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Thread: Morality a meaningless result of natural selection?

  1. #1 Morality a meaningless result of natural selection? 
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    I didn't know which section to put this in but I guess biology fits best

    Natural selection favors a species that survives, and traits that makes a species more likely to survive.

    If there was a species that loved death and pain of it's own species, they would very quickly die off within one or two generations. So natural selection doesn't allow a species that views murder and pain of it's own as a "good" thing to survive.

    If there was a species that avoided death and pain of it's own species, they would be more likely to survive.

    So viewing killing, murder, death and pain as "evil" and "immoral" is just something that helps survival of the species, it has no other purpose or meaning besides this. It seems to be some what innate in the human brain to think of death and pain as evil and bad.

    So is this where most morals arrive from, just a meaningless result of natural selection that favors survival of the species?


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    I've shared this elsewhere, but it seems relevant here. Morality is a result of our evolution as pack animals... humans exist in troops...


    Those humans who went against the group rules and procedures were ostracized, and hence lost access to resources such as food and potential mates. Over time, those humans who went against the expectations of the group and got thrown out of the group reproduced less than those humans who behaved in accordance with the group rules and expectations. Those who followed the rules benefited from the protection, access to food, and access to potential mates within the group, and had more offspring than those who did not.

    In short, morals come from our evolution as pack animals. Those who were immoral faced more difficulty in surviving and reproducing than those who acted within the morality of the group. Through time, those who were more inclined to be moral were more successful reproductively.

    Btw... the same thing can be seen in wolf packs. The wolf who does not act in accordance with the expectations of the group alpha is shunned from the group, and a lone wolf cannot be as successful hunting and breeding as can wolves who remain a part of the larger pack/collective.


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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    I've shared this elsewhere, but it seems relevant here. Morality is a result of our evolution as pack animals... humans exist in troops...


    Those humans who went against the group rules and procedures were ostracized, and hence lost access to resources such as food and potential mates. Over time, those humans who went against the expectations of the group and got thrown out of the group reproduced less than those humans who behaved in accordance with the group rules and expectations. Those who followed the rules benefited from the protection, access to food, and access to potential mates within the group, and had more offspring than those who did not.

    In short, morals come from our evolution as pack animals. Those who were immoral faced more difficulty in surviving and reproducing than those who acted within the morality of the group. Through time, those who were more inclined to be moral were more successful reproductively.

    Btw... the same thing can be seen in wolf packs. The wolf who does not act in accordance with the expectations of the group alpha is shunned from the group, and a lone wolf cannot be as successful hunting and breeding as can wolves who remain a part of the larger pack/collective.
    But where do the expectations of the group arise from?

    It seems universal to regard killing and murder as immoral, wrong, and evil
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    VitalOne: I think you have a somewhat idealized view of animal life here. Organisms are all in competition with each other, fighting for the resources needed to survive and reproduce. Competition is fiercest with other organisms trying to get the same resources you're aiming for, and what organisms are more likely to be going after the same resources as you than other members of your same species? For that very reason competition, fighting, and "murdering" of members of your own species is very common across animals. Outright killing of other individuals may seem uncommon if only because there are costs to the attacker of going to the extra effort and perhaps risk of following through an attack all the way to death. But a serious injury, exclusion from vital resources, etc, can easily lead to death.

    In fact, if you look at primates, infanticide committed by stranger males is a serious concern for most females in many species. Some researchers have even hypothesized that the only reason female primates actually live in groups with males, who otherwise are just another competitor for food, is that by staying with the father of their offspring, he will help protect them and their infants from infanticidal stranger males.

    As inow has described, humans have hit upon a particular strategy wherein each individual actually benefits more by cooperation with other individuals than by going it alone. In particular, the nature of our food niche promotes this, specifically the hunting of large game. Hunting is not easy; even long-time predatory animals are often only successful in a quarter of their hunts. One hunter or even a small group of hunters isn't always going to come home with food every day. However, when someone IS successful in bringing down a large animal, they have more food than they could possible eat themselves before it rots. So, on days when a hunter is successful, he will share that excess meat with those who were unsuccessful. And when next he is unsuccessful and hungry, those who he helped in the past will in turn help him feed his family when they bring home a kill. There have been studies done in hunter-gatherer groups on this particular behavior; it's clear that those hunters who always share a large proportion of the food they bring in are well taken care of by others in their group when they are sick or hurt or otherwise unable to hunt themselves. Hunters who are habitually stingier with their kills don't receive as much help from others in these situations.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    I think that much of our morality stems from being mammals. Mammals nurture. Mammals learn from parents - this requires sympathy. A lot of mammals engage in complex social interactions - thus "theory of mind" and even origins of law and justice. Humans embody mammal traits to an extreme.

