Re: [Bulk] Re: Objective morality?

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat Aug 26 2006 - 08:26:50 MDT

At 08:49 AM 8/25/2006 -0700, you wrote:

>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.

What you say here invokes the SSSM, the standard social science model.

>react with more horror to the burning of the library of Alexandria than to
>any given war in history.

I would venture to say that most have never heard of the library of
Alexandria, sad as that might be.

>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.

That true, but unrelated to the point of how we came to have a sense of
what is moral.

>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.

Fortunately this is less and less likely.

Keith Henson

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