Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
Brent Meeker writes:
>> If your species doesn't define as unethical that which is contrary
to >> continuation of the species, your species won't be around to
long. >> Our problem is that cultural evolution has been so rapid
compared to >> biological evolution that some of our hardwired values
are not so good >> for continuation of our (and many other) species.
I don't think >> ethics is a matter of definitions; that's like trying
to fly by >> settling on a definition of "airplane". But looking at
the long run >> survival of the species might produce some good
ethical rules; >> particularly if we could predict the future
> > If slavery could be scientifically shown to promote the well-being
of > the species as a whole does that mean we should have slavery?
Does it > mean that slavery is good?
Note that I didn't say "promote the well-being"; I said "contrary to
the continuation". If the species could not continue without slavery,
then there are two possible futures. In one of them there's a species
that thinks slavery is OK - in the other there is no opinion on the
OK, but it is possible to have an ethical system contrary to the
continuation of the species as well. There are probably peopel in the
world today who think that humans should deliberately stop breeding and
die out because their continued existence is detrimental to the survival
of other species on the planet. If you point out to them that such a
policy is contrary to evolution (if "contrary to evolution" is possible)
or whatever, they might agree with you, but still insist that quietly
dying out is the good and noble thing to do. They have certain values
with a certain end in mind, and their ethical system is perfectly
reasonable in that context. That most of us consider it foolish and do
not want to adopt it does not mean that there is a flaw in the logic or
in the empirical facts.
Words like "irrational" are sometimes used imprecisely. Someone who
decides to jump off a tall building might be called irrational on the
basis of that information alone. If he does it because he believes he is
superman and able to fly then he is irrational: he is not superman and
he will punge to his death. If he does it because he wants to kill
himself then he is not irrational, because jumping off a tall enough
building is a perfectly reasonable means towards this end. We might try
equally hard in each case to dissuade him from jumping, but the approach
would be different because the underlying thought processes are different.
I don't disagree. I'm just pointing out that values contrary to continuation
of the species are not likely to be among the basic hardwired values of any
species. Those conducive to continuation probably will be - with allowance for
changes of circumstance rapidly compared to biological evolution. So values in
an evolved species are, on the whole, not just free floating, independent of
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