Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [evol-psych] Evolutionary theory promotes, not opposes, human morality

Expand Messages
  • Steven Ravett Brown
    ... And for philosophical support for this position, I recommend Johnson, M. Moral imagination: implications of cognitive science for ethics. 1st ed. Chicago:
    Message 1 of 22 , Mar 31, 2001
    • 0 Attachment
      Re: [evol-psych] Evolutionary theory promotes, not opposes, human morality Herbert Gintis wrote:

             Well, I spend much of my research time documenting and exploring the idea that prosociality is built into our genetic makeup. Prosociality includes empathy for others, various forms of reciprocity, non-self-regarding behavior, shame and guilt, and a spontaneous propensity to contribute to collective projects. The evidence is certainly not all in, but I believe that future research will confirm the deep prosociality of human nature.
              Of course, our species also harbors an immense capacity for evil as well as good, and this also is almost certainly built into our genetic makeup. I also work on this side of the problem, including insider/outsider discrimination, vengeance, self-centeredness, and other such behaviors.
              But Christians also believe that humans have a propensity for both good and evil, so the fact that evolutionary and behavioral research recognizes both good and evil in human nature should not be a problem for Christians.
              Ev psychers have historically held a much weaker position---that "is" and "ought" are totally separate categories, and we can have a morality that is not related in any deep way to our genetic makeup, the latter being basically selfish and egotistical. This is a totally incoherent and unconvincing position, I believe, and it is not surprising that religious types have rejected it.         Of course, morality does not reduce to genetic structure because (a) a wide variety of cultural practices and hence moralities are compatible with being human, and (b) we can reason in ways that lead us to accept moral precepts that are fundamentally epigenetic (e.g., having sympathy for the suffering of animals, or a deep love of God).
              Morality, then, rests in our corporal being, rather than our incorporeal soul (or perhaps, not only in our incorporeal soul, if you are an agnostic).

      Best Regards,


      And for philosophical support for this position, I recommend

      Johnson, M. Moral imagination: implications of cognitive science for ethics. 1st ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 1993.
      Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. Philosophy in the flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought. 1st ed. New York, NY: Basic Books; 1999.

      Both of these books offer, and support, theories in which not merely our genetic makeup but our development, from infants, and initial interactions with the world (including of course the surrounding culture) bring about ethical concerns and systems.

      Steven Ravett Brown
      srbrown@...
    • Roger D. Masters
      I see little point in a serious CONCEPTUAL analysis of the views of Creationists versus Darwinians, on the assumption that the question concerns the rational
      Message 2 of 22 , Mar 31, 2001
      • 0 Attachment
        I see little point in a serious CONCEPTUAL analysis of the views of Creationists versus Darwinians, on the assumption that the question concerns the "rational" or cognitive content of the objections to human evolution. The New York Times recently reported the death of Joseph Campbell, President of the Flat Earth Society. His objections to the spherical earth and heliocentric view of the solar system were based, according to statements (quoted in the TIMES), on a combination of his interpretation of the Bible and his "eye witness" experience that the earth :looked flat" out where he lived in the Southwest.

        Evol. Psych. teaches us something about the relationship between the limbic system (emotion) and the neo-cortex (cognition). A rigid doctrine that flies in the face of immense scientific evidence (and, even in science, a rigid rejection of data and theories that are well established in another "FIELD" can be explained easily enough. Humans, like most non-human primates, often engage in territorial defense. My turf, YOU KEEP OUT. Cognition? True emotion as an explanation. It makes it easier to deal with your colleagues in the social sciences (who might as well be in the flat earth society).

        Example: school killers repeatedly "puzzle" the "expert" psychologists and educators. Of course, for a decade it has been shown that lead and other toxic heavy metals (e.g., manganese) are likely to be elevated in the head hair of hyperactive children and violent criminals. DID ANYONE SUGGEST TESTING ANDY WILLIAMS IN SANTEE CAL. FOR HEAVY METALS (head hair costs $30 a test). Oh, we're told, the methodology is not reliable. Maybe so and maybe no, but in a number of cases of mass murderers whose head hair WAS tested, the same pattern of abnormallyh high levels of toxic metals occurs.

