Saturday, 18 February 2006
Morality: comment overflow.
For the sake of argument, I will take for granted common ancestry and abiogenesis simply to support the one defendable premise that if evolution can account for anything…there is no reason it can’t account for morality as well. I will not attempt to prove a theist wrong in any regard other than the counter claim that “we know evolution cannot account for this pattern of behavior,” and I will stand my ground in terms of the crux of this discussion being just another iteration of the creation and evolution debate. I will make every effort to show theists can have no logical proof for the necessity of a divine frame of reference for morality from any deity and that it is intellectually ignorant to claim otherwise. Theists are left with an “it could still be true,” and in this discussion microcosm, I will not go into my disproof of God, the Father or how the technical definition of God, the Father is amoral though these concepts do relate. I will simply accept the general presumption of what the definition of God, the Father is supposed to yield.
“When you use the words good and bad, I imagine we think of many similar situations.”
Certainly. I define good and evil as what goes on in the established generalities of the human condition and what we are emotionally grafted to…and what is for or against the grain in a context of humane emotional gravity which is recognizably present. It follows that we could have our emotions “re-wired” and be predisposed to a completely topsy turvy system of emotional edification, but that it wouldn’t continue the reproductive system very well if we were focused on the number 42 when aligned with the equinox of the moon off the shine of a blade of grass while being tromped on by the goat as the only mission in life.
“Freedom equals good, murder equals bad. While situational ethics might have some advantages, even situational ethics must have underlying principles that guide them. What is good and what is bad, and how can we really discern between them?”
Well if we cannot discern between them, it is not possible even to be a theist. We must then be moral discerners if we find ourselves able to be successful in that regard. The principles that guide the formulation of moral concepts and activity are divined from observation. The principles that guide our system of feelings could be argued to be evolutionary trial and error “observations” of what did in fact continue the species in the past that we have inherited. More of this…less of that. These are the terms over time genetic evolution has to work with. Bogus principles yield species that don’t survive as well as others and its no wonder we don’t see too many of them. We attribute and attach “special-ness energy” to these principles since we have always tended to be in love with the hand that feeds us. And naturally there are always those of us that go too far and say, “Not only do I love her…I could never love anyone else!” And then when they break up, they go on and say and believe the exact same thing about the next relationship as though the previous did not happen. But specialness properties do have their measure, context, and merit.
“You agree with theists that moral values are innate. They believe it for theological reasons, and I think you are saying you believe it for reasons of evolutionary progress.”
I believe it as it is an observation. It just so happens to be. Anyone should be able to affirm that much…I create my moral system from a number of sources and reference points to the extent and measure I feel appropriate.
And we might also note there is a select amount of the population that does not have functional moral systems…people with that defect…I’m sure we might find one or two sociopaths that simply aren’t geared for moral behavior innately…is this an argument against the existence of God? Or just the luck of the draw? I imagine you can find someone out there with just about any given trait missing.
“Some behaviors are more conducive for survival, therefore making them “good”.”
Yes, but we should not turn around and directly associate survival with good. Survival in the past may have made what good is for us, but our emotional system has apparently reached a level where we may actually live as well. Though it is possible that the emptiness people tend to feel is not a result of not having God in their lives…but of having no edge to their survival. Having to slay a dragon to protect your family and village I’m sure yields deeper rewards than having to show up on time to your desk job.
My question: What makes our survival essential, except that we view it as such. Survival is essential to none except the individual or the group. What gives value to my biologically driven will to survive aside from my “pain” (a word that I think lacks meaning when discussing biology).”
Survival *is* only essential if we view it as such. Notice people who don’t, might not survive very long. Food for the stomach and stomach for the food. They are systems that are. Like the hydrological cycle. All of these definitions are going to be tautological. The yin of “value” is the compliment of the yang of your “biologically driven will to survive.” Our values are a reflection of our systems. The yin as well as the yang can be explained by evolution if evolution can explain anything at all. So if a theist accepts the evolutionary yang…what exactly is it that keeps them from recognizing where the yin came from as well since it is not generally profitable to generate misbalanced gene pools?
“It’s obvious everyone wants to do things as best as they can for their pleasure. But once again, I don’t see what gives this legitimate value. “
I think you are asking too much in terms of legitimateness. The whole universe does not have to agree with you for you to value what you do value. It is a limited self-justifying system. You need to live in the microcosm of what people are used to in order to reap significant emotional and moral rewards. Your cells and the ends of the universe are not a part of this picture any more than they are for a bobcat.
“Suppose you don’t believe society is conducive to the mainstream value system? Why do you have to want to survive? cause many people don’t? If your genetics are inferior, what should keep me from eliminating you? We may be able to come up with some scenarios where helping the weak is somehow beneficial, but I think most would consider this theory in full practice “bad”.”
