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Author Topic:   morality, charity according to evolution
Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 14 of 243 (310348)
05-08-2006 3:22 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by macaroniandcheese
05-08-2006 2:41 PM

Re: The evolution of morality
our competitors are other species. we want our own species to survive.
Hi Brenna,
I'm not sure I agree completely with you here (hey, there's a first time for everything...). However, it may simply be the way this was phrased. I would argue that, outside of parasites, virii and microbial disease-causing organisms we as a species aren't actually in competition with any other. At least not at the species level. Our greatest competitors since the end Pleistocene and the rise of agriculture, is H. sapiens. Intra- and inter-group competition has been the main selection pressure on us for ~10,000 years. It's a cultural affect, rather than a biological one.
The second issue I have with the way you wrote this is I think it may be stretching it to talk of the good of the species (i.e., "we want our species to survive"). I'm not sure you can make a case for either a cultural or biological imperative of this nature. We tend to be altruistic towards our extended family by biology (kin selection). Humans have evolved from that point to transfer this altruism to a greater or lesser extent to larger groupings (a form of group selection) such as tribe, nation, etc. I don't think we are (yet?) evolved to the point where we can transfer kin-selected altruistic behaviors to the species as a whole. Otherwise, why are we so adept at killing each other off in wholesale lots? Why are we apparently hell-bent on utterly destroying the biosphere on which our species depends for survival? Etc.
Just my thoughts.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by macaroniandcheese, posted 05-08-2006 2:41 PM macaroniandcheese has replied

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Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 17 of 243 (310412)
05-08-2006 8:44 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by macaroniandcheese
05-08-2006 7:05 PM

Re: The evolution of morality
we're no longer really in competition with anything. but again, this doesn't affect history. we are great hunters. once upon a time we were in competition with great hunters. now, we aren't. but when we were, we lived in small groups and the idea was to ensure the survival of the group and to be better at hunting than, say, lions.
Yep. And more adept at avoiding being hunted by... This is IMO pretty clearly where the biological basis of altruism evolved.
so now we no longer have competition and we've become idiots enraged with our technology and all we do is kill everything around us.
Especially each other.
none of this affects the fact that once upon a time we evolved altruism in order to ensure the continuation of the species.
This is where I disagree, I think. Altruistic behavior evolved probably to insure continuation of our own individual genetic legacy - which was extended early on to the genes of our close kin (google on Trivers, "reciprocal altruism"). We have not yet come close to anything resembling an instinctual (not really the right word) desire to continue the species.
Beyond the kin level, altruism today is still pretty much limited to identity-groups (nationstate, religion, girl scout troop, etc). Even supposed "extreme acts" of altruism (the person who jumps in the river to save the complete stranger) can be explained as representing a cultural altruism limited to place: sort of "this guy is in my {space}, therefore is a member of my group, therefore should be saved". I'm not sure I can back this up with hard science, but to me it is a natural extension of the kin selection/cultural group selection model. Just a bit larger scale.
it went from biological evolution to cultural evolution.
Yep, I think that's what I just finished saying. However, we are far from the "species altruism" you allude to. Hmm, it's Monday. I think I'll go bomb Liberia.

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 Message 16 by macaroniandcheese, posted 05-08-2006 7:05 PM macaroniandcheese has replied

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Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 23 of 243 (310478)
05-09-2006 10:53 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Hyroglyphx
05-09-2006 9:08 AM

