Friday, April 14, 2006

Steve Jones and the moral Imperative. (Off topic)

Another rather profound point was raised by Steve Jones talk again in the question and answer session. It was his response to a rather garbled question about the role of intelligence in evolution.

His point was that human beings are able to step outside of evolution by virtue of their intelligence.

He mentions an observation for which there is good evidence:

Male rapists father more children than male non-rapists.

He agrees that based on the logic of Darwinian evolution rape is a “good” way to behave. He says that a naïve socio-biologist will explain the rapist’s behaviour in this way.

He then says that we invoke some other logic which provides a moral imperative…to get “Thou shalt not rape” bypassing the logic of evolution which says “Thou shalt rape.”

He says this (being evolutionarily successful by rape) is “entirely unacceptable anyway.” His argument is that “consciousness” provides the rule of what you should and should not do.

Presumably it is purely a matter of social convention that provides the “Thou shalt not rape” and in a society where rape is normal then we should have no problem with rape. Is a society which sees rape as “bad” better than a society that sees rape as normal…on what scale of values are we to judge other than simple majority vote or some kind of “moral feeling.”

It is this moral feeling or conscience or consciousness that I am interested in. Is it merely an accident of evolution in which case is it really authoritative? Are guilt feelings solely socially and educationally induced? If a society establishes entirely new guilt feelings can they be considered better or worse?

I suppose I am interested in how an atheistic gets to universal moral values.

5 Comments:

Blogger Lifewish said...

He agrees that based on the logic of Darwinian evolution rape is a “good” way to behave. He says that a naïve socio-biologist will explain the rapist’s behaviour in this way.

Actually he's factually inaccurate there. Fathering children by rape on married women tends to get you killed off by the husband thereof. Fathering children by rape (or any other means for that matter) on unmarried women results in your children suffering from a deficit of resources because they don't have a father to provide for them (historically speaking).

Cuckoldry is a much better approach, evolutionarily speaking. Completely coincidentally, it's also far more common - only about 4/5 of children belong to their purported father.

suppose I am interested in how an atheistic gets to universal moral values.

Atheists don't generally get to universal moral values; instead, they try to consider the long-term effects of their actions. I could go out and rape someone tomorrow, but then I'd be helping to create a society where that sort of thing happens, which isn't something I particularly want to do. Plus of course I'd get locked up, and a bunch of my fellow convicts would probably return the favour.

I find that the Golden Rule is a fairly decent approximation to the more complicated profit/loss calculations, so that's what I tend to go by by default.

9:23 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Oh, also, welcome back. Was starting to worry that you'd fallen down a hole or something ;P

9:24 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Thanks Lifewish! :-)

BTW I am interested in how you get to Christianity via Hinduism.

10:25 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

BTW I am interested in how you get to Christianity via Hinduism.

Uh... to the best of my knowledge, people generally don't. Am I missing something here?

3:53 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Ah, sorry, have realised what you were talking about and have responded.

12:28 am  

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