7 of 7
7
Article in New Morality section in the Web magazine “Evolution: This view of life”
Posted: 23 September 2013 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 91 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2013-09-23

It is worth noting that scarcity of resources, as a fundamental facet of objective reality drives competition and therefore adaptive traits.  In this light it is worth touching on in-group, out-group behaviors.  While it is adaptive to co-operate within ones in-group, it has historically been adaptive to exploit out-groups.  Unless, there is a superordinate goal that incentivizes out-group co-operation it has not often occured.  Given that morality seems to be derived from survival necessities it appears that science does have the capacity to explain human codifications of morality so long as morality is defined as that which makes the group more adaptive and improves survival outcomes.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 September 2013 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 92 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4142
Joined  2008-08-14
K - 23 September 2013 11:23 AM

It is worth noting that scarcity of resources, as a fundamental facet of objective reality drives competition and therefore adaptive traits.  In this light it is worth touching on in-group, out-group behaviors.  While it is adaptive to co-operate within ones in-group, it has historically been adaptive to exploit out-groups.  Unless, there is a superordinate goal that incentivizes out-group co-operation it has not often occured.  Given that morality seems to be derived from survival necessities it appears that science does have the capacity to explain human codifications of morality so long as morality is defined as that which makes the group more adaptive and improves survival outcomes.

Not when survival literally means adapting behavioral codes since the time we crawled out of the ocean.
Humans didn’t develop social skills on the third Tuesday of April in 35,000 BCE.
So codify all of that.
That’s what survival is on a genetic level.
So first define what the definition of survival is.  It doesn’t just mean sharing your maize crop with your neighbor in exchange for some furs.

 Signature 

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

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 September 2013 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 93 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  76
Joined  2010-06-20
K - 23 September 2013 11:23 AM

It is worth noting that scarcity of resources, as a fundamental facet of objective reality drives competition and therefore adaptive traits.  In this light it is worth touching on in-group, out-group behaviors.  While it is adaptive to co-operate within ones in-group, it has historically been adaptive to exploit out-groups.  Unless, there is a superordinate goal that incentivizes out-group co-operation it has not often occured.  Given that morality seems to be derived from survival necessities it appears that science does have the capacity to explain human codifications of morality so long as morality is defined as that which makes the group more adaptive and improves survival outcomes.

Yes, understanding the in-group vs out-group role in the origins of our moral biology and Haidt’s six “moral foundations” is critical to understanding the evolution of morality (as described in the article).

However, there have been past superordinate goals that have encouraged expansion of the “circle of moral concern” (as Peter Singer refers to it) from families, to friends, tribes, nations, aggregations of nations and so forth. One such goal is to increase the many benefits of cooperation. Increasing the number of cooperators (increasing the size of the in-group) generally increases opportunities for and efficiency in generating those benefits.

Pinker focuses on the historical benefits of expanding in-groups for waging and winning wars (and a resulting reduction in violence due to that expansion of in-groups despite the wars getting bigger).

But with the emergence of modern warfare, the major powers have a new superordinate goal, not having wars that would be suicidal for all. One way to avoid such wars is for the great powers to include each other in their circles of moral concern.

(Of course, moral philosophers since the enlightenment have been justifying increasing the circle of moral concern to include everyone with no reference to war at all.)

You might also keep in mind that the emergence of culture (and its moral norms) forever unhitched moral behavior from being only about survival. After the emergence of culture, moral norms could be selected based on whatever benefits of cooperation people found attractive, such as the psychological rewards of living in the reliably cooperative company of friends and family.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 September 2013 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 94 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2799
Joined  2011-11-04

A thought, relevant here, occurred to me from participation in another thread topic.

Richard Dawkins expresses an idea of a “shifting moral zeitgeist”.  I think that it would be interesting to know what the particular contingencies are that lead to such shifts in morality.

 Signature 

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb… We are bound to others, past and present… And by each crime and every kindness… We birth our future.”  Sonmi, 2144.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 23 September 2013 10:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 95 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2013-09-23

Well, the evolutionary definition survival fitness is that which allows an organism to reproduce.  So, survival as a group dynamic is relationships that are beneficial the organisms involved.  So, it is just maize for furs, even in a global economy, sharing risk and reward are the fundamentals and that hasn’t changed… ever, as far as history is concerned. 
  It think one stark truth is that we as a species are not in control of how big the in-group is.  It seems that scarcity and the magnitude and immediacy of the super ordinate goal controls how many we will allow in our circle.  Another issue is the reduction of the moral circle, after or during superordinate goals are achieved humanity inevitably reverts to infighting as scarcity and survival always demands.  In addition, it is unlikely that culture has or ever will be “unhitched” from survival.  Scarcity and the corresponding survival behaviors are the underpinnings of human behavior and as long as that paradigm exists it will rule our behavior.
  I think scarcity, as always, will drive groups to desperate and harsh behavior but I think technology is the fulcrum on which “nice” behavior teeters.  Slavery didn’t become reprehensible until machinery was widely available.  Women’s rights didn’t really gain momentum until birth-control allowed women a measure of control.  A shifting Zeitgeist seems to hinge upon the breathing-room a given group perceives themselves to have regarding their survival.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 September 2013 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 96 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4142
Joined  2008-08-14
K - 23 September 2013 10:20 PM

