Skip to comments.Can Darwin Replace Marx? [Book Review]
Posted on 12/15/2001 3:57:58 PM PST by aculeus
Peter Singer's shabby attempt to teach the left the uses of evolution.
A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation
Yale University Press, 70 pp., $9.95
When A Natural History of Rape by Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer hit bookstores early last year, it was greeted by one of the most unfriendly barrages of criticism by intellectuals on the left of any book since The Bell Curve. The book placed rape in the context of its evolutionary history and attempted to explain how one of the most despicable of human acts is actually a genetically developed strategy employed by some men to propagate their genes. Masked behind the many accurate critiques of Thornhill and Palmers imperfect science was a much deeper discomfort on the part of many on the left with the burgeoning field of evolutionary psychology and its Darwinian explanations of human behavior.
In his short book A Darwinian Left, bioethicist Peter Singer seeks to guide the left towards a new appreciation of evolution and undo the uneasiness with Darwin reflected in the response of so many liberals to works of sociobiology like A Natural History of Rape. Moreover, he hopes to make evolutionary theory the centerpiece of a new ideological approach on the left.
Singer traces the lefts apprehension about applying Darwinian thought to human behavior back to the end of the last century and Herbert Spencers Social Darwinism. Spencers philosophy that the survival of the fittest is a good that should be encouraged can be easily dismissed because it represents what the British philosopher G.E. Moore termed the naturalistic fallacy, or the drawing of a value judgment from a factual statement. In other words, evolution is a description of how things are in the natural world, not a prescription for how things ought to be in the moral world. The fallacious deducing of values from facts has ever since been the cardinal sin of evolutionary philosophizing. But if no moral assessment can be drawn from evolution, what could possibly be meant by a Darwinian left or a Darwinian right?
Singers argument boils down to this: the left will be better able to achieve its social and political agenda if it acknowledges and incorporates a more accurate understanding of human nature into its worldview. He believes that the best tool we have to unravel the mysteries of our common behavior is sociobiology, and that if the left doesnt embrace the science and what it can tell us, leftist ideology will necessarily be flawed, perhaps tragically so.
Before explaining exactly which aspects of the lefts worldview might be informed by Darwin, its worth pausing a moment to reflect on just what Singer considers the left to represent. Singer throws the term around rather casually and hardly wastes any ink considering it. He is quick to equate the left with social egalitarianism and a desire to reduce the vast quantities of pain and suffering in the worlda utilitarian position that conveniently mirrors his own philosophical system. But he neglects to include in his definition of the left the individual rights-oriented philosophies represented by the likes of John Rawls that have also long been part of the liberal tradition. The problem is that the strand of the left that Singer focuses on (he often uses the left as a stand-in for Marxism) is far less pertinent today than it once was, while the under-represented liberties-based strand has become increasingly more relevant in recent decades.
To be blind to the facts about human nature is to risk disaster, writes Singer. So what does he believe are the lefts major misunderstandings about human nature that Darwin can correct? First and foremost is the lefts belief in the great plasticity of human behavior. Marxism is based on the notion that human nature is the product of an ensemble of the social relations and is therefore highly malleable. This malleability, according to Singer, dominates the lefts worldview and goes back all the way to Locke and his idea of the mind as a white Paper, void of all characters, without any ideas. The standard social science model, which dominates the lefts ideology and owes itself to Lockes notion of a tabula rasa, views human nature, as Emile Durkheim put it, as merely the indeterminate material that the social factor molds and transforms. In essence, the standard social science model doesnt believe in an inherent human nature beyond the most rudimentary biological constraints.
The idea of mans malleability, present in both Marxist ideology and the standard social science model, leads to a belief in the inherent equality of men, and to a faith in education as the great panacea. According to Singer, it is also behind the lefts dream of a perfect human being living in a perfectly utopian society. But, Singer warns, a Darwinian acknowledgement of the many relatively fixed aspects of human nature tells us that man is not perfectible, and neither are his societies. One of the great errors of Marxism was its confidence that hierarchies could be abolished in an egalitarian revolution. Singer believes that if the left had only possessed a Darwinian understanding that the formation of hierarchies is inherent in human nature, the authoritarian horrors of Stalinism might have been prevented.