    We may have taken it too far. For example what was once a mechanism to care for offspring, became empathy; and this grew sympathy and the so-called mirror neurons; and we grew the capacity to construct and modify model minds within our own, and model feelings, and predict animal behaviour... and now a little girl is crying 'cause her parents boiled the poor crab for supper, it was her friend.
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    Being social (cooperation) is also proven to be advantageous in evolutionary sense by the Game Theory
    http://brembs.net/evolution/ipd.html
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    Social cooperation is a much more modest thing than morality. As pong indicates social cooperation would not lead us to preserve those with genetic defects but morality does. From the very beginning in the 1850's Evolutionary theory has struggled to explain a host of human mind characteristics. We don't seem to be any closer to solving this riddle.
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    I think a good portion of morality is down to baldwinian mechanisms of evolution. There is a lot of morality embedded in our culture which is transmitted from one generation to the other, and doing so increases the fitness of the species.

    Ravens are known to punish 'dishonest' members of the group, and my bet is that there is no genetic substrate responsible for that, this is something learned rather than inherited -- but of course the cognitive ability to do so is innate, so genes are indirectly involved.

    Vervet monkeys produce alarms calls to inform the rest of the pack about potential threats (a typical altruistic behavior), and it has been shown that deafened animals can't produce nor understand these calls, indicating that this is a learned ability.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Social cooperation is a much more modest thing than morality. As pong indicates social cooperation would not lead us to preserve those with genetic defects but morality does. From the very beginning in the 1850's Evolutionary theory has struggled to explain a host of human mind characteristics. We don't seem to be any closer to solving this riddle.
    Your personal rejection of the explanation does not mean the explanation offered is inaccurate or unavailable. Contrary to your views, the concept and study of evolution is aligned with reality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadu
    Ravens are known to punish 'dishonest' members of the group, and my bet is that there is no genetic substrate responsible for that, this is something learned rather than inherited -- but of course the cognitive ability to do so is innate, so genes are indirectly involved.

    Vervet monkeys produce alarms calls to inform the rest of the pack about potential threats (a typical altruistic behavior), and it has been shown that deafened animals can't produce nor understand these calls, indicating that this is a learned ability.
    The calls are learned just like language is learned in humans. However, the tendency to make and act on those calls, and the predisposition to engage in them at all is almost entirely genetic.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Social cooperation is a much more modest thing than morality. As pong indicates social cooperation would not lead us to preserve those with genetic defects but morality does. From the very beginning in the 1850's Evolutionary theory has struggled to explain a host of human mind characteristics. We don't seem to be any closer to solving this riddle.
    This is using a human value judgment and assuming it is the same thing as a selective pressure. It's not a defect if it does not prevent you from reproducing in your current environment and a cooperative social environment lessens the selective pressures against certain genetic changes. Especially as we moved in to more intense agriculture and specialized social roles began to develop that are not directly related to food production, such as administration or the development of technology, people who may be physically disabled somehow are still able to perform a vital function and be supported enough to survive.

    Even among other animals, those that live in groups in herds are more often able to support injured or sick animals to survival; in herds and social groups you may very see an individual with one eye, missing a limb, fairly old, etc that would probably not have survived had he/she not been in a social group.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by Kadu
    Ravens are known to punish 'dishonest' members of the group, and my bet is that there is no genetic substrate responsible for that, this is something learned rather than inherited -- but of course the cognitive ability to do so is innate, so genes are indirectly involved.

    Vervet monkeys produce alarms calls to inform the rest of the pack about potential threats (a typical altruistic behavior), and it has been shown that deafened animals can't produce nor understand these calls, indicating that this is a learned ability.
    The calls are learned just like language is learned in humans. However, the tendency to make and act on those calls, and the predisposition to engage in them at all is almost entirely genetic.
    How do we know this is genetic? What objective evidence is there that genes drive these behaviors? What alternatives are there?
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    One, infant vervets make cries when they see predators or feel endangered, but often they're the wrong ones, and only after listening to adults for a while do they figure out the right calls to make. But they make some sort of call regardless, even before they learn the right ones. Two, all vervets in all troops across all areas make calls. I don't know if specific studies have been made in vervets on this but in other species of monkeys that make alarm calls, we know there is some regional variation in what calls stand for what predator, but regardless they all make some sort of call. Rather how all humans learn language though exactly what language they learn depends on the culture of the area they are born in. Have we identified all the genes responsible for motivating vervets to make calls? No. But the same is true for many behavioral traits because their genetic determinations are most likely complex (many genes each contributing various amounts). To support a hypothesis of genetic determination we use methods like the ones I described above that basically show certain traits are simply not learned, like the desire to make calls when threatened (even if exactly what calls you make in response to specific stimuli is learned).

