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Author Topic:   Morality! Thorn in Darwin's side or not?
Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.7

Message 108 of 438 (505042)
04-06-2009 9:00 PM
Reply to: Message 105 by Cedre
04-06-2009 7:14 AM

Re: Some freindly advice
I almost think that you might actually be starting to approach the verge of understanding. You still don't understand what we're telling you, but you are at least beginning to see that what you misunderstand that to be is wrong. That's not much of a start, but it's a start nonetheless.
Mind you, I was away for a few days and haven't had time to completely review what has transpired in the meantime. But still I see a pattern in your posts in that you keep ignoring a key criterion for the setting of what is moral or immoral in a society: does it work?
I know that I have told you more than once that every immoral act has an effect, bears a consequence, that affects others and yourself. As does every moral act. I also know that I have told you that while people could make arbitrary decisions about what's right or wrong, it's still actually the consequences of implementing those arbitrary decisions that will make the final decision. And that it is almost impossible for people to accurately figure out in advance what the consequences of those decisions will be. You ignored that and as a consequence keep concocting these outrageous scenarios.
It's somewhat analogous to how evolution works by natural selection. An organism's genome is used during its development from a zygote (a fertilized egg) to produce that organism and thereafter for that organism to function. There are virtually unlimited numbers of changes that could be made to that genome which will produce vast numbers of different organisms, some vastly different from the one you had started out with. But will those new creatures work? If we were to use genetic engineering to go in and arbitrarily set the genetic code of an zygote, would it work? Would it produce a viable organism that will be more fit?
Well, that's just it, isn't it? We can arbitrarily decide what it will become, but how fit it is is completely out of our hands. It's the environment that will decide that! We may be able to cook a pudding, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, now isn't it? You could go into the kitchen and mix together whatever ingredients you want to and cook it in whatever manner you choose at whatever temperature and for however long you arbitrarily choose. But will anybody be able to eat it? You can arbitrarily choose how it's made, but not over whether anyone would actually eat it (in this case, unless you actually do know how to cook and had properly applied that knowledge).
In evolution, organism produce offspring that are very similar to their parents, but a bit different. Which ones will survive to produce offspring of their own? The environment "decides" that, in that the ones who are better able to survive and reproduce will be the ones whose genes continue on and spread into the following generations. Exactly what traits are more fit than others? Depends on the environment. Different environments select for different traits and it also happens that an environment that used to select of one trait changes so that it then starts to select for other traits.
This is basically how evolution by natural selection works: by reproduction followed by selection. If you leave out the effects of selection, then you're not talking about evolution.
In the case social animals, their fitness depends on the society, as I have already described to you. Their behavior within that society has an effect on how well the society functions. "Right" and "wrong" (AKA "morality") are relative to the society and to what kinds of behavior will benefit or harm the society's ability to function and to ensure the survival of its members. While members of that society might arbitrarily decide as a group what behavior they will adopt, they have no say over whether those behaviors are "right" or "wrong", but rather it is the environment within the society and within which the society must function that will decide that. We may be able to arbitrarily decide upon certain conduct, but we have no control over the consequences of that conduct. And it is the consequences that decide right from wrong.
Following the evolution analogy, people need to be able to function as a society and to stay together in that society and they need to benefit from that. They have to work together, to take care of each other, to protect each other. Their behavior needs to support and promote the society's ability to function (including their ability to function within the society) and to provide for its members. Conduct which promotes that will be allowed to continue and might even be encouraged. Conduct that causes problems will be discouraged and members will try to seek solutions. If problem-causing conduct is allowed to continue, the very survival of the group could be in danger. Over time, the society will have learned what works for them and what doesn't work and that will be the established morality for that society.
Many times in the past and even in the present, people have designed the perfect society, a utopia. How many utopian societies do you know of that still exist after several generations? I can think of none. We cannot design a utopian society that will actually work. Rather, they grow. For example, an engineer I work with was a problem teenager, so he grew up on a boy's ranch. When he arrived, they only had four rules. By the time he left, they had 32 rules. Every time he did something stupid, they'd have to make a new rule that said, "Don't do that!"
Now, one of the effects of humans forming societies is that we started breeding ourselves, albeit unconsciously, into animals who fit into societies, just as we inadvertantly bred our livestock to have the temperament that suited us and our needs. Those people whose temperament enabled them to work together would stay with the group and contribute to the group's gene pool, whereas the loners would go off on their own and not contribute. People who wanted to be with other people and be part of a group (that's called being gregarious, which is a human trait) would do so and contribute to the gene pool. Those who were too adversarial and uncooperative would likely get themselves kicked out of the group or gotten rid of in some way, whereas those who could get along and cooperate would be allowed to stay and to contribute to the gene pool. And those who would learn and abide by the rules of the group, by its morality, would be able to stay while those could not or refused to would most likely be gotten rid of. Thus we bred ourselves to seek the company of others, to try to get along, and to learn how to behave properly within our society.