Well, the evolutionary definition survival fitness is that which allows an organism to reproduce.  So, survival as a group dynamic is relationships that are beneficial the organisms involved.  So, it is just maize for furs, even in a global economy, sharing risk and reward are the fundamentals and that hasn’t changed… ever, as far as history is concerned. 
  It think one stark truth is that we as a species are not in control of how big the in-group is.  It seems that scarcity and the magnitude and immediacy of the super ordinate goal controls how many we will allow in our circle.  Another issue is the reduction of the moral circle, after or during superordinate goals are achieved humanity inevitably reverts to infighting as scarcity and survival always demands.  In addition, it is unlikely that culture has or ever will be “unhitched” from survival.  Scarcity and the corresponding survival behaviors are the underpinnings of human behavior and as long as that paradigm exists it will rule our behavior.
  I think scarcity, as always, will drive groups to desperate and harsh behavior but I think technology is the fulcrum on which “nice” behavior teeters.  Slavery didn’t become reprehensible until machinery was widely available.  Women’s rights didn’t really gain momentum until birth-control allowed women a measure of control.  A shifting Zeitgeist seems to hinge upon the breathing-room a given group perceives themselves to have regarding their survival.

What about before technology?
Take a group of social mammals millions of years ago.  They have social behavior that has evolved thus far.  They cooperate.
Obviously they survived until present.(for them)
What was the fulcrum that “nice” behavior teetered on then?
I have said it already, I’ll say it again.
“Mother Nature” want’s us exerting “just enough” good, cooperative behavior as is necessary.  And not a bit more.
That’s how we operate.  As a species.
The fulcrum between good and bad behavior(quotes) may well be supply as you stated. Not technology.
Folks putting “technology” in their theories about
human behavior need to put things in scale as far as timelines are concerned.
So an in-group, or given culture, collectively “exerts” enough morality to make the system(cooperative, social, unity, family, Nation, neighbors) function.
And not a bit more. 
Gotta go to work.  See ya later.

 Signature 

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

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 September 2013 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 97 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  76
Joined  2010-06-20
K - 23 September 2013 10:20 PM

Well, the evolutionary definition survival fitness is that which allows an organism to reproduce.  So, survival as a group dynamic is relationships that are beneficial the organisms involved.  So, it is just maize for furs, even in a global economy, sharing risk and reward are the fundamentals and that hasn’t changed… ever, as far as history is concerned. 
  It think one stark truth is that we as a species are not in control of how big the in-group is.  It seems that scarcity and the magnitude and immediacy of the super ordinate goal controls how many we will allow in our circle.  Another issue is the reduction of the moral circle, after or during superordinate goals are achieved humanity inevitably reverts to infighting as scarcity and survival always demands.  In addition, it is unlikely that culture has or ever will be “unhitched” from survival.  Scarcity and the corresponding survival behaviors are the underpinnings of human behavior and as long as that paradigm exists it will rule our behavior.

The subject is morality and moral codes, not everything that rules human behavior. Moral codes were unhitched from being ONLY about reproductive fitness with the emergence of culture because cooperation strategies could be encoded into cultural norms rather than just in our biology. For example, fidelity in marriage can reduce reproductive fitness, particularly for men.

Moral norms are commonly abandoned, and in particular the size of in-groups shrink, when survival of an individual or sub-group is at stake. So what? That does not mean doing so is moral.


K - 23 September 2013 10:20 PM

  I think scarcity, as always, will drive groups to desperate and harsh behavior but I think technology is the fulcrum on which “nice” behavior teeters.  Slavery didn’t become reprehensible until machinery was widely available.  Women’s rights didn’t really gain momentum until birth-control allowed women a measure of control.  A shifting Zeitgeist seems to hinge upon the breathing-room a given group perceives themselves to have regarding their survival.

A shifting moral Zeitgeist can also be the product of finally understanding what morality ‘is’, thereby allowing more productive discussions about what moral norms ‘ought’ to be.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 September 2013 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 98 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  3
Joined  2013-09-23