Re: Some random thoughts.
To add to the overall argument: Morals fit nowhere in the evolutionary paradigm. Helping dying people detracts from your own sense of self-preservation, which Darwinism is totally based upon. Lying, cheating, stealing, killing competitors.... These sinful notions is what Darwinsim is all about. The fact that any of you are arguing that point is hysterical because it completely undermines everything you assert about evolution as it pertains to the animal kingdom.
I don't know about morality - there are some open threads on that. However, I think you are incorrect on altruism. We can certainly see genetically-based (i.e., subject to evolutionary processes) altruism in just about all eusocial/social species, including humans, to a greater or lesser extent. Have you been following the discussion on group selection between EZScience and Crashfrog on the Humans are Losing thread? An interesting read, regardless of which side you come down on.
The principle of intra- and inter-specific competition for resources (what you term "lying, cheating, stealing") is certainly a major part of evolution. Chiro will, I think, be addressing this in more detail in the discussion you and he are having. However, once any kind of "cooperative" behavior evolves (i.e., social behavior), in-goup competition is significantly lessened. Game theory quite nicely demonstrates why this occurs and how it could have evolved (google on "iterated prisoner's dilemma" for instance). Out-group behavior, of course, remains highly competitive.
In simplified terms, the more complex the available behavioral options, the larger and more diffuse the "in-group" definition can be. From the genetically hard-wired rigid caste system of eusocial insects, to the highly diffuse social system of humans, there is a continuum of increasingly complex and cooperative behavior, and lessening in-group competition. One down side is that, because human behavior is so complex (blame it on big brains and large populations), and so diffuse, we have less capability of dealing effectively with "cheaters". However, be that as it may, evolution provides a quite reasonable explanation for the development of altruism - even extreme altruism (i.e., self-sacrifice) - intially at a biological evolution level, and ultimately at a cultural evolution level.
IOW, altruism is perfectly consistent with our understanding of evolutionary processes.

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Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 28 of 243 (310486)
05-09-2006 11:55 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by Modulous
05-09-2006 11:35 AM

Game Theory and Altruism
Yep. ESS is how game theory translates to real populations (i.e., evolution). I didn't think there was need (yet?) to get into it unless NJ can go a bit further on this topic than he's been able to manifest with genetics.
Edited to change title before Nosey sees it and spanks me for non-descriptive topic titles.
This message has been edited by Quetzal, 05-09-2006 11:56 AM

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Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 98 of 243 (311996)
05-15-2006 1:02 PM
Reply to: Message 96 by Hyroglyphx
05-15-2006 12:57 PM

Reply Eagerly Awaited
Hi NJ,
In case you forgot (or couldn't find the thread again), I'd like to continue our discussion on the Mutations Made Easy thread.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 96 by Hyroglyphx, posted 05-15-2006 12:57 PM Hyroglyphx has not replied

Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 139 of 243 (313177)
05-18-2006 11:20 AM
Reply to: Message 136 by Hyroglyphx
05-18-2006 10:07 AM

