The God Delusion - Chapter 6

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otseng
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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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Post #11

Post by Confused »

I think he makes a good relationship between altruism and reciprocal altruism on page 216. He does a good summation on page 216 when he say:
Natural selection favours genes that predispose individuals, in relationships of asymmetric need and opportunity, to give when they can, and to solicit giving when they can't.
He lists 4 good Darwinian reasons for individuals to be altruistic on pg 219:
1) Special case of genetic kinship
2) Reciprocation
3) Benefit of acquiring a reputation for generosity and kindness
4) Conspicuous generosity via buying unfakeable authentic advertising

I think he also points out an important distinction on page 220:
It is important not to mis-state the reach of natural selection. Selection does not favour the evolution of a cognitive awareness of what is good for your genes. That awareness had to wait for the 20th century to reach a cognitive level, and even now a full understanding is confined to a minority of scientific specialists. What natural selection favours is rules of thumb, which work in practice to promote to promote the genes that built them.
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
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Re: The God Delusion - Chapter 6

Post #12

Post by Confused »

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

An additional question:
What is meant by "good" and "moral sense"?
I think his overall message is that morality has a Darwinian explanation in regards to the root of morality. To use Dawkins example, on page 217, he shows how bees need nectar and flowers need to pollinate. One requires the other to survive. This is his reciprocal altruism. Only by working together can each survive. However, things can evolve beyond Darwinian altruism in the example he sites on pate 221, through mistakes. He quotes:
Natural selection, in ancestral times when we lived in small and stable bands like baboons, programmed into our brains altruistic urges, alongside sexual urges, hunger urges, xenophobic urges and so on. An intelligent couple can read their Darwin and know that the ultimate reason for their sexual urges is procreation. They know that the woman cannot concieve because she is on the pill. Yet they find that their sexual desire is in no way diminished by this knowledge. Sexual desire and its force, in an individuals psychology, is independent of the ultimate Darwinian pressure that drove it.
The same can be applied to kindness in regards to originally requiring it for survival. What started out as a requirement to be kind to tribal members is no longer limited to only that population. But the "rule of thumb" persists-the practice to promote the genes that built them. It still influences us.


As to what is meant by good, or moral sense, I will have to reread the chapter but I don't think that he really explains what these are. I think he infers that our genetics do and pass it down from generation to generation to be adapted to based on the current norms. But I will need to read this more to see.
What we do for ourselves dies with us,
What we do for others and the world remains
and is immortal.

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

-Harvey Fierstein

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Post #13

Post by Confused »

I would love to hear anyone address what Dawkins states on page 225:
Of particular interest to this book, Hauser also wondered whether religious people differ from atheists in their moral intuitions. Surely, if we get our morality from religion, they should differ. But it seems that they don't. Hauser, working with teh moral philosopher Peter Singer, focused on three hypothetical dilemmas and compared the verdicts of atheists with those of religious people............... The main conclusion of Hauser and Singer's study was that there is no statistically significant differences between atheists and religious believers in making their moral judgments.
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and is immortal.

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-Harvey Fierstein

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Post #14

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:If you go on to read the misinterpretation made by Enron, listed on the website Dawkins provides in his foot notes
It's not a misrepresentation at all.
Enron traders were commonly under the threat of being fired if they didn't produce the desired results. Though the accounting scandals are most credited with the demise of the company, it has later come out that part downfall was attributed to employees inflating results in part to help protect their jobs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitality_curve#Enron

Survival of the fittest was the philosophy applied to the traders. Management always fired at least 10% of the traders every year to get rid of the weakest, even if they did nothing wrong. This caused the traders to get more and more "creative" in trying not to get fired. One such creative method was causing artifical blackouts to raise electricity prices.

There were of course other major problems at Enron, but the survival of the fittest mentality was one factor in the lack of morality in Enron.

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Post #15

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:If you go on to read the misinterpretation made by Enron, listed on the website Dawkins provides in his foot notes
It's not a misrepresentation at all.
Enron traders were commonly under the threat of being fired if they didn't produce the desired results. Though the accounting scandals are most credited with the demise of the company, it has later come out that part downfall was attributed to employees inflating results in part to help protect their jobs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitality_curve#Enron

Survival of the fittest was the philosophy applied to the traders. Management always fired at least 10% of the traders every year to get rid of the weakest, even if they did nothing wrong. This caused the traders to get more and more "creative" in trying not to get fired. One such creative method was causing artifical blackouts to raise electricity prices.

There were of course other major problems at Enron, but the survival of the fittest mentality was one factor in the lack of morality in Enron.
I don't dispute this. My point was to show how Enron misinterpreted the "selfish gene" in terms of a Darwinian framework. The lack of reciprocal altruism causes the overall organism to fail. Or in this case, the business. Survival of the fittest isn't the case for altruism so perhaps I am misinterpreting your meaning. Dawkins didn't refer to Enron in terms of survival of the fittest. I thought his reference was in terms of the Darwinian framework of the altruistic gene. I will have to review it to make sure.
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and is immortal.