Another point is that what we see happening on a higher level is almost never the perspective of the individual on the ground. He's trying to keep himself alive and to provide for his family. Insofar as that depends on society, he will get along in society and to support society. If that society is endangered, then he will pitch in to protect it. Even it kills him, because that would be to protect his family and would hence ensure that his genes will make it into the following generations. Of course, he's not thinking in those exact terms, but the drive to protect his family is a strong one. And to protect his siblings and their families. And his cousins. Well, way back when these drives were becoming established in us, most likely nearly everybody in your tribe was related to you in some way; even nowadys in a lot of small towns in the American prairie most everybody in town is related to each other. That altruistic instinct evolved through kinship (sacrificing yourself for kin still ensures the propagation of your genes in future generations), but once it was established it could be extended to others who are not our literal kin, but with whom we feel some kind of kinship through social bonds.
If morality is determined by a society or by a majority vote then we may end up having moralities that benefit a few at the expense of many. Take the Nazi Germany as an example, Hitler most likely believed that the existence of the Jews was immoral, that they should be wiped out. And he infected the greater part of Germany with this wicked mindset, until it became moral to annihilate all the Jews.
As I've described, morality is determined by society, but not arbitrarily by its members. A society's members may arbitrarily decide on certain standards of conduct and certain goals for the society, but that does not guarantee that it will actually work, not does it guarantee what the consequences will be. What would the consequences of engaging in a determined campaign of genocide be on a society? In the case you cite, there's not just one society to consider, but all the other societies that interact with the Nazi German one -- kind of alike a large society of societies with its own rules of interaction and "moral" standards.
Now another thing that was also mentioned is that evolution is the survival of genes. Now answer me how is killing 6 million Jewish people beneficial towards the survival of our species. If in fact the whole world were to believe that the existence of the Jews, or let us take the black population, if society believed that the existence of the black population is immoral, and the moral thing to do is to wipe them out, how would this make sure that our species survive and proliferate.
Remember that an individual's concern will only be extended as far as the group that he belongs to. Usually that operates on a community level and on a national level. Unless an individual's perception of the group that he belongs to has expanded to include all of humanity, his concern will not really apply to those outside his group. So most societies operate out of concern for their own survival, not for the survival of other societies. That was most especially true during the vast portion of our history and of all of our prehistory (barring any far-ancient global communities of whom all trace has been wiped out).
Remember how short-sighted we are. We don't think in vast population and evolutionary terms, even though our actions contribute to the outcome of the entire population. Just as when we act altruistically we are not calculating the effects that this will have on the gene pool. We can observe and view the bigger picture, whereas the agents within that picture only see their own local situations and are reacting to and being motivated only on that level.
So a group committing genocide is not thinking in terms of how it will affect the survival of the entire human species. Except perhaps to ensure that their own genes are more prominantly represented. If anything, that group is only thinking of itself, since one of the requirements for such an act is to strongly consider the person you're slaughtering to not be one of you, to not even be human. A similar kind of conditioning is used on soldiers during a war, in which everyone is conditioned to not think of "the enemy" as even being human.
So the conclusion is morality cannot be decided by a society because it may be detrimental to the human race, and if it is decided by a society then it would not have come about by evolution because it has the potential to defy the principles of evolution by endangering the very gene which it is suppose to protect.
You really should try to learn something about evolution before you make such statements.
Morality is indeed determined by one's society without regard to the entire human species. It has happened throughout human prehistory and history and it continues to happen today. The only difference now is that global communications and our interconnected global economy have made us much more aware of the entire human species, such that we feel a kind of kinship for them. And with that feeling of kinship for all of humanity, the rest starts to follow.
And yet again please remember: the members or leadership of a society cannot determine morality. They can only determine standards of conduct after which it's the environment that determines whether or not that conduct works. The smart leaders and members will take what generations have shown does work and align their standards of conduct to that.
Morality has also been defined as any action or behavior that will not harm others or produce the best overall results in terms of survival, in this sense actions that would put others in harms way or hurt them would be considered to be immoral. But as I have shown above a behavior or action that is considered moral by a society in fact can do a lot of damage to others even members of the same society and what is more it benefits the one being moral or altruistic and not the one on the receivers end.
{sigh} Yet again please remember: the members or leadership of a society cannot determine morality. They can only determine standards of conduct after which it's the environment that determines whether or not that conduct works. The smart leaders and members will take what generations have shown does work and align their standards of conduct to that.
Our minister would tell the story of a congregation member who grew tired of hearing the same sermons over and over again, so he complained to the minister about it. The minister's response to why he kept telling the same sermons over and over again was because the congregation members hadn't learned them yet.
How many more times do we need to explain all this to you before you will start to learn?
But what about the second definition I give above pertaining to morality being an action or behavior that benefits the receiver and not the giver. How can you resolve this conflicting ideas.
Within a society, we give and we also receive. By our membership and participation in society, we both contribute and we benefit. What conflict is there?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 105 by Cedre, posted 04-06-2009 7:14 AM Cedre has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 109 by Cedre, posted 04-07-2009 5:43 AM dwise1 has not replied

Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.7

Message 120 of 438 (505211)
04-09-2009 2:37 AM
Reply to: Message 119 by SammyJean
04-08-2009 5:57 PM

Re: Human life and worth
How Cedre, with all your 19 yrs of wisdom, . . .
Wait a minute. Cedre is only 19 years old? No wonder he's so frakking clueless!
May I offer a from-memory a quote from the great American author Samuel Clemens, AKA "Mark Twain"?:
When I was 18 years old, I thought that my father was the stupidest man who had ever walked the earth. When I was 21, I was amazed how much the old man had learned in only three years.
Cedre, in a few years, you will come back to read our current postings and you will be amazed at how much we had learned in just a few years. Oh, wait! We had already known that a few years prior! Oh dear!
Oh frak it! Let me display my signature!

{When you search for God, y}ou can't go to the people who believe already. They've made up their minds and want to convince you of their own personal heresy.
("The Jehovah Contract", AKA "Der Jehova-Vertrag", by Viktor Koman, 1984)
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the world.
(from filk song "Word of God" by Dr. Catherine Faber, No webpage found at provided URL:
Of course, if Dr. Mortimer's surmise should be correct and we are dealing with forces outside the ordinary laws of Nature, there is an end of our investigation. But we are bound to exhaust all other hypotheses before falling back upon this one.
(Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles)
Gentry's case depends upon his halos remaining a mystery. Once a naturalistic explanation is discovered, his claim of a supernatural origin is washed up. So he will not give aid or support to suggestions that might resolve the mystery. Science works toward an increase in knowledge; creationism depends upon a lack of it. Science promotes the open-ended search; creationism supports giving up and looking no further. It is clear which method Gentry advocates.
("Gentry's Tiny Mystery -- Unsupported by Geology" by J. Richard Wakefield, Creation/Evolution Issue XXII, Winter 1987-1988, pp 31-32)
It is a well-known fact that reality has a definite liberal bias.
Robert Colbert on NPR

This message is a reply to:
 Message 119 by SammyJean, posted 04-08-2009 5:57 PM SammyJean has not replied

Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.7

Message 154 of 438 (506001)
04-21-2009 12:09 PM
Reply to: Message 152 by Cedre
04-21-2009 11:19 AM