        Usual explanations? Weapons for sale? But why do kids buy them: economics teaches us to look at both supply AND demand. Teasing a new kid in town (which happened to Andy Williams?) But aggessive/non-violent social responses to outsiders are characteristic of nonhuman primates and most human groups. So isn't the question the loss of inhibition (note that lead downregulates dopamine, which in turn in the neurotransmitter in inhibitory circuits in the basal ganglia.

        LETS GET REAL. The social sciences are intellectually moribund and no one challenges them with specific issues like this. At least a criminologist has a VERBAL commitment to natural scientific findings. Some of THEM might actually come around if (IF) the addition of evol. psych. perspectives did not chqallenge their 'field" AND PROMISED TO THE FIRST TO JOMP ABORD THE POSSIB ILITY OF BETTER EXPLANATIONS OF WHAT IS ACTUALLY OCCURRING.

        roger masters --- Herbert Gintis wrote:
        At 08:53 AM 3/31/01 +0000, Michael Price wrote:
        >One thing that hasn't been mentioned lately regarding creationists'
        >objections to ev theory: they mainly object to it because they think
        >it promotes immorality. People who spend a lot of time trying to
        >turn creationists into evolutionists, like Michael Shermer, report
        >that the single biggest obstacle to this task is the creationist
        >perception that if evolution is true, than the entire Christian moral
        >foundation is undermined and there is no reason for anyone to be
        >moral. A recent quote by an Arkansas state house member - basically
        >"if we tell kids they're descended from monkeys, then they'll act
        >like they're descended from monkeys" - sums up the nature of
        >creationist resistance.
        >...
        >I don't know what the solution is, but as long as people think of
        >Darwinism as "advocating" amorality or immorality, I don't think
        >there will be one.
        Well, I spend much of my research time documenting and exploring
        the idea that prosociality is built into our genetic makeup. Prosociality
        includes empathy for others, various forms of reciprocity,
        non-self-regarding behavior, shame and guilt, and a spontaneous propensity
        to contribute to collective projects. The evidence is certainly not all in,
        but I believe that future research will confirm the deep prosociality of
        human nature.
        Of course, our species also harbors an immense capacity for evil
        as well as good, and this also is almost certainly built into our genetic
        makeup. I also work on this side of the problem, including insider/outsider
        discrimination, vengeance, self-centeredness, and other such behaviors.
        But Christians also believe that humans have a propensity for both
        good and evil, so the fact that evolutionary and behavioral research
        recognizes both good and evil in human nature should not be a problem for
        Christians.
        Ev psychers have historically held a much weaker position---that
        "is" and "ought" are totally separate categories, and we can have a
        morality that is not related in any deep way to our genetic makeup, the
        latter being basically selfish and egotistical. This is a totally
        incoherent and unconvincing position, I believe, and it is not surprising
        that religious types have rejected it. Of course, morality does not
        reduce to genetic structure because (a) a wide variety of cultural
        practices and hence moralities are compatible with being human, and (b) we
        can reason in ways that lead us to accept moral precepts that are
        fundamentally epigenetic (e.g., having sympathy for the suffering of
        animals, or a deep love of God).
        Morality, then, rests in our corporal being, rather than our
        incorporeal soul (or perhaps, not only in our incorporeal soul, if you are
        an agnostic).

        Best Regards,

        --- end of quote ---
      • Steven D'Aprano
        ... This is true, but you ignore the reason it is true. Christians all over the world (not to mention believers in other religions) can reconcile their belief
        Message 3 of 22 , Mar 31, 2001
        • 0 Attachment
          Michael Price wrote:
          >
          > One thing that hasn't been mentioned lately regarding creationists'
          > objections to ev theory: they mainly object to it because they think
          > it promotes immorality. People who spend a lot of time trying to
          > turn creationists into evolutionists, like Michael Shermer, report
          > that the single biggest obstacle to this task is the creationist
          > perception that if evolution is true, than the entire Christian moral
          > foundation is undermined and there is no reason for anyone to be
          > moral. A recent quote by an Arkansas state house member - basically
          > "if we tell kids they're descended from monkeys, then they'll act
          > like they're descended from monkeys" - sums up the nature of
          > creationist resistance.

