RE: Radical Islams response to the tragedy in Norway
(11-08-2011 09:28 AM)Ghost Wrote: Hey, cufflink.
It has been a great discussion.
I'll just comment on a couple things you said and then bow out myself. Unless my brilliant comments Corleone you back in
For clarity's sake, I'm not an evolutionary biologist although I do do a lot of work with species classifications, diversity and ecosystems simply because we're destroying species and habitat and diversity and entire ecosystems and the mechanics of it need to be understood in order to combat it. I'm a memeticist first and a Universal Darwinist second (even though you have to be a Universal Darwinist to be a memeticist... anyhoo...) Memetics is my primary concern because the reasons we're doing these things to the biosphere are cultural, so understanding culture, how it propagates, cultural environments, relativistic comparison, diversity and how they change is imperative. The idea of Universal Darwinism, that the rules of selection apply to any and all replicators everywhere in the universe, is simple and, frankly, true as far as I'm concerned. Universal Darwinism and the (first properly codified use of the) meme replicator, the unit of cultural transmission, both first appeared in Richard Dawkins' 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. Memetics has been developing now for 35 years and shows no signs of slowing down. It's championed by luminaries like Blackmore and Dennett and by many biologists as well, like the legendary EO Wilson (who had arrived at cultural evolution independently and then abandoned his idea in favour of memes). Right now, it's like genetics before genetics was fully understood. It's not widely accepted, but give it time.
The reason that evolution cannot tell you what's to come is because evolution is a road map of what HAS occurred, not what is going to occur. A pesky bit of misunderstanding has persisted over the years. The notion that evolution is about going from the simple to the complex and that evolution is leading to an ideal point, ie, we're evolving towards perfection. Neither are true. Complexity is like a drunk walking down a sidewalk. The wall to his right is single-celled life. You can't get less complex and still exist. The gutter is overcomplexity. When things get too complex, they can no longer function and cease to exist. The drunk stumbles down the sidewalk, lumbering left and right. He can hit the wall all he likes but as long as he doesn't hit the gutter or faceplant, he can persist. But over time, the march forward, he will become more complex, less complex, stay the same, whathaveyou. So evolution is not about going from simple to complex, it's about change over time. Evolution is not actually a force. All evolution is is the study and tracking of these changes over time. Evolution is always spoken of in the past tense. The reason that it can't predict anything is because we don't know what is adaptive until it is adaptive. Once we figure that out, the change has already occurred. The system is so unbelievably complex (think of the biosphere: millions of species over millions of square kilometres across dozens of climates, with countless geological features, etc...) that we can't say X will be adaptive in 5 years because we can't predict the changes in the system with any degree of accuracy: think chaos theory. So since evolution is not linear and since we can't predict changes and since we only know what works once it's working, we can't predict anything.
These mistaken ideas lead a lot of people to think things like, we're more evolved than Islam, or they're primitive and need to catch up. That's evolutionary gobbledygook. We’re both just a couple of drunks stumbling down a sidewalk hoping that we don't fall over.
The reason that I believe morality and Darwinism are linked is because morality is culturally specific. Since culture is governed by Darwinism and morality is nested in culture, morality evolves alongside its host culture. As you say though, this simply explains HOW a culture's moral code came about, why it persists and why it works or doesn't work for them. It says nothing of aught.
I do find that somewhat curious though. Because if we're talking aught, we're saying that something should be a given way. I just challenge how those ideals are determined. If morality is universal and can be determined, then it's easy. But I don't think it's universal and I don't accept the argument that revealed morality is sacrosanct, so I'm left with the idea that morality is in fact relativistic. So how can we say aught?
I believe that a culture is analogous to a species. It is defined by its differences from other cultures, it is comprised of many individuals, and the cultural traits have little problem propagating within the culture. So why do we believe we can say, Islam aught to drop female covering, when we'd never say, the sloth aught to move faster? There is no ideal and cannot be an ideal because that which is adaptive is temporally contingent on the state of the environment. When the environment changes, that which is adaptive can suddenly find itself maladaptive or exaptive. So my issue with aught is that it presupposed that there is an ideal and that conditions will never change, both of which are demonstrably false.