    On a side note, vervets are much more likely to make alarm calls when they are near other vervets they grew up with, namely, other vervets they are likely to be related to, or if you're an adult female, your offspring.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Social cooperation is a much more modest thing than morality. As pong indicates social cooperation would not lead us to preserve those with genetic defects but morality does. From the very beginning in the 1850's Evolutionary theory has struggled to explain a host of human mind characteristics. We don't seem to be any closer to solving this riddle.
    This is using a human value judgment and assuming it is the same thing as a selective pressure. It's not a defect if it does not prevent you from reproducing in your current environment and a cooperative social environment lessens the selective pressures against certain genetic changes. Especially as we moved in to more intense agriculture and specialized social roles began to develop that are not directly related to food production, such as administration or the development of technology, people who may be physically disabled somehow are still able to perform a vital function and be supported enough to survive.
    I don't see how these assumptions can be empirically supported. Although they seem reasonable, they feel alot like a just so story. Geenerally you exclude these kinds of arguments from this section of the forum. I don't see any way to show how obvious defects improves the genetic pool.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    I don't see how these assumptions can be empirically supported. Although they seem reasonable, they feel alot like a just so story.
    And this is precisely where your disingenuous nature shines through, cypress. All paralith did with her post is to describe the empirical evidence, and you responded to that by saying that you don't see how these "assumptions" can be empirically supported. She was not making assumptions. She was describing the empirical research. You are quite clearly not an ignorant person, so all that remains is for us to conclude that you lack integrity and/or have an agenda.
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    Of course my assertions are testable. Let's go out into the world and find people who are blind, who are disabled, who are deaf. People who probably couldn't go out into the bush and bring down a giraffe but, lo and behold, in our society with a wide variety of specialized, cooperative roles not directly related to food production, can not only hold down a job but have children. If they are reproducing at the same level as people who can see, are not disabled, and can hear, then there is no selective pressure against them based on these "defects".

    Better yet let's go into historical records kept through time and look for similarly physically limited people who still went on to reproduce. Better yet let's go look at hunter-gatherer groups and see if disabled people are still supported by their kin and/or their friends, even if their ability to gather food has become severely limited. We can even compare the ratio of reproduction of physically disabled people to non-disabled people in hunter-gatherer groups versus intense agricultural/industrial groups with specialized, non-food production related roles.

    cypress, I say again. Do not start bringing in your harping against the explanatory power of evolution in other threads. There already are threads for that soapbox.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    So is this where most morals arrive from, just a meaningless result of natural selection that favors survival of the species?
    It would depend upon how you define "meaning." If this term is synonymous with "function" or "advantage," then the evolutionary function or advantage of morality is that helps ensure the survival of the group or population, which is significant because it is a breeding population that can have lasting and longterm effects on the evolution of a species.

    For instance, populations of early hominids 2 - 4 million years ago (Ma) may have existed where some developed habits of cooperative foraging and sharing of resources. The groups that developed culturally in this way survived, passing their genes to the next generation. The groups that weren't as successful (perhaps there were fewer members of the population that had genes that inspired cooperative behavior) may have perished.

    Add to this a result of better food (cooperative behaviors can help these early hominids scavenge meat from other carnivores -several gather limbs and heads -several stand guard), more proteins and essential amino acids, and, thus, increased encephalization. The morphological changes in the skull shape are evident in the fossil record, as are some of the endocranial features that indicate changes in lobes and cortices, so it follows that added cognitive functions result.

    The increases in brain sizes (and, more importantly, the encephalization quotient) along with added cognitive functions (which we know occurred from the material records alone), and it follows that successful cognitive strategies would dominate unsuccessful ones since the latter would be selected against unless they had no net effect on survival to the point of one's offspring being able to reproduce.

    Morality is a selective advantage and a function of hominid evolution. Hominids cared for other members of their group; they established trade with neighboring groups (populations); etc.

    If, however, you intend the word "meaning" refer to some outside purpose or design, then this clearly has nothing to do with biology at all and is meaningless in context here. So I think we can proceed as if you intended the former.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    I don't see how these assumptions can be empirically supported. Although they seem reasonable, they feel alot like a just so story.
    And this is precisely where your disingenuous nature shines through, cypress. All paralith did with her post is to describe the empirical evidence, and you responded to that by saying that you don't see how these "assumptions" can be empirically supported. She was not making assumptions. She was describing the empirical research. You are quite clearly not an ignorant person, so all that remains is for us to conclude that you lack integrity and/or have an agenda.
    I find this confusing. When I read paraliths descriptions, they seem to go far beyond describing observations though to me, even the observations are not clearly identified as actual observations, they seem more like speculations about what we might observe if we were able to go back in time. In addition I doubt even if the observations are born out, as I suspect they would be, they inform us about behaviors but not the source of those behaviors which is the context of this thread. They make judgements of the meaning and they speculate how they might be consistent with predictions but they don't provide any confirmation. I noticed also that paralith misinterpreted my use of the word supported (meaning that they have been validated) to mean testable. I don't think I claim the assumptions are not testable.

