Your charity example is hypothetical but I’ll go along. Using a larger picture, charity does increase survival through indirect benefits to those who donate money. It may stabilize a region and reduce violent conflict by preventing a percentage of a population from raiding homes for necessities. It also provides social mobility in which impoverished individuals can move up and then assist relatives. As unemployment increases, there is a risk that a threshold is broken and there will be violent uprisings. So, there is some benefit for individuals to alleviate those risks through charity and government programs.
Also, I should mention that people with a background in biology do not use the term “survival of the fittest” because it’s redundant and it’s nonsensical phrase. Fitness is an operational term we use for measuring survivorship. If a female turtle lays 100 eggs before being hit on the road and 10 of those eggs hatch and survive to reproduce, that female turtle has a fitness of 0.10. She’s more fit than another female turtle that has a value of 0.05 but less fit than one with a value of 0.25. So when somebody uses the term “survival of the fittest,” they’re basically saying survival of those that survive. Another thing people fail to understand about evolution is that evolution occurs at the population level. In other words, individuals don’t evolve, populations do. So, when discussing and trying to understand evolution, most people do it at the wrong level. This seems to be an issue with debating these things philosophically.
Anyway, I’m not sure how to approach your argument because I’m don’t debate philosophy all that much. You seem to have a better grasp of it than I do. But, I have issues with you claiming that there is an “objective” morality and you attach that objectivity with the supernatural. Here on Earth, humans do in fact impose moral authority and their view of morality on other individuals, whether there is some theoretical authority to it or not. Parents do it, the religious do it, and societies do it through law. God or no God, we do strive to be moral, and, more importantly, ethical. Whether one is a theist, deist, or an atheist, our psychology is built on experience and there is no objective evidence that God has ever stepped in to be an objective moral arbiter, so I don’t understand why you would give him that title. What I do have objective evidence of is 500,000 years of human evolution and, in which the last 5,000 years we’ve been dealing with real issues of our existence through laws that represent our morality… objective or not.
Well... this has gone smoothly so far. When do we start the name calling?
OK, lets take that position and run with it.
On what basis can one person or society impose its moral view on another person or society?
Is it purely a question of power? Or is there some moral principle that guides when it is ok to do so and when it is not ok to do so?
For instance, assume Society A believes it is moral to protect children, and Society B believes it is moral to rape little girls. Assuming it has the power to do so, and acknowledges that it's morality is merely a social construct and not an objective moral truth, can Society A morally impose its morality on Society B? If so, what is the moral justification for doing so?
And now, the kicker - does that moral justification apply equally to Society B imposing its morality on Society A if it has the power to do so?
And that's the problem, in the end. Because to be consistent, you either need to say that it is morally impermissible for Society A to prevent Society B from raping little girls, despite having the power to stop it, or that it is morally OK for Society B to force Society A to rape little girls.
And either of those positions make the word "morality" inherently repugnant.
In other words, if morality is merely a cultural construct, then being "moral" is nothing to aspire to and there is no reason whatsoever for "morality" to serve as any kind of guide for human action.
. . .
Let's take a look at some actual figures to see what the real risks are. Perhaps the best example is the work of Professor Alan Bittles, an adjunct professor at the Centre for Comparative Genomics at Australia's Murdoch University, who has worked on the subject for over three decades and in 2008 conducted a review of forty-eight studies from eleven countries on the rate of birth defects in the children of first cousins.
He found that increased risks do exist, but not nearly to the extent that we might imagine. While there's about a 2% risk of birth defects in the general population, first-cousin children have about a 4% chance. Of course, you can phrase that in any number of ways, depending on how you want to spin it. On the one hand, that means that there's double the risk of birth defects in the children of first cousins. On the other hand, 96% of such children are born completely healthy, which is still the vast majority. . . .
(Sorry, every time I get into a scientific debate, I feel the need to post that).
All that said, the point, I think, stands: inbreeding does not inherently (i.e. in each individual case) lead to biological problems; sometimes, it actually leads to biological strengths. The biological problems, at a species level, only develop over the long term. The hypothesis that the moral prohibition of incest is a cultural reaction against the negative biological results of incest requires assuming that someone, at some far historical point, knowing nothing of genetics or evolution and lacking the tools to conduct particularly useful studies, recognized that fact and propagated the idea that incest was bad because of it, and that spread out into a cultural taboo . . .
There's not only no historical evidence of that, but various dynastic lines specifically and philosophically inbred (Egyptian, Habsburg, etc.). Sure, that gave us classic "this is what happens when you inbreed" examples like Charles II of Spain, but the very fact that it was engaged in illustrates that there was no widespread conscious recognition of its dangers.