Re: The Importance of Scale
The ability and inclination towards moral behavior is genetic; the actual specific rules are social.
Your earlier posts indicated that you believe we are saying that the actual specific rules are genetic, but that is not at all the case. The ability to learn social rules and the willingness and eagerness to do so are part of human nature. Human nature is rooted in the brain, whose structure and operation are in turn based on genetics.
There are two kinds of evolution at work here. Actual biological evolution of which results in human nature (and canine nature and feline nature, etc). Within a social species, natural selection would tend to favor individuals who are able to function well within the society and to select against anti- or a-social individuals. As a result, the population on a whole would become better able to function within the society.
The second is "cultural evolution", an analogy to evolution that applies to societies and their cultures. A society uses its culture in order to function and to survive. That culture includes the society's values and rules of conduct, its morality. Changes to the culture that benefit the society will persist both because the members of society see value in it and because the society itself is able to persist; in effect, they will have been selected for. Changes that endanger the society will not persist, either because the members of society will see that it's causing huge problems or because the society itself collapses (at which point survivors form a new society or societies or are assimilated into another society).
What part of that do you not understand?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 152 by Cedre, posted 04-21-2009 11:19 AM Cedre has not replied

Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.7

Message 157 of 438 (506046)
04-22-2009 2:19 AM
Reply to: Message 156 by SammyJean
04-21-2009 9:38 PM

Re: Awareness
Cedre writes:
You have yet to show how morality could evolve where exactly on the chromosome the morality gene is carried.
It is unlikely that morality can be found as a single gene, rather it would be linked to the genes that control brain development and partially influenced by social environment. Nature and nurtured.
{offered as much for Cedre's edification} The nature-vs-nurture question is an old one in psychology, in which the question is how much of the behavior we see is learned and how much is instinctive. Not being a psychologist and only having university classes from a few decades ago to go by, my understanding is that much is learned -- especially detailed behavior -- , but the basis for that type of behavior and our propensity to learn such behavior is most likely "instinctive" (ie, genetically inherited, AKA "nurture").
Specific moral rules are learned. A moral sense (ie, an instinct for wanting to seek out and learn and follow the group's code of conduct, it's morality) is inherited and hence has a genetic basis.
Yes, I think that it is unlikely to find a single gene for a moral sense, since that appears to me to require a complex of genes. But we will need to see where research in the human genome leads us.
Cedre writes:
And if it is a genetic in nature than why does it seem to vary greatly from culture to culture? Certain cultures have endorsed killing while others punish killing.
Morality doesn't vary that greatly from culture to culture, sweetheart. You may want to believe this or want us to believe it but it's simply not the truth! All cultures have endorsed killing for one reason or another, such as war or capital punishment, etc. But no culture endorses murder for fun or sport or killing just because you feel like it.
Again for Cedre's edification, my rhetorical question is: just why do we find so many similarities between the moral codes of so many different societies? Keep in mind that if Cedre's god is the only source for morality -- if the Bible is the only source for morality -- just the simple fact that morality exists in every single human society that has ever existed -- even in overtly atheistic societies -- then why should morality exist in those non-Judeo-Christian-Islamic societies even exist? Yet it does. Hmm!
OK, here's my own understanding. What is the common factor of every single human society that exists and has ever existed? Human nature! (duh?)
Why does every moral code deal with killing other humans? Because humans are involved in every single case! Duh?
Why does every moral code deal with marriage (the pairing of breeding pairs) and with the status of the children? Because humans are involved in every single case! Duh?
Why does every moral code deal with personal property and the security thereof? Because humans are involved in every single case! Duh?
What is the common factor here? Human nature and the ways in which humans interact within any society. Duh?
My understanding is that because that common factor, human nature, is involved in every single human society, that means that we will see its influence in every single human society. Duh?
My understanding of how this plays out is that the moral issues that every single human society needs to address will, because they all have to deal with the same human nature and the same ways that humans inevitably interact with each other, will be the same. The details of how they do so will differ. Identical basic issues, but different detailed solutions to those problems. Duh?
So to restate specifically to your statement:
Morality doesn't vary that greatly from culture to culture, sweetheart.
The basic principles and isssues indeed do not change. It is only in the details that they differ.
Now, the challenge for Cedre is why morality even exists in non-Judeo-Christian-Islamic-and-Atheistic societies. If morality can only come from his own god, then how could it possibly exist in societies that have absolultely nothing to do with his particular god?
The true answer is that morality does not come from his god (or at least not from his Bible), but rather from the necessities of human society.
At which point I would expect Cedre to object to the supposition that human nature had evolved. Well, that doesn't really matter, does it? Human nature exists! However it had gotten here, human nature does indeed exist. Whatever follows after that point doesn't make any difference, does it? Human nature is human nature, no matter how it had ultimately originated, right? All that follows still follows.
Or to quote the Popeye Theorem (AKA the "tubor testimonial"): "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!"
At this point, I must again state my position:
I've gathered, after reading all your post, that you, Cedre, are only ever moral or behave altruistically because your bible tells you you should behave that way. How else could you come to the conclusion that you need an external reward for good behavior. You're really just sucking up to your imaginary god, aren't you?
I do not remember what atheist author had written this, but (quoting from memory):
If my Christian neighbor truly believes that without his believe in Christ he would be a blood-thirsty mass ax-murderer, then by all means I say let him retain his Christian beliefs.
If Cedre's only reason for moral behavior is because he believes that without his Christ he would be required to behave immorally, then by all means allow him to continue to believe in his Christ. His remaining deluded would be the lesser of two evils.
Sad that we must continue to have such individuals of such puny morality among us.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 156 by SammyJean, posted 04-21-2009 9:38 PM SammyJean has not replied

