Tag Archives: Eudomonia

If moral values evolve…….

16 Sep

Evolution

Where you ground or anchor moral values is the question of the moment.  Any time someone says, “You had better do this or that!” the logical question to pose is: SAYS WHO???????

Let’s exercise our critical thinking skills as we take up this ethical source pivot.

To start, what are the major alternative origins of ‘good and evil’ of ‘right and wrong’?  Some possibilities are:

  • individual preference
  • a society’s preference
  • DNA evolved responses in individuals or groups
  • a force within the created order that is more powerful than either individuals or groups
  • an impersonal super-natural being outside of the universe
  • a personal God who is outside of the created order

Let’s look at the 3rd possibility that a society’s values emerge in an evolving environment where the strong members’ genes get passed down and continue in the species.

If that premise is accepted as a grounding source of ‘the good’, then here are some questions that come to mind:

  • How can both the tendency to share (not hoard) resources with others AND steal from others co-exist?   Wouldn’t that be a binary trait?
  • If survival of the fittest culls a population, where do life-sacrificing heroic actions originate?  Wouldn’t they be considered anti-survival?
  • Where did our almost universal belief that killing innocent human beings is wrong originate?  How does DNA differentiate ‘good guy killing’ versus ‘bad guy killing’?  And if killing others were a desirable trait for survival, why didn’t we just kill ourselves off long ago?
  • If ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are defined as actions and beliefs that make a group flourish (Aristotle called it EUDOMONIA), why don’t all starving people groups practice cannibalism?  Who gets to determine which segments ‘flourish’?

You probably can think of other ramifications that would follow if we accept that values are just the built-in natural choices that a group’s members default to, based on evolving DNA.

Finally, going back to the source or grounding of our values, here is a question that bothers me:

Should moral outrage and remonstrance be taken seriously?  If so, why?

  • if we are just acting out of our DNA, then we are determined people like dominos.
  • if we are stating merely our preferences, who cares?  I have my own preferences just like you have yours.  Who gets to arbitrate?  Does ‘might’ make ‘right’?
  • if the outrage comes from a created element within our system, let’s try to demolish or avoid IT.  Maybe enough of US can eliminate IT!

However, if the outrage originates from a supernatural being, then we need to be concerned!

Question:  Can you see any other wellspring or root of morals or standards?