The God Delusion - Chapter 6

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The God Delusion - Chapter 6

Post #1

Post by otseng »

McCulloch's question:
Does our morality have a Darwinian explanation?

An additional question:
What is meant by "good" and "moral sense"?

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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 6

Post #2

Post by QED »

otseng wrote:McCulloch's question:
Does our morality have a Darwinian explanation?
Yes, and it makes a great deal of sense to many people. You name a moral (or lack thereof) and I'll bet we can explain it within a Darwininan framework.
otseng wrote: An additional question:
What is meant by "good" and "moral sense"?
Someone on these forums said "we instinctively know when we are being immoral, which is why we sometimes make excuses for our behaviour". This implies an absolute moral reference for people to judge themselves by and the Darwinian explanation is quite simple: a "sum over histories" of successful behavioural strategies is built up in ancestral lines. Inheritance of this reference gives people their bearings such that they have the ability to know how to behave in a way that is most beneficial to the continued propagation of that reference. In this case, it can be seen as the fittest moral code that survives and brings the species along for the ride.

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Post #3

Post by McCulloch »

Laws spring from the instinct of self-preservation. Industry objected to supporting idleness, and laws were made against theft. Laws were made against murder, because a very large majority of the people have always objected to being murdered. All fundamental laws were born simply of the instinct of self-defence. Long before the Jewish savages assembled at the foot of Sinai, laws had been made and enforced, not only in Egypt and India, but by every tribe that ever existed.

It is impossible for human beings to exist together, without certain rules of conduct, certain ideas of the proper and improper, of the right and wrong, growing out of the relation. Certain rules must be made, and must be enforced. This implies law, trial and punishment. Whoever produces anything by weary labor, does not need a revelation from heaven to teach him that he has a right to the thing produced. Not one of the learned gentlemen who pretend that the Mosaic laws are filled with justice and intelligence, would live, for a moment, in any country where such laws were in force.
[...]
Is it not strange that God, although he gave hundreds of directions for the purpose of discovering the presence of leprosy, and for cleansing the leper after he was healed, forget to tell how that disease could be cured? Is it not wonderful that while God told his people what animals were fit for food, he failed to give a list of plants that man might eat? Why did he leave his children to find out the hurtful and the poisonous by experiment, knowing that experiment, in millions of cases, must mean death?
[...]
Right and wrong are not revelations from some supposed god, but have been discovered through the experience and intelligence of man. There is nothing miraculous or supernatural about morality. Neither has morality anything to do with another world, or with an infinite being. It applies to conduct here, and the effect of that conduct on ourselves and others determines its nature.

-Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Post #4

Post by Cathar1950 »

Ingersoll makes sense to me. :-k

I am not sure how the story of Moses can show us any moral foundation.
It seems the real foundation of the stories is obedience to the divine command.
This hardly seems moral.
Given the there were similar codes that long preceded the Moses story, it looks more like a product of evolution then a revelation.

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Post #5

Post by otseng »

QED wrote:You name a moral (or lack thereof) and I'll bet we can explain it within a Darwininan framework.
OK, I'll name one example ... Enron.
QED wrote:This implies an absolute moral reference for people to judge themselves by and the Darwinian explanation is quite simple: a "sum over histories" of successful behavioural strategies is built up in ancestral lines.
McCulloch wrote:Right and wrong are not revelations from some supposed god, but have been discovered through the experience and intelligence of man. There is nothing miraculous or supernatural about morality. Neither has morality anything to do with another world, or with an infinite being. It applies to conduct here, and the effect of that conduct on ourselves and others determines its nature.
Cathar1950 wrote:I am not sure how the story of Moses can show us any moral foundation.
It seems the real foundation of the stories is obedience to the divine command.
This hardly seems moral.
In this chapter, Dawkins presents the motivation for religious people to be good is either because God is a policeman or that by following the laws it makes them good. However, both of these are not consistent with Christian teaching. What the Bible says is that nobody is good. People cannot be good no matter how hard they try to follow any set of laws. So, though this chapter might address other religions, it does not address Christianity.

Nobody yet has defined what is is meant be "good" or "moral sense". And I'm not too sure if we'll be able to come to any consensus as to what these mean. But, let me give it a try.

Good - the "right" thing to do. (He is a good boy because he did the right thing.)
Moral sense - the ability to discern what is the right thing to do. (He knew what was the right thing to do, but he chose to do the wrong thing.)

