Re: Objective morality?

From: Larry (
Date: Fri Aug 25 2006 - 09:49:58 MDT

On Fri, 25 Aug 2006, Keith Henson wrote:

> Humans have a sense of what is moral. Like all such psychological traits it
> is the result of evolution.
> On that basis, one can predict that what we consider moral is that which is
> good for the survival of our genes or a side effect of evolution in hunter
> gatherer bands where the people around us tended to be related (inclusive
> fitness).

With humans you have to look beyond genes. While many animals have some
degree of learning from others, humans have taken this to an extreme. Most
react with more horror to the burning of the library of Alexandria than to
any given war in history. Our knowledge and its transmission is now much
more important than individual genetic variation. A genetically "unfit"
individual with the right knowledge is much more fit than a genetically
"perfect" individual who is ignorant.

We are rapidly heading toward making our genes completely irrelevant, even
now gene therapy is available. We are no longer a species that depends on
the genes of ancestors.

The disgust with the burning of the library of Alexandria gives a good
hint of the current basis of morality. Its not just about passing on
genes, few even know or care if Einstein or Plato had children, but
rather about insuring the continued existance of human knowledge.

> What is good for the survival of genes is environmentally influenced if not
> determined. So what we consider moral should be flexible to the
> environmental situation.
> I could provide and analyze lots of supporting examples. But can anyone
> think of a counter example where this is not true?

I tend to agree if you replace "gene" with information. Of course
morality depends on the situation. In general killing is a very bad
thing, but if someone was about to take a torch to the last known
repository of human knowledge I'd kill them and/or sacrifice myself to
save it with the absolutely certainty that I'd done the right thing.

P.S. A possible discussion for SL4. Should things fall apart instead of
      rising to some trascendant state, we should make sure knowledge is
      preserved, books buried in desert conditions known to have preserved
      ancient works in the past. Also possible gold etched with digitally
      encoded knowledge. However due to the value of gold this
      has less chance of survival upon discovery. But if deposited in many
      sights would be likely to have atleast some records survive.

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