It is only a generality. Obviously there are plenty of individuals all over the spectrum. In general if most people act within a moral tolerance range…the species will continue. On an individual level this means nothing. Not everyone helps those in need. The problem is a theist is looking for the direct connection they get from a deity…and there isn’t one to be found here. Every individual is a random toss of the dice in terms of your feeling constitution. You have to look in yourself and find out how you work in order to satisfy your needs in the way they are. When you understand where your feelings come from in a Darwinian sense…that doesn’t tell you how to act as an individual and people try to use it to directly influence their moral behavior because they are so used to that being the case in religion. Evolution is not your god. It tells you why the species is in general the way it is. It’s only “goal” happens to be making more DNA. Persons are just incidental. When you get rid of the yin of God, you also have to get rid of the yang of interpersonal expectations from whatever brought you about. It is not a necessity to apply evolution on an interpersonal level and that is the theist’s fallacy when evaluating it in terms of its advantages in ethics. Evolution is an amoral process with the byproduct of persons with moral behavior. Trying to plug that back into moral theory is like eating your own feces. Bon appetite!
“Also, what part of getting along with everyone else till you die is important? Is this in regards to only humans or all living things? If I want to get along with all living things, shouldn’t I starve myself so as not to harm anything else?”
I see you’ve already found the poo. However, I could say, shouldn’t everything else rush in to prevent you from starving yourself? And if that was the case…it would technically balance out. When I said, “getting along with everyone else” I could have added, and also with everything else including other living things and my environment in their appropriate measure. Everyone has their own sensibilities and thus there is perpetual struggle. But of course there is still freedom to have common goals and to work out our differences amongst each other as well since our copies of DNA do not fall too far from the phylogenetic tree.
“Here’s my main deal: I don’t really see how we can honestly call anything a moral system if it isn’t derived from a theistic worldview. We can have systems that are based off the best for the individual, or the best for the group, but these systems assign survival as the ultimate end and I think should be titled as such.”
You are looking for a “should” at a level where there isn’t one. What should I do if evolution is true in the Darwinian sense? Believe in a metaphysical scam’s version of morality…it really doesn’t care. Remember…evolution is amoral and doesn’t care if you believe a lie. You are still going to reproduce in all likelihood no matter why you think you do what you do. And technically, as theists we would derive morals from yet another person. What exactly is the difference if we derive it from someone else or even ourselves or how we all tend to get along?
“While I know in my mind that my survival is extremely important, I don’t think I or anyone else can supply a purely intellectual answer as to why anyone has the right to exist. Survival, which I hopefully assume correctly that you believe is a biologically based system, should be treated as such, and nothing more.”
In my opinion…might makes right. The struggle between good and evil is a power struggle. Whichever is more mighty. You have the right to exist because no one is preventing that. I don’t know where else you could possibly get your “rights” from.
You don’t have to survive…though you can…until you can’t. And in all likelihood you have an emotional drive to do so to help you out in that regard…and if you don’t take up on that feeling…enough people probably will…and thus Darwinian evolution balances its checkbook in the green. Notice an individual still has abundant freedom in that explanation.
"It is, strictly, as incongruous for an atheist to condemn a piece of wrongdoing as sinful as it would be for him to sigh complacently: 'I'm an atheist now, thank God.'"
- Anthony Flew, God and Philosophy
Whenever I make statements about what another person should or should not do…I always follow through with a condition…if he or she wants a particular place in a society of others or whatever the case may be. You should drink water…if you want to quench your thirst. You should eat a sandwich…if you don’t want to be hungry. You should not rob a bank…if you don’t want to get shot or put in prison or if you want to facilitate quality economic growth. You should not do certain other things…if you don’t want to be emotionally destroyed since we can generally tell ahead of time how human emotions work by experience. However, if you don’t have any goals…then I don’t have a “should” for you. Not stating that condition is acceptable as we don’t always state everything we mean up front. It’s just a concept practically speaking…the outcropping of my moral feelings and people can in fact have whatever goals they want and pay whatever cost there may be to whatever they happen to be choosing for themselves. But we are not only always talking about one context. Normally speaking we talk in terms of already established general goals that everyone pretty much has and thus we have developed intricate moral concepts about how things ought to be. There is no necessity to this being absolutely validated from some divine force. It is good enough for us in our limited reference frame. Having a divine reference frame, if you’ll notice tends to complicate things for the world at large.
“I’m sure you have heard my main points before, as I have stolen them from writers you have mentioned. I can understand if you want to look at the universe in your way, but I cannot see how you can consistently add a moral system to it. But I could be wrong. Look forward to your response.”
Let me know if I’ve helped you see how I can consistently add a moral system to it…since it is already there.