DebatingChristianity.com | Book debates


The God Delusion - Chapter 7

Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next

Re: morality, fairness, loyalty 
Author: otseng 
Posted: 06/15/2007 09:56 AM 
 








QED wrote:
If that's the case then I'm stunned. The process of natural selection can be very different from its products. It would be nothing short of a school-boy error to think otherwise... Some processes are violent yet result in delicate products, some involve large amounts of heat yet the product is frozen. It's simply nonsense to expect the sort of connections you cite.


Not nonsense at all. Further, I'm not saying it's a disproof of natural selection, but something that would be odd.

Sure the product and process can be different, but in the case of natural selection, the product is a feedback into the process. Only the fit continue to survive in each generation. The unfit are systematically removed.

Now suppose we take this principle to human evolution. We can simply allow natural forces to operate. Those that are disease ridden, weak, poor are simply considered unfit and we should just let natural courses let them be removed. Yet, our concept of fairness and injustice would not permit this. So, it would effectively stop the course of natural selection.


 
Author: bunyip 
Posted: 06/15/2007 10:26 AM 
 
> "Dawkins doesn't even try to address what is good and what isn't."

Of course he doesn't. Anything as relative as that is meaningless to a zoologist. And the following mis-statement demonstrates that:

> . . . the forces of natural selection is opposite to fairness. Rather, the "unfit" are eliminated and the "fit" survive.

What has natural selection to do with the human concept of "fairness" in any context? This is precisely the problem E/NS as an idea has had since Darwin: we wish to impose our ideas of "morality" on Nature.

One of those forms of imposition is belief in gods which can be appealed to in order to overcome what Nature submits us to. If things don't go the way we wish, we attribute it to "unfairness" on the part of Nature or other agency.

Even the "educated" aren't immune to this notion, as your citation of Lewis and Collins indicate. Both want an agency to be held responsible for Nature's actions. That is intellectual laziness of a very high order. Dawkins has contended for decades that Nature is "amoral" [although he doesn't promote that here] and recognises how hard it is for humans to accept that notion.

But if we are to survive, we'd better learn how this works.

the bunyip


Re: morality, fairness, loyalty 
Author: QED 
Posted: 06/15/2007 10:41 AM 
 








otseng wrote:

Sure the product and process can be different, but in the case of natural selection, the product is a feedback into the process. Only the fit continue to survive in each generation. The unfit are systematically removed.


Setting aside the mistake of assuming that products resemble the processes that give rise to them, it's also a fallacy to talk about fitness as you do here. Being unfit can equally mean being strong or warlike -- when brains are better than brawn. I think you consistently fail to see the "gene's eye view" of the process. Principally, what gets passed on in greatest numbers is the genetic blueprint of an animal that fares well in its environment such that it gets to reproduce effectively.








otseng wrote:

Now suppose we take this principle to human evolution. We can simply allow natural forces to operate. Those that are disease ridden, weak, poor are simply considered unfit and we should just let natural courses let them be removed. Yet, our concept of fairness and injustice would not permit this. So, it would effectively stop the course of natural selection.


Human evolution has taken place in the complex environment of human societies. From the gene's eye view, what counts is reaching puberty and finding a mate. This process is generally more regulated by other members of human society than it is in other groups of animals and sexual selection shapes the process in non-trivial ways. I think you'll find that the development of more sophisticated thinking has moved us away from the primitive definitions of fitness that you're attempting to use.


 
Author: jjg 
Posted: 06/15/2007 12:35 PM 
 
bunyip, youare right just like applying the term selfish to a gene whether metaphorically or not is a meaningless analogy.

But morality is important to humans and as you said cannot be explained by mere genetics.


 
Author: otseng 
Posted: 06/15/2007 02:32 PM 
 








bunyip wrote:
> "Dawkins doesn't even try to address what is good and what isn't."

Of course he doesn't. Anything as relative as that is meaningless to a zoologist.


Then this would effectively make this entire chapter meaningless. If there is no concept of good or bad, then there is no concept of morality. If there is no concept of morality, it's useless to discuss the origin of it or if it even changes.









Quote:
Dawkins has contended for decades that Nature is "amoral" [although he doesn't promote that here] and recognises how hard it is for humans to accept that notion.


Actually, I would agree that nature is amoral. But, he certainly does not promote this idea in the book and actually seems to argue for the opposite.


 
Author: jjg 
Posted: 06/15/2007 04:26 PM 
 
Doe he even try to define goodness? It's a good starting point for a debate on morality.


 
Author: bunyip 
Posted: 06/15/2007 06:40 PM 
 








jjg wrote:
Doe he even try to define goodness? It's a good starting point for a debate on morality.



