• Teaisnice
    I once heard the following as a response to Rosenberg on Morality and Evolution:

    It seems it is possible for our morality to stem from natural selection and adaptive drives. But if this were really the case, why aren’t our morals more viciously competitive? Natural selection implies a sort of dog-eat-dog competition. So why isn’t this dog-eat-dog mentality morally right to humans? It seems like dog-eat-dog or survival of the fittest socialization would produce in us the determination to overpower and out-live others. One could go so far as to say that we would adopt murder, hurting others, and bullying to be morally right if our morality stemmed from natural selection so as to establish fitness and weed out the less fit and unfit. We would feel it would be right to overpower and bully both the strong AND the weak.
    On the contrary, at the very least we feel that it is actually wrong to muder, hurt others, and overpower and bully the weak. It seems contradictory that these viciously competitive things that increase our chances for survival would go against the moral values we currently observe (that those viciously competitive things are wrong).

    1. If our morality stems from natural selection, then our morals would be more viciously competitive.
    2. Our morals are not viciously competitive (e.g. we do not think murder of socially unfit people is morally right).
    3. Therefore, our morality does not stem from natural selection.

    Here is my response:

    I would object to (1). Specifically, I would object to the claim that natural selection AMONG HUMANS is like a dog-eat-dog mentality that produces viciously competitive morals. Sure, it is survival of the fittest. But humans survive and be fit not by ‘eating’ each other, but by cooperating within groups in order to compete better at the individual level. From this, it follows that rather than murder, hurting people, etc. being adopted as morally right, more cooperative and postive actions would be morally right. What determines survival and fitness is one’s ability to cooperate with others and give others what they want, so that others will do the same back and advance one’s well-being. Plus, as one’ well-being is advanced, the cooperation aspect implies that everyone involved advances their own well-being as well (assuming we are rational beings with good information). In short, the response to above is not a strong objection to Rosenberg.

    What do you all think?
  • Echarmion
    your objections are good ones. Natural selection is not about who is the most viciously competitive. The only thing that's relevant is spreading your genes to the next generation. Cooperation helps with that not only because it helps you survive, but because family members share some of your genes. So the survival of family members is a direct advantage. This concept is called "inclusive genetic fitness".
  • Wayfarer
    Rosenberg’s mistake comes from treating science as religion. He crystallizes that error.
  • unenlightened
    It seems it is possible for our morality to stem from natural selection and adaptive drives. But if this were really the case, why aren’t our morals more viciously competitive?Teaisnice

    The answer to this is trivially obvious. Competition is costly. So the natural evolution of a parasite is from harmful to harmless and on to beneficial symbiosis. Evolution favours 'niches' and 'specialisms' to avoid competition. Top predators are invariably the most vulnerable species, because they are the most dependent. Cooperation is generally fitter than competition, capitalist bullshit notwithstanding.
  • StreetlightX

    Survival of the fittest might - and can and does - translate into survival of the most cooperative (though not only this).
  • Terrapin Station
    Natural selection implies a sort of dog-eat-dog competition.Teaisnice

    What is the basis for this claim? Naturalists would say that all traits of all living things emerged under or via the rubric of evolution/natural selection. But not all traits exhibit "dog-eat-dog competition." So obviously naturalists do not say that evolution/natural selection implies dog-eat-dog competition.
  • SophistiCat
    You and the other responders are right to pick on the first premise, but I think before or instead of trying to correct it with what we think is a more accurate prediction of the traits that evolution is likely to produce, the ignorance and hubris of presuming such knowledge just from a general idea of biological evolution (whether accurate or not) needs to be pointed out. Evolution is not "survival of the most vicious," nor is it "survival of the most cooperative" - it can't be summed up by a slogan or caricature. Evolution is messy and complicated, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who is paying attention to the world around them. Evolution is messy and complicated because nature is messy and complicated.

    You can find just about every conceivable example of adaptation in nature. There are relatively innocuous symbiotic parasites, but there are also really odious ones who still do pretty well for themselves. There are social organisms, but there are antisocial loners as well. Evolution follows no general principles: it is opportunistic. If there is a viable niche, it will probably be filled, for as long as it stays viable.
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