Brent meeker writes:
> Evolution explains why we have good and bad, but it doesn't explain why
> good and bad feel as they do, or why we *should* care about good and
That's asking why we should care about what we should care about, i.e. good and bad.
Good feels as it does because it is (or was) evolutionarily advantageous to do that, e.g.
have sex. Bad feels as it does because it is (or was) evolutionarily advantageous to not
do that, e.g. hold your hand in the fire. If it felt good you'd do it, because that's
what "feels good" means, a feeling you want to have.
But it is not an absurd question to ask whether something we have evolved to think
is good really is good. You are focussing on the descriptive aspect of ethics and
ignoring the normative. Even if it could be shown that a certain ethical belief has been
hardwired into our brains this does not make the qustion of whether the belief is one
we ought to have an absurd one. We could decide that evolution sucks and we have
to deliberately flout it in every way we can. It might not be a wise policy but it is not
*wrong* in the way it would be wrong to claim that God made the world 6000 years
>beyond following some imperative of evolution. For example, the Nazis
> argued that eliminating inferior specimens from the gene pool would ultimately
> produce a superior species. Aside from their irrational inclusion of certain
> groups as inferior, they were right: we could breed superior humans following
> Nazi eugenic programs, and perhaps on other worlds evolution has made such
> programs a natural part of life, regarded by everyone as "good". Yet most of
> us would regard them as bad, regardless of their practical benefits.
Would we? Before the Nazis gave it a bad name, eugenics was a popular movement
in the U.S. mostly directed at sterilizing mentally retarded people. I think
it would be regarded as bad simply because we don't trust government power to
be exercised prudently or to be easily limited - both practical
considerations. If eugenics is practiced voluntarily, as it is being practiced
in the U.S., I don't think anyone will object (well a few fundamentalist
What about if we tested every child and allowed only the superior ones to reproduce?
The point is, many people would just say this is wrong, regardless of the potential benefits
to society or the species, and the response to this is not that it is absurd to hold it as wrong
(leaving aside emotional rhetoric).
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