3 of 7
3
Article in New Morality section in the Web magazine “Evolution: This view of life”
Posted: 16 September 2013 07:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4576
Joined  2008-08-14
Mark Sloan - 16 September 2013 01:52 PM

This is after a few thousand years of very smart people attempting to do that.

That right there should explain everything.  In the context of my philosophy, we could stop right there.

In contrast, a descriptive science of morality can, I argue, provide a more universal, fundamental grounding for a secular morality than any grounding used in traditional moral philosophy. For example, mainstream moral philosophy (except perhaps for Kantianism) is, at bottom, grounded in either or both 1) our ‘considered’ moral intuitions about extreme applications of proposed moral theories and 2) ideas about what is ‘good’. Science can provide a more fundamental grounding for moral theories because science can tell us WHY our moral intuitions are what they are and why we consider some things good and some bad.

What can be improved? What will the breakthroughs look like?  Mandatory euthanasia at age 65?  That could be argued to be moral.
Utter true Communism…the real stuff as it was theorized?  That could be argued to be moral.
Actually any real look at the SCIENTIFIC overlay of morals cannot be complete without the complete acceptance of humanity’s behavioral tendencies
for dog eat dog.  The other probably overarching “moral”(moral is italicized because it is subjective in this instance) is that humans(like other social creatures mainly) gravitate to a leader, or leader system.  The leader system dictates the morals.  These morals are generally based on genetic/behavioral morals
but are given room to bend.(as we are all aware).

There has been tremendous progress, made by people much smarter than I could ever hope to be, for a long time. The problem as I see it is that moral philosophy has been valiantly trying to determine what morality ‘ought’ to be when no one, until the last 30 years or so, understood what morality ‘is’. Science is now getting ready to definitively tell us what morality ‘is’.  I expect moral philosophy to then make rapid progress in coming to a wider consensus on what morality ‘ought’ to be (a topic on which science is necessarily silent).

What Morality “ought” to be?  What can science, or yogis, or religion, or philosophy make progress on?
Isn’t the idea of…“It’s wrong to kill, hurt, steal, lie.” enough?  We can’t even manage these principles.
What is this “movement” aiming for?  For starters you’ll definitely have to create and run the “leader system”.  Good luck with that.

 Signature 

Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 September 2013 10:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4542
Joined  2007-08-31

I really think you expect too much from moral philosophy, Mark. Science has ‘grounding’ in observations and experiments, morality has ‘grounding’ in the ongoing ethical discourse of society. Moral philosophy can clarify, point at discrepancies, but the ‘grounding’ is done by the people themselves, by reflecting on the values behind our actions, individually and politically. Moral philosophy can help in this reflecting.

Any ‘grounding’ in something else is trying to abolish what makes us truly human: this ability to reflect about our actions and the reasons behind it. Life is insecure, and trying to remove this by a ‘grounded morality’ would exactly destroy our moral capabilities. I see a ‘Brave New World’ glooming behind your ideas.

It seems to me that you try to find a replacement for the ethical hole that traditional religions left behind, that were supposed to give moral guidance.

[ Edited: 17 September 2013 02:33 AM by GdB ]
 Signature 

GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 September 2013 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4542
Joined  2007-08-31
VYAZMA - 16 September 2013 07:42 PM

What can be improved? What will the breakthroughs look like?  Mandatory euthanasia at age 65?  That could be argued to be moral.

From evolutionary perspective that seems very rational, yes. People that have no offspring anymore, on average achieve less, yes, that would be a good idea. Or is there some mistake in VYAZMA’s proposal? Mark? George? In what way does our insight in the evolutionary background of morals helps us to decide this issue?

 Signature 

GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 September 2013 11:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4542
Joined  2007-08-31

As far as I understand TimB, he is saying that many people think it is more important that their culture and societies will continue to exist, than that they produce their own personal offspring.

 Signature 

GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 05:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4576
Joined  2008-08-14
GdB - 16 September 2013 10:59 PM
VYAZMA - 16 September 2013 07:42 PM

What can be improved? What will the breakthroughs look like?  Mandatory euthanasia at age 65?  That could be argued to be moral.

From evolutionary perspective that seems very rational, yes. People that have no offspring anymore, on average achieve less, yes, that would be a good idea. Or is there some mistake in VYAZMA’s proposal? Mark? George? In what way does our insight in the evolutionary background of morals helps us to decide this issue?

It wasn’t really a proposal GdB.  It was more of an illustration.
You hopefully knew this.  I just want to be clear that I am not a proponent for most form of eugenics.

 Signature 

Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4542
Joined  2007-08-31
VYAZMA - 17 September 2013 05:22 AM

It wasn’t really a proposal GdB.  It was more of an illustration.
You hopefully knew this.  I just want to be clear that I am not a proponent for most form of eugenics.