    In anycase, explaining morality within the framework of modern evolutionary theory seems problematic indeed. Can anybody validate the clear selective advantage of allowng genetic defects to remain in and spread through the gene pool?
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    Perhaps I was describing tests, but I think you can simply look around you and conduct that first test I described yourself; most people will see it bears out.

    You are also assuming that we are saying every aspect and result of human moral sensibility is in itself positively selected for. There are certain purposes and certain results that having a moral sensibility results in, and it is these purposes for which it is selected for. Promotion of cooperation, the development of reciprocally altruistic relationships with other humans from which each participating individual benefits. However, there are other results of having this sensibility which may not necessarily have been the driving force for the evolution of moral sensibility, such as allowing people with physical disabilities to survive and thrive. It's not that the reproduction of blind people (for example) specifically was selected for; it's the reproduction of people who have something to offer in a reciprocally altruistic relationship that a cooperative partner could also reproductively benefit from. And under certain social conditions even blind, deaf, or disabled people can have something to offer, which in turn results in their receiving benefits that allows them to reproduce normally.

    Once again, look around you in the world today. Are people with physical limitations successfully carrying out jobs? Doing work for which they get paid? Being able to live their lives with that pay which allows them to marry and have children? I'm pretty sure the answer is yes.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Perhaps I was describing tests, but I think you can simply look around you and conduct that first test I described yourself; most people will see it bears out.
    Sure, as I agreed. But this test does not tell us the source of morality it only confirms that many people behave as we do. It does not tell us why and it does not confirm that it is a result of selective pressure.

    You are also assuming that we are saying every aspect and result of human moral sensibility is in itself positively selected for. There are certain purposes and certain results that having a moral sensibility results in, and it is these purposes for which it is selected for.
    Are you suggesting selection works when it works and doesn't when it doesn't? That selection is confirmed by positive example but is not contradicted by negative example? If so, how conveinient for your theory.

    Promotion of cooperation, the development of reciprocally altruistic relationships with other humans from which each participating individual benefits. However, there are other results of having this sensibility which may not necessarily have been the driving force for the evolution of moral sensibility, such as allowing people with physical disabilities to survive and thrive. It's not that the reproduction of blind people (for example) specifically was selected for; it's the reproduction of people who have something to offer in a reciprocally altruistic relationship that a cooperative partner could also reproductively benefit from. And under certain social conditions even blind, deaf, or disabled people can have something to offer, which in turn results in their receiving benefits that allows them to reproduce normally.
    I can see quite clearly that it is posible to mold the theory of selection to fit observed facts as you have just done. I suppose it is even possible that you are correct, but it seems unlikely. Although blindness and other birth defects can be accommodated, it seems unavoidable that a society without such blights would perform that much better.

    There seems little doubt that contributors who are productive in every way benefit the pool more than those with one or more handicap. A law of economies and diminishing returns confirms this. Selection, as described by the theory should eliminate characteristics that promote preservation of low productivity. If selection is inconsistent then it violates the principle of uniformitism. I am quite sure you subscribe to this principle.

    Once again, look around you in the world today. Are people with physical limitations successfully carrying out jobs? Doing work for which they get paid? Being able to live their lives with that pay which allows them to marry and have children? I'm pretty sure the answer is yes.
    Yes of course they are, because humans generally have moral and altruistic characteristics. The dichotomy between observation and theory is the nature of the original post. You are clearly suggesting that selection is confirmed sometimes and contradicted sometimes but it doesn't matter. You seem to be violating the principle of uniformatism.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    ... because humans generally have moral and altruistic characteristics.
    so tell me : WHY do humans have moral and altruistic characteristics ?
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Quote Originally Posted by vitalone
    So is this where most morals arrive from, just a meaningless result of natural selection that favors survival of the species?
    How would being the result of great evolutionary advantage in survival and reproduction as a human being make morality "meaningless"?

    Do you find more meaning in a purely decorative or auxiliary morality, a set of arbitrary rules of no pragmatic benefit to human life on this earth?
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    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    explaining morality within the framework of modern evolutionary theory seems problematic indeed. Can anybody validate the clear selective advantage of allowng genetic defects to remain in and spread through the gene pool?
    The glaring misfit here is pity, or, more broadly: empathy. And yeah I think "social cooperation" is a kludgy explanation. It does not explain why most kids feel sad for the hurt earthworm on the sidewalk; though that is plainly the identical instinct driving pity for fellow humans.

