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A thought on Human nature
Posted: 07 March 2011 09:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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SupaDave;  Your name implies that you are a fan of Super Dave Osbourne.  If you are, I just heard the greatest impression of Super Dave that it’s spooky.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmOV38q1Q9c

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Posted: 08 March 2011 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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George - 07 March 2011 03:13 PM

I worry when I see people using evolution to justify their philosophical arguments.

Me too…

George - 07 March 2011 03:13 PM

It makes very little sense.

Exactly.

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Posted: 08 March 2011 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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George - 07 March 2011 08:46 PM

I don’t think I need to remind you that both the Germans and the Communists got their ideas from committing the same mistake as Sarah: assuming that evolution can teach us what ought to be.

I think in my earlier post I acknowledged those sorts of arguments.  It makes sense to me that if we’re going to look for evolutionary bases for morality; some groups are going to draw the wrong conclusions.  My point would be that through anthropologic study of society and observation of related species, it should be possible to have a logical debate about what evolutionary features best describe the moral truths that underlie most societies.  These features must be the ones which are needed properties of a functioning and thriving society and therefore can form the bases of more complex moral statements.  That leaves two places of contention, both of which can be argued with facts and logic: which features underlie all societies, and what derivations of these features are justified in complex moral statements.

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Posted: 08 March 2011 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Your argument sounds similar to Sam Harris’s, Sarah: Let’s have science to tell is what is moral. Harris might be onto something here (I still haven’t decided to what degree I agree or disagree with him on this; and I yet have to read his new book), but what you’re proposing still seems to me wrong and, were you in a different position, perhaps even dangerous.

The problem I see here, is that you’re not interested in discovering what the “moral truths” might be (as I understand Harris would like to explore), but that you a priory assume that they exist and wish to confirm you bias through the study of evolution. I must stress once again that everything to be found in our past (altruism, adultery, religion, etc.) is equally necessary to get to where we are today. A perfect example to show that many people don’t seem to understand this could be seen when we look at the Pakistani/Afghanistani problem. The Pashtun moral code is different from ours because their evolutionary past differs from ours. It’s not better or worse, just different. They got where they are today because the past has worked well for them; that is the only lesson we can learn from evolution. Sure, here we can have Harris to tell us that women in our society suffer less than women in Afghanistan and he might be right. What we cannot do is to say that they are wrong (according to some higher moral truth) and try to re-educate them like, once again, the Communists have tried to do in the past. Obviously, something like the “ultimate solution” of the Germans would be even worse.

We need to look for a different solution here. It is of a great importance for me to search for that answer as I hope to one day to be able to help those in need.

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Posted: 08 March 2011 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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OK, I’ll go along with that last, George.

However, I also agree with what I think Sarah was saying in her last post above; that humans and their related species often demonstrate quite similar social behavior, and it raises the question of how much is genetic and how much develops as a consequence of living in a community. 

I was about to add another example, but I realized comparisons between Benobows (sp?) and Chimps would just complicate things.  smile

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Posted: 08 March 2011 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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GdB - 08 March 2011 05:06 AM
George - 07 March 2011 03:13 PM

I worry when I see people using evolution to justify their philosophical arguments.

Me too…

George - 07 March 2011 03:13 PM

It makes very little sense.

Exactly.

Ha ha..

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Posted: 08 March 2011 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Occam. - 08 March 2011 10:07 AM

However, I also agree with what I think Sarah was saying in her last post above; that humans and their related species often demonstrate quite similar social behavior, and it raises the question of how much is genetic and how much develops as a consequence of living in a community.

Well, for what it’s worth, I imagine it’s a combination of both. Altruism (for example) allows us to build and live in big cities, which in return will push people (those who might not be altruistic) to behave accordingly and allow those who are altruistic to enjoy life in big cities and bring into our world new babies some of which might have even greater (biological) sense of altruism than their parents and add to a greater prosperity of large cities. (I wonder how far the evolution of our species will allow us to go. How much nicer can we get?  grin )

Occam. - 08 March 2011 10:07 AM

I was about to add another example, but I realized comparisons between Benobows (sp?) and Chimps would just complicate things.  smile

Go for it!

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Posted: 08 March 2011 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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VYAZMA - 08 March 2011 10:17 AM

Ha ha..

Didn’t expect a reaction from you here… But obviously you understood what I mean.