Re: When rationalism fails
Hi NJ,
True or false: Evolution cannot continue without heterosexual contact resulting in the procreating of an offspring capable of carrying the parents genes?
False. The vast majority of species on this planet reproduce asexually. Evolution seems to proceed quite well without sexual reproduction, going by sheer volume of biomass whose existence and continuation is wholly asexual.
True or false: In order for homosexuals to have offspring, they have to go against their own self-proclaimed nature to do so?
No idea. I think it would depend on what the genetic (or other) basis for homosexuality would be.
True or false: Natural selection is completely dependant upon heterosexual sex producing offspring?
False. Again, asexual reproduction is the norm, sexual reproduction only occurs in a relative handful of taxonomic groups.
It doesn't attempt to justify behavior??? Then what has everyone of my dissenters have been trying to do for the last five days? Every last one of them has been giving piteous reasons for how morals developed and why natural selection chose those admirable traits. So how did you come to that conclusion?
Umm, no. From the responses you've received, it appears most people are trying to answer your question: how could it have evolved. Explanation does not equal justification.
Imagine the tumult and chaos that would ensue without its immutable law firmly entrenched in the fabric of the universe? Society is no different from nature in these respects.
Of course it is. Societies change constantly. Physical constants in the universe appear to be, well, constant. Even here, some of the physical constants we've identified don't always apply in every case.
Along comes Lamarck and Darwin. They presented an explanation for which there would be no Creator required for the creation or the maitenance of it. It was tantalyzingly sweet for anyone who sought to exonerate themselves from the whole of absolute morality. Darwin quickly gathered to him a large and faithful crowd that grew so enamored with its hidden implications.
I'm curious. Have you actually read Origin? If so, could you point out where Darwin talks about what you've written? Could you point on explicitly in any of Darwin's writings where he talks about abandoning morality? Do you have any evidence that Darwin recognized "hidden implications"?
Evolution is the backbone of humanism, not the other way around which we might expect.
I think you mean humanism and atheism are philosophically compatible with evolution, not the other way around. In any case, the science of evolution neither requires, presupposes, nor supports humanism or any other "-ism". It's simply an explanatory framework for what we see in nature.
I implore you to make note of the full title of the Origins of Species. The full title is: ”The origin of species by means of natural selection: or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.’
I have to admit, this is one, hmmm, "interpretation" of the title of the book I haven't seen before. Race, in the context in which naturalists used to use it, was an officially recognized taxonomic category below species level. Today we use subspecies and variety mostly for the same level. It didn't mean what you think it meant.
There are much deeper implications than this. If we supposedly evolved from an ape ancestor, then one race is more evolved than another. In fact, they constantly claim that the very first Homo sapiens are found in Africa, even though life originated in lower Mesopotamia. Where is the ambiguity? Most modern evolutionists don’t like the implications, but they can’t get around it. Most proponents have never even thought about it.
Why would it necessarily follow that if Homo sapiens, not to mention all the other Homo species, as well as the non-human primate ancestors on the lineal descent between Homo and the last common ancestor with the anthropoid apes, one "race" (which is of course a completely arbitrary and undefined categorization in the first place) of humans is more evolved than another? I guess you could probably make a case that modern humans as a species are "more evolved", in the sense of having more derived traits, than say Dryopithecus or the australopithecines, but beyond that evolution has zip to say on the topic.
It does appear that our species evolved in Africa, although there is a minority of scientists that argue about a multi-regional origin. I personally don't think the evidence I've seen supports that, but it's really not my area of specialization so I could be wrong. On the other hand, you are the first to propose that life itself originated in Mesopotamia. Certainly that area appears to be one of the first centers of civilization and agriculture, along with centers in China and the Indus valley. However, to show that life originated there ~3.5-3.8 billion years ago you would have to not only find the trace fossils to support that claim, but would have to show where modern Mesopotamia was in relation to the ancient continental landmasses of the time. I don't think that's possible, although one of the geologists here might be able to show differently.
What do you mean by diversity? The fact that we have so many species on earth and/or that there are many subspecies within a taxonomical niche?
Yes, to both. Except I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean by "taxonomical niche". It's a term I haven't heard before. Could you elaborate?

This message is a reply to:
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Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 153 of 243 (313244)
05-18-2006 3:59 PM
Reply to: Message 149 by Hyroglyphx
05-18-2006 2:52 PM