    I argue there is little or no "cooperation instinct", "social instinct", or "pack instinct" in humans. What we have, rather, that enables and drives altruistic behaviour, is a voracious capacity for empathy, plus the cognitive volume to develop theories of mind. These traits are not dedicated only to social cooperation. They've also allowed us to outwit animals. There is strong advantage in anticipating the flight of a rabbit, or a bear's intentions!

    You can see predator/prey empathy in a lot of animals. Cats for example have such keen empathy for prey, they display a kind of grieving when the objects of their fascination die. American Natives explicitly empathized with various animals. Fishing, they would absorb the salmon spirit (think like a salmon), and briefly grieve the spirit's departure. You could say an individual's core spirit was raven, orca, raccoon, or whatever. Notice inow betrayed a special empathy for wolves, when he explained our instincts through wolf packs; while I betrayed my cat spirit above in empathy for puss with her dead mouse. Empathy is a broadly powerful trait in it's own right, that evolution further expanded to apply socially.

    I want to stress that cooperation within the species is just one possible application of the broader capacity. Primates did not convert empathy to social altruism. We simply grew more generally and strongly empathetic, hominids especially so. Thus human concerns for animal welfare, and even animal rights. We even empathize with complex machines, and systems, and ideologies now, because we recognize a kind of "mind" or "spirit" in them. And thus empathy for members of our species who are plainly hurtful to us. For example one can empathize with a bigot's mind, though more in a predator/prey sense. Psychopaths and TV evangelists are extremely empathetic - they abuse a very human capacity.

    Cypress is right to question the selective advantage in allowing genetic defects to remain in and spread through the gene pool. There is none. However there is huge advantage in unbridled empathy, which gives the secondary advantage ...or side effect... of automatically attempting to feel for everyone we encounter. Equality, pity, justice, cooperation, etc. are consequences of that. And so is rescuing worms from the sidewalk.

    The core mammal traits of parenting and bonding work differently, often parallel to empathy (though I think they spawned it). These apply to very close individuals and don't explain altruism in larger society e.g. towards strangers and acquaintances. It's interesting that some non-mammals appear to have some predator/prey empathy toward other species, for example parrots and cuttlefish, which is not hard-wired but rather flexible like ours. This could not have evolved from nurturing. Convergence?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    explaining morality within the framework of modern evolutionary theory seems problematic indeed. Can anybody validate the clear selective advantage of allowng genetic defects to remain in and spread through the gene pool?
    Cypress is right to question the selective advantage in allowing genetic defects to remain in and spread through the gene pool. There is none.
    As you seem to already understand, what Cypress is missing, Pong, is that selective advantage rests primarily in the tendency toward helping group and family members... in assisting in the survival of ones kin. It has nothing to do with specifically helping those with genetic defects or those who are somehow incapable, and everything to do with the selection for "helping" in general. The outcome of this tendency to help extends easily to those who may not be mentally or physically able to reciprocate, and is essentially an emergent property of this deeper selected trait to help kin at all. The argument is further reinforced when you realize that the concept of "kin" is specific to the individual and could be very broadly applied... to the point where some people identify all humans or all animals as "kin" and desire to aid in their survival, as well.
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    cypress, you are determined to twist my words in a way that suits your agenda. And Pong, I'm sad to see you haven't seen through it.

    1: the tests I was describing refer specifically to your mention of people with genetic defects surviving. It was NOT addressing the ultimate source of morality in particular and to claim that it was is moving the goal posts.

    2: I am not picking and choosing what "counts" as selection and what doesn't. I am trying to describe what is known as a side effect; it is a result of selection but not the advantage that actually caused an increase in reproduction for those individuals that had it. The classic example is male nipples. They serve no function, nipples do not help men reproduce more than they would without them. Nipples on men are a result of being the same species as females that do require nipples for their role in successful reproduction, and there being no disadvantage that made ensuring men do not develop that particular trait evolve. Were male nipples selected for? No. They serve no reproductive purpose themselves.