The thing is, we dont need Darwin to tell us that when humans are placed in groups, those who have the ability and motivation to rise to the top will do just that. As Singer himself points out on the first page of his book, the nineteenth century anarchist and ideological opponent of Marx, Mikhail Bakunin (among others) recognized this very flaw in Marxs social egalitarianism without the aid of evolutionary psychology. As Bakunins critiques of Marx make apparent, its not clear that an understanding of evolution is any more useful than an understanding of literature or history in deconstructing the nature of man.
Evolutionary psychologys great success has been in explaining how we got to be the way we are, not in explaining the way we are. In fact, in that respect, it is a relatively unhelpful heuristic. Using evolutionary psychology to try to discern human nature is like trying to figure out what a given kind of cake tastes like by taking the backwards approach of mentally constructing it from a list of ingredients and cooking directions. If we have the cake sitting in front of us, this is a useless endeavor. The approach may be able to tell us how the cake got to be yellow and fluffy and coated with icing, but if we want to figure out what it tastes like, were better off just digging in with a fork. Anthropology, history, and our collective experiences provide us with plenty of real data from which to construct a view of human nature in the sense that Singer is interested in, so long as we are actually looking for a general human nature. In contrast, a sociobiological perspective is necessarily somewhat speculative.
Of course, sociobiology has helped us to take the first important step of acknowledging that there are some universals to human behavior. But acknowledging this doesnt preclude malleability. Even the most ardent Darwinists admit that our genes only code for proclivities, not rigid behavioral programs to which we are deterministically bound, and that culture still plays an enormously large role in shaping who we are. As Richard Dawkins has said, we have the power to turn against our creators. Our self-consciousness grants us the capability to escape the behavioral bounds of our genes. In other words, the perfectibility of humankind (whatever it is Singer means by this) is not impossible, only very difficult.
Another aspect of the left critiqued by Singer is what he sees as its readiness to blame all problems on society. Take for example, the question of cheats, a game-theory term for individuals who do not cooperate with the rules of society. Singer claims that a pre-Darwinian left would blame the existence of cheats on poverty, a lack of education, or the reactionary capitalist way of thinking. But Darwin tells us (or at least Singer tells us that Darwin tells us) that cheating, or taking advantage of those who cooperate indiscriminately (so called suckers in game theory-speak), is built into our genetic program, and therefore at least partly beyond the control of such vague societal factors as socioeconomic status and education level. This sort of talk ought to make even conservatives cringe. Whats more, it is grounded in a vastly oversimplified understanding of evolutionary theory. Basing his argument on models of game theory, he suggests that, A Darwinian left [should] realize that the only permanent solution is to change the pay-offs so that cheats do not prosper. This means not turning the other cheek. In other words, a Darwinian left will embrace harsher prison sentences for criminals, and perhaps even the death penalty. Singers Darwinian left is starting to sound more and more like a Darwinian right.
The last and least coherent part of Singers argument deals with the issue at the heart of so much work on evolutionary psychology: the nature of altruism. He believes that part of the lefts reticence about accepting sociobiology with open arms is the Darwinian implication that man is part of a nature red in tooth and claw, and therefore inherently competitive and selfish. Singer acknowledges the selfish motives at work in man, but also points to mans altruistic nature. Using game theory, he shows how cooperation is just as hard-wired into mans general character as selfishness. His major suggestion is that a Darwinian left should seek to foster the cooperative rather than the competitive instinct in man. Like so many of his other suggestions, this one is remarkable only in the extent of its banality and unhelpfulness. And whats more, it doesnt really require Darwin.
And finally, of course, there is the irony that Singer, of all people, is chiding the left for its misunderstanding of human nature. In a New York Times Magazine article from September of 1999, Singer presented his solution to end world poverty. He called for all people to donate to charity that portion of their income which is in excess of the bare minimum needed to lead a basic, healthy existence (Singer defines that as every cent over $30,000). Now, who is it with the warped understanding of human nature?
Did someone say FR is dumbing down?He or she was confused at the time.
Like sociobiology, it is a purely post-hoc descriptive model. Neither has produced new information.