Of course. But I think it is a nice example to see if a moral theory fits our intuitions. From evolutionary perspective your idea seems correct. So I wonder what adding a evolutionary perspective to our moral deliberations would bring. I hope Mark and George will give their answers.

Corrected: typo

[ Edited: 17 September 2013 08:20 AM by GdB ]
 Signature 

GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

I have nothing to add here, GdB. I commented on Mark’s post because I thought it was interesting, but I can’t make any sense of what the rest of you are talking about here.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  76
Joined  2010-06-20

POSSIBLE CONFUSION ALERT!


VYAZMA and Gdb

In moral philosophy, it is easy to say one thing and have it be interpreted as something else entirely. As I can attest by personal experience, this is particularly likely for any sentence that includes both of the words “science” and “morality”.

Sentences that contain the words “science” and “morality” are generally about one of three topics. If it is not clear which topic is being discussed, these statements can be confusing.

The first possible topic is “The morality of evolution”, which is the source of a bizarro claim, based on bad science and worse moral philosophy, that the process of evolution itself somehow defines what is moral. From this illogical, terrible idea came justifications for eugenics and all other ideas related to any form of “whatever increases reproductive fitness is moral” or some such nonsense. I know of no one who advocates this moral garbage.

The second possible topic is “The science of morality” which is simply the scientific study of the origins and function of our ‘moral’ biology and cultural moral norms. This is the main topic of the new science of Morality section. There are no necessary implications about what moral codes ‘ought’ to be in this science. At best, it can just tell us what morality ‘is’.

In my personal view, this science shows that moral behaviors are motivated by biology and advocated by cultural moral norms that are adaptations for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups by means of costly cooperation strategies (cooperation strategies that leave the actor open to exploitation). Again in my personal view, this science about what morality ‘is’ is consistent with something like “Moral behaviors are costly cooperation strategies that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups”. The science of the matter shows that morality is a ‘means’ for increasing the benefits of cooperation, which sometimes may reduce reproductive fitness - for example by advocating fidelity in marriage.

The third possible topic is “Morality from science” which attempts to combine what science tells us about moral ‘means’ (based on what morality ‘is’) with what moral philosophy tells us about moral ‘ends’ (which science is silent on as a matter of logic). This topic may be inappropriate for the new Morality section since it is more about moral philosophy than science.  But again in my personal view,  I can argue for a form of what in moral philosophy is called a “Rule Utilitarianism” morality which I can state as “Moral behaviors are unselfish acts that increase the well-being benefits of cooperation.”  This Rule Utilitarianism also implies that behaviors that decrease the well-being benefits of cooperation are immoral and behaviors that increase the well-being benefits of cooperation but are not in some sense costly (such as exposing the actor to exploitation) are morally neutral.

See, nothing about eugenics at all, except to point out that it has no justification in science.

[ Edited: 18 September 2013 04:02 PM by Mark Sloan ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4576
Joined  2008-08-14
Mark Sloan - 17 September 2013 10:15 AM

The first possible topic is “The morality of evolution”, which is the source of a bizarro claim, based on bad science and worse moral philosophy, that the process of evolution itself somehow defines what is moral. From this illogical, terrible idea came justifications for eugenics and all other ideas related to any form of “whatever increases reproductive fitness is moral” or some such nonsense. I know of no one who advocates this moral garbage.

Yes, let’s excise the word evolution if you will.  I think it fits in the category of the “science of morals anyways”.  So it is superfluous overlap.
And let’s keep it simple and try to stay on one track at a time.  Not just you.  Me and any other participants.

The second possible topic is “The science of morality” which is simply the scientific study of the origins and function of our ‘moral’ biology and cultural moral norms. This is the main topic of the new science of Morality section. There are no necessary implications about what moral codes ‘ought’ to be in this science. At best, it can just tell us what morality ‘is’.

Right.  The “ought” comes back to the behavioral social “matrix” of a given time and space.  In other words culture/government. 
That’s the leader system I mentioned.  Humans instinctively form hierarchies and look above, look up to get guidance on moral codes and to especially
reinforce innate moral codes.  When the morals get out of whack too much the leader system fails and is replaced. An example would be revolution due to disparity of wealth.  Or too heavy a reliance on the people for military conscription.  Or too much crime.  Too much corruption.
No Science will ever be able to say what “ought” to be moral.  Humans instinctively know what is moral already.  They want to see it reflected in their social structure.  Obviously…if we were not social creatures there would be no morals.
So again, it only takes this innate behavioral “reflection” or reinforcement of morals “advocated” through the social hierarchy.

In my personal view, this science shows that moral behaviors are motivated by biology and advocated by cultural moral norms that are adaptations for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups by means of costly cooperation strategies (cooperation strategies that leave the actor open to exploitation). Again in my personal view, this science about what morality ‘is’ is consistent with something like “Moral behaviors are costly cooperation strategies that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups”. The science of the matter shows that morality is a ‘means’ for increasing the benefits of cooperation, which sometimes may reduce reproductive fitness - for example by advocating fidelity in marriage.