          This is true, but you ignore the reason it is true. Christians all over
          the world (not to mention believers in other religions) can reconcile
          their belief in a creator with evolution without worrying about
          immorality flowing from evolution. Creationism is almost entirely an
          American phenomenon (there are small numbers of creationists in
          Australia, and an even smaller number in the UK, but they are
          essentially politically powerless).

          Christians have accepted the scientific facts that god doesn't make the
          sun rise each morning, that god doesn't make the rain fall, that god
          doesn't make flowers open in the morning and close at dusk, and all the
          other conclusions of a scientific viewpoint. Why are they so hung up
          over evolution causing immorality?

          The Archbishop Spong claims that Christianity is in crisis, and that
          many of those who profess to be christian are only so in name. Church
          attendence is down. Of my own friends and family, I can't think of
          anyone (other than myself) who would not claim to be a Christian, but
          not one of them either goes to church or prays regularly. Churches are
          finding it difficult to recruit new preachers.

          Spong believes that there are two responses to this: one is to
          liberalise christianity further and make it more relevent to the modern
          world (the response he agrees with) while the other is to turn towards
          the fundamentalist side. Spong claims that this will improve short-term
          prospects of Christianity, but only at the expense of a further
          long-term decline.

          (As an aside, I disagree with Spong's conclusions -- liberalising
          christianity will only make it less relevent, in my opinion, since there
          will be less and less that distinguishes the believer from the
          non-believer. Fundamentalism provides that set of distinguishing
          beliefs. All religions have a finite lifespan, and unless there is a
          massive upswing in fundamentalist christianity, I believe we are seeing,
          not the end of christianity, but the begininning of the end.)

          Given that christianity is losing its way, a return to extreme
          conservativism and fundamentalism is the most successful method of
          retaining believers -- instead of having to compete with other
          world-views and ideas, you simply lock them out as "immoral". In the US,
          evolution has become the whipping boy to rally the troops, if you excuse
          my mixed metaphor. Early in the 20th century it was Prohibition. The
          choice of evils to battle is in one sense irrelevent, since all that
          matters is that there is some sort of evil to fight.

          So, going back to Michael's observation: why do creationists worry that
          accepting evolution will promote immoral behaviour, while they don't
          worry that accepting special relativity or quantum mechanics or
          Copernican astronomy will promote immoral behaviour?

          Claiming that life is meaningless if god didn't create mankind is no
          more (or less) ridiculous than stating that life is meaningless if god
          doesn't make the sun rise.

          Once you understand that creationists are nothing more than
          fundamentalist christians, than these questions become clear. Evolution
          has no essential threat to their beliefs any more than chemistry or
          mathematics or english literature do, but because of historical
          accidents and a certain surface threat, it has been singled out as the
          enemy. The point isn't evolution, or morality, but to have an enemy.

          I suppose we can all be grateful that the enemy is an intellectual one,
          like evolution, rather than a return to the Holy Wars and Crusades of
          the past.

          > This is a difficult problem. Eventually, hopefully, creationists and
          > evolutionists will both realize that Darwinism threatens only very
          > specific Christian ideas, not necessarily including one about what
          > constitutes moral behavior. In the meantime, Darwinists might profit
          > from learning more about their opposition.

          Know thy enemy.


          > Why are creationists
          > creationsts? Not necessarily because they're weak-minded victims of
          > manipulation, but because they have certain values that they think
          > they should live by, values which they think depend on a creationist
          > foundation.

          Not true. *Everybody* has values that they live by. Many people
          reconcile Christian values with evolution. The fact that creationists
          fail to do so shows one of two things:

          (1) either they know so little about evolution that they cannot
          comprehend how to reconcile their beliefs with it; or
          (2) it is a conscious decision to be a creationist, and the immorality
          threat is just propoganda.