But if a bozo like the malignant Singer can't tell junk science when he sees it, and wants to try adapting it to junk political philosophy like Marxism, I think that's just fine.
It means he will spend his time in a futile and ultimately dead-end pursuit, rather than other, more harmful and pernicious of his degenerate activities.
I happen to believe that the Right needs to understand sociobiology to better further its social and political agenda.
I believe an arguement can be made that humans have an innate attraction to socialism. All primitive people practice a form of socialism - those who have share with those who do not. This is essential in hunter-gatherer societies, where luck plays an inordinate part in success. The lucky hunter-gatherer shares his/her good fortune knowing that tomorrow he/she may not be so lucky (and because it's hard for nomads to store foodstuffs). Also, in small tribes everyone knows everyone else, so it's easy to identify and punish the freeloaders who always take and never give.
Even today, even in America, most people think there's something wrong about some people having more things than others, or selling needed things for more than a "fair" premium over what you paid for them.
The concepts of individualism, self-reliance and capitalism are relatively recent. They clearly go against deep human nature. Those on the right need to understand this, so they realize what an uphill struggle it is to champion freedom and responsibility.
Copernicus's model of a heliocentric solar system was also a purely post-hoc descriptive model. After all, astronomers were quite capable of predicting the positions of the planets before Copernicus.
For 60 years, Nazis were ridiculed for their "crackpot" racial theories. The growing acceptance of sociobiology and behavorial evolution may mean that Uncle Adolph has the last laugh! (Of course, Nazis were also big champions of preserving the environment, occupational health & safety laws, anti-smoking and anti-drinking campaigns aimed at youth, breast self-examination for women, family leave policies for new parents, and a host of other "crackpot" ideas, too!)
Marxists hate Darwinism. They completely reject the idea that heredity influences human behavior.
And yes I know Marx himself supposedly admired Darwin.
- Karl Marx; Attr. in Engels, letter to C. Schmidt, 5 Aug 1890
I believe that you are wrong. In a small (hunter-gather society), where resources are scarce, people will share because they expect the others to reciprocate. If one person is holding back, hoarding food or lack of effort, everyone will know and reciprocate in kind. In a larger group cheaters can and will survive.
Capitalism is the natural result of Darwinian evolution. I think that it can be shown that labor unions and a limited central government are also the natural outcome of evolution
The concepts of individualism, self-reliance and capitalism are relatively recent. They clearly go against deep human nature.
Individualism and self-reliance are inherent in human nature. (Ask any teenager.) We trade off what we have to in order to survive (or increase our comfort level). Cooperation is what we do because we are better off if we cooperate than if we go it alone.
Capitalism is as red in tooth and claw as any struggle for survival in nature.
Evolutionary theory dictates no such thing. It dictates just the opposite:
Get all you can as easily as you can.
And that takes freedom and individualism.
I agree completely but Marxist Biologists thrive here (Lewontin, Gould, others) and in the UK (the Roses).
How about a Natural History of Stupidity? I mean, Chuck Darwin was about the stupidest white man who ever lived and his modern-day followers are no better; the title would be a natural.
Evolution has been so thoroughly discredited at this point that you assume nobody is defending it because they believe in it anymore, and that they are defending it because they do not like the prospects of having to defend or explain some axpect of their lifestyles to God, St. Peter, Muhammed...
To these people I say, you've still got a problem. The problem is that evolution, as a doctrine, is so overwhelmingly STUPID that, faced with a choice of wearing a sweatshirt with a scarlet letter A for Adulteror, F for Fornicator or some such traditional design, or or a big scarlet letter I for IDIOT, you'd actually be better off sticking with one of the traditional choices because, as Clint Eastwood noted in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
God hates IDIOTS, too!
The best illustration of how stupid evolutionism really is involves trying to become some totally new animal with new organs, a new basic plan for existence, and new requirements for integration between both old and new organs.
Take flying birds for example; suppose you aren't one, and you want to become one. You'll need a baker's dozen highly specialized systems, including wings, flight feathers, a specialized light bone structure, specialized flow-through design heart and lungs, specialized tail, specialized general balance parameters etc.