Sure. But you are confusing effects with causes. The first individual decision to give charity preceded any knowledge of its societal effects (by definition); more than that, you would need to have many such individual decisions to achieve any such societal effect. Thus, either there was a top-down directive to engage in charity by someone who had recognized what its prospective societal effects would be (both unlikely and unevidenced) or the moral imperative of charity was recognized irrespective of any such societal effects.Your charity example is hypothetical but Iíll go along. Using a larger picture, charity does increase survival through indirect benefits to those who donate money. It may stabilize a region and reduce violent conflict by preventing a percentage of a population from raiding homes for necessities. It also provides social mobility in which impoverished individuals can move up and then assist relatives. As unemployment increases, there is a risk that a threshold is broken and there will be violent uprisings. So, there is some benefit for individuals to alleviate those risks through charity and government programs.
I wouldn't go that far; it's tautological (those best equipped to survive, survive) but revelatory in terms of explaining how and why positive mutations tend to survive even if, as a percentage of mutations as a whole, they are relatively rare.Also, I should mention that people with a background in biology do not use the term ďsurvival of the fittestĒ because itís redundant and itís nonsensical phrase.
I'd say that the argument that objective morality exists and that objective moral authority exists needs to be taken on its own merits, and the necessary conclusions of its affirmance or denial be thoroughly explored. As my reply to Parafly explains, there can be no consistent moral system that allows the imposition of ones own morality on others but forbids their imposition of their morality on you absent recourse to an objective source of both morality and moral authority.Anyway, Iím not sure how to approach your argument because Iím donít debate philosophy all that much. You seem to have a better grasp of it than I do. But, I have issues with you claiming that there is an ďobjectiveĒ morality and you attach that objectivity with the supernatural.
That's not to say that, as a result of that fact, one must necessarily exist; but it is to say that "subjective morality" can only be either inconsistent or trivial.
Sure. Which raises two often confused but really distinct questions:Here on Earth, humans do in fact impose moral authority and their view of morality on other individuals, whether there is some theoretical authority to it or not.
1) Is that done consistently with one's own moral position; and
2) Is that done in line with any objective moral truth.
Assume an Islamist who believes it is moral to impose adherence to Islam at the point of a sword meets a militant christian who believes it is moral to impose adherence to christianity at gun point, and each attempts to force the other to abide by their own beliefs (I.e. the Christian attempts to force the Islamist to abide by Christianity, and vice versa), and each attempts to resist the other's force.
Clearly, they cannot both be "in line with an objective moral truth", since they are taking contradictory positions. (The only possibilities are that one of them is in line with an objective moral truth or that neither of them are - but they cannot both be). But they can both be acting consistently with their moral beliefs when they each assert, simultaneously, "it is morally correct for me to force you to adhere to my belief system, but not morally correct for you to force me to adhere to yours" (because they each assert, rightly or wrongly, that their belief system is objectively true).
That is simply not the case for someone who believes morality is a subjective cultural construct. In that case, either all cultures are equally morally entitled to attempt to force others to adhere to their culturally constructed morality, or none are. More, if you assert that morality is a subjective cultural construct, it is simply false to say that, say, the German society of the 1930s and 40s was immoral. It was merely differently moral; in their cultural construct, the genocide of jews, slaughter of other innocents, and aggressive war was the morally correct thing to do, and they are as entitled to their own unique cultural construct as any other culture.
Sure. Irrelevant to my point above.Parents do it, the religious do it, and societies do it through law.
If morality is a cultural construct, we should not be striving to "be moral" or "ethical" - because that imperative would require a German of the 1930s to strive to round up and slaughter jews, gays, etc. Are you prepared to advocate that? Or are you making a more limited argument - that we should strive to be moral only if our society's moral construct is correct in some sense?God or no God, we do strive to be moral, and, more importantly, ethical.
That's an entirely separate discussionWhether one is a theist, deist, or an atheist, our psychology is built on experience and there is no objective evidence that God has ever stepped in to be an objective moral arbiter, so I donít understand why you would give him that title.
Well... this has gone smoothly so far. When do we start the name calling?
BTW, Finlee - this points to the problem of taking evolutionary theory and applying it to morality. Evolution is a process that works on societal levels through mechanisms that impact individuals (i.e. mutation hits, passes on a genetic advantage, the individuals who possess that trait survive at higher rates, species eventually incorporates that trait). But though evolution happens at a species level, that occurs because in the run-up to species level evolution the new trait provides an advantage to individuals.
Morality simply doesn't work like that. If the benefits of morality are societal (such as your hypothesis with respect to the survival benefit of charity), then individual moral outliers won't receive any advantage and therefore there is no internal mechanism for propagating the evolving morality.