          I have no doubt that creationists come in both flavours.

          > The thought of this foundation being annihilated by
          > Darwinism is horrifying to them. Creationism provides something
          > important to them that Darwinism can destroy but not replace.
          >
          > I don't know what the solution is, but as long as people think of
          > Darwinism as "advocating" amorality or immorality, I don't think
          > there will be one.

          Why do people think of Darwinism as advocating amorality and immorality?
          Do we see gangs of street kids roaming the streets beating up people
          because they think they're monkeys?

          Creationists don't see Darwinists acting immorally and excusing their
          immorality on Darwinism. Bill Clinton didn't excuse his affairs on the
          fact that he was the alpha male of the monkey troop. People make the
          link between immoral behaviour and Darwinism because they have been told
          to do so by other creationists. Once you make that link, then you can
          blame adultery on Darwinism while excusing or ignoring adultery
          committed by fellow creationists.

          I'm finding this entire creationism debate terribly frustrating, because
          time and time again I see well meaning and otherwise intelligent people
          arguing as if creationists were just a small group of people who, for
          one reason or another, failed to understand Darwinism correctly. That
          might very well be true if you are refering to creationists in (say)
          France. But in the USA creationism is a powerful political movement,
          made up of very intelligent men and women who know damn well that
          Darwinism doesn't encourage immoral behaviour any more than the electron
          structure of atoms encourages immoral behaviour.


          --
          Steven D'Aprano
        • Michael Price
          I agree with much of what Dr. Gintis says, but here are some comments: Ev psychers have historically held a much weaker position---that is and ought are
          Message 4 of 22 , Mar 31, 2001
          • 0 Attachment
            I agree with much of what Dr. Gintis says, but here are some comments:
             

            Ev psychers have historically held a much weaker position---that "is" and "ought" are totally separate categories, and we can have a morality that is not related in any deep way to our genetic makeup, the latter being basically selfish and egotistical.  This is a totally incoherent and unconvincing position, I believe, and it is not surprising that religious types have rejected it.
             

            It’s true that some Darwinists have made famous, confusing comments about the need to rebel against our genes in order to be moral (J. Huxley, R. Dawkins), but many prominent Darwinists (including Darwin himself) have devoted whole books, chapters or articles to the opposing view, e.g. E. O. Wilson (see his online piece at http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/98apr/biomoral.htm), R. Alexander, M. Ruse, D. Dennett and W. Irons (and R. Wright, more or less).  Many others have approached the subject in a more indirect way, e.g. Daly & Wilson discuss how moral attitudes with regard to homicide are influenced by biology, Tooby & Cosmides discuss the machinery underlying disapproval of social contract violation, etc.

            And yes, most Darwinists distinguish “is” from “ought.”  They do so simply to emphasize that explaining a behavior in light of ev theory doesn’t “justify” the behavior.  I don’t see any other defensible position here, unless you want make an absurd argument like that Tooby & Cosmides are trying to promote cheater detection, or that Thornhill & Palmer are adovocating rape.  Of course, for reasons I don’t completely understand, many people do assume that ev psych explanations of objectionable behaviors are “justifications” for the behaviors.  Such assumptions have been damaging to ev psych.
             

            Well, I spend much of my research time documenting and exploring the idea that prosociality is built into our genetic makeup. Prosociality includes empathy for others, various forms of reciprocity, non-self-regarding behavior, shame and guilt, and a spontaneous propensity to contribute to collective projects. The evidence is certainly not all in, but I believe that future research will confirm the deep prosociality of human nature.
             

            I’m the first to agree that many moral rules seem to be produced by a species-typical psychology, and that these rules are interpretable in light of ev theory.  But again, so is most human behavior, and saying that a behavior (moral, immoral or otherwise) is consistent with ev theory doesn’t give anyone a reason why they ought to act in that way.

