Evolution and Morality

Creationism, Evolution, and other science issues

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gadfly
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Evolution and Morality

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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

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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

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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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Re: Evolution and Morality

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Post by Neatras »

They talk of traits in species developing "in order to survive". But Evolution does not care about the survival of any species.
"Evolution does not care about the survival of any species." Correct.

However, sexually reproductive species do not persist lineages with 100% individualism or isolation from the population. Population mechanics are a fundamental component of natural selection in any animal clade.
One day his long neck might not be suitable to the environment. Evolution will have no problem retiring his species.
Correct, and in the event where a long neck is no longer suitable for survival, the only hope for the survival of the population is the acting of natural selection on the group to find traits suitable for continued procreation. The individual exists in an environment containing reproductively viable mates, never forget that.

You've committed an error in conceptualizing how populations influence individual lineages, and how genetic recombination is a source of constant variability and novelty. Through that novelty, natural selection will act to weed out traits; this can lead to increasingly niche/adapted capabilities specialized for a particular ecology.
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."
Nah, more likely is that tribalism developed out of familial instincts to protect kin. If you have an issue with this stage of morality's development, then take it up with the animal kingdom, which has demonstrated that the degree of familial tribalism is a gradient that can be expressed in different ways, down to such small minutiae as to give off the clear signal that it could certainly develop through gradualism.
Some have abandoned it more than others (an example might be today's drug Cartel) and they are procreating just fine.
You're arguing that an expression of behavior brought on by the environment is indicative of a genetic template lacking in moral cognition? That's a bold claim that needs some evidence. We know that aberrant behavior exists, and that mental anomalies can lead to people who have a warped ethical and moral code, but unethical organizations do not make "bad genes." I can't help but wonder if you understand what role genetics play in cognition, and how that relates to nurturing.
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.
That's because you're parroting creationist propaganda that all naturalists should be Social Darwinists.

Everybody has their own moral and ethical code; I call something evil based on my evaluation. Just because it's not objective according to how theists define the term doesn't mean I'm not allowed to call something evil. There's no cosmic mandate that I have to be "objective" (in a way that theists biasedly define) such that something is evil from every possible perspective. To somebody other than myself, maybe the Nazis weren't evil. It's all subjective. I would disagree, since I can compose an internally consistent ethical structure that depicts Nazis as the lowest rung of human waste. I question whether or not you actually hear naturalists claiming objectivist morality the way theists define it, or just put words in their mouth to fit your narrative.

Here's one more mistake you've made:

Procreation isn't just the individuals doing the mating. It's all the cumulative actions that led to the mating, including survival of the mating pair. So what happens if an organism has a trait that doesn't lead to itself reproducing, but in fact causes a member of the same population to mate, passing down an identical version of that trait? The trait gets passed down.

Accept this, a population plays a role in genetics that cannot be wiped away by an ignorant call for individualist rhetoric. You misunderstand population mechanics, so you'll not be able to understand why morality is integral to a socially cooperative group like us humans. We specialized traits that lead to socialized cognition because cooperation has advantages that coupled with other traits we had. Even if individuals lack that level of empathy, it's a game of pure numbers.
Indeed, one could define science as reason’s attempt to compensate for our inability to perceive big numbers... so we have science, to deduce about the gargantuan what we, with our infinitesimal faculties, will never sense. If people fear big numbers, is it any wonder that they fear science as well and turn for solace to the comforting smallness of mysticism?
-Scott Aaronson

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Re: Evolution and Morality

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Post by Purple Knight »

gadfly wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:12 amMorality 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?
Competition between groups. The groups with the rules that gave their group greater advantage won out.
gadfly wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:12 amThat 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.
This is actually a very, very, very good observation and it speaks to why societies collapse. The truth (I think) is that apex rules states (the states that naturally develop as a result of this group vs group competition and as a result of the rules themselves and their effect on selection) actually advantage people who abuse or break the rules.

For example, let's imagine a society that, over time, becomes more and more altruistic. Everyone is trying to be good and help everyone else. In that society, harsh punishments serve little purpose because a crime was always or almost always simply a mistake, and whatever lets the offender get back to helping others is simply most advantageous to the society.

But do you see the problem? If a genuinely selfish person crops up whose interest is in breaking rules in order to hurt others, he is able to abuse the honour system and get ahead. This is I believe the general cycle society undergoes and why it fails. There will be a collapse, a return to burdensome systems of never-trust-anyone and harsh punishments for violators until people evolve to be trusting nonviolators, in which it will only be harmful to overpunish, and cheaters win again.
gadfly wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:12 amMorality as Objective.
There is probably one optimally beneficial philosophy but to claim you know it is silly. We may know a few things about what it contains through trial and error, such as that allowing murder is harmful to a society.

I would think, however, that what is optimal might pose serious problems for some. For example, let's say that pure libertarian rugged capitalism and constant hypercompetition over everything turns out to be the answer: Nothing is wrong and the government shouldn't stop anything but aggression, scams are okay and tricks are okay. It's the answer as in, it is the optimal society, period. You cannot get a society that functions better. Let's also say that there is some species that is harmed by competition of this nature because they are all connected to a central source and when one of them is harmed, they all are. They can optimise for them, but if we've discovered that their perfect is only our decent, in gamer terms they just need to reroll and pick another class because that class sucks. In other words, they need to change how they work to get to that optimal. This may involve killing their source so they can be individuals. None of this seems very moral but, you see, it's all about group competition. If they don't optimise, they lose, pure and simple.

