The Consequences of Natural Morality

Good and Evil are not objective things.  They exist as subjective impressions, creating a powerful illusion that they are objective things.  This illusion that Good and Evil are objects independent of the conscious minds that imagine them exists for a good reason.  It “works.”  In other words, its existence has enhanced the probability that the genes responsible for its existence will survive and reproduce.  At least this was true at the time that the mental machinery we lump together under the rubric if morality evolved.  Unfortunately, it is no longer necessarily true today.  Times have changed rather drastically, making it all the more important that, when we speak of Good and Evil, we actually know what we’re talking about.

Philosophers, of course, have been “explaining” morality to the rest of us for millennia, erecting all sorts of complicated systems based on the false fundamental assumption that the illusion is real.  Now that the cat is out of the bag and the rest of us are finally showing signs of catching up with Darwin and Hume, it’s no wonder they’re feeling a little defensive.  Wouldn’t you be upset if you’d devoted a lot of time to struggling through Kant’s incredibly obscure and convoluted German prose, only to discover that his categorical imperative is based on assumptions about reality that are fundamentally flawed?

A typical reaction has been to assert that the truth can’t be the truth because they would be unhappy with it.  For example, they tell us that, if the enhanced probability that certain genes would survive is the ultimate reason for the very existence of morality, then it follows that,

•  We must all become moral relativists

•  Punishment of criminals will be unjustified if Good and Evil are mere subjective impressions, and thus ultimately matters of opinion.

•  We cannot object to being robbed if some individuals have genes that predispose them to steal.

•  We cannot object to racism, anti-Semitism, religious bigotry, etc., it they are “in our genes.”

…and so on, and so on.  It’s as if we’re forbidden to act morally without the permission of philosophers and theologians.  I’ve got news for them.  We’ll continue to act morally, continue to be moral absolutists, and continue to punish criminals.  Why?  Because Mother Nature wants it that way.  It is our nature to act morally, to perceive Good and Evil as absolutes, and to punish free riders.  If you need evidence, look at Richard Dawkins’ tweets.  He’s a New Atheist, yet at the same time the most moralistic and self-righteous of men.  If asked to provide a rational basis for his moralizations, he would go wading off into an intellectual swamp.  That hardly keeps him from moralizing.  In other words, morality works whether you can come up with a “rational” basis for the existence of Good and Evil or not.  Furthermore, morality is the only game in town for regulating our social interactions with a minimum of mayhem.  As a species, we’re much too stupid to begin analyzing all our actions rationally with respect to their potential effects on our genetic destiny.

Other than that, of course, the truth about morality is what it is whether the theologians and philosophers approve of the truth or not.  They can like it or lump it.  My personal preference would be to keep it simple, and limit its sphere to the bare necessities.  We should also understand it.  In an environment radically different than the one in which it evolved, it can easily become pathological, prompting us to do things that are self-destructive, and potentially suicidal.  It would be useful to recognize such situations as they arise.  It would also be useful to promote instant recognition of the pathologically pious among us.  Their self-righteous posing can quickly become a social irritant.  In such cases, it can’t hurt to point out that they lack any logical basis for applying their subjective versions of Good and Evil to the rest of us.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

2 thoughts on “The Consequences of Natural Morality”

  1. My position exactly. Few years ago I went through “existential crisis” because i find out I cannot explain logically some things I believe, and I find out some things I believe contradict other things. Then I started to read about genetics, and finally I came to conclusion that I have no choice anyway, so I should stop worrying 🙂

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