    Was the maintenance of physically disabled people in the population selected for? No. Potential cooperative partners do not benefit more from the presence of people with disabilities than they would cooperating with people without disabilities. However potential cooperative partners do benefit by entering in supportive reciprocally altruistic relationships with one other. Combine this with the social environment where an important job that needs to be done for another person can be done even if you're blind or deaf or crippled, and the result is that these people are worth entering into reciprocally altruistic relationships with, and the benefit they receive for their end of the bargain allows them to survive and reproduce. Please take particular note of what I said here about the social environment. No, not all social environments are conducive to the support of all types of defects - it crucially depends on the presence of specialized tasks that can be done well by people with disabilities. Not all jobs are like that, not all societies throughout human history have that. The modern industrialized society, however, with technology taking over a lot of what was done with human physiology in the past, is making this more and more possible for people with more and more limiting disabilities. I do not doubt that there are people with disabilities who thrive and reproduce today who could not have done so in a hunter-gatherer economy; yet, even a hunter-gatherer economy can support people with mild disabilities who would probably not survive if made to support themselves entirely. This is why it is so important to remember that selection pressures are environmentally dependent.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    VitalOne: I think you have a somewhat idealized view of animal life here. Organisms are all in competition with each other, fighting for the resources needed to survive and reproduce. Competition is fiercest with other organisms trying to get the same resources you're aiming for, and what organisms are more likely to be going after the same resources as you than other members of your same species? For that very reason competition, fighting, and "murdering" of members of your own species is very common across animals. Outright killing of other individuals may seem uncommon if only because there are costs to the attacker of going to the extra effort and perhaps risk of following through an attack all the way to death. But a serious injury, exclusion from vital resources, etc, can easily lead to death.

    In fact, if you look at primates, infanticide committed by stranger males is a serious concern for most females in many species. Some researchers have even hypothesized that the only reason female primates actually live in groups with males, who otherwise are just another competitor for food, is that by staying with the father of their offspring, he will help protect them and their infants from infanticidal stranger males.

    As inow has described, humans have hit upon a particular strategy wherein each individual actually benefits more by cooperation with other individuals than by going it alone. In particular, the nature of our food niche promotes this, specifically the hunting of large game. Hunting is not easy; even long-time predatory animals are often only successful in a quarter of their hunts. One hunter or even a small group of hunters isn't always going to come home with food every day. However, when someone IS successful in bringing down a large animal, they have more food than they could possible eat themselves before it rots. So, on days when a hunter is successful, he will share that excess meat with those who were unsuccessful. And when next he is unsuccessful and hungry, those who he helped in the past will in turn help him feed his family when they bring home a kill. There have been studies done in hunter-gatherer groups on this particular behavior; it's clear that those hunters who always share a large proportion of the food they bring in are well taken care of by others in their group when they are sick or hurt or otherwise unable to hunt themselves. Hunters who are habitually stingier with their kills don't receive as much help from others in these situations.
    But those things like infanticide and murder in other species are not viewed as a "good" or "positive" thing, if they were that species would quickly die off.

    So natural selection doesn't allow a species that views death of it's own species as a good thing to survive.


    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Social cooperation is a much more modest thing than morality. As pong indicates social cooperation would not lead us to preserve those with genetic defects but morality does. From the very beginning in the 1850's Evolutionary theory has struggled to explain a host of human mind characteristics. We don't seem to be any closer to solving this riddle.
    But preserving those with genetic defects does fit into natural selection and evolution if it's innate to view death of any human as evil and bad

    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    So is this where most morals arrive from, just a meaningless result of natural selection that favors survival of the species?
    It would depend upon how you define "meaning." If this term is synonymous with "function" or "advantage," then the evolutionary function or advantage of morality is that helps ensure the survival of the group or population, which is significant because it is a breeding population that can have lasting and longterm effects on the evolution of a species.

    For instance, populations of early hominids 2 - 4 million years ago (Ma) may have existed where some developed habits of cooperative foraging and sharing of resources. The groups that developed culturally in this way survived, passing their genes to the next generation. The groups that weren't as successful (perhaps there were fewer members of the population that had genes that inspired cooperative behavior) may have perished.

    Add to this a result of better food (cooperative behaviors can help these early hominids scavenge meat from other carnivores -several gather limbs and heads -several stand guard), more proteins and essential amino acids, and, thus, increased encephalization. The morphological changes in the skull shape are evident in the fossil record, as are some of the endocranial features that indicate changes in lobes and cortices, so it follows that added cognitive functions result.

    The increases in brain sizes (and, more importantly, the encephalization quotient) along with added cognitive functions (which we know occurred from the material records alone), and it follows that successful cognitive strategies would dominate unsuccessful ones since the latter would be selected against unless they had no net effect on survival to the point of one's offspring being able to reproduce.

    Morality is a selective advantage and a function of hominid evolution. Hominids cared for other members of their group; they established trade with neighboring groups (populations); etc.

    If, however, you intend the word "meaning" refer to some outside purpose or design, then this clearly has nothing to do with biology at all and is meaningless in context here. So I think we can proceed as if you intended the former.
    Well by meaningless I meant it had no other purpose besides survival of the species (like it says in the OP). It has the same purpose as becoming hungry, thirsty, and wanting sex, just for survival of the species.