            And while ev psych can explain something about the structure of moral systems, it explains less about their content.  E.g., ev psych may reveal species-typical mechanisms related to collective action participation (such as those causing participants to feel punitive towards free riders, or those causing free riders to feel anxious about being punished), but it won’t tell you if the purpose of any particular collective action (whether it be to help your neighbors or to kill your neighbors) is itself morally good, or whether it is something you should participate in.  And creationists, I’m afraid, aren’t really interested in understanding the structure of their moral system, they just want justification for its content.  They don’t care if reciprocity is a human universal, they want reasons to believe that adultery, murder, etc. are sins.  And they think that creationism provides these reasons, and that evolutionism negates them.  Regardless of what evolutionists think about ev theory’s implications for morality, creationists (and many non-creationists as well) are convinced that ev theory threatens the content of their moral system.  This is a serious PR problem for ev theory, something it will have to overcome in order to attain secure, widespread acceptance.  Too bad T. H. Huxley isn’t around – he was a genius at claiming the moral high ground in his advocacy of ev theory, always positioning himself as the truth-seeker: “The foundation of morality is to have done, once and for all, with lying.”
             

            Michael Price
            UCSB Anthropology

          • Gregg Henriques
            In a message dated 3/31/01 1:07:19 PM Eastern Daylight Time, hgintis@mediaone.net writes:
            Message 5 of 22 , Apr 1, 2001
            • 0 Attachment
              In a message dated 3/31/01 1:07:19 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
              hgintis@... writes:

              << Well, I spend much of my research time documenting and exploring
              the idea that prosociality is built into our genetic makeup. Prosociality
              includes empathy for others, various forms of reciprocity,
              non-self-regarding behavior, shame and guilt, and a spontaneous propensity
              to contribute to collective projects. The evidence is certainly not all in,
              but I believe that future research will confirm the deep prosociality of
              human nature.
              Of course, our species also harbors an immense capacity for evil
              as well as good, and this also is almost certainly built into our genetic
              makeup. I also work on this side of the problem, including insider/outsider
              discrimination, vengeance, self-centeredness, and other such behaviors.
              But Christians also believe that humans have a propensity for both
              good and evil, so the fact that evolutionary and behavioral research
              recognizes both good and evil in human nature should not be a problem for
              Christians.
              Ev psychers have historically held a much weaker position---that
              "is" and "ought" are totally separate categories, and we can have a
              morality that is not related in any deep way to our genetic makeup, the
              latter being basically selfish and egotistical. This is a totally
              incoherent and unconvincing position, I believe, and it is not surprising
              that religious types have rejected it. Of course, morality does not
              reduce to genetic structure because (a) a wide variety of cultural
              practices and hence moralities are compatible with being human, and (b) we
              can reason in ways that lead us to accept moral precepts that are
              fundamentally epigenetic (e.g., having sympathy for the suffering of
              animals, or a deep love of God).
              >>>
              I think there is significant potential for confusion here. I don't think
              the fundamental clash here is whether or not an evolutionary perspective
              suggests that humans have a strong capacity for altruism, although I agree
              with Herb that many people have argued this point. I also agree with Herb
              that humans have a huge capacity for altruistic behavior that is both genetic
              and epigenetic in nature.
              No, the problem as I see it is that everything is morally neutral from a
              purely scientific perspective. The fundamental task of science is simply to
              develop a mathematical description of change (or behavior or energy
              transfer). And these pure descriptions are void of values like "good" and
              "evil". Good is simply defined as the smallest theory that accounts for the
              most amount of variance. To suggest that we can scientifically "discover"
              that human nature is good (or evil) is to fundamentally confuse our
              subjective behavioral value system with a scientific one.
              My humanistic side is glad that we are documenting that humans have high
              levels of potential for self-sacrificing behavior and we may well be able to
              use such information to structure human societies in a way that I think would
              be very beneficial. But altruism and self-centeredness (and whatever else)
              looks the same from a scientific perspective. They are behaviors in the
              unfolding wave of causality.