Re: When rationalism fails
Ah, some more of that hair splitting, aye? We're currently discussing homosexuality which would obviously only occur in mammalian vertebrates.
Erm, no. You made a statement. Asked whether the statement was true or false. I responded, and gave a brief explanation of my answer. That doesn't really constitute "splitting hairs" does it? If you wanted your question addressed in the context of homosexuality, then you needed to phrase it better.
As far as the mammalian vertebrate part goes, this is also incorrect. Transgender and hermaphroditic organisms are common in nature. Homosexuality and homosexual behavior is relatively common in vertebrates, but similar behavior patterns have been observed in other taxa as well. So my answer would still be "false".
You have no idea??? The thing is, everything described by evolution and natural selection seem to have some logical reason behind it.
Right. As in "I don't personally know." Not as in "there is no explanation." And I agree with the second part: everything described by evolution has a logical reason behind it.
Somebody at least concede that its bizarre.
I conceded no such thing. I simply pointed out that I didn't know. How you get from that admission to a concession that the behavior is "bizarre" is beyond me.
The root of society, any human society, is unchanging.
I beg your pardon? We have the same society as Rome (for instance)? If society is unchanging, why aren't we still carving cuneiform into stone tablets like the Sumerians? Societies change constantly - that's why the social structure in the US today is very different than the social structure of the US in 1783, or 1950 for that matter.
No, I can't point out where he talks about abandoning morality. That's why I said, "hidden implcations." He tried to reconcile morality into a naturalistic, capricious evolution. Everyone in that time and prior to, believed in a Creator who created all of life and established a set of morals to be used like a compass to guide our lives in the right direction. When Origins came along, it gave so many the hope they were longing for... Exemption. Exoneration. They objected to the morals prescribed in Biblical liturgy and took to the fields of science to save them. And Darwins naturalistc stance was the form of escapism they yarned for.
And of course you have some way of showing that this is indeed the case? Writings from the period, perhaps? Especially since we're talking Victorian England here - one of the most straight-laced, stiff-necked, and socially hide-bound periods in English history? (The Elizabethans, now, THEY knew how to party! Unfortunately, they predated Darwin by quite a bit). There's no way I'm going to accept this assertion without some kind of substantiation.
I went over that. Yes, race meant subspecie. I agree. But what is the underlying message? One subspecie is more highly evolved than another, right?
No. One race or subspecies is simply different from another. The concept pre-dates Linneus. Darwin took that perfectly acceptable and well-understood term, explained why it was the case. Trying to make more out of it than exists is stretching it. As far as one being more "highly evolved", that's not the case either. One population (to use modern parlance) may be objectively more "fit" for its particular environment than another, but that's really all Origin talks about.
Its a veritable breeding ground for racism.
So's the Bible, the Torah and the Qu'ran as far as that goes. You can see the results of the misuse of those books even today. What's your point? A very few of the folks who read Origin misused the concepts to further their own philosophies? Well, okay. However, Darwin never subscribed to them himself, and his writings, including Origin and Descent of Man didn't either. He was really quite enlightened on that score for his times.
Because Australiopiths are routinely asserted to have come out Africa long before Neanderthals. The Neanderthals are typically portrayed as being the first Europeans who win supremecy against the Australiopiths or that they spread due to isolation. So, it seems that one group is less evolved than another. What does this mean in terms of race relations?
No, actually. The australopithecines were long extinct before H. neanderthalensis appeared on the scene, as were most other members of the hominid lineage. Modern humans supplanted Neanderthal. Even so, who was "more evolved" (man, I hate that term) has more to do with the metric you use than anything else. Modern humans may in fact directly or indirectly have out-competed them for resources, or may have out-technologied them, or there may be some other explanation. However, I tend to lean toward the indirect out-competition model. The pattern appears closer to the American grey squirrel vs European red squirrel in England, for instance - competitive exclusion. Doesn't mean they were "more evolved", any more than the two squirrel species are "more evolved" one over the other.
To make a long story short, it has absolutely nothing to do with relations among populations of modern humans.
I actually meant 'taxonimic niche.' I suspect you knew what I meant but felt the compulsion to correct me anyhow.
Erm, no. I don't care how you spell it (and I think your first spelling was closer, actually). I still have no clue what it means. That's why I asked you to clarify.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 149 by Hyroglyphx, posted 05-18-2006 2:52 PM Hyroglyphx has replied

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 Message 174 by Hyroglyphx, posted 05-19-2006 12:31 PM Quetzal has replied

Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 181 of 243 (313572)
05-19-2006 2:14 PM
Reply to: Message 174 by Hyroglyphx
05-19-2006 12:31 PM