    So all the other meanings society attaches to morality and ethics are false. It has no meaning other than survival of humans.

    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura
    Quote Originally Posted by vitalone
    So is this where most morals arrive from, just a meaningless result of natural selection that favors survival of the species?
    How would being the result of great evolutionary advantage in survival and reproduction as a human being make morality "meaningless"?

    Do you find more meaning in a purely decorative or auxiliary morality, a set of arbitrary rules of no pragmatic benefit to human life on this earth?
    In the OP I said "So viewing killing, murder, death and pain as "evil" and "immoral" is just something that helps survival of the species, it has no other purpose or meaning besides this"

    All the other meanings societies attaches to morality is false, this is what I mean by meaningless. Morality would have the same meaning as sex or thirst or hunger or fear or anything else that helps survival of the species.

    For instance when someone views the Nazis and the holocaust as an "evil" event, viewing this as "evil" is just a meaningless product of natural selection that has no other purpose besides survival of the species.

    All the special meanings people attach to morality are wrong, it has no other meaning besides survival of the species. That's what I mean when I say meaningless
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    But those things like infanticide and murder in other species are not viewed as a "good" or "positive" thing, if they were that species would quickly die off.

    So natural selection doesn't allow a species that views death of it's own species as a good thing to survive.
    I still think you misunderstand. Sure, mothers don't want their infants killed. But the males do. They want it, and it's "good" thing for them. A female primate won't ovulate again while she's nursing an infant. A female primate may nurse an infant for several years. But, kill the nursing infant now, that female may ovulate again in as little as a few weeks. For males who have recently taken over a harem of females from another male, this is a very good thing. However: once that new male has been there long enough, he protects the infants that are there because they're his. Yes, animals are interested in killing their competitors and it is a "good" thing for them. But they're not interested in killing their own offspring, and they're less interested in killing their relatives.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by vitalone
    All the other meanings societies attaches to morality is false, this is what I mean by meaningless. Morality would have the same meaning as sex or thirst or hunger or fear or anything else that helps survival of the species.
    Where do you get that odd conclusion?

    Humans developed the ability to reason and count via evolutionary change as well, does that make physical and scientific theory "meaningless"? Does the founding of morality in what is best for human survival and reproduction - as human beings, as who we are - make it meaningless? Why in hell would that be?
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    Iceaura if your use of "meaningless" means "incoherence" then you're making sense.

    Substitute "purpose" or "function" in vitalone's sentence, I think you'll agree with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Quote Originally Posted by cypress
    Social cooperation is a much more modest thing than morality. As pong indicates social cooperation would not lead us to preserve those with genetic defects but morality does. From the very beginning in the 1850's Evolutionary theory has struggled to explain a host of human mind characteristics. We don't seem to be any closer to solving this riddle.
    This is using a human value judgment and assuming it is the same thing as a selective pressure. It's not a defect if it does not prevent you from reproducing in your current environment and a cooperative social environment lessens the selective pressures against certain genetic changes. Especially as we moved in to more intense agriculture and specialized social roles began to develop that are not directly related to food production, such as administration or the development of technology, people who may be physically disabled somehow are still able to perform a vital function and be supported enough to survive.
    I think in a lot of older cultures, it was considered merciful to kill you if you were/became disabled. There's a certain human need to be useful. A lot of people totally lose the will to go on if you tell them they no longer have any way to contribute to the greater whole.


    Even among other animals, those that live in groups in herds are more often able to support injured or sick animals to survival; in herds and social groups you may very see an individual with one eye, missing a limb, fairly old, etc that would probably not have survived had he/she not been in a social group.

    Nowadays, I think we use seriously disabled people as a kind of line drawn in the sand, economically. We believe that, as long as we have the resources to care for them, then we also have the resources to care for the rest of us. It's not a whole lot different than using our spare resources to build a pyramid. The idea is to keep our production level high so we can weather economic storms if something happens that dramatically reduced our productivity for a time.

    The more sinister side is that, in the event of such a catastrophe, these people are probably the first ones we'll stop tending to. As individuals, the poor, the weak, and the sickly are our buffer group. One the herd level, the sick/disabled members of the herd are the first ones a lion or tiger will kill for prey. So, it's in the best interests of each herd member to keep that guy alive until the next attack.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    One the herd level, the sick/disabled members of the herd are the first ones a lion or tiger will kill for prey. So, it's in the best interests of each herd member to keep that guy alive until the next attack.
    Unsure how bald men would like the idea they are tiger bait.
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    Iceaura if your use of "meaningless" means "incoherence" then you're making sense. Bugeye

    Substitute "purpose" or "function" in vitalone's sentence, I think you'll agree with it.
    Let's just stick with "meaningless" as used here.