I would also argue that good and moral sense have nothing to do with Darwinism. And I'll expound on my thoughts on this later.

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Post #6

Post by McCulloch »

QED wrote:You name a moral (or lack thereof) and I'll bet we can explain it within a Darwininan framework.
otseng wrote:OK, I'll name one example ... Enron.
What is it about Enron that you find difficult to explain within a Darwininian framework?
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Post #7

Post by otseng »

McCulloch wrote:
QED wrote:You name a moral (or lack thereof) and I'll bet we can explain it within a Darwininan framework.
otseng wrote:OK, I'll name one example ... Enron.
What is it about Enron that you find difficult to explain within a Darwininian framework?
It's not difficult to explain at all. But, QED asked me to name one, so I did. So, what is the explanation within a Darwinian framework?

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Post #8

Post by McCulloch »

QED wrote:You name a moral (or lack thereof) and I'll bet we can explain it within a Darwininan framework.
otseng wrote:It's not difficult to explain at all. But, QED asked me to name one, so I did. So, what is the explanation within a Darwinian framework?
Enron is a complex legal, corporate and ethical situation not a particular moral. What particular moral wrt the Enron situation that you would have us explain. Lying, greed, failure to take responsibility, unfairly passing blame, sense of entitlement, failure to carry out expected duties, failure of fiduciary responsibility, failure of government oversight, ... ?
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Post #9

Post by otseng »

McCulloch wrote:Enron is a complex legal, corporate and ethical situation not a particular moral. What particular moral wrt the Enron situation that you would have us explain. Lying, greed, failure to take responsibility, unfairly passing blame, sense of entitlement, failure to carry out expected duties, failure of fiduciary responsibility, failure of government oversight, ... ?
I only bring up Enron because it is mentioned in the chapter. It says that Jeff Skilling's favorite book is The Selfish Gene and that "he derived inspiration of a Social Darwinist character from it."

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Post #10

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
McCulloch wrote:Enron is a complex legal, corporate and ethical situation not a particular moral. What particular moral wrt the Enron situation that you would have us explain. Lying, greed, failure to take responsibility, unfairly passing blame, sense of entitlement, failure to carry out expected duties, failure of fiduciary responsibility, failure of government oversight, ... ?
I only bring up Enron because it is mentioned in the chapter. It says that Jeff Skilling's favorite book is The Selfish Gene and that "he derived inspiration of a Social Darwinist character from it."
If you go on to read the misinterpretation made by Enron, listed on the website Dawkins provides in his foot notes:

http://money.guardian.co.uk/workweekly/ ... 00,00.html

Trouble is, not everyone thinks this way, and evolutionary metaphors are often morphed and warped by some of the bigger corporate apes. In the US, we had a kleptocracy called Enron where executives built a culture dedicated to stealing from grandmothers - and they justified it with one of the most misinterpreted ideas in modern science.

Enron's chief executive was Jeff Skilling, and his favourite book was The Selfish Gene, in which Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins argues that we are a product of our genes, and that these genes have survived by being as ruthless as Chicago gangsters.

Dawkins merely meant that the basic business of a gene is to get as many copies of itself as possible into the next generation, by whatever means. He has protested ever since that he never meant to advocate selfish behaviour as the best way to accomplish that.

But Enron executives latched onto the idea of our innate selfishness with glee. To be fair, plenty of other voices also seemed to be advocating selfish behaviour. Economist Milton Friedman was famous for declaring that the "social responsibility of business is to increase its profits".

But in Skilling's strange Darwinian interpretation, selfishness was ultimately good even for the victims, because it weeded out the losers and forced the survivors to become strong.

Well, here's where Skilling went wrong. Genes may be selfish. But people have evolved to be social. And these days, the Darwinian view includes an understanding that cooperation and even altruism are part of our genetic heritage.

It's true: you can get ahead in the short-term by being a nasty piece of work, but groups have a knack of punishing nakedly selfish or anti-social behaviour. Most of us figure out pretty fast that we are more likely to survive and succeed over the long term when we learn to control our raging egos and play along with the group.
I think he identifies how it can still fit the Darwinian Framework.
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
Never be bullied into silence.
Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
Accept no one persons definition of your life; define yourself.

-Harvey Fierstein

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