Re: When rationalism fails
What do hermaphrodites have to do with the equation? Its amazing that more of them aren't born, being that all fetuses are androgenous leading to a dimorphism in the early stages of development. In any case, I'm not sure how this fits in to our conversation.
It was just a clarification of my statement to which you took exception. Merely a response to this:
We're currently discussing homosexuality which would obviously only occur in mammalian vertebrates.
No big deal.
Hermaphrodites are just another form of reproduction. Whiptail lizards are all female - they self-fertilize - for instance. The reason there aren't more examples of this type of reproduction probably is similar to why sex was invented in the first place. There appears to be a net opportunity cost related to parasitism, among other things, in asexual reproduction.
There should have been a comma in there, as in: 'Somebody, at least concede that its bizarre.' Meaning, 'Will someone, at the very least, admit that its bizarre?'
Ahh. Thanks for the clarification. I'm easily confused.
I said the 'root' of society, not the minor intricacies. The roots would include laws and social norms. All societies are virtually identical, without any coersion from other nations to assimilate. Its only methodologies that change from society to society.
That's just the point. Laws and social norms DO change, often radically, in any society over time. As I suggested, look at the differences within US society pre-WWII, post-WWII, and today. It gets even more different the further back in time you go. The laws and social norms of 1783 are very different than those of today.
You don't think the ToE has underpinnings and underscores of atheism at the heart of it? Apparently you take the Deist approach that, if there is a Creator, it made everything at the very beginning and does nothing else for all of eternity. Maybe this paper will help aggrandize my view.
Sorry, I'm not a deist. And no, I don't think the ToE says anything about philosophy or metaphysics. It's merely (hah!) a comprehensive framework for understanding the the diversity of life.
Thanks for the article. I haven't read that particular Woodmorappe essay. I'd just like to point out that Darwin's comment that Woodmorappe referenced concerning the lack of necessity for including the supernatural refers to the fact that his theory uses natural explanations for diversity. He was arguing against ad hoc explanations, not against the existence of the divine. And he was right on this one - the diversity of life doesn't require or presuppose the existence of the divine.
In 'Origins', (the book that I've never read), Darwin goes into the differences between domestication and natural adaptations. He delineates around the two in hopes to eventually marry one another. But even he recognized that out of all these alleged gadations, everything appears abruptly. I would agree that Linneus and Darwin recognized what everyone could plainly see; that organimism can create subspecies.
"These difficulties and objections may be classed under the following heads:-Firstly, why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?...Thirdly, can instincts be acquired and modified through natural selection? What shall we say to so marvellous an instinct as that which leads the bee to make cells, which have practically anticipated the discoveries of profound mathematicians?-Charles Darwin
Right. The quote is from the introduction to Chapter VI. You need some more ellipses though, each of those is taken from a separate paragraph. Interestingly, he also mentions a fourth problem - sterile hybrids at the species level vs. fertile hybrids at the variety level. Of course, the latter poses a problem for creationists because it opens the possibility that there are gradations in relationships between different organisms. An idea that could lead to the evils of macroevolution, among other things. Probably why most creationist website leave that last one off. In any case, as you'll know from your reading of the book, Darwin then spends the next three chapters discussing the details of why these four issues aren't a real problem. I always thought it was pretty smart of him to openly acknowledge potential problems, and then proceed to justify his reasoning in such detail.
If evolution only goes in one direction, from simpler to more complex, then evolution refers to a refining over time, which clearly expresses a direction. You can object to "highly evolved" but until you can explain it in other terms, everyone will continue to know exactly what it implicitly means.
That's the whole point: evolution doesn't go in any particular "direction". It doesn't always proceed from simpler to complex. It doesn't refer to "refining" over time (except in the sense that any population that survives over time will adapt to its immediate surroundings). And I do object to the term "highly evolved". Most evolutionary biologists use the term "derived" vs. "basal" when they are discussing characteristics - for instance those that appeared later in time than others.
I'm not suggesting that Darwin was an overt or covert bigot. I'm using simple logic here. If the general direction is more intelligence, more fitness, better suitability to the enviornment, then there is unquestionably a direction from lesser to greater. What are the implications as they relate to races? One race is less evolved than another. There should be no ambiguity.
Well, I would say the "logic" you're using here is anything but as obvious as you're trying to make out. In the first place, adaptation as I've mentioned is is relative to the particular environment. If the environment favors "simpler" organisms (say, as in the evolution of barnacles from free-swimming organism to sessile), then evolution goes compex => simple(r). The "direction" you postulate here is falsified by the existence of the opposite.
With reference to your questions on race (and I'm assuming here you're talking about different human populations, not the taxonomic classification "race"), there is no implication. Certainly within human populations, no "race" is more or less evolved than any other. We're all the same species, at the same evolutionary plateau. This is made quite clear in Descent of Man by the way - a book that was almost more controversial at the time than Origin. Why controversial? Because it absolutely and unequivocally stressed the evolutionary "equality" of all humans. Not a concept that British imperialists and American "manifest destiny-ists" wanted to contemplate.
If Neanderthals lived before modern humans existed, and modern humans branched out of Neanderthal, then modern man is more highly evolved. According to theory, Neanderthal couldn't compete with modern mans intellect. And so a line of demarcation is drawn in the sand. We see the same drivel being played out today with intelligence quotients and whatnot even today. Its the Us :vs: Them mentality.
That brings up a very interesting point. In the first place, I'd like to point out that modern humans didn't evolve from Neanderthals. They are two separate species, both of whom appear to have derived from separate populations of Homo erectus in two different locations: Neanderthal in Europe, modern humans in Africa. In other words, it was an "African" invasion of Europe that directly or indirectly wiped out the first Europeans. How's that for upsetting the racist card, eh? By the ludicrous categorization of "race" used by the people who want to pretend evolution = racisim, it was the Africans that were "more evolved" than the Europeans. Gotta love science...
That was quite a few posts ago, and if I hit the 'back' button, I'm liable to lose everything I've just typed. I think what I was referring to was subspecies, as in small adaptations due to isolation, inbredding, or natural selection. A taxonomic niche could just about anything that enhances survival in whatever enviornment, i.e. white fur when living in the Arctic. Some foxes have it and some don't. If you stuck a typical redtail fox in the arctic, he'd probably be less likely to deal with the cold or predators than his Arctic cousin. But beyond that, I can't remember what the conversation was about.
Thanks for the clarification. Yeah, it's hard to keep track sometimes when you have so many people to respond to. It was a pretty minor point, IIRC. For future reference if you want to refer to this kind of adaptation again, a better term is "ecological niche", or just "niche". It was your use of "taxonomic" that threw me.
Edited by Quetzal, : fixed quoting