Ahhh…you used the word “Costly”.  And also: “leaves the actor open to exploitation”.
Are you thinking science can find a way to eliminate the cost? To eliminate the exploitation?

[ Edited: 17 September 2013 04:58 PM by VYAZMA ]
 Signature 

Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 06:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3191
Joined  2011-11-04
Mark Sloan - 17 September 2013 10:15 AM

[size=6]...In my personal view, this science shows that moral behaviors are motivated by biology and advocated by cultural moral norms that are adaptations for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups by means of costly cooperation strategies (cooperation strategies that leave the actor open to exploitation). Again in my personal view, this science about what morality ‘is’ is consistent with something like “Moral behaviors are costly cooperation strategies that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups”. The science of the matter shows that morality is a ‘means’ for increasing the benefits of cooperation, which sometimes may reduce reproductive fitness - for example by advocating fidelity in marriage…

Mark, I am with you on seeking to have a scientific analysis of what morality is.  In behavior analytic terms, morals are one example of discriminative stimuli that are active in controlling “rule-governed behavior”.  As such, they exert some control over the behavior of members who are a part of the culture that ascribes to the particular morals.  They are similar to laws, in this respect.  However, the consequences for following morals or not, tends to be different than for following laws or not. 

I think that an important matter to consider is the issue of “control”.  e.g., If morals exert control over our behavior, then we should be interested in how those morals came about and, perhaps more importantly, in whether the morals are effectively, as you say, increasing “the benefits of cooperation in groups” as opposed to being used as an exploitive mechanism for control that benefits some subgroup or individuals.

 Signature 

As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 07:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  76
Joined  2010-06-20
TimB - 17 September 2013 06:49 PM
Mark Sloan - 17 September 2013 10:15 AM

[size=6]...In my personal view, this science shows that moral behaviors are motivated by biology and advocated by cultural moral norms that are adaptations for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups by means of costly cooperation strategies (cooperation strategies that leave the actor open to exploitation). Again in my personal view, this science about what morality ‘is’ is consistent with something like “Moral behaviors are costly cooperation strategies that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups”. The science of the matter shows that morality is a ‘means’ for increasing the benefits of cooperation, which sometimes may reduce reproductive fitness - for example by advocating fidelity in marriage…

Mark, I am with you on seeking to have a scientific analysis of what morality is.  In behavior analytic terms, morals are one example of discriminative stimuli that are active in controlling “rule-governed behavior”.  As such, they exert some control over the behavior of members who are a part of the culture that ascribes to the particular morals.  They are similar to laws, in this respect.  However, the consequences for following morals or not, tends to be different than for following laws or not. 

I think that an important matter to consider is the issue of “control”.  e.g., If morals exert control over our behavior, then we should be interested in how those morals came about and, perhaps more importantly, in whether the morals are effectively, as you say, increasing “the benefits of cooperation in groups” as opposed to being used as an exploitive mechanism for control that benefits some subgroup or individuals.

I think we are on the same page. I plan to post new material from time to time on the website and plan to address some of your issues. I could post them here also if there is enough interest. Actually, I might prefer just posting links here to try to encourage more comment conversation on the website, but the forum monitors might object to that.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  76
Joined  2010-06-20
VYAZMA - 17 September 2013 04:40 PM
Mark Sloan - 17 September 2013 10:15 AM

The first possible topic is “The morality of evolution”, which is the source of a bizarro claim, based on bad science and worse moral philosophy, that the process of evolution itself somehow defines what is moral. From this illogical, terrible idea came justifications for eugenics and all other ideas related to any form of “whatever increases reproductive fitness is moral” or some such nonsense. I know of no one who advocates this moral garbage.

Yes, let’s excise the word evolution if you will.  I think it fits in the category of the “science of morals anyways”.  So it is superfluous overlap.
And let’s keep it simple and try to stay on one track at a time.  Not just you.  Me and any other participants.

The second possible topic is “The science of morality” which is simply the scientific study of the origins and function of our ‘moral’ biology and cultural moral norms. This is the main topic of the new science of Morality section. There are no necessary implications about what moral codes ‘ought’ to be in this science. At best, it can just tell us what morality ‘is’.

Right.  The “ought” comes back to the behavioral social “matrix” of a given time and space.  In other words culture/government. 
That’s the leader system I mentioned.  Humans instinctively form hierarchies and look above, look up to get guidance on moral codes and to especially
reinforce innate moral codes.  When the morals get out of whack too much the leader system fails and is replaced. An example would be revolution due to disparity of wealth.  Or too heavy a reliance on the people for military conscription.  Or too much crime.  Too much corruption.
No Science will ever be able to say what “ought” to be moral.  Humans instinctively know what is moral already.  They want to see it reflected in their social structure.  Obviously…if we were not social creatures there would be no morals.
So again, it only takes this innate behavioral “reflection” or reinforcement of morals “advocated” through the social hierarchy.