Agreed Vyazma, supply is the better arbiter of cooperation and technology is a bit short sighted given the scope of a posit regarding morality as adaptation. 
    Mark- Fidelity is rare among humans (or any other species) as evidenced by our divorce rates but there is an adversarial dynamic that benefits the offspring between females trying to get and keep the fittest males and males trying to mate with everything that moves.  The species benefits evolutionarily from many varied offspring and the continued presence of both parents.
    The shrinking of sub-groups and infidelity may indeed be moral, if morality is an adaptive trait and these behaviors improve outcomes.  Linking morality & adaptivity would be the search for an objective morality, even if different decisions can both improve outcomes just having the framework for morality could still be adaptive, it wouldn’t require any specific morality as the the adaptive decision, morally, would be just as situational with an objective morality as with a subjective morality.
    A shifting moral zeitgeist could be a product of enlightenment, but it strikes me as wishful thinking.  Its the hope that we are progressing in a linear fashion, star trek-style.  I think, rather, it is wishful thinking to believe that we as a species are less cruel or selfish and more moral.  It seems more likely that if kindness is the measure of moral progress as Dawkins illustrated the shift, then the lack of those widespread behaviors can more likely be attributed to our improved adaptation providing a greater supply of what we need and making slavery and slaughter less necessary as instruments of adaptation.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 27 September 2013 05:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 99 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2799
Joined  2011-11-04

There is a difference, between morals and moral behavior. (Are morals themselves also behavior? I think so. I think that they are a specific kind of verbal behavior, that can function as antecedents for moral behavior. But this is a distinct form of behavior from our actions that are either moral or not.)

Whether we behave morally or not is a factor not only of the morals we hold, but, as Vyazma and K suggest, other contingencies as well, such as availability of resources.  Do we believe “cannibalism is wrong”?  This is a commonly held moral among most humans.  But given we are trapped with the Donner Party, we might not behave according to this moral.  If we ultimately survived, and returned to civilization, we would probably still retain the moral, and probably feel guilty about having broken it.  But the moral would likely still be in place.  For the moral to change, on a societal level, there would have to be prolonged or repeated bouts of scarcity.  In which case the moral might shift to “cannibalism is wrong except for these (fill in the blank) circumstances”.

Thus, it seems to me that, prolonged or repeated bouts of scarcity are one set of contingencies that could impact a shift in morals.  But I don’t think that is the whole story.

The morals that a given subgroup hold are passed on in some way.  Pre-dating the technology of writing, this was likely done thru recitation of some sort.  Writing allowed the passing on of morals at a distance.  Other advancements in communicative technologies have enhanced this.  I daresay that the proliferation of the World Wide Web has contributed to a significant degree, in our shifting moral zeitgeist.

 Signature 

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb… We are bound to others, past and present… And by each crime and every kindness… We birth our future.”  Sonmi, 2144.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 September 2013 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 100 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  207
Joined  2012-09-14
TimB - 27 September 2013 05:50 PM

Whether we behave morally or not is a factor not only of the morals we hold, but, as Vyazma and K suggest, other contingencies as well, such as availability of resources.  Do we believe “cannibalism is wrong”?  This is a commonly held moral among most humans.  But given we are trapped with the Donner Party, we might not behave according to this moral.  If we ultimately survived, and returned to civilization, we would probably still retain the moral, and probably feel guilty about having broken it.  But the moral would likely still be in place.  For the moral to change, on a societal level, there would have to be prolonged or repeated bouts of scarcity.  In which case the moral might shift to “cannibalism is wrong except for these (fill in the blank) circumstances”.

 

Thats what makes what is “moral” so difficult to determine.    With different veiwpoints spanning the globe and cultures and situation always changing, it can
difficult to tell what is indeed truly moral. 
As k mentions:

K - 23 September 2013 10:20 PM

  I think scarcity, as always, will drive groups to desperate and harsh behavior but I think technology is the fulcrum on which “nice” behavior teeters.  Slavery didn’t become reprehensible until machinery was widely available.  Women’s rights didn’t really gain momentum until birth-control allowed women a measure of control.  A shifting Zeitgeist seems to hinge upon the breathing-room a given group perceives themselves to have regarding their survival.

know wheter that is true or not I dont know, but it shows the problem of setting a general set of rule for everyone to follow.

 

Take gun control to reduce crime for example:


Scholars disagree over how much control of firearms should be allowed. See the Encyclopedia of social problems

Thus the “moral” choice is kind of hard to decide.
The way I see it is that it should studied which laws/ cultural norms allow society as a whole to function.
For the example above, I would say that since the gun control is controversial, we need to look at other aspects of American society to reduce crime such as
drugs, youth problems, etc.

Of course its not that simple, but I’d like to know what everyone else thinks

[ Edited: 28 September 2013 10:19 AM by I.J. Abdul Hakeem ]
 Signature 

Say: He is God, the Unique.
God, the Self-Sufficient.
He does not give birth, nor was He born.
And there is none equal to Him.

Quran (112: 1-4)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 28 September 2013 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 101 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2799
Joined  2011-11-04

Abdul, I have viewed this thread as a discussion of what morals are and how they evolve, rather than what they should be (except for the implication that a scientific understanding of morals might have some sort of meaningful influence on our establishment and acceptance of any given moral).

 Signature 

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb… We are bound to others, past and present… And by each crime and every kindness… We birth our future.”  Sonmi, 2144.

Profile
 
 
   
7 of 7
7