This message is a reply to:
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Member (Idle past 5984 days)
Posts: 3228
Joined: 01-09-2002

Message 204 of 243 (315048)
05-25-2006 12:22 AM
Reply to: Message 199 by Hyroglyphx
05-24-2006 11:13 PM

Woo Hoo! Quotemines. My Favorite
I'm only going to bother with the first six, since these are quite exemplary of creationist distortions. This is more illustrative than comprehensive.
DMS Watson (note the initials aren’t even correct in this misquote): Taken out of context and written in 1929, to boot. Full quote here. Verdict: out of date, deliberately out of context
Nils Heribert-Nilsson: geneticist, 1940’s-50’s. Believed enzymes were genes and that the moon was captured only 13,500 years ago - sort of Velikovsky lite. Verdict: out of date, crank
Newton Tahmisian: no reference. Allegedly a physicist, but the only actual references are from creationist sites. May possibly refer to Theodore Newton Tahmisian, a zoologist from the 1940’s. Need fuller citation. Verdict: unknown, but either unqualified or out of date.
John Polkinghorne: theoretical physicist and ordained Anglican minister. Verdict: unqualified
David Raup: completely out of context (full quote here). Verdict: deliberate lie
William Fix: non-scientist (as near as I can tell). anti-evolutionist. His alternative "theory" to evolution was something he called "psychogenesis". In a nutshell (literally), he believed that changes in lineages were driven by psychic powers. 'Nuff said. Verdict: crankiest of the cranky
So NJ, your brilliant refutation of evolution boils down to a collection of deliberately out of context, ancient, unqualified, and/or crank quotes? I for one am utterly convinced.
Edited by AdminModulous, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 199 by Hyroglyphx, posted 05-24-2006 11:13 PM Hyroglyphx has replied

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