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Evolution and Morality


WalkerW

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While this is nothing new per se, most of the writings on the subject come from those who are more agnostic (e.g. Michael Shermer, Matt Ridley, etc.)

Tom Chivers, "Martin Novak: A Helping Hand for Evolution," The Telegraph (March 15, 2011).

I find this especially interesting given my fairly recent interest in neuroeconomics and readings in Paul J. Zak (ed.) Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy (Princeton University Press, 2008).

Novak's Nature article "The Evolution of Eusociality" is fascinating and I look forward to reading his new book.

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While this is nothing new per se, most of the writings on the subject come from those who are more agnostic (e.g. Michael Shermer, Matt Ridley, etc.)

Tom Chivers, "Martin Novak: A Helping Hand for Evolution," The Telegraph (March 15, 2011).

I find this especially interesting given my fairly recent interest in neuroeconomics and readings in Paul J. Zak (ed.) Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy (Princeton University Press, 2008).

Novak's Nature article "The Evolution of Eusociality" is fascinating and I look forward to reading his new book.

Very interesting article about Martin Novak. If Novak is correct, and co-operation and altruism have evolved as part our fundamental DNA, then it would be fair to say that people are at their very core, altruistic and good. This makes evolutionary sense because our genes have a much better chance of survival if our neighbors are altruistic and helpful. This also seems to go against the Church's teaching about the whole "natural man is an enemy to God" thing.

Interesting topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

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I doubt King Benjamin had human genetics in mind when he spoke of the "natural man."

I agree. King Benjamin was not giving a discourse about DNA . Although it might have cleared up some of the current confusion and conflicts regarding DNA studies and King Benjamin's ancestors. :P

I think King Benjamin meant that the natural man was man in his fallen condition. I agree with the Novak study that man is generally good. It's in our DNA.

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Natural man meaning, as we are without the "light of Christ" within us. Look at how humans treat each other when they have rejected their conscience (the light of Christ within them). Humans, in that condition, do things to each other that animals wouldn't even do and they do it with malice and delight.

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Countering this are descriptions, such as of a perfectly normal-seeming little toddler that I read about recently, playing with a shovel at a daycare sandbox, who, when a little girl tried to take it from him, attacked her with such ferocity that he gashed her head and nearly severed her ear.

All were shocked and astonished that such a little person, untrained in the ways of the world, could be capable of such violence.

I think it was Augustine, or someone expounding upon Augustine, who said that babies only seem innocent because they are weak; had they power to enforce their demands by physical coercion, they would be terrifying. Augustine wrote of a baby trembling with rage merely because another baby was suckling nearby and he was not.

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Countering this are descriptions, such as of a perfectly normal-seeming little toddler that I read about recently, playing with a shovel at a daycare sandbox, who, when a little girl tried to take it from him, attacked her with such ferocity that he gashed her head and nearly severed her ear.

All were shocked and astonished that such a little person, untrained in the ways of the world, could be capable of such violence.

I think it was Augustine, or someone expounding upon Augustine, who said that babies only seem innocent because they are weak; had they power to enforce their demands by physical coercion, they would be terrifying. Augustine wrote of a baby trembling with rage merely because another baby was suckling nearby and he was not.

The claim isn't that we are good all the time. The claim is that altruism is in our genes. But genes are fascinating things. It really is nature via nurture. See, for example,

Matt Ridley, "What Makes You Who You Are," TIME (June 2, 2003).

Ridley, "Our Genetic Slaves and Masters," The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 30, 2010).

I will point out that Augustine was a key figure in the development of original sin.

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This also seems to go against the Church's teaching about the whole "natural man is an enemy to God" thing.

I don't think so as this teaching accurately describes tendencies in human behavior to that go against the good and altruistic sides of our nature. It seems more to me that if God used evolution (which does not conflict with LDS doctrine in any way) to create the physical bodies of man, then He waited until our physical bodies would allow us to be receptive to things like the light of Christ and the Spirit, in opposition to our baser natures, and then initiated the Garden state of no death and the first humans born whose spirits were actual spirit children of God.

