Information icon.svg Results for the 2023 RationalWiki Moderator Election have now been posted. Thank you for participating in this election, and congratulations to the winners!

Talk:Evolutionary ethics

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

(I know this sucks i was half asleep when i started it and I am just throwing it out as a foundation for the article. -ĬŴΣĐĝё 23:22, 24 May 2007 (CDT))

I've fixed some of it up a bit but it's still rather green.--Bob_M (talk) 04:22, 1 June 2007 (CDT)

You've written at the last line: "We offer a long rebuttal here, but will go in more depth here.", There is no link in more depth here! correct it where.--Lord kavi 09:29, 20 February 2008 (EST)

Science and normativity[edit]

Given that science is supposed to deal with what is, and not with what ought (which is where ethics lies), could an argument be made that evolutionary ethics violates Hume's law? Genuinely curious, because I don't wanna strawman anything here. Essentially I'm asking if NOMA is appropriate here. Vee (talk) 07:23, 19 December 2022 (UTC)

Well it claims to deal in 'is' but the topic is certainly more vulnerable to bias than most scientific subjects, so the likelihood that some 'ought' is being passed off as 'is' would be higher than one would usually expect in science. If you want to make an issue out of it you'd have to track down some shoehorning going on somewhere, which may or may not be difficult to find. FairDinkum (talk) 09:59, 19 December 2022 (UTC)
You can't really have a basis for "moral fact" without that fact being normative. It would simultaneously be an "is" and a "ought". Appealing to evolution and what is adaptive as a basis for morality is often taken in ethics circles as a blatant example of the naturalistic fallacy. I don't know if "ethics" is the appropriate name for this field. - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 22:17, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
My understanding is that evolution within fields like "moral psychology" and neurophilosophy is often is often used to explain the origins of our moral sentiments but stated in terms that these sentiments themselves are not morally objective or conductive to the "correct" moral conduct. So it's more so a study of our "moral conscious" then it is actual ethics. - Only Sort of Dumb (talk) 22:28, 20 December 2022 (UTC)

Morals derived from evolution[edit]

I take exception to part of this section. It implies that evolution produces cooperation and that this can be used to infer moral lessons.

But the grooming examples it uses are cherry-picked. We could equally use the example of male lions fighting each other for the right to reproduce and then killing the existing offspring so that the females become reproductive again more quickly. Both grooming and infanticide serve an evolutionary purpose - but suggesting that biological evolution in general can give lead us to morality is a very slippery slope.

Biological evolution may involve either social cooperation or (sometimes very extreme) competition. Apart from the inter-species interactions mentioned above, intra-species interactions often involve one animal being killed and eaten.

Nevertheless, human social evolution is a different matter and there may be some equivocation going on here.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 09:19, 19 December 2022 (UTC)

I think you are correct as far as evolutionary pressure goes. What the section is referring to is species propagation. When resources are scarce there is more evolutionary pressure to adapt, and the asocial behaviors you referred to would be more common, while population crashes. But when there is an abundance of resources, a species has a population bloom, as pro-social behavior becomes beneficial during those times. So population crashes rev up evolution, but population blooms ensure species survival. FairDinkum (talk) 09:49, 19 December 2022 (UTC)
So - you agree that evolution has nothing to tell us about morality?Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 10:20, 19 December 2022 (UTC)
I'm not an expert in evolution, so I don't know how the propagation of species officially relates to evolution, but I would agree that this article makes erroneous claims about morality conferring an evolutionary advantage by way of natural selection. If the theories I stated are correct, then morality would arise during times when there is the least amount of selective pressure on the species - when the cost of being moral is low. FairDinkum (talk) 04:14, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
Not every behavior (moral or otherwise) has a part to play in the evolutionary process. How does "evolutionary ethics" account for things like homosexuality, which we see in nature all the goddamn time, but doesn't exactly contribute to reproductive fitness. Is homosexuality an aberration of evolution then? How does this not violate Hume's Guillotine? Vee (talk) 06:20, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
It seems to me that we can no more derive morality from the Theory of Evolution than we can derive it from the Theory of Relativity (for example). Both explain how things actually happen in the world. Neither says anything about who we should derive moral rights and wrongs.
Furthermore, the idea that we can derive moral rights from evolution was exactly the line of thinking which led us to Social Darwinism. Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 07:28, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
Homosexuality should have been selected out of humans if it has any detrimental effect on survival of the species. And our current understanding of vestigial organs (that they don't exist) suggests that even neutral vestiges don't persist. The prevailing theory of the benefits upon society of homosexuality is that it frees up some family members to help with the survival of the breeding members of their family. The 'third gender' in Samoa traditionally fills that very role, and is commonly presented as an example of both homosexual and trans-gender evolutionary advantage.
Getting back to the morality debate, if what I said is true then it does have an evolutionary role, I should not have been reluctant to make that claim. Evolution entails much more than just natural selection. FairDinkum (talk) 07:36, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
After further contemplation, I am confident to claim moral behavior does instill an evolutionary advantage, but so does behavior that could be described as immoral. They both contribute to the survival of the species, and they are each needed for opposite environmental conditions. FairDinkum (talk) 07:48, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
So if evolution can lead to behaviors which are both morally sound and morally unsound - we cannot use it as a guide to morality.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 09:17, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
Another criticism can be made of evopsych and apparently evo ethics in that it really presents the pseudoacademic equivalent of a "just-so story". Armchair explanations with no evidence offered. To claim that evolution is the basis of ethics (which itself is heavily determined by culture, at least to some extent. The Confucian ethos is anathema to the ethics of liberal democracy, for instance.) is hella reductionist. Vee (talk) 09:27, 20 December 2022 (UTC)
And I still think this is a load of nonsense for all the reasons I stated above. It's pretty all over the place but at times it tries to equate biological evolution with social evolution and then suggests that one has something to tell us about the other. This is exactly the error made by the Social Darwinists and to its bastard cousin eugenics.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 19:42, 28 September 2023 (UTC)
The Selfish Gene Theory was just added. Ignoring the fact that the SGT has numerous theoretical problems, this usage of it completely ignores the effects of culture and the environment on human ethical systems which is an error a lot of people who try to apply evolutionary theory to emergent systems of human culture often make. I have to question the relevance STG has here. Hmm... this would be a good candidate for an AfD. Carthage (talk) 19:57, 28 September 2023 (UTC)