For starters, every one of these things would be antifunctional until the day on which the whole thing came together, so that the chances of evolving any of these things by any process resembling evolution (mutations plus selection) would amount to an infinitessimal, i.e. one divided by some gigantic number.
In probability theory, to compute the probability of two things happening at once, you multiply the probabilities together. That says that the likelihood of all these things ever happening, best case, is ten or twelve such infinitessimals multiplied together, i.e. a tenth or twelth-order infinitessimal. The whole history of the universe isn't long enough for that to happen once.
All of that was the best case. In real life, it's even worse than that. In real life, natural selection could not plausibly select for hoped-for functionality, which is what would be required in order to evolve flight feathers on something which could not fly apriori. In real life, all you'd ever get would some sort of a random walk around some starting point, rather than the unidircetional march towards a future requirement which evolution requires.
And the real killer, i.e. the thing which simply kills evolutionism dead, is the following consideration: In real life, assuming you were to somehow miraculously evolve the first feature you'd need to become a flying bird, then by the time another 10,000 generations rolled around and you evolved the second such reature, the first, having been disfunctional/antifunctional all the while, would have DE-EVOLVED and either disappeared altogether or become vestigial.
Now, it would be miraculous if, given all the above, some new kind of complex creature with new organs and a new basic plan for life had ever evolved ONCE.
Evolutionism, however (the Theory of Evolution) requires that this has happened countless billions of times, i.e. an essentially infinite number of absolutely zero probability events.
And, if you were starting to think that nothing could possibly be any stupider than believing in evolution despite all of the above (i.e. that the basic stupidity of evolutionism starting from 1980 or thereabouts could not possibly be improved upon), think again. Because there is zero evidence in the fossil record (despite the BS claims of talk.origins "crew" and others of their ilk) to support any sort of a theory involving macroevolution, and because the original conceptions of evolution are flatly refuted by developments in population genetics since the 1950's, the latest incarnation of this theory, Steve Gould and Niles Eldredge's "Punctuated Equilibrium or punc-eek" attempts to claim that these wholesale violations of probabilistic laws all occurred so suddenly as to never leave evidence in the fossil record, and that they all occurred amongst tiny groups of animals living in "peripheral" areas. That says that some velocirapter who wanted to be a bird got together with fifty of his friends and said:
Guys, we need flight feathers, and wings, and specialized bones, hearts, lungs, and tails, and we need em NOW; not two years from now. Everybody ready, all together now: OOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....
You could devise a new religion by taking the single stupidest doctrine from each of the existing religions, and it would not be as stupid as THAT.
But it gets even stupider.
Again, the original Darwinian vision of gradualistic evolution is flatly refuted by the fossil record (Darwinian evolution demanded that the vast bulk of ALL fossils be intermediates) and by the findings of population genetics, particularly the Haldane dilemma and the impossible time requirements for spreading genetic changes through any sizeable herd of animals.
Consider what Gould and other punk-eekers are saying. Punc-eek amounts to a claim that all meaningful evolutionary change takes place in peripheral areas, amongst tiny groups of animals which develop some genetic advantage, and then move out and overwhelm, outcompete, and replace the larger herds. They are claiming that this eliminates the need to spread genetic change through any sizeable herd of animals and, at the same time, is why we never find intermediate fossils (since there are never enough of these CHANGELINGS to leave fossil evidence).
Obvious problems with punctuated equilibria include, minimally:
1. It is a pure pseudoscience seeking to explain and actually be proved by a lack of evidence rather than by evidence (all the missing intermediate fossils). Similarly, Cotton Mather claimed that the fact that nobody had ever seen or heard a witch was proof they were there (if you could see or hear them, they wouldn't be witches...) The best example of that sort of logic in fact that there ever was was Michael O'Donahue's parody of the Connecticut Yankee (New York Yankee in King Arthur's Court) which showed Reggie looking for a low outside fastball and then getting beaned cold by a high inside one, the people feeling Reggie's wrist for pulse, and Reggie back in Camelot, where they had him bound hand and foot. Some guy was shouting "Damned if e ain't black from ead to foot, if that ain't witchcraft I never saw it!!!", everybody was yelling "Witchcraft Trial!, Witchcraft Trial!!", and they were building a scaffold. Reggie looks at King Arthur and says "Hey man, isn't that just a tad premature, I mean we haven't even had the TRIAL yet!", and Arthur replies "You don't seem to understand, son, the hanging IS the trial; if you survive that, that means you're a witch and we gotta burn ya!!!" Again, that's precisely the sort of logic which goes into Gould's variant of evolutionism, Punk-eek.