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Man did not really advance in pre history (before writing) until they began caring for the elderly and ensuring a greater cohesive shift in knowledge between generations. It is no coincidence that what God teaches to be good for man, also has naturally good consequence for man. Strict self interest goes against long term species survival in most animal kingdoms.

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Man did not really advance in pre history (before writing) until they began caring for the elderly and ensuring a greater cohesive shift in knowledge between generations. It is no coincidence that what God teaches to be good for man, also has naturally good consequence for man. Strict self interest goes against long term species survival in most animal kingdoms.

John Nash's (subject of the movie "A Beautiful Mind") Game theory also attempts to show (mathmatically) that societies and businesses will more often than not, cooperate because one company/societies' success often depends on the other company/society being successful.

This is not always a good thing. Just look at the insurance industry.

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The insurance industry does fine considering that it cannot do business between states and liability has created an intensively expensive business model called defensive medicine. In fact insurance could be much higher than it is if you deal from a potential liability risk averse position.

Cooperation does sometimes engender greater overall success. But self sacrifice does not. So even in game theory some certain values are counter intuitive to what people do. If you feel your money won't help, do you still give? I know some who do because they feel the moral obligation overcomes self doubt. So how does faith play into it?

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The insurance industry does fine considering that it cannot do business between states and liability has created an intensively expensive business model called defensive medicine. In fact insurance could be much higher than it is if you deal from a potential liability risk averse position.

I think your statement, "the insurance industry does fine" is probably the understatement of the year. Also, contrary to your assertion, the insurance companies do conduct business between states. For example, my life insurance is with Prudential (based in New Jersey), my auto insurance is Southern Insurance (based in Arizona) and my home insurance is Allied (Iowa). As for health insurance, ERISA Plans are not regulated by states.

Wow, I just read my above comment about my various insurance companies and it's probably time to consolidate!

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Cooperation does sometimes engender greater overall success. But self sacrifice does not.

I think every Christian would disagree with your statement that self sacrifice does not engender greater overall success. I'm guessing the Savior would also disagree with your statement about self sacrifice.

Also, there are thousands and thousands of stories (besides the New Testament) that highlight the benefits to others from the self-sacrifice of someone.

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I am speaking in terms of self interest making sacrifice unprofitable. Not the counter intuitive Chrisianity (from a self interest standpoint). Ours (Christians) is a stance that the next life is better and our sacrifice now serves to help ourselves and others in the next life.

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I think your statement, "the insurance industry does fine" is probably the understatement of the year. Also, contrary to your assertion, the insurance companies do conduct business between states. For example, my life insurance is with Prudential (based in New Jersey), my auto insurance is Southern Insurance (based in Arizona) and my home insurance is Allied (Iowa). As for health insurance, ERISA Plans are not regulated by states.

Wow, I just read my above comment about my various insurance companies and it's probably time to consolidate!

Each state permits or does not permit insurance requirements in its state. They have to meet as many as 50 different criteria and have to be licensed 50 different times. I cannot buy health insurance from New York to cover me in CA. Health insurance is heavily regulated in CA. Carriers are seperate companies from state to state and health insurance generally does not transfer. General rule is residency in the state must be six months before individual health insurance is allowed. Life is a different animal.

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Very interesting article about Martin Novak. If Novak is correct, and co-operation and altruism have evolved as part our fundamental DNA, then it would be fair to say that people are at their very core, altruistic and good. This makes evolutionary sense because our genes have a much better chance of survival if our neighbors are altruistic and helpful. This also seems to go against the Church's teaching about the whole "natural man is an enemy to God" thing.

Interesting topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

I think the natural man is one who refuses cultivation by the Lord, i.e. does not live by the light he is given, which in one aspect may well be coded into his DNA.

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Very interesting article about Martin Novak. If Novak is correct, and co-operation and altruism have evolved as part our fundamental DNA, then it would be fair to say that people are at their very core, altruistic and good. This makes evolutionary sense because our genes have a much better chance of survival if our neighbors are altruistic and helpful. This also seems to go against the Church's teaching about the whole "natural man is an enemy to God" thing.

Uh, I think not.

Clearly it is true to me that altruism is in the process of evolvING and has a long way to go.

The "natural man" is nowhere close to being a threatened species. As long as there is war, rape and murder, he will be strong and well.