In this book about why gods are a delusion, to venture into a definition of "goodness" would lead nowhere. As an evolutionist, Richard understands ANY attempt to define "goodness" would be far too relative to circumstances.

Remember [one the reasons] why Darwin ultimately rejected gods [and "Christianity"]. He learned something that shocked the Victorian era - ichneumon wasps lay eggs in living caterpillars [and there are thousands of species of such wasps, each a parasitoid to a specific caterpillar species] to hatch their young. Darwin rejected the idea of a "loving god", hence, any meaningful definition of "goodness" derived from such an entity, accordingly.

Why should Richard attempt to do more here?

the bunyip


 
Author: jjg 
Posted: 06/15/2007 06:44 PM 
 
It is the whole topic of this chapter.

Dawkins tries to explain away morality from an evolutionary basis.

All you're saying is Dawkins excercise in thiws endevour is futile which I agree wholeheartedly with.


 
Author: Cathar1950 
Posted: 06/15/2007 10:03 PM 
 








jjg wrote:
It is the whole topic of this chapter.

Dawkins tries to explain away morality from an evolutionary basis.

All you're saying is Dawkins excercise in thiws endevour is futile which I agree wholeheartedly with.


I don't think he is trying to explain away Morality. He is explaining it.
Here is something I found and thought it might be of interest.
But it seems to me goodness is a human construct and or moraity is built on the concept.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070517142545.htm








Quote:
In a review to be published in the May 18 issue of the journal Science, Jonathan Haidt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, discusses a new consensus scientists are reaching on the origins and mechanisms of morality. Haidt shows how evolutionary, neurological and social-psychological insights are being synthesized in support of three principles:

Intuitive primacy, which says that human emotions and gut feelings generally drive our moral judgments.
Moral thinking if for social doing, which says that we engage in moral reasoning not to figure out the truth, but to persuade other people of our virtue or to influence them to support us.
Morality binds and builds, which says that morality and gossip were crucial for the evolution of human ultrasociality, which allows humans -- but no other primates -- to live in large and highly cooperative groups.
"Putting these three principles together forces us to re-evaluate many of our most cherished notions about ourselves," says Haidt, whose own research demonstrates that people generally follow their gut feelings and make up moral reasons afterwards. "Since the time of the Enlightenment," Haidt says, "many philosophers have celebrated the power and virtue of cool, dispassionate reasoning. Unfortunately, few people other than philosophers can engage in such cool, honest reasoning when moral issues are at stake. The rest of us behave more like lawyers, using any arguments we can find to make our case, rather than like judges or scientists searching for the truth. This doesn't mean we are doomed to be immoral; it just means that we should look for the roots of our considerable virtue elsewhere -- in the emotions and intuitions that make us so generally decent and cooperative, yet also sometimes willing to hurt or kill in defense of a principle, a person or a place."

Haidt argues that human morality is a cultural construction built on top of -- and constrained by -- a small set of evolved psychological systems. He presents evidence that political liberals rely primarily on two of these systems, involving emotional sensitivities to harm and fairness. Conservatives, however, construct their moral understandings on those two systems plus three others, which involve emotional sensitivities to in-group boundaries, authority and spiritual purity. "We all start off with the same evolved moral capacities," says Haidt, "but then we each learn only a subset of the available human virtues and values. We often end up demonizing people with different political ideologies because of our inability to appreciate the moral motives operating on the other side of a conflict. We are surrounded by moral conflicts, on the personal level, the national level and the international level. The recent scientific advances in moral psychology can help explain why these conflicts are so passionate and so intractable. An understanding of moral psychology can also point to some new ways to bridge these divides, to appeal to hearts and minds on both sides of a conflict."


Re: morality, fairness, loyalty 
Author: Confused 
Posted: 06/15/2007 10:45 PM 
 








otseng wrote:








Confused wrote:
Basically, we teach children right vs wrong.


In a certain sense, yes, I agree. There are cultural standards in which society imparts on children on what is acceptable and unacceptable. Yet, at the same time, there is an innate understanding of what is right and wrong.

An example is a story I heard of Martin Luther King Jr. During his childhood, he played with some white kids. But later, the white kids' parents told them that they could not play with each other because they were black. Society told them that it was unacceptable to mix the races. But King had an innate sense that this was wrong.

Another example is that I've never had to teach my children the concept of fairness. Though they don't always act fair, they sense that being fair is right. I can easily appeal to them of being fair. And they don't dispute that being fair is right.



I understand what you are saying, but if there was an innates sense of right/wrong, why would we have to teach our children it? Can you say MLK had an innate sense that segregation was wrong, or did he feel it was an injustice? I don't see it as innate, I think he saw it as oppression, but for the society in which he grew up, it was the norm. So simply because he saw it as wrong, if it was indeed innate, then was everyone else born without this innate knowledge since they didn't uprise against it?