    I don't understand why morality becomes meaningless if shown to have been a product of evolution, an evolutionarily beneficial attribute of human nature.
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    I'm confused. Vitalone said
    All the other meanings societies attaches to morality is false, this is what I mean by meaningless.
    and you're saying that isn't necessarily so if morality is product of evolution..? I suggest you're finding argument where there is none.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura
    Iceaura if your use of "meaningless" means "incoherence" then you're making sense. Bugeye

    Substitute "purpose" or "function" in vitalone's sentence, I think you'll agree with it.
    Let's just stick with "meaningless" as used here.

    I don't understand why morality becomes meaningless if shown to have been a product of evolution, an evolutionarily beneficial attribute of human nature.
    Is evolution a discrete process, aimed at beneficence?

    One could simply state morality as the collateral damages or unintended consequences of randomness, with no aim whatsoever, which would essentially make it entirely meaningless.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    One the herd level, the sick/disabled members of the herd are the first ones a lion or tiger will kill for prey. So, it's in the best interests of each herd member to keep that guy alive until the next attack.
    Unsure how bald men would like the idea they are tiger bait.

    My point is that, rather than allow the sick animal to simply die on its own, it's better to keep it alive long enough to provide food for the tiger. That way its death is useful to the other members of the herd, rather than being a total waste. There's no reason to assign lofty ideals like "compassion" to that behavior.


    I don't see how a bald person would find them self in that position. I'm thinking more of somebody who is seriously disabled in a way that prevents them from being able to fend for themselves. My thinking is that, on an instinct level, we keep those people around simply as a buffer. If they start getting euthanized or carted off to the ovens, that is a warning sign to the healthier members of the herd that they might be next, unless something is done soon to start fixing the economy.
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    Like Stephen Hawking? Is he one who we only keep around for the tiger to eat... as our buffer to protect the better members of the herd... like Sarah Palin or Senator Inhofe?
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Like Stephen Hawking?
    No, because our hominid ancestors, if they had Hawking, would whip out their graviton rifles and drive kitty from the university grounds.


    Kojax I'm inclined to agree with you.

    I suggested bald men tiger bait, on another thread's speculation that human head hair serves to mark us as especially bad news to other species (It's like skunk stripes). Older men are disposable (by Paralith's ruthless direct offspring-focused estimation) so by losing the marking that says "human" they become preferred targets along with all the other pushover hominids. Or they become the "sick, weak" predators would single out. Men do this to decrease the odds of losing their own offspring to tiger attack.

    Quite a noble meaning to honor baldness with isn't it? If this were verified, and the media picked it up... well, hat sales plummet!
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    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    One could simply state morality as the collateral damages or unintended consequences of randomness, with no aim whatsoever, which would essentially make it entirely meaningless.
    I doubt that, and I want to see some justification for what seems to me a wholly unmotivated and very dubious - even counterintuitive, carefully considered - conclusion. I don't think the "meaning" of morality derives from its origin at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by pong
    I'm confused. Vitalone said
    Quote:
    All the other meanings societies attaches to morality is false, this is what I mean by meaningless.

    and you're saying that isn't necessarily so if morality is product of evolution..?
    I was replying to all of what Vitalone said, not that puzzling snippet taken from its significant context. And that's not what I'm saying.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    Like Stephen Hawking? Is he one who we only keep around for the tiger to eat... as our buffer to protect the better members of the herd... like Sarah Palin or Senator Inhofe?
    If we weren't a genius physicist, then yes. Probably the other guys getting wheeled around in his condition are just buffers to us. Hawking himself is a contributing member of the herd, because the part of his body that matters most (his brain) is still working fine.


    I suggested bald men tiger bait, on another thread's speculation that human head hair serves to mark us as especially bad news to other species (It's like skunk stripes). Older men are disposable (by Paralith's ruthless direct offspring-focused estimation) so by losing the marking that says "human" they become preferred targets along with all the other pushover hominids. Or they become the "sick, weak" predators would single out. Men do this to decrease the odds of losing their own offspring to tiger attack.

    Quite a noble meaning to honor baldness with isn't it? If this were verified, and the media picked it up... well, hat sales plummet!
    Ok. I just didn't want to appear to be questioning the evolutionary fitness of bald men. If it's just a ploy to attract lions and tigers, so these otherwise virile warriors don't have to worry about their kids becoming prey, then I'm all for it.

    Another possibility is that it gets selected for among hat wearing societies, because the grease build up for a hat wearing person who never bathes posed health problems.
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    Morality is part of our culture well in some countries morality is pretty important especially for catholics
    Prevention is way better than cure
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    I think you will find that morality is important in all cultures.
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