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I think every Christian would disagree with your statement that self sacrifice does not engender greater overall success. I'm guessing the Savior would also disagree with your statement about self sacrifice.

Also, there are thousands and thousands of stories (besides the New Testament) that highlight the benefits to others from the self-sacrifice of someone.

Even in business, "self sacrifice" as practiced say, in negotiating a lower commission on a sale, will often result in a win-win situation which allows a transaction to "survive" which might otherwise have "died".

So in this sense, self sacrifice does indeed have survival value.

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Am I correct in believing that we are giving credence to evolutionary psychology? If so one can persuasively argue that homophobia is a logical outcome of evolution.

I read the book Superfreakonimcs and in it the author tackles altruism and comes to the conclusion that humans are not generally altruistic but are more prone to act out of self-interest, something we'd expect if we humans are just another evolutionary by-product.

He cites a famous study that argued from science that humans, generally, operate on altruistic impulses more so than out of self-interest. Since I am writing this from memory I cannot recall the study the author investigates nor do I remember the name of the individual the author writes about who, through personal experience and later proved through experimentation, believed the study to be bogus. But I can summarize the experiment he conducted to support his suspicion.

The individual was a card collector and went to a card show to perform the experiment. He enlisted volunteer buyers and vendors to experiment on. He presented the buyers and sellers with cards that he offered to them at various prices. In some cases he offered some cards for sale below their market value as well as offering to buy some cards far above what they were worth. He found that, generally, the buyers and vendors were not prone to take advantage of him and offered fair prices for the cards even when it was not in their self-interest to do so. Thus the altruism study was confirmed. The buyers and vendors then went back to the show to conduct their business.

Unbeknown to them the individual had other people helping him as well. These people went onto the trade floor and made similar deals to the buyers and vendors. And the opposite happened. The individual discovered that, more often than not, these people took advantage of these other helpers and operated out of self interest. More telling is that the vendors who were located out of town were more apt to "rip off" the people (he assumed it was because local vendors didn't want to hurt their reputations and thus business but since out of town vendors dealt with a different clientele they didn't care). The altruism study was now thrown into disrepute.

Why so? Because those participating in the experiment knew they were being watched and functioned how they felt they should. In other words they didn't want to look bad in front of the lab coats. However, out in the real world it was another story.

Morality is an oddly human trait that I doubt exists anywhere else in the animal kingdom. Think about it. Does your dog have morals? Does it understand what morality means? Why do we? I know it's important for atheists to explain morality away in evolutionary terms but they end up sounding just silly to me.

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Returning to the subject of Evolution, the BYU Board of Trustees in 1992 (which consists of the First Presidency and several other Apostles and Church leaders) approved the following statement in the BYU Library Packet on Evolution (not a direct link).

"The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33)." (emphasis added)

While the Church takes no definitive stance on human evolution, the Board of Trustees continually approves of courses on the subject well into graduate and post-graduate studies.

Without discussing temple content (which closed my thread on evolution earlier this week), is there anyone opposed to continuing the discussion with LDSGuy1986?

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Am I correct in believing that we are giving credence to evolutionary psychology? If so one can persuasively argue that homophobia is a logical outcome of evolution.

I read the book Superfreakonimcs and in it the author tackles altruism and comes to the conclusion that humans are not generally altruistic but are more prone to act out of self-interest, something we'd expect if we humans are just another evolutionary by-product.

He cites a famous study that argued from science that humans, generally, operate on altruistic impulses more so than out of self-interest. Since I am writing this from memory I cannot recall the study the author investigates nor do I remember the name of the individual the author writes about who, through personal experience and later proved through experimentation, believed the study to be bogus. But I can summarize the experiment he conducted to support his suspicion.

The individual was a card collector and went to a card show to perform the experiment. He enlisted volunteer buyers and vendors to experiment on. He presented the buyers and sellers with cards that he offered to them at various prices. In some cases he offered some cards for sale below their market value as well as offering to buy some cards far above what they were worth. He found that, generally, the buyers and vendors were not prone to take advantage of him and offered fair prices for the cards even when it was not in their self-interest to do so. Thus the altruism study was confirmed. The buyers and vendors then went back to the show to conduct their business.