Posts: 5987
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 2.7

Message 161 of 438 (506128)
04-22-2009 8:43 PM
Reply to: Message 158 by Cedre
04-22-2009 6:24 AM

There are only about 30,000 functional genes in humans (those that can be transcribed to produce their messengers, the proteins. You say a combination of these genes play a role in how we feel and our overall mood. Fine, but give me the names of these genes that our emotions are dependent on that make us to feel love and joy and hatred. Give me some loci; give me something in preference to just a bunch of hypothesis. Furthermore how exactly do they perform this function?
. . .
How do they do this?
. . .
Show this to be so?
. . .
Where in the genome are these moral genes preserved?
. . .
Where exactly do these linkages occur? How do chemicals end up in positive moral choices? for example what would you say happens inside an individual on a chemical level that causes this individual to apologize to another individual?
Such absurd demands for exhaustively detailed information! Surely you are ready and willing to provide information of the same level and detail that you demand of others!
You remind me of the story behind my favorite Pharisee teachings: the Golden Rule and looking to the spirit of the Law rather than the letter of the Law. Yes, that's right: Pharisee teachings. Presented by Rabbi Hillel around 20 BCE, half a century before the purported ministry of Jesus.
A gentile went to the leading rabbis demanding that each one recite the whole of the Law while standing on one foot. Now, at the time, the method of study was to memory the entire body of writings so that you can recite any part of it at any time -- Jewish scholars continued that practice for several centuries, and may still do so, by memorizing the Talmud, which is about the size of a large set of encyclopedias. And the Law in question was the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.
Anyway, when he demanded that of the head of the Sadducees, they chased him away and rightfully so. But when he demanded it of the head of the Pharisees, Rabbi Hillel replied:
Do not to others that which is displeasing to yourself. That is the whole of the Law; the rest is just explanation. Now go practice it.
The ability and inclination towards moral behavior is genetic; the actual specific rules are social.
Show this to be so?
You are claiming that it is not so?
Are you trying to claim that specific moral rules are acquired genetically? That is certainly what it sounded like you were claiming before. Please explain this amazing scientific discovery of yours that has eluded everybody else! In exacting detail! And do not use any religious references, since this is a scientific issue!
Mental ability and inclination are functions of the brain. Are you trying to claim that they are not? Then just exactly what do you say they are a function of? Please explain this amazing scientific discovery of yours that has eluded everybody else! In exacting detail! And do not use any religious references, since this is a scientific issue!
After all, you demanded it of us, so you must be ready and willing to provide such explanations to us.
Within a social species, natural selection would tend to favor individuals who are able to function well within the society and to select against anti- or a-social individuals
How does natural selection lacking a brain achieve this feat?
Such an absurd question! Why do you rarely reply with anything other than absurd statements or absurd questions?
The planets orbit the sun and moons orbit the planets. How do they achieve this feat lacking brains? Those orbits form ellipses, which is a geometric shape. Lacking brains, how are they able to do such geometry?
Pick up a stone and release it. It falls straight to the ground. Lacking a brain, how could it achieve that feat?
And the real clincher is the thermos bottle! You put hot food into it and it keeps it hot, or you put cold food into it and it keeps it cold. Lacking a brain, how can it tell which to do?
Surely even you can see how absurd those questions are. Natural processes happen naturally and do not need intelligent guidance. Unless you wish to claim animism (belief in spirits making everything in nature happen, similar to medieval Christian ideas of angels moving the planets in their orbits and of little demons guiding bullets to their targets), but in that case you would need to provide a scientific explanation of your animistic ideas and in exacting detail.