Wealth has become increasingly concentrated in a very small minority of Americans. That isn't a sign that we need to lower taxes and roll back government investment.
Morals are for f*cking sissies.
So, the crux of our conversation is objective morality and Godís relation to it. I stated that moral value is independent of God and youíre stance is that without God as an objective source of morality and moral authority, there would be no consistency of moral values because of cultural differences. First, Iím still confused as to why you apply ďobjectivityĒ to the supernatural. Second, child rape, crazy Islamists fighting crazy Christians, and Nazis is too much for me to get into about objective and subjective morality. I think reducing all these hypothetical questions to two competing hypotheses would be more constructive.
Hypothesis A: God is the objective source of morality and moral authority.
Hypothesis B: God doesnít exist and cannot be the source of morality and moral authority.
If A is correct, then Iíll go with what God has to say.
If B is correct, then we really are alone on this rock. The reality is, any sensible and rational person would tell you that child rape, violent fundamentalists, and fascists are immoral and represent sociopaths who exploit the weak. Additionally, power does not equal morality. So in this situation, I would say that our moral value arises from risks and vulnerabilities from the collision of contradictory ideas and values, from conflict, from people trying to live better than their forefathers and how we respond to those vulnerabilities and capacities in others. In this case, evolutionary theory does provide an alternative hypothesis to God.
And that brings us back to your hypothetical questions. I donít believe in God and find B to be complex, sensible, and generally right. So, without God as my moral compass, I donít condone child rape, religious fundamentalism, or genocide. However, since you argue for A. What are you going to do when youíre walking down the sidewalk and you lose faith and you no longer believe in God? Do you push the old lady into on-coming traffic or do you walk around her?
One of the the great fictional thinkers and medical minds: "you talk like a fag, and your ****'s all retarded".
I wouldn’t be too confident in that article. If you want to read research about inbreeding, I would suggest search engines like Pub Med, Web of Knowledge, and Google Scholar. There you’ll find lots of studies of inbreeding effects across a number of taxonomic groups, including humans. You’ll find studies showing reduced fertility in highly isolated populations, other studies will show increases in cancer rates for isolated populations, and you’ll find that with recent technological advances that scientists are using major histocompatibility complexes (MHC) to demonstrate inbreeding avoidance through nonrandom mate choice. MHCs are allele combinations that influence our immune system and how we respond to infections, parasites, and disease and it makes sense that it these allele combinations would influence mate choice away from closely related individuals.
Anyway… the article you referenced is misleading, mostly because the journalist doesn’t understand evolutionary theory. The primary problem is that both you and the author claim that inbreeding doesn’t have any immediate negative effect on offspring, however, both of you state that continued inbreeding overtime will cause severe issues. That’s basically saying that inbreeding doesn’t cause any negative effects until it does. The study also ignores the real problem of inbreeding, which is continued inbreeding and the risks associated with that, hence Charles II and other inbreed lines of royalty. This was something I mentioned in my previous post as to why inbreeding depression and risks to small isolated populations that are closely related and cannot find non-relatives to mate with.
Their caveat was that two cousins with no previous history of inbreeding don’t have much risk. Well… what about cousins that do have previous histories of inbreeding. What about inbreeding among siblings or parents and their offspring? Those are conveniently left out to make a point, or the author wasn’t intelligent enough to ask those questions. Yet, he acknowledges the severity of inbreeding over multiple generations. I would also have to access the Bittles study and read their discussion section to see how they interpret the results themselves. I’ve dealt with enough journalists to know that they generally misrepresent scientific studies. For instance, did Bittles follow up on continued inbreeding among these cousins? Did they exclude individuals from the study that had no prior history of inbreeding? What was their reasoning for not including incest among siblings or parents and offspring? Did they report effect sizes?
Although I have issues with how the author report the US and Iceland data, the results of 3rd and 4th cousins mating basically say that as individual distance themselves from closely related individuals such as parents, siblings, and first cousins, there’s an increase in fertility and a decrease in deleterious effects. Basically your source says under strict conditions, you can cheat the system, but keep doing it and you’ll eventually get burned.
While we’re on the subject of misunderstanding evolutionary or ecological theory, genetic problems do not arise at the species level like you suggest. They arise at the population level. Species don’t become inbreed, populations do. For instance, gray wolves on Isle Royale were more inbreed than gray wolves on the surrounding mainland areas due to the isolation. As a result, they had higher rates of expressed recessive alleles. This is a population problem and not a species problem. It becomes a species problem when there is outbreeding (aka hybridization) with coyotes or eastern wolves and there is admixture between species.