In my personal view, this science shows that moral behaviors are motivated by biology and advocated by cultural moral norms that are adaptations for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups by means of costly cooperation strategies (cooperation strategies that leave the actor open to exploitation). Again in my personal view, this science about what morality ‘is’ is consistent with something like “Moral behaviors are costly cooperation strategies that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups”. The science of the matter shows that morality is a ‘means’ for increasing the benefits of cooperation, which sometimes may reduce reproductive fitness - for example by advocating fidelity in marriage.

Ahhh…you used the word “Costly”.  And also: “leaves the actor open to exploitation”.
Are you thinking science can find a way to eliminate the cost? To eliminate the exploitation?

Well, the costly aspect of morality is what makes moral behavior admirable and part of what often triggers feeling of well-being when we act morally with good results and escape being exploited. So we will not get rid of the costly aspect.

Where I think science can help is in telling us which norms are mostly likely to increase the benefits of cooperation and thereby encourage moral behavior in society.

For example, just knowing that the evolutionary function of morality is to increase the benefits of cooperation in groups may make acting morally more attractive for people who have thought of morality only as a burdensome obligation. In fact, morality is a set of strategies for improving your life (no surprise there, but now that is science).

Also, while science cannot eliminate exploitation - some people are just SOBs - there is a lot of work in effective punishment strategies that should show how to reduce exploitation and the burden of punishing people for it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 08:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4576
Joined  2008-08-14
Mark Sloan - 17 September 2013 07:41 PM

Well, the costly aspect of morality is what makes moral behavior admirable and part of what often triggers feeling of well-being when we act morally with good results and escape being exploited. So we will not get rid of the costly aspect.

I don’t know about all of this.  I think labeling moral behavior “admirable” is straying definitely from the scientific approach.
Same with “good results” and even “exploited”. In fact “moral behavior” is like saying “the behavior of the behavior.”

Where I think science can help is in telling us which norms are mostly likely to increase the benefits of cooperation and thereby encourage moral behavior in society.

Science, religion, philosophy has provided all of that 1000x enough already.

For example, just knowing that the evolutionary function of morality is to increase the benefits of cooperation in groups may make acting morally more attractive for people who have thought of morality only as a burdensome obligation. In fact, morality is a set of strategies for improving your life (no surprise there, but now that is science).

Nahh….overthinking. This is just repackaging the same old thing in a new box.  Like you said people have been working on this for thousands of years.
Science is not going to be able to improve on this.  Science is not going to find a way to get people to realize that acting more morally can improve
life for everybody.  In a nutshell, I would wager that humans have evolved to exert just enough morality. Because that has to balance with our
“Dog eat Dog” behavior.  Which you never addressed after I mentioned it.  There probably is no such thing as “more morally”.

Also, while science cannot eliminate exploitation - some people are just SOBs - there is a lot of work in effective punishment strategies that should show how to reduce exploitation and the burden of punishing people for it.

I’d be interested in hearing more about this.

 Signature 

Row row row your boat gently down the stream.  Merrily Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2013 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4542
Joined  2007-08-31

The ‘alert’ was not necessary, Mark. I asked for clarification, by means of VYAZMA’s example, and you gave that, that’s fine.

In the first place I regret you did not react on my more fundamental thought in my posting #32, in which I express my doubt that morality can be ‘grounded’ in the way you seem to think in your posting #27. I hope you can elaborate on this.

Secondly I am wondering if your proposal would not be just a gathering of results of other sciences that contribute to our thoughts about morality:
- psychology, for researching how morality influences the individual;
- sociology, for researching the dynamics of morality in society;
- biology, for researching how morality arises from given behaviour in ‘lower’ animals, or how morality influences the thriving of groups having these morals,
- etc etc.

And thirdly, as you notice yourself, you seem to advocate just utilitarianism, which is an existing theory about how we may ‘ground’ morality.

So I am failing to see what is new in your approach, and I have severe doubts that morality can be ‘grounded’ in a similar way that science can be grounded, or even that such a project would be morally desirable.

 Signature 

GdB

“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 September 2013 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29
Mark Sloan - 17 September 2013 07:41 PM

just knowing that the evolutionary function of morality is to increase the benefits of cooperation in groups may make acting morally more attractive for people who have thought of morality only as a burdensome obligation.

I am not sure what exactly you mean by “evolutionary function” here, but it sounds awfully close to group selection. As far as I know there is no evidence for this phenomenon. But, again, hard to tell what exactly you are referring to.

Profile
 
 
   
3 of 7
3