              ____

              From: coachhenri@...
              Date: Sun Apr 1, 2001 10:43am
              Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Evolutionary theory promotes, not opposes, human
              morality

              My humanistic side is glad that we are documenting that humans have high levels
              of potential for self-sacrificing behavior and we may well be able to use
              such information to structure human societies in a way that I think would be
              very beneficial. But altruism and self-centeredness (and whatever else) looks
              the same from a scientific perspective. They are behaviors in the unfolding
              wave of causality.

              Gregg Henriques, PhD
              University of Pennsylvania
            • Herbert Gintis
              ... My point is that there are certain moral universals (see, for instance, Donald E. Brown, Human Universals) and we can discover that there are genetic and
              Message 6 of 22 , Apr 1, 2001
              • 0 Attachment
                At 09:41 AM 4/1/01 -0400, Coachhenri@... wrote:
                ...  No, the problem as I see it is that everything is morally neutral from a
                purely scientific perspective. The fundamental task of science is simply to
                develop a mathematical description of change (or behavior or energy
                transfer). And these pure descriptions are void of values like "good" and
                "evil". Good is simply defined as the smallest theory that accounts for the
                most amount of variance. To suggest that we can scientifically "discover"
                that human nature is good (or evil) is to fundamentally confuse our
                subjective behavioral value system with a scientific one.
                         My point is that there are certain moral universals (see, for instance, Donald E. Brown, Human Universals) and we can discover that there are genetic and epigenetic bases for these universals. Since scientists are human, and participates in this system, we can say that we have "discovered good and evil" scientifically.
                         I don't know why you say everything is morally neutral from a scientific perspective. For me, virtually everything is morally charged from my scientific perspective. The fact that I try to evaluate the truth of statements independent from their moral import doesn't mean I don't recognize their moral import.


                Herbert Gintis                   Home Address:                               
                Department of Economics          15 Forbes Avenue                      
                University of Massachusetts      Northampton, MA 01060
                Amherst, MA 01003                413-586-7756 (Home/Work phone)
                hgintis@...
                My recent publications are available from my web site,
                  and the Preferences Network Web Site.
                My book Game Theory Evolving (Princeton, 2000) is available
                  from Amazon.com.

              • Gregg Henriques
                In a message dated 4/1/01 10:10:27 AM Eastern Daylight Time, hgintis@mediaone.net writes: My point is that there are certain moral universals (see, for
                Message 7 of 22 , Apr 1, 2001
                • 0 Attachment
                  In a message dated 4/1/01 10:10:27 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
                  hgintis@... writes:

                  My point is that there are certain moral universals (see, for
                  instance, Donald E. Brown, Human Universals) and we can discover that there
                  are genetic and epigenetic bases for these universals. Since scientists are
                  human, and participates in this system, we can say that we have "discovered
                  good and evil" scientifically.
                  I don't know why you say everything is morally neutral from a
                  scientific perspective. For me, virtually everything is morally charged
                  from my scientific perspective. The fact that I try to evaluate the truth
                  of statements independent from their moral import doesn't mean I don't
                  recognize their moral import.
                  >>

                  My point is that science does not tell you that altruism is good and
                  self-centeredness is evil. That is what I mean by things being morally
                  neutral from a pure science perspective. Instead, science can help us
                  understand why groups will consistently punish self-centered behavior and
                  reward altruistic behavior. (I like Brown's book. I also think Ridley's
                  Origins of Virtue is a good work). Science tells us that human behavior is
                  based at least in part on linguistic rules in which some behaviors are
                  justifiable and other behaviors are not. Science can also tell us why
                  particular types of behaviors tend to be judged by groups as justifiable, but
                  other behaviors are not. However, I do not see this to be the same as
                  "discovering good and evil scientifically". We must ultimately choose our
                  value system. We cannot discover it using science. (Of course, we can and I
                  believe we should have our value system be informed by science, as science
                  will tell us both why things are and how things can be.)

