect the children, it's the guys who stay home who get the chicks and make more children.
In a society that has division of labour, this is all well and good. What might have been a good idea 25,000 years ago may not apply today. If it was considered essential for society that all the men share the risks and the benefits from eliminating rivals, then staying at home as mentioned above, can get you killed. Indeed, avoiding conscription, desertion and cowardice have been capital offences up until quite recent in many Western societies.
It was a good idea to make us crave sweet things as sweet things typically provide us with essential vitamins as well as sugar itself. Today, in some parts of the world, this has led affluent people to drift towards obesity.

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Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 262 of 438 (742290)
11-18-2014 4:12 PM
Reply to: Message 261 by Stile
11-18-2014 9:07 AM

Re: Good and Bad
This is true (especially with the quotes around "solve" )
Game theory gives a solution... but is it the best solution?
Can we not use our intelligence to think of a moral system that treats our fellow humans "better?"
Why not both?
Things under control of Game Theory concepts (evolution of behavioural traits / evolution of culture etc) are influential in the process of us thinking about our specific situation so as to treat our fellow human beings as well as possible.

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 Message 261 by Stile, posted 11-18-2014 9:07 AM Stile has replied

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 Message 264 by Stile, posted 11-19-2014 10:42 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 94 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 265 of 438 (742411)
11-19-2014 4:25 PM
Reply to: Message 264 by Stile
11-19-2014 10:42 AM

Re: Good and Bad
That is... not using game theory just because it's game theory. But using game theory because you've used your intelligence to judge the possible options and have decided that game theory is the best system to use.
I think we're talking past each other. Using our conscious minds to employ game theory to make decisions is not using both. Game theory gives us a sense of morality as animals. A sense that community standards are important and a drive to live by them and punish those that do not. In short, game theory has resulted in us being moral animals.
RAZD said '...evolved morality it would be subconscious' and ' we have evolved the solution that game theory says provides the best benefit to the players in a group. '. Naturally, this solution is a) geared towards our evolutionary past and b) generalised.
For specific solutions we should turn to our conscious mind. We may use Game Theory in our analysis, if we know how, but both conscious, learned, or inferred decision making is one, the other is unconscious unlearned instinctual moral drives, biologically involved.
Hence: both.

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