2. PE amounts to a claim that inbreeding is the most major source of genetic advancement in the world. Apparently Steve Gould never saw Deliverance...
3. PE requires these tiny peripheral groups to conquer vastly larger groups of animals millions if not billions of times, which is like requiring Custer to win at the little Big Horn every day, for millions of years.
4. PE requires an eternal victory of animals specifically adapted to localized and parochial conditions over animals which are globally adapted, which never happens in real life.
5. For any number of reasons, you need a minimal population of any animal to be viable. This is before the tiny group even gets started in overwhelming the vast herds. A number of American species such as the heath hen became non-viable when their numbers were reduced to a few thousand; at that point, any stroke of bad luck at all, a hard winter, a skewed sex ratio in one generation, a disease of some sort, and it's all over. The heath hen was fine as long as it was spread out over the East coast of the U.S. The point at which it got penned into one of these "peripheral" areas which Gould and Eldredge see as the salvation for evolutionism, it was all over.
The sort of things noted in items 3 and 5 are generally referred to as the "gambler's problem", in this case, the problem facing the tiny group of "peripheral" animals being similar to that facing a gambler trying to beat the house in blackjack or roulette; the house could lose many hands of cards or rolls of the dice without flinching, and the globally-adapted species spread out over a continent could withstand just about anything short of a continental-scale catastrophe without going extinct, while two or three bad rolls of the dice will bankrupt the gambler, and any combination of two or three strokes of bad luck will wipe out the "peripheral" species. Gould's basic method of handling this problem is to ignore it.
And there's one other thing which should be obvious to anybody attempting to read through Gould and Eldridge's BS:
They are claiming that at certain times, amongst tiny groups of animals living in peripheral areas, a "speciation event(TM)" happens, and THEN the rest of it takes place. In other words, they are saying:
ASSUMING that Abracadabra-Shazaam(TM) happens, then the rest of the business proceeds as we have described in our scholarly discourse above!
Again, Gould and Eldridge require that the Abracadabra-Shazaam(TM) happen not just once, but countless billions of times, i.e. at least once for every kind of complex creature which has ever walked the Earth. They do not specify whether this amounts to the same Abracadabra-Shazaam each time, or a different kind of Abracadabra-Shazaam for each creature.
I ask you: How could anything be stupider or worse than that? What could possibly be worse than professing to believe in such a thing?
Ill agree with you on the first statement, but not on the second.
Why are The ideas of environmental determination of behaviour and intelligence is profoundly anti-evolutionary?
Seems to me that the environment determines who survives. The environment interacts with a genetic predisposition and intelligence to cull out those who are not fit. The survivors go one to multiply and evolve.
I am not familiar with Lewontin or the Roses, but I am familiar with Gould. Can you give me some references in his writings to support your claim that he is a Marxist?
You kind of make my point. One of the tenets of sociobiology is that you must consider the environment in which humans evolved - the small hunter/gatherer band.
People living in groups larger than 200 or so, capitalism and labor unions are only a few thousand years old at most. MUCH too recent for evolution to have enabled us to adapt to them. It takes thousands of generations before a beneficial trait becomes common in a species.
If you felt that humans should stick to the behaviors that are "natural" then I guess you will also have to say it is OK for men to impregnate as many women as they can get away with, abandon their wives once past child-bearing age, kill those from outside their tribe, kill children that aren't theirs, etc., etc.,
Realizing we have inherited certain instincts for base behavior (infanticide, voting Democratic)is not the same as giving in to them!
No, getting all you can as easily as you can requires nothing more than a little laziness and dishonesty. Why do you think there are tens of millions of Americans demanding more welfare, more affirmative action, more unionized jobs, more government handouts? Are they all doing this to PUNISH themselves?