Cedre, do you have an idea at all of what evolutionary theory says? It most definitely appears that you are abjectly ignorant of evolution, considering both the absurd statements you've made in the past and now this latest one about natural selection requiring intelligent guidance. You need to learn something about what you're opposing.
Natural selection is our description of the natural consequences on the population level of how individuals within those populations survive and reproduce. Darwin named it after the practice of farmers of selecting for particular characteristics while breeding their livestock or crops. The difference is that instead of an intelligence doing the selecting, it's the consequences of the characteristics of the organism which in effect "choose" which characteristics work better for survival and reproduction.
Please do everybody a favor, especially yourself, and learn something. Here's a link to the Wikipedia article on natural selection: Natural selection - Wikipedia. Here are a couple excerpts to start with:
Natural selection is the process where heritable traits that make it more likely for an organism to survive long enough to reproduce become more common over successive generations of a population. It is a key mechanism of evolution.
The natural variation within a population of animals, plants, bacteria, etc. means that some individuals will survive better than others in their current environment. For example, the peppered moth exists in both light and dark colors in the United Kingdom, but during the industrial revolution many of the trees on which the moths rested became blackened by soot, giving the dark-colored moths an advantage in hiding from predators. This gave dark-colored moths a better chance of surviving to produce dark-colored offspring, and in just a few generations the majority of the moths were dark.
Natural selection acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, but the genetic (heritable) basis of any phenotype which gives a reproductive advantage will increase in frequency over the following generations. Over time, this process can result in adaptations that specialize organisms for particular ecological niches and may eventually result in the emergence of new species. In other words, natural selection is an important process (though not the only process) by which evolution takes place within a population of organisms.
There is natural variation among the individuals of any population of organisms. Many of these differences do not matter, such as differences in eye color. However, some differences, or traits, may improve the chances of survival of a particular individual. A rabbit which runs faster than others may be more likely to escape from predators, and an algae which is more efficient at extracting the energy from sunlight will grow faster. Individuals that have better odds for survival also have better odds for reproduction. If the traits which give these individuals a reproductive advantage are also heritable, that is, passed from parent to child, then there will be a slightly higher proportion of fast rabbits or efficient algae in the next generation. This is known as "differential reproduction." Even if the reproductive advantage is very slight, over many generations any heritable advantage will become dominant in the population, due to exponential growth.
In this way the natural environment of an organism "selects" for traits that confer a reproductive advantage, causing gradual changes or evolution of life. This effect was first described, and named, by Charles Darwin.
Just in case you do not understand the concept, when a word is placed in quotation marks as was done in that last paragraph, it means that the term is being used figuratively, not literally. Just trying to prevent you from making yet another absurd statement.
Now please, read and think. Hopefully we can help you to not make such absurd statements.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 158 by Cedre, posted 04-22-2009 6:24 AM Cedre has not replied

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