Unbeknown to them the individual had other people helping him as well. These people went onto the trade floor and made similar deals to the buyers and vendors. And the opposite happened. The individual discovered that, more often than not, these people took advantage of these other helpers and operated out of self interest. More telling is that the vendors who were located out of town were more apt to "rip off" the people (he assumed it was because local vendors didn't want to hurt their reputations and thus business but since out of town vendors dealt with a different clientele they didn't care). The altruism study was now thrown into disrepute.

Why so? Because those participating in the experiment knew they were being watched and functioned how they felt they should. In other words they didn't want to look bad in front of the lab coats. However, out in the real world it was another story.

Morality is an oddly human trait that I doubt exists anywhere else in the animal kingdom. Think about it. Does your dog have morals? Does it understand what morality means? Why do we? I know it's important for atheists to explain morality away in evolutionary terms but they end up sounding just silly to me.

It also turns out that those immersed in market-oriented societies tend to empathize with others more than those who are not.

See J. Henrich, R. Boyd, S. Bowles, C. Camerer, E. Fehr, H. Gintis, R. McElreath, M. Alvard, A. Barr, J. Ensminger, K. Hill, F. Gil-White, M. Gurven, F. Marlowe, J. Patton, N. Smith, D. Tracer,

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Following this thread for a couple of days I find it surprising (or perhaps not) that no one has mentioned "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values", by Sam Harris.

This book speaks directly to the issue of morality and evolution. Dr. Harris shows that basic moral behavior (what one might term "Golden Rule" moral behavior) is exhibited in a number of species and can become quite sophisticated in some primates. He argues from evidence that this behavior is of benefit to the well being of social animals and, to some extent, has been responsible for the evolutionary success along our branch of the tree.

Harris shows conclusively that this kind of "it is best to act so as to not harm others" morality is a natural consequence of physical and social evolution and was exhibited in human society long before biblical times. He finds nothing in Christian biblical scriptures that is particularly insightful in this regard.

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Following this thread for a couple of days I find it surprising (or perhaps not) that no one has mentioned "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values", by Sam Harris.

This book speaks directly to the issue of morality and evolution. Dr. Harris shows that basic moral behavior (what one might term "Golden Rule" moral behavior) is exhibited in a number of species and can become quite sophisticated in some primates. He argues from evidence that this behavior is of benefit to the well being of social animals and, to some extent, has been responsible for the evolutionary success along our branch of the tree.

Harris shows conclusively that this kind of "it is best to act so as to not harm others" morality is a natural consequence of physical and social evolution and was exhibited in human society long before biblical times. He finds nothing in Christian biblical scriptures that is particularly insightful in this regard.

I have long argued that Kant's application of the Golden Rule lacked originality. That multiple advanced species might act in such a way is not surprising, though rationality per se is something I would contend is unique to the human species. Maybe one day I'll become an Overman and forget about all of this.

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What kind of humanistic religion are we becoming? There is more misinformation and bad doctrine in this thread than I can believe! I sure hope no investigators are reading all this trash!

Ther scriptures show us that the natures of our physical bodies left alone are always to bad things- overindulgences, sin, etc. It is only through the natures of our spirits that we overcome the natural man. This literally means it is in our spirit, not our DNA if we will have morales and ethics in society. It is our spirit, not our body that will be judged. We have account after account how an evil person saw the light and changed overnight and became good. We also see how good people fall and become devastatingly evil. Certainly this cannot be encoded in our DNA!

Take the BoM for example. We are told how one person can have an effect for the whole society. We are told how having an understanding of God can be the difference in being either good or bad in society. There is not some DNA predestiantion in our genes that chooses or has an effect on what we will choose morally or ethically in society.

Morales in society exist because of the spirit placed within our bodies. DNA has no effect on whether or not we will have morales or ethics in society. If that were true we could find the "bad gene" in our bodies, change it, and always choose the right. That is ridiculous! It is the spirit, not the body, that chooses good or bad.

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He finds nothing in Christian biblical scriptures that is particularly insightful in this regard.

Good for him.

He needs to read the Didache

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways.

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm

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