Monday, August 30, 2010

Evolutionary Morality

[From left to right, Jon Meacham of Newsweek (moderator), Marc Hauser, Daniel Dennett, Antonio Damasio, and Patricia Churchland.]

Marc D. Hauser is an American evolutionary biologist and a researcher in primate behavior and animal cognition who teaches at the Psychology Department at Harvard University. In August 2010, Harvard found him solely responsible for eight counts of unspecified scientific misconduct.

The details are still hazy, however apparently Dr Hauser attempted to enhance his scientific prestige by fabricating results of experiments he had done with monkeys. He is probably best known for his 2007 book Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, in which he argues that people are instinctively moral and this evolved naturally from our monkey and ape ancestors.

This is hardly unique in the history of science. Freud, history's most famous psychiatrist, is now know to have been a fraud. Margaret Mead, history's most famous anthropologist, was apparently a fraud.

So in any case, the next time you read about some scientific evidence proving that the Torah is bogus, don't rush to throw away your tefillin. Take a deep breath and take it all with a large grain of salt. No offence to any chimps out there, however people who learn their ethics and morals from apes may be a little suspect.


Anonymous said...

If morality is merely evolved behavior, them immorality is also evolved behavior. So why is immorality worse than morality.

And how could self destructive behaviors evolve via a Darwinian process? And how could altruistic self-sacrifice evolve.

jewish philosopher said...

The fact is of course that the obligation to be kind to others was invented by Judaism.

Without fear of God, people tend to be extremely brutal. See this book for example:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous-- do you know anything about evolution? Its about passing on genes and survival of species, not about the individual. If an individual is an uncooperative immoral jerk, that won't happen. He gets killed, thrown out of his group and can't keep a mate.

"people tend to be extremely brutal."

You are right, it just depends on his circumstance, not on God. If there is societal breakdown, such as in Afghanistan, then people are cruel, brutal and selfish, caring maybe about their own family. If you live in a cohesive orderly society, like Holland, most people are gentle and altruistic.

I suspect that if you lived in Afghanistan you would probably behave like the Taliban, despite belief in God.

Shalmo said...

Yet the majority of the world now reject the jewish ethic of mandatory genocide as seen with the Amalekites and Canaanites

AND the majority of jewry, even orthodox ones now agree with that ethic

Where did people learn values against slavery, misogyny, genocide? Certainly not from the Torah. On the contrary Jewry today are the ones who change the Torah in order to not longer associate with those same values

Clearly we are getting our values from somewhere, somewhere clearly other than the Torah

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1:55

If an individual acts like a jerk, then his genes are quickly removed from the gene pool, because need to live cooperatively. This is evolutionary psychology 101. But there are many, many uncooperative jerks out there. Why weren't the jerk genes removed from the gene pool centuries ago? An evolutionist would say that there is some survival benefit to being a jerk. See, evolution is somehow can be twisted to explain everything, why people are good, and why people are bad.

And you didn't address my main points. I wasn't talking about jerkiness. I was talking about altruistic self sacrifice, e.g. Mother Theresa, and self destructive behavior, e.g. suicide.

jewish philosopher said...

"If an individual is an uncooperative immoral jerk, that won't happen. He gets killed, thrown out of his group and can't keep a mate."

Unless he is sneaky enough not to get caught stealing and killing. So we might have evolution selecting the best liars.

"like Holland, most people are gentle and altruistic"

Until a few generations ago, Holland was devoutly Christian and this has surely influenced their culture today.

But even in the gentle Netherlands, there are about 150 murders per year from a population of about 16 million.

The Orthodox Jewish community has zero murders from a population of about 2 million.

"jewish ethic of mandatory genocide"

That has been irrelevant for thousands of years, as I explain in detail here.


Jewish slavery wasn't so bad.


We treat women fairly well too.

"Clearly we are getting our values from somewhere, somewhere clearly other than the Torah"

Considering the level of violence even in the most peaceful countries, if not from the Bible, probably the values come from apes.

Philo said...

What Hauser did was wrong, but don't you think if this was normal in the scientific community, don't you think Harvard would have tried to cover this up, instead of pretty much publicly shaming the guy?

jewish philosopher said...

The whole thing is pretty vague at the moment, however actually it does sound like Harvard has/is trying to cover it up.

NC said...

Shalmo, please stop the breathtaking hypocrisy.

All religions claim to be peace loving. Maybe they are, maybe not. But, when you ask yourself, who are the people who have blown themselves up and kill their own countrymen and co-religionists, in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Sudan? They are MUSLIMS. More Muslims die at the hands of other Muslims than anybody else.

No, maybe this is not because of Islam. But when they rely on fatwas, mullahs and Koranic verses as inspiration, Islam has a problem. So stop pointing at Judaism, you know that Talmudic ethics replaced the Torah which is no longer practiced by Orthodox Jews. Unfortunately no such parallel thing happened with the Koran.

I know that many liberals will blame the West for exploitation and oppression of Muslims, as an excuse for this behavior. But that's all it is, an excuse.