Evolution and Morality

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gadfly
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Evolution and Morality

Post #1

Post by gadfly »

I have listened to many debates between theists and Naturalists and the most common theme emerging is that of morality: where it came from and why it should be heeded.

What interests me in these debates is that neither side answers the second question satisfactorily, at least for me. But of the two I have the Naturalist's position the most fascinating (though of course there are equally fascinating aspects of the theist's, but these are more of a philosophical nature than scientific, and so I will give them elsewhere, in apologetics or theology).


This is not so much a question for debate than a description for evaluation. In short, is the following a good critique of Naturalism and Naturalists?

(I should say that by Naturalist and Naturalism I assume an Evolutionary view of organic history. If there are Naturalists who do not hold to the theory of Evolution...well, I have never heard of you. My sincerest apologies).

My biggest problem with Naturalists when they explain the pervasive presence of morality (by which I mean a pressure upon the will to favor one type of behavior and reject another) among our species is that they don't speak like Naturalists.

They talk of traits in species developing "in order to survive". But Evolution does not care about the survival of any species. The giraffe did not get a long neck in order to eat top leaves. In fact, if a long line of developments had led to a giraffe in a field where no trees were present, it might very well be we would not know what a giraffe was. The giraffe HAPPENS (the emphasis here on pure CHANCE) to have a long neck in an environment where long necks are suitable. One day his long neck might not be suitable to the environment. Evolution will have no problem retiring his species.

The same goes for us humans. We happen to have traits that work in our environment. We might think they are more impressive than the traits of other species, but Evolution does not care. It is a blind process without any care. Evolution does not even care about Organic Life. A universe of stardust would suit Evolution no more and no less than the organic life that we know.

That is one misconception I think Naturalists display.

The second is this.

They speak of morality as a) developing gradually, b) conducive to the species, and c) objective.

Let's take A: Morality gradually developed. the common phrasing of Naturalists is that morality "developed over time as the species realized that its survival depended on rules." How does one visualize this? If we were to go back in time (for all history must be theoretically "record-able") would we see the earliest humans at first killing each other (how many were there to be killed?!) and then suddenly coming together (why?! What instinct would bring them together) and saying, "We can't keep doing this; if we do we will kill each other and end the species." If any movie-maker attempted to give a compelling video of the development from pure animal instinct to animals whose instincts were suddenly curbed in the interest of something else, he would have a hard time. And the best history (and Evolution is a matter of history) is the one that can be visualized.

B) That Morality survived because it was conducive to the species. Again, Evolution does not care about the species. If morality survived, it did so because a number of members of a species obeyed it and were able to procreate; and their offspring obeyed it and were able to procreate even more. And obviously not all have obeyed it. In fact, most have not and still are able to procreate. Some have abandoned it more than others (an example might be today's drug Cartel) and they are procreating just fine. It would seem that morality and procreation are not mutually necessary.

C) Morality as Objective. This is the biggest systematic error I have seen in Naturalists. They speak as if some actions are wrong; not wrong according to the society which has conditioned them. That would be consistent. No, but wrong in all societies. Now I can respect philosophically the Naturalist who says "the only thing 'wrong' about the Nazi regime is that it 'didn't last'". But the Naturalist who speaks as if the Nazi regime was "evil" or "awful" in any objective way is simply not behaving according to his philosophy. Of course he can say, "I know I am reacting irrationally (i.e. against my philosophy) and that is fine. Most animals act irrationally. But if he claims that the Nazi regime was wrong whether it lost or won is simply not congruent with Naturalism.

Such is my criticism of Naturalism. I will now give (on another forum) my critique of Theistic morality.

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Re: Evolution and Morality

Post #2

Post by Miles »

gadfly wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:12 am I have listened to many debates between theists and Naturalists and the most common theme emerging is that of morality: where it came from and why it should be heeded.

What interests me in these debates is that neither side answers the second question satisfactorily, at least for me. But of the two I have the Naturalist's position the most fascinating (though of course there are equally fascinating aspects of the theist's, but these are more of a philosophical nature than scientific, and so I will give them elsewhere, in apologetics or theology).


This is not so much a question for debate than a description for evaluation. In short, is the following a good critique of Naturalism and Naturalists?

(I should say that by Naturalist and Naturalism I assume an Evolutionary view of organic history. If there are Naturalists who do not hold to the theory of Evolution...well, I have never heard of you. My sincerest apologies).

My biggest problem with Naturalists when they explain the pervasive presence of morality (by which I mean a pressure upon the will to favor one type of behavior and reject another) among our species is that they don't speak like Naturalists.