                  Best,
                  Gregg Henriques

                  Indeed, one cannot use science to discover that anything is good or evil and
                  that is what I mean by science being neutral.
                • William M. Brown
                  Dear Herb, ... William M. Brown responds: I am not sure what you mean by deep way . In any event George C. Williams (1998) and William D. Hamilton supported
                  Message 8 of 22 , Apr 1, 2001
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Dear Herb,

                    I am not quite sure that I agree with you. You wrote:

                    >===== Original Message From Herbert Gintis <hgintis@...> =====
                    >Ev psychers have historically held a much weaker position---that
                    >"is" and "ought" are totally separate categories, and we can have a
                    >morality that is not related in any deep way to our genetic makeup, the
                    >latter being basically selfish and egotistical. This is a totally
                    >incoherent and unconvincing position, I believe, and it is not surprising
                    >that religious types have rejected it.

                    William M. Brown responds:

                    I am not sure what you mean by "deep way". In any event George C. Williams
                    (1998) and William D. Hamilton supported the above position in a slightly
                    different form. Williams (1998) "The Pony Fish's Glow : And Other Clues to
                    Plan and Purpose in Nature" argues that nature is fundamentally selfish. And
                    therefore designing an ethical system for humans based on what is best for
                    nature is counter-productive for human society. For example, under some
                    conditions incest is evolutionarily advantageous (i.e. depending upon
                    relatedness asymmetries). However, I doubt that adopting an ethical system
                    suggesting "incest is good" would be tolerable to most people (perhaps for
                    adaptive reasons). On a related note Houston & Hamilton (1989: Behavioral and
                    Brain Sciences 12 (4): 709-710) made the excellent point that selfish gene or
                    inclusive fitness theory says nothing about rationality, ethics and
                    psychological mechanisms. Confusing the levels of selection, timeframe and
                    proximate/ultimate distinctions could have a negative impact on any ethical
                    system designed by humans for humans based on our present biological
                    understanding.

                    >===== Original Message From Herbert Gintis <hgintis@...> =====
                    >Of course, morality does not
                    >reduce to genetic structure because (a) a wide variety of cultural
                    >practices and hence moralities are compatible with being human, and (b) we
                    >can reason in ways that lead us to accept moral precepts that are
                    >fundamentally epigenetic (e.g., having sympathy for the suffering of
                    >animals, or a deep love of God).

                    William responds:

                    I think all moral systems (and behaviours) in animals can be reduced to
                    evolutionary genetics but not entirely explained by it of course (e.g.
                    ontogeny, phylogeny, and proximate mechanisms are likely involved). As for
                    your point made in (a), I am not sure why a "wide variety" of moral systems
                    precludes genes or "genetic structures" influencing ontogeny of brain and
                    cognitive components needed for cultural information transmission and
                    acquisition? It seems to me that information transmittal and pick-up
                    capacities necessary to adopt (or be manipulated by) a variety of cultural
                    systems must have specific genes underlying it [see Rice, W.R. & Holland, B.
                    (1997). The enemies within: intergenomic conflict, interlocus contest
                    evolution (ICE), and intraspecific Red Queen. Behavioral Ecology and
                    Sociobiology, 41, 1-10]. All moral systems likely have an epigenetic component
                    - especially the ones that are adaptive.

                    Best regards,
                    William

                    William Michael Brown
                    Department of Psychology
                    Life Sciences Centre
                    Dalhousie University
                    1355 Oxford Street
                    Halifax, Nova Scotia
                    B3H 4J1 Canada
                  • Don Lindsay
                    Game Theory Evolving illustrates nicely the intricacies of plays available to replicating agents. The miliu of the organism s homeo-metric functions also
                    Message 9 of 22 , Apr 3, 2001
                    • 0 Attachment
                      'Game Theory Evolving' illustrates nicely the intricacies of
                      plays available to replicating agents. The 'miliu' of the
                      organism's homeo-metric functions also is an example of a
                      multi-agent interacting field of 'state-space'. Game theory,
                      darwinian-style, reenforces a deeper sense of the idea of
                      encoded behavior patterns, or regulators.