-Albert Pine
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-Harvey Fierstein

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Post #16

Post by otseng »

One general comment about this chapter. I find it interesting that Dawkins paints a picture of Darwinism as being "generous", "kind", "altruistic", while at the same time denouncing any "bad" consequences (such as the case with Enron). Meanwhile, Dawkins paints religion as bad, evil, wrong and avoids mentioning any positive influence of religion. So, his bias is blatantly obvious.

I would admit that religion has its share of bad as well as good. But, I would state that in everything on Earth, if there's good, there will also be bad. It might be good to win the $10 million lottery. But it also means all sorts of people (government, long lost relatives, con artists, ex-wives, etc) will be hounding me for money. In order for bad not to exist, good cannot exist either. It would then be neutral. A scientific theory is not by itself good or bad. It is neutral. But the application of atomic fusion could result in good or bad.

When a lion kills a deer, is that good or bad? Or is it simply just the way things are and would be neutral?

Good and bad is a consequence of freewill. If there is no choice in the matter, then there is no such thing as good or bad. A lion does not decide whether to kill or not to kill. It has no choice in the matter. So, it would be neutral.

Since good and bad is a result of the ability to choose, the question is not how Darwinism can explain good and bad, but how can it explain freewill? And why does it appear that man alone has this faculty?

Why it is also difficult for us to define what is meant by good? Yet why is it also at the same time universally agreed upon by what is good? We cannot articulate it, yet we all agree with it. As CS Lewis had pointed out, this is an indication that there is more to ourselves than our natural body. There is some transcendent nature that is beyond our natural body and yet common to all people.

I stated earlier that good and moral sense have nothing to do with Darwinism. The main reason is that good and moral sense is a consequence of freewill. And Darwinism is lacking in explaining the origin of freewill. Therefore good and moral sense cannot be explained by Darwinism.

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Post #17

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:To use Dawkins example, on page 217, he shows how bees need nectar and flowers need to pollinate. One requires the other to survive. This is his reciprocal altruism.
When animals/plants cooperate, it would be called symbiosis (or probably more accurately mutualism). Animals and plants cannot be altruistic. Only if something is able to choose to do something would it be considered altruistic. Altruism requires a decision to give up one's own interest for the benefit of someone else. If no such decision is made, then it's not an act of altruism.

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Post #18

Post by otseng »

Confused wrote:Dawkins didn't refer to Enron in terms of survival of the fittest. I thought his reference was in terms of the Darwinian framework of the altruistic gene.
Survival of the fittest is a key component of Darwinian theory. Altruism would only be a factor in Dawkinian theory.

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Post #19

Post by bernee51 »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:Dawkins didn't refer to Enron in terms of survival of the fittest. I thought his reference was in terms of the Darwinian framework of the altruistic gene.
Survival of the fittest is a key component of Darwinian theory. Altruism would only be a factor in Dawkinian theory.
'Survival of the fittest' for the individual for the individual requires egoism, for the community, selflessness. That is the seed of morality in homo sapiens - community
"Whatever you are totally ignorant of, assert to be the explanation of everything else"

William James quoting Dr. Hodgson

"When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, that is love. My life is a movement between these two."

Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Post #20

Post by Confused »

otseng wrote:
Confused wrote:Dawkins didn't refer to Enron in terms of survival of the fittest. I thought his reference was in terms of the Darwinian framework of the altruistic gene.
Survival of the fittest is a key component of Darwinian theory. Altruism would only be a factor in Dawkinian theory.
I am not sure I am following you. In terms of a Darwinian framework, reciprocal altruism could easily contribute to survival of the fittest. The way I am interpreting what Dawkins writes here is that in terms of social survival, a tribe who learns to work with another tribe to trade resources etc.. has a better chance of survival then one who doesn't. In such cases, morality would evolve over time as tribes learn to treat one another as they want to be treated (oversimplifying here, but I think you grasp my point) in an effort to obtain services/supplies one tribe may not possess but another might, for the sheer need for survival. This genetic trait to reciprocate altruism (based on Dawkins genetic inference) would strive to replicate itself as often as possible. In doing so, the trait would be spread and evolve with time.

The problem I have with this is that I can't quite grasp the genetic component. Theoretically, yes. But it would seem that this trait would be more learned rather then inherited. The process of learning is subject to evolution, sure. But I am not sure Dawkins presents a strong enough case that it is genetics. Once again, I am having a difficult time keeping his perspective in the scientific range. It seems like with every passing chapter, he is moving more towards soft sciences to validate his assertion rather than hard science. Sociology, psychology, etc... all have their contributions, but thus far, the nature vs nuture debate in these realms are far from satisfactory in their evidence. The more Dawkins moves towards these, the harder time I am having moving them back to the hard sciences realm.
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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