Is innate morality objective?
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01-02-2014, 06:42 PM
Is innate morality objective?
We know that our moral impulses are largely shaped by natural selection. Does the evidence from evolutionary psychology support the hypothesis that the influence of nature is sufficiently powerful and independent of the individual to meet the standard of 'objective moral lawgiver'?

Perhaps it's just semantics at some point, but we know theists make much of the importance of objectivity in morality, and for me it's the most insulting theistic argument. Of course it's an invitation to point out some of their god's obscene acts that they have been blissfully unaware of their entire lives. I also like how they have it both ways. When unbelievers are moral it's because god gave them a conscience. When they're immoral it's because god has given them over to their naturally sinful desires. That god, he's so capricious.
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01-02-2014, 09:35 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
What does objective mean?
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01-02-2014, 09:59 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
(01-02-2014 06:42 PM)freetoreason Wrote:  We know that our moral impulses are largely shaped by natural selection. Does the evidence from evolutionary psychology support the hypothesis that the influence of nature is sufficiently powerful and independent of the individual to meet the standard of 'objective moral lawgiver'?

From a gene-centric evolutionary perspective genes have their own "interests" and behaviour can be evaluated with respect to those interests. Since these interests are understood and invariant it becomes possible to describe a behaviour as objectively good or bad for an allele or constellation of alleles.

However, you don't want a moral code based on the interests of "selfish genes" since rape, murder, cuckoldry, infidelity and robbery are all objectively good from a gene-centric perspective (in certain situations). It is true that in some situations altruism and cooperation are mutually beneficial but there are nevertheless situations in which rape--for example--can be demonstrated to be objectively good for the survival and replication of an allele (or set of alleles).

So no, the selfish genes' imperative--as objective as it is--is entirely unsuited as a moral code. Elements of our evolved wants and needs can contribute to an objectively grounded morality but they can't constitute it in its entirety.

If you want to see what a phylogenetic moral code looks like then study the behaviour of non-human primate societies such as baboons. They do cooperate but they are stratified and hierarchical and most disputes are settled with violence with the physically stronger generally prevailing.
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01-02-2014, 10:01 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
(01-02-2014 09:35 PM)donotwant Wrote:  What does objective mean?

Existing independently of an observing mind, the opposite of subjective.
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01-02-2014, 10:05 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
P1: No.
P2: Theists are full of shit.

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01-02-2014, 10:09 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
(01-02-2014 10:05 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  P1: No.
P2: Theists are full of shit.
What's the conclusion? Consider

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01-02-2014, 10:17 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
(01-02-2014 10:09 PM)Vosur Wrote:  
(01-02-2014 10:05 PM)houseofcantor Wrote:  P1: No.
P2: Theists are full of shit.
What's the conclusion? Consider

P for Paragraph, not Postulate. Tongue

The conclusion I come up with is vector morality rather than objective morality.

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01-02-2014, 10:19 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
(01-02-2014 09:59 PM)Chippy Wrote:  
(01-02-2014 06:42 PM)freetoreason Wrote:  We know that our moral impulses are largely shaped by natural selection. Does the evidence from evolutionary psychology support the hypothesis that the influence of nature is sufficiently powerful and independent of the individual to meet the standard of 'objective moral lawgiver'?

From a gene-centric evolutionary perspective genes have their own "interests" and behaviour can be evaluated with respect to those interests. Since these interests are understood and invariant it becomes possible to describe a behaviour as objectively good or bad for an allele or constellation of alleles.

However, you don't want a moral code based on the interests of "selfish genes" since rape, murder, cuckoldry, infidelity and robbery are all objectively good from a gene-centric perspective (in certain situations). It is true that in some situations altruism and cooperation are mutually beneficial but there are nevertheless situations in which rape--for example--can be demonstrated to be objectively good for the survival and replication of an allele (or set of alleles).

So no, the selfish genes' imperative--as objective as it is--is entirely unsuited as a moral code. Elements of our evolved wants and needs can contribute to an objectively grounded morality but they can't constitute it in its entirety.

If you want to see what a phylogenetic moral code looks like then study the behaviour of non-human primate societies such as baboons. They do cooperate but they are stratified and hierarchical and most disputes are settled with violence with the physically stronger generally prevailing.

My view is that talking about genes having interests or even "interests" is at best misleading. Genes survive in the gene pool simply because they result in phenotypes (organisms) that are more successful. I think Dawkins did us a disservice using language like that in The Selfish Gene, an otherwise excellent book.
Behaviors that have evolved are a phenotypic property above the gene level. In the sense that humans have a generally shared common sense of basic morality based on empathy and cooperation, that shared morality could be called objective. It is certainly not arrived at by reason nor handed down from on high.

This shared basic moral sense has been demonstrated in studies that posed sets of moral problems, e.g. the trolley problem, to people across cultures and religions. The results were very consistent.

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Science is not a subject, but a method.
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01-02-2014, 10:38 PM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
(01-02-2014 10:19 PM)Chas Wrote:  Behaviors that have evolved are a phenotypic property above the gene level.

Indeed hence my use of "interests". But you shouldn't forget that the entire genotype evolved merely for the purpose of reproducing some initial subset of genes. The first high-fidelity replicator--a peptide--was nothing besides molecular (self-) reproductive machinery--it had no phenotype as such. All the phenotypic traits that followed were there either because of genetic drift or because they enhanced that original self-replication task. That is the underlying commonality of all organisms and it makes sense to refer to it in quasi-teleological terms.
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02-02-2014, 12:13 AM
RE: Is innate morality objective?
(01-02-2014 10:19 PM)Chas Wrote:  ...
I think Dawkins did us a disservice using language like that in The Selfish Gene, an otherwise excellent book.
...
Nah!

Anything that stimulates the debate, raises the collective consciousness (not in a pantheistic / Luminon sense) and gives the gap-god a smaller sphere of influence is fine by me.

Quote:...
morality based on empathy and cooperation, that shared morality could be called objective.
...

I think we are never going to entirely agree on this one.
Any values-based morality is still going to be subjective (contextual / situational).

Even a 'well-being' (for humans, the planet, the universe?) based morality has to be represented as a 'land-scape' rather than as objective linear metrics.

I wonder if there is a term we can agree upon?

Comparative Morality?
Compatible Morality?

Any suggestions?

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