They talk of traits in species developing "in order to survive". But Evolution does not care about the survival of any species. The giraffe did not get a long neck in order to eat top leaves. In fact, if a long line of developments had led to a giraffe in a field where no trees were present, it might very well be we would not know what a giraffe was. The giraffe HAPPENS (the emphasis here on pure CHANCE) to have a long neck in an environment where long necks are suitable. One day his long neck might not be suitable to the environment. Evolution will have no problem retiring his species.

The same goes for us humans. We happen to have traits that work in our environment. We might think they are more impressive than the traits of other species, but Evolution does not care. It is a blind process without any care. Evolution does not even care about Organic Life. A universe of stardust would suit Evolution no more and no less than the organic life that we know.

That is one misconception I think Naturalists display.
Here's an introduction to evolution and natural selection. I suggest you read it or something similar before speaking on the subject again.
gadfly wrote:The second is this.

They speak of morality as a) developing gradually, b) conducive to the species, and c) objective.

Let's take A: Morality gradually developed. the common phrasing of Naturalists is that morality "developed over time as the species realized that its survival depended on rules." How does one visualize this? If we were to go back in time (for all history must be theoretically "record-able") would we see the earliest humans at first killing each other (how many were there to be killed?!) and then suddenly coming together (why?! What instinct would bring them together) and saying, "We can't keep doing this; if we do we will kill each other and end the species." If any movie-maker attempted to give a compelling video of the development from pure animal instinct to animals whose instincts were suddenly curbed in the interest of something else, he would have a hard time. And the best history (and Evolution is a matter of history) is the one that can be visualized.

B) That Morality survived because it was conducive to the species. Again, Evolution does not care about the species. If morality survived, it did so because a number of members of a species obeyed it and were able to procreate; and their offspring obeyed it and were able to procreate even more. And obviously not all have obeyed it. In fact, most have not and still are able to procreate. Some have abandoned it more than others (an example might be today's drug Cartel) and they are procreating just fine. It would seem that morality and procreation are not mutually necessary.

C) Morality as Objective. This is the biggest systematic error I have seen in Naturalists. They speak as if some actions are wrong; not wrong according to the society which has conditioned them. That would be consistent. No, but wrong in all societies. Now I can respect philosophically the Naturalist who says "the only thing 'wrong' about the Nazi regime is that it 'didn't last'". But the Naturalist who speaks as if the Nazi regime was "evil" or "awful" in any objective way is simply not behaving according to his philosophy. Of course he can say, "I know I am reacting irrationally (i.e. against my philosophy) and that is fine. Most animals act irrationally. But if he claims that the Nazi regime was wrong whether it lost or won is simply not congruent with Naturalism.

Such is my criticism of Naturalism. I will now give (on another forum) my critique of Theistic morality.
Never having knowingly spoken to or hearing from people who identify as naturalists I can only guess you mean those who don't believe in the supernatural or spiritual. If that's the case then I really question your appraisal of their morality, which I suspect isn't objective at all, but rather almost wholly subjective.


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Re: Evolution and Morality

Post #3

Post by Bust Nak »

gadfly wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:12 am They talk of traits in species developing "in order to survive".
We do? Who? Morality is a trait that developed which improved our species fitness of survival. Not the same thing as developing in order to survive, which sounded like Lamarckism to me. Suffice to say our morality came about the same way giraffe got their long necks.
Morality gradually developed... How does one visualize this?
The same way one visualize giraffes' long necks. Starts off shorter then got longer over time.
If we were to go back in time... would we see the earliest humans at first killing each other… and then suddenly coming together...
Why indeed. The whole point of gradual development is that it doesn't happen suddenly. While we are here morality came before humanity did. There are tonnes of social animals long before humanity entered the picture.
If morality survived, it did so because a number of members of a species obeyed it and were able to procreate; and their offspring obeyed it and were able to procreate even more. And obviously not all have obeyed it. In fact, most have not and still are able to procreate. Some have abandoned it more than others (an example might be today's drug Cartel) and they are procreating just fine. It would seem that morality and procreation are not mutually necessary.
How is this a problem? Having long necks and procreation are not mutually necessary either. Yet you can't say long necks wasn't helpful to their species.
They speak as if some actions are wrong; not wrong according to the society which has conditioned them.
First of all who speaks like that? The majority of us here are subjectivist. Secondly, those who do speak of objective morality, treats it the same as food taste, they think taste is objective too, so even they are consistent within their own philosophy.

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