From Darwin to Eternity

Evolutionary moral psychology.

Morality: What is it Good For?

People are passionate about morality, but morality is too important to leave to passion alone. In order to be more rational about morality, we need to consider the origins, nature, and usefulness of morality, and doing so requires an evolutionary perspective. Read More


.. the article is biased - 'anything evolution comes up with is good'. i.e. what survives must mean it's better.

We could make the argument that since most people are mediocre with mediocre traits, therefore mediocrity thrives because it's easier to reproduce.

The biological world is rather arbitrary, inefficient, irrational and nonsensical.

Pseudo-Scientific Wishful Thinking

Agree. Guys like Steven Pinker just make up rationalizations that conform to their own world view.

Re: "Historically, groups with relatively empowering moral systems have tended to supplant groups with relatively enfeebling moral systems"

Tell that to Genghis Khan and scores of other less than "moral" hordes...

Agree somewhat

While I agree that it's very easy to rationalize information that conforms to your own view, I also agree with the statement that empowering moral systems have typically supplanted "weaker" ones. If that were not the case, wouldn't the entire world still be in a state of feudalism and terror, as immoral hordes of tyrants roam the earth killing and raping and pillaging, and mediocre citizens stand by and let themselves be taken advantage of? How is it then that (in many society's at least) this isn't the case?

It would seem that more positive moral beliefs (such as NOT killing, raping, and pillaging) have become dominant in many societies, and are very much seen as immoral actions by many people. This definitely appears to support the authors statement, and in turn the fact that Ghengis Khan and his immoral horde's are no longer around, and such hordes (typically) haven't resurfaced, or been allowed to thrive for very long, along with the fact that their past actions are typically viewed as "immoral, evil, and bad" by most moral individuals implies truth in the authors statement as well.

You also seem to be forgetting the section where he describes that morality differs through historical periods where different traits tended to be valued (areas where war is beneficial to the population-Medieval Europe) and different geographic locations (New Guinea), and that particular moral values are not universal around the globe.

The conversation is

The conversation is misguided. If there is to be a moral standard, then there needs to be some criterion by which the statements "A is good" (moral) and "B is bad" (immoral) can be given a truth value. We must be able to answer the question "Is that statement true?" decisivley. There is ongoing debate whether or not that that is possible. A short article such as that barely scratches the surface of the kinds of questions that moral philosophy (a.k.a. ethics) asks. Such as the case with philisophical issues there is no easy solution. The entire article itself begs the question "What is good?" The argument is circular because no one can escape the veil of subjectivity.

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Michael Price, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the psychology department at Brunel University, West London. He is also the co-director at the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology.


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