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without ruth

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  • Siobhan
    . . . I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. I stress
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 29, 2005
      ". . . I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying
      how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought
      to behave. I stress this, because I know I am in danger of being
      misunderstood by those people, all too numerous, who cannot
      distinguish a statement of belief in what is the case from an
      advocacy of what ought to be the case. My own feeling is that human
      society based simply on the gene's law of universal ruthless
      selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But
      unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not
      stop it being true . . . Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to
      build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and
      unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from
      biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism,
      because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish
      genes are up to, because we may then at least have the change to
      upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired
      to . . . If genes really turn out to be totally irrelevant to the
      determination of modern human behaviour, if we really are unique
      among animals in this respect, it is, at the very least, still
      interesting to inquire about the rule to which we have so recently
      become the exception. And if our species is not so exceptional as we
      might like to think, it is even more important that we should study
      the rule." Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

      Probably, with the exception of Heidegger and the Nazis, the group of
      philosophers known as the Existentialists did not try to integrate
      science, especially cosmology and evolutionary biology, into their
      constructs. Their attempts to formulate a universal philosophy were
      either a metaphysical or atheistic argument.

      Is it wrong or impossible to formulate a morality based on evolution?
      The behaviour (not intent, not design, not conscious) of our genes
      may at least predispose us to certain reactions and rationalizations.
      Teaching generosity may be possible, but history (socialism,
      communism, capitalism) tells a mixed result; and perhaps the teaching
      of such may not be moral. At the least, it might not even be based on
      human biology. The Existentialists were concerned with the existence
      of the individual and society. How one copes with survival as
      individuals and groups is a personal and developing story.

      If religious thinking is an adaptation in a majority of our species,
      then perhaps only something as horrible as genocides and pogroms will
      alter that predisposition. If non-religious thinking is a minority or
      recessive behavior the same scenario could apply. In the U.S. the
      right to bear arms has always stood as a bulwark against these
      extreme measures. Personal defense technology is a kind of
      environmental adjustment, because neither god nor the state makes men
      free - only Mr. Colt.

      Existence is not a right. Either it is or it isn't. Essence and
      dynamics are individually chosen. The late great Existentialists only
      offered a resting place (absurdism, nihilism, anarchy). We can stay
      in that rest as long as we want to, but communities and nations will
      move along in their goals and interest. We can be isolated, involved,
      revolutionary, whatever, it matters in ways we'll probably never see
      the results of. Achilles or Einsteins most of us will never be. Our
      names will likely be forgotten. Governments and societies have
      agendas based on survival which are not always in the best interest
      of the individual. Genetics doesn't select for the group, it selects
      for the individual.

      Siobhan
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