Arleigh, I dont mean to imply that we are genetically pre-disposed to capitalism. Given that man is basically *selfish, lazy and cooperative capitalism is the natural economic system that will evolve. I would assume that capitalism has its roots in the early barter systems that were presumably in place many thousands of years ago. As soon as a group of people could begin to generate a surplus and establish trade with another group (or even trading within their own group) the basic trappings of capitalism would appear. (The basic trappings of capitalism are the ability right to generate and retain a net profit.) As a society evolves from hunter-gather to technological, the system refines itself until it reaches the level that we have today.
*These traits have been around for thousands of generations.
#24 No, getting all you can as easily as you can requires nothing more than a little laziness and dishonesty.
Individualism is a basic trait of human nature. So is laziness and dishonesty. If we were more concerned about others (not individualistic), capitalism would not exist. Neither would welfare because the recipients would work rather than freeload. And it takes freedom to be freeloader, aka, the poor houses and debtor prisons of not long ago.
The only goal of evolution is survival of the individual. We sometimes talk about group survival or good of the species as a convenient way to describe what has happened, but this is only a convenience. Evoultion does not work on a group level. The survival of the species is never a concern of evolution. Individuals are never concerned with the survival of the species (or, at least they werent until recently when we actually developed the means to annihilate mankind).
evolution- could be selectively modified to support just about any worldview, which indeed it has.
Good point, but in modifying a theory, you sometimes destroy the theory.
As a whole though, one can not apply the behaviors of animals to humans-well, you could, but they fall short, and often disreguard basic moral standards (which I suppose may eventually be discarded by "progressive thinkers"). Whether you imagine man as a special creation or a result of primate evolution, we are obviously distinct in behavior. Even the most "primitive" humans were far ahead of primates, so far as we can tell (if you disagree please point me to the evidence stating otherwise). In the end, both capitalism and communism and anything in between can be supported by evolution or creation, though to be fair there haven't been to many Southern Baptist Stalins. I would note that evolution proponents for some reason have a much higher number of radical environmentalists, which to me makes no sense (why attempt to curb evolution's course?). Not that your worldview (relating to origins in this case) matters, it does, very heavily, but it is not a fixed thing, obviously, in determing political views.
ANTS: Ants and bees are very selfish critters. Their behavior can be analyzed in terms of genetics and explained quite neatly.
Ultimately we are individuals. We put the good of the group ahead of ourselves in limited fashion. It is to my benefit that I dont whack my neighbor over the head for playing his stereo too loud I call the police and they whack him. But the police are also protecting me from my other neighbor who doesnt like me mowing my lawn at 7:00 AM. We have a social contract that insures that I can pursue my own interests and not infringe on you in the process. We both benefit. Primates are the same. They cooperate to a point, but when push comes to shove, they will (and humans will) kill for their own survival.
In the end, both capitalism and communism and anything in between can be supported by evolution or creation,.
Now we get to the nitty gritty. I dont think that you need to accept the Darwinian theory of evolution to see my point. Im just talking about the mechanisms of evolution, ie, survival of the individual. Ill quote from an earlier post:
Given that man is basically *selfish, lazy and cooperative capitalism is the natural economic system that will evolve. I would assume that capitalism has its roots in the early barter systems that were presumably in place many thousands of years ago. As soon as a group of people could begin to generate a surplus and establish trade with another group (or even trading within their own group) the basic trappings of capitalism would appear. (The basic trappings of capitalism are the ability right to generate and retain a net profit.) As a society evolves from hunter-gather to technological, the system refines itself until it reaches the level that we have today.
The fact that man is selfish and lazy may be because we are higher animals (hardcore evolutionist) or maybe this is the true nature of the original sin that God cursed mankind with. Either way, if you start with that premise, I dont see how you can possibly get to socialism or communism. If you can show me how, please do so.
(Marx started with the idea that man is totally a product of his upbringing and could be taught to live in a communist society. I say that man has these inherent bad qualities that no amount of social pressure will ever change.) I wont even comment on why evolution proponents for some reason have a much higher number of radical environmentalists.
