It may not be an error to equate science and ethics. Science continually moves into new domains.
I'm of the opinion that there is a valid utilitarian theory of co-operating intelligent agent ethics.
"Utilitarian" because the purpose of the ethical principles can be shown to be "group success"
(i.e. emergent-system survival / success in the competition with other potential
variants of emergent intelligent-agent systems that don't include ethical principles as
behaviour guides for their the agents.)
Indeed, you might be able to show that 'the purpose of the ethical principles can be shown to be "group success"', although I'm sure that someone will be able to think of exceptions. This is an explanation of why societies have certain ethical principles, and perhaps a method for arriving at new ethical principles. However, why should "group success" be a desirable goal? What if I said that I took sadistic pleasure in the suffering of others, and that I wanted to see the group fail rather than succeed, because I did not like the idea of people being more successful than I was? In your scientific study of ethics, you would have to add a footnote to the effect that some deviant elements in society do not follow the usual principles. You may go on to explore why this is, what could be done to avoid it, etc. But you would not be able to say that my deviant views were "wrong" and claim this as scientific statement. "Deviant" is a description of fact, but "wrong" is a value. It is like saying "I like chocolate": you could explain this in terms of the physiological effects of glucose, caffeine, theobromine etc., but the truth or falsehood of the statement "I like chocolate" is independent of such considerations.
Stathis Papaioannou Melbourne, Australia
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