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Re: Evolution and Morality

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Post by brunumb »

gadfly wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:12 am 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.......
Why would we see this? It's as if you see humans as suddenly appearing on the scene with no prehistory and behaving in a purely primitive fashion. You have to go back much further along the evolutionary tree to ancient ancestors and look what happened back there. Any organisms that functioned largely on the basis of killing each other had a difficult road to survival. Organisms that developed cooperative behaviours surely enhanced their ability to survive and pass on their beneficial characteristics. The concept of morality, or the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour, only became codified when we reached a level of intelligence that allowed us to actually think about it and express it in language.
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Re: Evolution and Morality

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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.
At first, it seems to have been a consequence of allometry. We have a lot of giraffoids, from pronghorn antelopes, to Okapis, to lots of fossil examples. Turns out an increase in absolute size of the animal results in an increase in the relative length of the neck. Eventually, it became adaptive for male competition, and probably for keeping an eye on predators. It is not, as Lamarck supposed, to reach higher trees, nor did natural selection initially produce longer necks.

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Re: Evolution and Morality

Post #8

Post by Eilheart »

On the one hand, the term is used to denote the state of affairs in which the modern creative consciousness and ethical imagination are lagging behind the pace of civilizational, social, technical, and cultural changes. On the other hand, it is a sign of a state of affairs in which modern creative ethical awareness and imagination is lagging ever behind the pace of civilizational, social, technical, and cultural change. This delay is quite often accompanied by a marked weakening of moral sensitivity and emotionality, by a peculiar dulling or numbing of human consciences and moral movements. In short, moral progress is not keeping pace with the progress of civilization - with all the unfavourable consequences that this entails.

This begs the question: what is this serious process actually leading to, and can it lead to foreseeable consequences?

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Re: Evolution and Morality

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Post by thomasdixon »

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[/size].
Morality is interwoven in all aspects of our lives although morality is not fragment of our DNA.
I believe morality is a learned condition.
My father and mother encouraged us to watch TV programs because 99.9% of the shows like Gunsmoke, NCIS, Seinfeld and Friends have a moral value for you to emulate.
Even today, at 71 I enjoy a TV series that have a moral value woven within.
Just my opinion
(:-

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Re: Evolution and Morality

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Post by JoeyKnothead »

Snippages for brevities...
gadfly wrote: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:12 am 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.
My position is that morality is an extension of traits borne prior to what we might call morality...

The baby is born cute and cudly, that momma might be more eager to provide for it. So momma has a certain "morality" when she cares for her offspring. Then, as these things advance, and small troops of folks gather in common feeding / reproductive / defense alliances, morality comes in the willingness to share resources, or risk the self to save the troop.

Of course it's far more complex than that, but the roots of morality are there. We can then / now reasonably and logically conclude that as primitive societies advance, "new" morals are "created", were circumstances call for an update to the moral code. This manifests in such laws and social norms as allows a society to maintain it's presence on the planet.

The second is this.

They speak of morality as a) developing gradually, b) conducive to the species, and c) objective.
Oh no, morality is entirely and irrevocably subjective. From my example above, Hitler's mom did the world a bit of a disservice, but we ought'n fuss on her, she didn't know what a demon he was.
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.
Did morality develop gradually? Well about that, we can sit here today and say this or that moral issue kinda spans across history, but did the ancients really hafta fret the morality of dumping plastic into the oceans? I think it best here if we consider it in terms of "folks became aware of a given moral issue, right about the time it was they did.

In the humans killing humans, we've got that going on today, so it's kinduva moot point. But, and there's always one, we can think in terms of an early society, where each and every member has a valuable contribution to make.

We can consider this in terms of resources, both material and human. If bunch A needs resources they can't find, but they come across bunch B, who's got a bunch of resources, bunch A's gonna think it right and moral to just steal it. That'll set bunch B to thinking what a bunch of immoral so-and-so's are bunch A.

There, we have moral coin to flip. Are you hungry, and ain't got no food? Got a kid to feed and ain't got no food?

Add now, the part on killing folks, and we're tossing the same coin, only this time someone gets em kilt about it. I'd find it hard to allow my grandgirls to starve to death, if killing another human'd fill their empty bellies.
B) That Morality survived because it was conducive to the species. Again, Evolution does not care about the species.
Evolution's about "good enough", so there we go. Ask the cows if it's moral that humans eat em.

In this case, morality is "good enough" for humans, less so for cows.
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.
This is why all, every all dang morality is subjective.

Humans have the ability to nuclearate itself into oblivion. We risk just a handful of humans thinking it's moral to do so.
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.
Hopefully you'll see that all not "naturalists" agree about morality being objective.

I'd kill the man that killed a member of my family, best I could. I wouldn't fret the first one that killed one of my goats cause he was hungry and had nowhere else to turn. I'd cuss him a good bit, I mean he'd get him a cussing for fire, but I wouldn't kill him.
Such is my criticism of Naturalism. I will now give (on another forum) my critique of Theistic morality.
I look forward to it.
Discovery is finding things that exist.
Invention is using things discovered.

Create that path and engineer a metamorphosis.

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