                      The interaction of the agents, their plays, need models to
                      comprehend. 'Monitors' for various 'sins' as cheating, theft,
                      murderous intent, distain and attractive qualitites such as
                      affection, love, kindness and sympathy may represent portions of
                      neural activation. MRI technology shows pretty clearly there is
                      localization in the brain for emotional activation, in faces
                      shown to college students.

                      'Is' and "Ought' could not be unrepresented in neural memory.
                      The ability to detect when something in your house has changed,
                      is an instinct of such a priori usefulness that a representation
                      of an envoronments 'mean' state would strengthen itself by
                      reuse. The difference is that although this is true, I can also
                      plan for the future, using new information to modify my
                      strategy.

                      Is a meme like, Thou Shalt Not Kill, a subject of biology, or
                      philosophy? Neural circuits are biological, but ethical
                      doctrines are not? I don't know. I do think that representations
                      for games must exist, and would be very much involved with
                      ethical reasoning. Every human group on the planet has it for a
                      cultural point of great interest, which is a condition sometimes
                      used to add weight to an argument for an adaptation.

                      Best wishes,
                      Don Lindsay


                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: Herbert Gintis [mailto:hgintis@...]
                      Sent: Saturday, March 31, 2001 8:02 AM
                      To: Michael Price; evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: [evol-psych] Evolutionary theory promotes, not opposes,
                      human morality


                      At 08:53 AM 3/31/01 +0000, Michael Price wrote:

                      One thing that hasn't been mentioned lately regarding
                      creationists'
                      objections to ev theory: they mainly object to it because they
                      think
                      it promotes immorality. People who spend a lot of time trying
                      to
                      turn creationists into evolutionists, like Michael Shermer,
                      report
                      that the single biggest obstacle to this task is the creationist
                      perception that if evolution is true, than the entire Christian
                      moral
                      foundation is undermined and there is no reason for anyone to be
                      moral. A recent quote by an Arkansas state house member -
                      basically
                      "if we tell kids they're descended from monkeys, then they'll
                      act
                      like they're descended from monkeys" - sums up the nature of
                      creationist resistance.
                      ...
                      I don't know what the solution is, but as long as people think
                      of
                      Darwinism as "advocating" amorality or immorality, I don't think
                      there will be one.
                      Well, I spend much of my research time documenting and
                      exploring the idea that prosociality is built into our genetic
                      makeup. Prosociality includes empathy for others, various forms
                      of reciprocity, non-self-regarding behavior, shame and guilt,
                      and a spontaneous propensity to contribute to collective
                      projects. The evidence is certainly not all in, but I believe
                      that future research will confirm the deep prosociality of human
                      nature.
                      Of course, our species also harbors an immense capacity
                      for evil as well as good, and this also is almost certainly
                      built into our genetic makeup. I also work on this side of the
                      problem, including insider/outsider discrimination, vengeance,
                      self-centeredness, and other such behaviors.
                      But Christians also believe that humans have a
                      propensity for both good and evil, so the fact that evolutionary
                      and behavioral research recognizes both good and evil in human
                      nature should not be a problem for Christians.
                      Ev psychers have historically held a much weaker
                      position---that "is" and "ought" are totally separate
                      categories, and we can have a morality that is not related in
                      any deep way to our genetic makeup, the latter being basically
                      selfish and egotistical. This is a totally incoherent and
                      unconvincing position, I believe, and it is not surprising that
                      religious types have rejected it. Of course, morality
                      does not reduce to genetic structure because (a) a wide variety
                      of cultural practices and hence moralities are compatible with
                      being human, and (b) we can reason in ways that lead us to
                      accept moral precepts that are fundamentally epigenetic (e.g.,
                      having sympathy for the suffering of animals, or a deep love of
                      God).
                      Morality, then, rests in our corporal being, rather than
                      our incorporeal soul (or perhaps, not only in our incorporeal
                      soul, if you are an agnostic).

                      Best Regards,



                      Best Regards,


                      To view archive/subscribe/unsubscribe/select DIGEST go to
                      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evolutionary-psychology

                      Read The Human Nature Daily Review every day
                      http://human-nature.com/nibbs

                      Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of
                      Service.
                    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.