In genetics we explore aught by genetically modifying organisms. These salmon aught to grow four times faster so we can eat them quicker. We are capable of engineering these changes, but woefully incapable of predicting the effect on the health of that species in the wild and what the effect on the environment would be if they escape into the wild, which they seem prone to do.
In memetics we explore aught by getting cultures to adopt new traits. We can do this via foreign policy, culture dumping, missionary work, extortion, force of arms, etc... The problem is that our "aught" is based on our environment, not theirs. So we don't know what effect it will have.
So aught only works in morality if the culture saying aught has, or believes they have, an ideal or universal truth that is somehow immune to circumstance, that another culture does not have.
That being said, aught DOES work within a culture because there are clear (ever changing) boundaries. Child rape aught to be wrong in Canada because all sexual assault is wrong IN CANADA (For now). Eating dogs aught to be wrong in Canada because dogs have a deep relationship with humans either as pets, working dogs and in some cases, as members of the family, IN CANADA. Eating dogs aught not be wrong in Dog-Eating-Country-X because dogs are just viewed as a food source IN DOG-EATING-COUNTRY-X.
We can look how things aught to be in our own country, but aught is not always actionable.
Because we can determine morality for ourselves, we somehow believe that we can determine morality for others. But that’s not how systems function.
Quote:For me, the way I know your system fails is the fact that it leads you to a wilderness of relativism, where you can’t even say that something as clearly immoral as child rape is always wrong.
This is important.
It doesn't lead to a wilderness of relativism. It recognises, through observation, that the wilderness of relativism exists. Relativism isn't a prescription, it's an observation.
Why is child rape wrong?
That's the crux.
It's wrong because my culture says it’s wrong. I agree because my culture's beliefs are my beliefs. So within the context of my culture's moral code, it IS always wrong. But my culture's morality is not universal morality. So I cannot base my objective statement, child rape is always wrong, on something that isn't objective.
That's why the 1+1=2 argument fails. Russell and Whitehead determined that 1+1=2 because they HAD to. There was no other possibility whatsoever. Math is objective. It cannot not be objective or else it doesn't function.
Morality is not objective. If it is, then it's universal and I see no evidence of that. There is no 1+1=2 equation to base morality on. It simply doesn't exist.
So the issue is not that I can't say that child rape is always immoral, the issue is that I can't say that ANYTHING is always immoral because I can't make objective statements about morality because it's not an objective field of inquiry.
What I can say is that MANY cultures view child rape as an immoral act and if you rape a child within the political jurisdiction of those cultures and get caught, yer fucked. I can also say that culture X thinks it's moral and culture Y has no opinion on the subject. I can then ask, why? I can then examine their cultural history and track the evolution of their cultural beliefs. I can examine their immediate environment and determine what forces have influenced their position. I can understand.
Quote:For me—and I think for most people—a statement like “the rape of children is immoral in any context” is the ethical equivalent of 1 +1 = 2 in math.
That's true. But the reason they think so is, "just cuz," and not because they have, and can demonstrate, a determining equation.
Quote:Any ethical system not able to reach that conclusion isn’t worthy of consideration.
Imagine I'm an alien anthropologist. I come down to Earth to study moral systems. I am completely amoral; I have never been exposed to any moral system and am therefore not biased towards any one system. How can people of different moral systems convince me that theirs is right? They could very easily convince me that 1+1=2, but could they convince me that their morality is correct? I cannot imagine how.
I'm not suggesting that you have to agree with their morality. I'm just trying to explain how things function. Your reaction to a child raping society is your own. Hate them, scorn them, ignore them, understand them, work with them, try to change them, befriend them, overlook their rapes, do as you will. Just understand that your reaction is based off of a relativistic notion and not an objective one.
Peace and Love and Empathy,
Nah, despite the brilliant comments, I’d better not get Corleoned back in. But I thank you for the terrific post, which was illuminating and generous. You’ve made me want to find out more about memetics. (I’m particularly curious about what light it might shed on linguistic change, which interests me.) Came across this TED talk by Sue Blackmore
(video near the bottom of the page), who seems like quite the passionate exponent. Re Darwin, she says: “The best idea anybody ever had!” How can you resist that?
I’m not ready to give up on context-free moral absolutes, but it’s been interesting to consider the other side. These are deep waters, though, and I should read more before I try to swim much further. Guess it’s not for nothing philosophers have been debating these questions for millennia.
See you in other threads.
Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.