Monday, 13 September 2010

Not Morally Independent

This is one of those things that comes from the inference and observations of the natural world, plus the information gleaned from sociology and linguistics. A "moral" is a human term for a behavior pattern. Other species exhibit certain behavior toward each other (and even towards other species as seen in the popular video on Youtube called "Battle at Kruger", it’s worth a look), but they don’t call it anything special because they don’t communicate like us. It appears to biologists such as David Sloan Wilson (Evolution for Everyone, 2007) and Edward O. Wilson (The Diversity of Life, 1992) that the reasons such behavior in animals occur are best explained by theories about kin selection and altruism. 

In short, that old adage, "what I do to you is what I expect to be done to me" works in reality. This has an immediate effect on the organism’s survival prospects and ultimately their evolutionary success, for an organism that arbitrarily treats others for overtly selfish gains and displays "amoral" behavior is destined for the evolutionary rubbish heap. Morality, as we humans call this behavior, is theorized to have evolved around the same time that eukaryotic cells began group functioning rather than continuing to work alone. Group function relies on some sense of "morality" to work. Some animals have always lived solitary lives without group mentality but many organisms, including us, have lived in family groups for much of their ancestry. During this time these social creatures have "learned" morality (another human metaphor for evolutionary trait-descent) in order to continue functioning, and have found better and more complex methods of function together.

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