However, you are right on one thing: nothing in human nature trends to Communism. However, it does trend to tryany in many cases, as one can see throughout history. At any rate, I would concede that communism and socialism, while not inherent to evolutionary theory, are influenced by it, or were, in their development. Now, whether wvolution can or should explain Communism...I personally think Communism is the upwelling of evil in men's hearts. To a certain degree, those that implicate Communism are usually following very base instincts as you would call them, that is, the goal to wield power over others, a degenerate expression of individualism (at the expense of other individuals!).
Now, what do you think of Singer's ideas on infanticide? One must concede (I think) that this is evolutionary, such practise can be helpful to the individual and indirectly to the species, can it not? And are you aware of some evolutionary reasoing suporting cannibalism? I do not say an evolutionist must support such things, however, to be consistent, I do not see how one can label these "wrong" (they can be quite benificial-ie your scenario with your neighbor). Likewise, evolution can be used to support other immoral practises quite readily. Now, does this in any way cause evolution to be wrong? Of course not. However (I think) it is worth noting its possible implications (perhaps from an evolutionists standpoint to battle against these immoral uses of the theory?).
Heh-heh, better quit my rabbit trail rambling for now...
Here it sounds like we are in very close agreement. However, I would say cooperative rather than semi-communal (dont like the socialistic sound). Tyranny, the evolutionary success of one man (group), is a deviation from the stable semi-free, loosely governed ideal. Time will rectify the situation.
I would go on to claim that the present society in the United States, a free market restrained to a point by a central government is near the optimum from an evolutionary standpoint. In principle, anyone can grab the gold ring.
...what do you think of Singer's ideas on infanticide
Having raised a few young ones, I can understand why one would contemplate infanticide at 2:00AM feeding time. But as a general practice, I would hope that our social morals would not let us do that. I suppose that a hard-core evolutionist could recommend that we be bred like cows for superior athletic ability, intelligence, good looks and charm, but this is taking a judgmental position on what is good for the human race. I dont like that sort of future. Ill take a gamble with the one I love and hope that we make good young ones.
Evolution is a scientific theory. Its purpose is to explain a set of observed facts. Whenever someone takes a scientific theory and attempts to draw morals from it, the *&*% will hit the fan.
You can justify, from a survival viewpoint, all sorts of immoral actions. But, justifying an action in terms of survival does not make it right or wrong, moral or immoral. We have agreed on a certain set of behavioral standards to judge right and wrong. These standards are not based on science, but on human experience and emotion.
As far as formulating your morals on science, I would speculate that one must have some kind of moral absolute for their to be...moral absolutes! The problem with evolution is that it brings morality and ethics down to the level of "whatever I will in my heart is right". Thus what I, or perhaps large segments of society, find to be "right" can fluctuate with no boundaries. Ah well, I'm fairly confident that all those years of fundamentalists tinkering with our brains has locked in a pretty decent set of moral codes, and I don't expcet the evolution supporters to start rushing about commiting heinous acts of violence against infants. I do think that we will see more and more basic tenents of morality stripped away, with evolution (indeed rightly so from a strict standpoint) used as a support. For while the people bent on this could use any number of world-view, evolution suits it better than others-but again, this is not a reason to discard it, on its moral merits alone, as a theory of science is neutral (a distinction liberals fail to make with things-another story!).
Evolution does not bring ethics down to the . People who try to read morals into scientific theories end up with garabage.
When L.A. had too much smog they turned to science and said How do we get rid of this. Our world view is that we will be happier if we have less smog. If you tell us what to do, we will make it the right and moral thing to do. Science responded, Clean up your cars,
. Now, the right thing to is drive a clean car, etc.
Society decided what was right (no pollution), then applied science to the problem.
The environmental issues facing us today are a good place to contrast right and wrong as decided from a social point (I want to live here), and those who use science for the source of right and wrong (You cant live here because there is 1/100,000,000 chance that you will get cancer) .
Science can guide us in what we should do to achieve an end, but what that end is depends on our world view. Our morals stem from thousands of years of experience living in a society. I dont see how this can generate absolute morals, but science certainly cannot provide them either.
whatever I will in my heart is right".
This is correct, because what we have agreed on, our social contract, has no basis in anything other than our emotions and desires.