The point is that the emergence of something new from evolution, like altruism, does not entail its correctness. More or less the same that evolution in itself is not something given in atoms and molecules: it emerges in structures that can copy themselves, not always exactly, and where there is a possible shortage of resources. Successful copies are not an attribute of matter. Ethical correctness is not an attribute of evolution, although it emerged through evolution.

I think I share George’s argument in this thread. Evolution is not the place to find what correct moral standards are. Evolution is science. Ethics is not. But as ethics is ‘given to us’ through evolution, it would be funny not to use our ethical capabilities.

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Posted: 08 March 2011 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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George - 08 March 2011 10:00 AM

I must stress once again that everything to be found in our past (altruism, adultery, religion, etc.) is equally necessary to get to where we are today. A perfect example to show that many people don’t seem to understand this could be seen when we look at the Pakistani/Afghanistani problem. The Pashtun moral code is different from ours because their evolutionary past differs from ours. It’s not better or worse, just different. They got where they are today because the past has worked well for them; that is the only lesson we can learn from evolution.

We need to look for a different solution here. It is of a great importance for me to search for that answer as I hope to one day to be able to help those in need.

I am not sure we’re talking about evolution in the same way.  When I use the term I’m referring to the process by which random mutations and adaptations shift over time as hardship and sexual selection, amongst other factors, refine the gene pool and the innate habits of creatures…or something like that.  That’s a pretty off the cuff definition for you.

In your example it seems like you’re discussing the evolution of a society.  My hope in trying to find an anchor for morality is to make sure I have a basis for instilling my morals upon others, or even influencing them through my example.  I can only do that if my morals are based in something scientific.  If there can be a truth statement made about morality, even on a basic level, than ethics can be reasoned through logic and then enforced.  We didn’t want to stop Hitler because we felt he was forcing his beliefs on the world, we wanted to stop him because we felt our moral compass pointed North while his was veering off. 

In thinking about the Pashtun moral code I’m reminded of physics.  In physics we often like to think there’s a right answer.  However, sometimes we don’t use the right formula and we get the right answer.  Sometimes it’s chance, sometimes it’s a matter of degree where the right answer for the case at hand doesn’t need to be exact.  The Pashtun moral code has worked for that society for a period of time.  The fact that it has existed as they survive doesn’t mean it’s right or that it even works correctly.

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Posted: 08 March 2011 03:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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There are two areas in the brain which become active when we make decisions as in choosing how to act. The amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex.

Some say that our rational for decision always come down to a emotional response. The amygdala is the emotional basis of the brain. When making decision this area always shows activity. However in individuals who seem more rational in their decisions they’ve found a higher level of activity in the orbitofrontal cortex.

It seems our emotional responses which cause the decisions we make can be overridden by this area of the brain. People experience a conflict of motivation. A choice to respond emotionally or rationally/analytically.

I wonder if this is perhaps the source of the experience of conscience. “Good” rational decisions vs “Bad” emotional decisions. Maybe one area of the brain develops a sense of ethics or morals that conflicts with the area of the brain that governs our emotions.

I recall reading that someone proposed that man developed his sense of consciousness when man developed a dualistic mind. One part of the brain aware of and determining/judging the effective response of the other.

Perhaps our sense of right and wrong to the actions we take is controlled by this other area of the brain. We are driven by our emotions but judge our actions and those of others.

Stuff like anger management may be an attempt to exercise, develop the area of the brain which controls our sense of right and wrong.

Many religions have “Prophets”. Individuals who claim to hear and speak for God. Maybe in times of conflict or stress people “search for an answer”. This activates the analytical area of the brain which reaches some threshold of activity and people experience thoughts, ideas that seem to come from outside their normal process of thinking. They seem to hear a voice in their head which they were not aware of before. Perhaps have dreams which seem to provides answers to questions. It’s not hard to imagine sometimes individuals who experience this think they may have communicated with some metaphysical being.

An emotional response is not always bad or inappropriate however often it is. It is instinct, not a rational, analytical decision. Perhaps people who make rational/good decisions are those who, from whatever circumstances of their life, have had a greater development of this area of the brain.

[ Edited: 08 March 2011 03:08 PM by Gnostikosis ]
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Posted: 08 March 2011 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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George - 08 March 2011 10:39 AM
Occam. - 08 March 2011 10:07 AM

However, I also agree with what I think Sarah was saying in her last post above; that humans and their related species often demonstrate quite similar social behavior, and it raises the question of how much is genetic and how much develops as a consequence of living in a community.