Also, natural selection doesn’t require conscious recognition to create evolutionary changes. Basically, all organisms that reproduce sexually avoid incest for obvious reasons… the behavior has been around since life started on this planet, it promotes variation that eventually promotes species diversity. In other words, we were avoiding incest long before we could culturally recognize it and as the frequency of group living occurred in humans, we developed taboos to reinforce it. And yes, there is plenty of historical evidence that most of our discoveries (i.e., agriculture) were accidental and without prior knowledge, hence my rhetorical question about our brains ability to recognize patterns.
As to me confusing effects with causes… that’s also incorrect. Once again, decisions that benefit you do not have to be deliberately made. That’s why I said indirect benefits and advised you to read up kin selection. Although charity may be religiously motivated to ease suffering or to buy their way into God’s grace, there are unintended consequences that are positive, such as lower crime rates that promote a stable environment and reduce risks or vulnerabilities to those that give and receive. That stability reinforces the behavior regardless of intent. Those are indirect benefits. Indirect benefits…
When I mentioned that we don’t use the phrase “survival of the fittest” it was to illustrate the disconnection between research biologists and the general public regarded evolutionary theory. “Survival of the fittest” doesn’t explain why mutations tend to survive; fitness is just an index for survivorship. It’s like saying the team with the most points wins the game. The phrase irritates the hell out of me. Don't doubt my scienceness.
Last edited by finlee17; 09-11-2012 at 12:40 AM.
In the vast majority of cases, aspiring to conform to an established and universal social construct is ingrained in our physiological and psychological makeups. Objectivity is not an absolute, but a shifting and adapting framework defined and propagated by humans.In other words, if morality is merely a cultural construct, then being "moral" is nothing to aspire to and there is no reason whatsoever for "morality" to serve as any kind of guide for human action.
IMO, universal laws are encoded in our DNA.
It's why we say "the wiring is crossed up" when it comes to serial killers and things like that.
I mean, you can't say morality and ethics is only nurture, because you can share an identical cultural experience in an identical environment, yet--- on child grows up to be a moonbat and the other a conservative.
Lots of good discussion in here, so:
1) Thanks all for an awesome thread; and
2) Busy day at work so I'll get back to this later.
But this I have to say:
Where did morality come from? Evolution?
What has amazed me over the twenty years I have studied both philosophy and theology, six of which were spent in seminary, is how blindly the youth of today follow such idiotic thinking. They scream at the top of their lungs about how outdated the fields of theology and philosophy are (it also doesn't help when Stephen Hawking declares philosophy is dead--one of the dumbest things I have read in YEARS), they tell people to think for themselves, yet they blindly follow the ravings of a man, quite brilliant in one field, but presumes he knows everything about everything because he is brilliant in one field.There are evolutionary roots to morality, but theyíve been refined and perfected through thousands of years of human culture. I certainly do not think that we ought to get our morals from religion because if we do that, then we either get them through Scripture Ė people who think you should get your morals from the Old Testament havenít read the Old Testament Ė so we shouldnít get our morals from there.
Nor should we get our morals from a kind of fear that if we donít please God heíll punish us, or a kind of desire to apple polish (to suck up to) a God. There are much more noble reasons for being moral than constantly looking over your shoulder to see whether God approves of what you do.
Where do we get our morals from? We get our morals from a very complicated process of discussion, of law-making, writing, moral philosophy, itís a complicated cultural process which changes Ė not just over the centuries, but over the decades. Our moral attitudes today in 2012 are very different form what they would have been 50 or 100 years ago. And even more different from what they would have been 300 years ago or 500 years ago. We donít believe in slavery now. We treat women as equal to men. All sorts of things have changed in our moral attitudes.
He makes an extremely persuasive case for the fact that we are getting more moral, we are getting better as time goes on, and religion perhaps has a part to play in that, but itís by no means an important part.
I might suggest to some of the people here who are arguing case in point in support of more Dawkins drivel that they put down their particular bibles that they themselves follow (either written by either Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens....they're all the same really), and read something that actually counters their thinking. Perhaps they then can actually learn to think from themselves.
Dawkins makes the comment about reading the Old Testament and getting morality from the Old Testament. Perhaps Dawkins should leave his field of discipline and actually study the origins of the bible....he might actually learn something and then be on his way to knowing what he is talking about in the field of theology.
I have spent a decade in "higher education," either working at or studying in a university. If the 'highly educated' are indeed the ones that are going to lead us into the next century and beyond, then we truly are doomed.
Just like the apartment full of college kids that called me once to fix their oven. It wouldn't shut off.
Turned out, they were just turning the dial the wrong direction.
I put "Push/Pull" stickers on the door to their apartment. Didn't want to get a call at 11pm because they were "locked out"...