As far as not having to teach your kids fairness, I say consider yourself fortunate. I still have to remind myself when I am not being fair and I have to explain to my 9 year old daughter why it is fair that Alan gets more attention on certain things than she does. If all kids were aware of fairness, then why do some kids who are bullies not see themselves as bullies? See, the problem with saying that anything is innate in an absolute sense means that their can be no exceptions. If one person lacks this innate ability, then the presence makes it innate, not the ability itself.








otseng wrote:








Confused wrote:
If a child displays no characteristics of right or wrong, say by the age 9, do we say he lacks a soul? Did he make a conscious choice to murder? There are kids under the age of 14 that will never see life outside of prison again. What happened to these kids souls? Did they make a conscious choice at 9 to murder?


A simplistic answer cannot be given. There are many factors that go into a person's actions. But usually there is some motivation for murder. Rarely will someone kill another for no reason. We have an innate belief that it is wrong to kill another person. But, conditions can become so severe that it overwhelms that belief and cause someone to do the wrong thing.



Sure, something so severe such as not realizing that they were killing someone because of diminished capacity or simply not knowing that it was wrong.









otseng wrote:








Confused wrote:
So is it not more likely to say that they are in fact a combination of many things. And that they do in fact, change over time, with society?


It is a combination of things, but I believe an innate understanding of right and wrong is part of it. If morality does change over time with society, then it would be hard to explain the universality of morality. As I've mentioned, Dawkins states in the previous chapter that the Kuna tribe "show the same moral judgements as the rest of us." (page 225)



Note, he says with corresponding minor differences. But he doesn't really say which differences. Regardless, there may be similar moral traits, but still, differences indicate evolution, changes. Even so, he doesn't list enough about it to make a judgement on either side, so I will have to pass this one over.








otseng wrote:








Confused wrote:
Instead, Dawkins addresses the fact that morality is subjective to the society in which it is being evaluated and it is relative to the time period in which it is being evaluated. He backs this up when he provides multiple examples throughout the chapter: womens right, slavery, racial integration, etc...


If morality is subjective, then it would mean that society can say that it is right for women to have no rights. Or it is right to have slavery. Or it is right for racial discrimination. If one is to state that these things are always wrong, regardless of what society thinks, then the morality of it would not be based on society and would not be subjective.



This is why it is relative to the time period in which it is being judged. As society evolves, morality evolves with it. It is subjective to the society in which it is judged and relative to the time in which you are viewing it. Not long ago society accepted oppression of women and blacks. We evolved.









Quote:
When we say something is right or wrong, we are judging by some sort of standard. If I say 4 times 4 equals 20 is wrong, then I'm judging it by the multiplication table. If there is no standard, then one cannot say that something is right or wrong. There would be nothing to judge by.



We can only judge it based on the society in which it exists and the time period in which you are evaluating it.










Quote:
When we say is it right to be fair, by what standard are we judging by? There is no law or rules stating we must be fair. And the forces of natural selection is opposite to fairness. Rather, the "unfit" are eliminated and the "fit" survive. It would seem odd that a process that is unfair would result in a belief in fairness. The best explanation is that there is some higher standard that all humans seem to possess. And this is one argument that CS Lewis uses for the existence of the supernatural and what led Francis Collins to believe in the supernatural.



Natural selection has never been fair. It just is.

The best explanation of a higher standard is no explanation at all. What question does it answer that doesn't create even greater questions? That is the "God works in mysterious ways" explanation that doesn't answer anything. Why does Collins maintain his faith, even he says he doesn't know.









Quote:
The concept of fairness is such a strong force that it is even used to challenge the belief in God. Atheists demand that God must be fair (God unfairly sends people to hell. God unfairly judges people who have not heard the gospel. God unfairly sends calamities on people). But, why the demand that God needs to be fair? What standard do they judge by that requires God to be fair?



I don't demand he be fair. But if He isn't then I expect a reason just as my daughter expects a reason why my son gets away with X while she doesn't. Is that so unreasonable?









Quote:
Loyalty is another concept that we humans think is the right thing to do. Even in places where we think morality is nonexistent, we find that loyalty is still present. If prisoners snitch on each other, then it is not considered a good thing. If a mobster is disloyal to the family, then that person will usually be taken care of.



Loyalty is earned, not an inherent right. And as far as those unloyal and taken care of in prison, well, the survival of the fittest.









Quote:
I cannot think of a society where disloyalty and unfairness are considered a virtue. If all societies think fairness and loyalty are right, then they cannot be a product of a moral zeitgeist that continually evolves.



Yet they still happen. There are times police are disloyal in attempts to make undercover drug raids. Is this wrong?

Full version