Well, for what it’s worth, I imagine it’s a combination of both. Altruism (for example) allows us to build and live in big cities, which in return will push people (those who might not be altruistic) to behave accordingly and allow those who are altruistic to enjoy life in big cities and bring into our world new babies some of which might have even greater (biological) sense of altruism than their parents and add to a greater prosperity of large cities. (I wonder how far the evolution of our species will allow us to go. How much nicer can we get?  grin )

Occam. - 08 March 2011 10:07 AM

I was about to add another example, but I realized comparisons between Benobows (sp?) and Chimps would just complicate things.  smile

Go for it!

The Bonobo chimpanzee seems to have undergone a unique genetic modification. Almost all emotionally exciting stimuli seems to trigger a sexual response, which is immediately expressed in a sexual act.
It is most amazing to watch an outburst of anger toward another Bonobo and immediately thereafter see them engaged in a most intimate reconcilement, which effectively ends the conflict.
This is unique from other chimpanzees, which have a decidedly mean streak and calculated revenge impulses.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo#Sexual_social_behavior

[ Edited: 08 March 2011 03:27 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 08 March 2011 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Thinking about it, it seems there is a strong impulse for humans to codify behavior.  Perhaps that aspect of our behavior is an inherited quality.  Instinctive behavior seems very rigid in some animals, (bees for example), and seems to be present, but much less rigid in the higher orders.  But does the nature of such codified behavior carry any moral weight or even provide a basis for a definition of what is good and bad?  I think of evolution as being the ultimate Machiavellian system, success isn’t about right or wrong, but what works or what doesn’t.  I think you could use the war/murder example to argue that our current vaunted sense of ethics and morality is pretty situational.

I’d like to think there is a way to derive a fundamental and universal definition of the difference between good and bad, perhaps based on some mutually accepted concept, but I don’t know what it would be.  In the U.S. Declaration of Independence there’s the language about the rights of life, liberty, and the the pursuit of happiness being self evident.  I think you could view that as an intellectual attempt to create a fundamental tool for determining morality.  Of course they weren’t citing evolutionary concepts, but I wonder if there is any evolutionary concept to base morality on.  Does the “Golden Rule” come close?  It goes way back.  It certainly raises the possibility of using a statement of empathy as a basis for a universal ethical system.

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Posted: 08 March 2011 08:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Sarah Pseudoproblem - 08 March 2011 02:10 PM

In your example it seems like you’re discussing the evolution of a society.

Trust me, we are talking about the same evolutionwink It’s just that I have learned my lesson (especially on this forum) to use the words “gene, gene pool, etc.’ as little as possible. I know exactly what where this conversation would steer if I said that the Afghans’ moral code differs from ours because they are genetically predisposed to behave that way.

Sarah Pseudoproblem - 08 March 2011 02:10 PM

My hope in trying to find an anchor for morality is to make sure I have a basis for instilling my morals upon others, or even influencing them through my example.  I can only do that if my morals are based in something scientific.

Have you read Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape? I believe you might find some answer to you questions in his book. (As I already said earlier, I haven’t read it.)

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Posted: 08 March 2011 11:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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George - 08 March 2011 08:00 PM

It’s just that I have learned my lesson (especially on this forum) to use the words “gene, gene pool, etc.’ as little as possible.

Hmm… Are you convinced that these words have not so much to do with the contents of our moral as you thought before, or are you just afraid for the ‘thought police’?

If the latter, then we should investigate this, openly and rationally. If we refrain from the most emotional examples, we have a chance. But we don’t have to, if you don’t want.

My POV is clear: science has nothing to say about the contents of morality, even if it has something to say about its origination. But on the other side, morality must be rooted in a rational discussion between equal valued discourse partners. For concrete decisions science comes in of course. It should tell us, as good as it can, what the results of different decisions would be, so we can evaluate them from a moral perspective.

[ Edited: 09 March 2011 02:40 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 09 March 2011 07:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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GdB - 08 March 2011 11:58 PM

But we don’t have to, if you don’t want.

No, I don’t want to. Let’s leave it at “the Afghans’ moral code differs from ours” and let each person figure out what it all means.

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