Saturday, December 16, 2006

Morality as a Result of Natural Selection

I have a question from the studio audience.

Beepbeepitsme asked, “What do you think about morality/ethics as a result of natural selection?”

Answer: About the same as what I think about round squares. The concept is incoherent.

Okay, let me back up a moment.

Natural selection has certainly had an effect on our dispositions to desire. We are disposed to acquire those desires that tended to keep our ancestors alive and reproducing. This includes an aversion to pain, a desire for sex, a ‘comfort zone’ regarding temperature, thirst, a desire for high-calorie foods, affection for one’s children, and the like.

These dispositions are morally relevant. That is to say, any moral theory that ignores these facts would go as far as a theory that concludes that an agent ought to alter the gravitational constant to one that better maximizes utility, or ought to ignore the second law of thermodynamics in case of extreme emergencies.

However, when people talk about morality itself being a result of natural selection, they tend not to be talking about the fact that evolutionary pressure has shaped the desires we are disposed to have. They tend to be talking about something more specific – the evolution of what our ‘moral sentiments’ pick out as good or bad.

The claim is that evolution caused us to develop moral sentiments (in the same way it caused us to develop eyes, nipples, and an appendix) and to link those moral sentiments to objects that tended to promote genetic replication. In other words, we are disposed to perceive something as being wrong because the perception that it was wrong helped our ancestors reproduce, and we acquired the same dispositions.

The ‘Is’/’Ought’ Problem

My first question is: What does it mean to ‘perceive that something is wrong’? What is the ‘something is wrong’ that we are allegedly perceiving something to be?

What concerns me is the implication, inherent in the concept of “ethics as a result of natural selection, that says, “I have evolved a disposition to value killing people like you. Therefore, you deserve to die.”

It’s the basic invalidity of this inference that I am referring to when I compare “morality as a result of natural selection” to “round squares”. The two concepts of , “I have an evolved disposition to value killing people such as you,” and, “You deserve to die,” has as much in common as the concepts of “round” and “square”.

This is not a new argument. This is simply an application of David Hume’s ‘is’/’ought’ argument. Hume said that those who attempt to derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’ need to explain how the ‘ought’ relationship is related to the ‘is’ relationship. It is an inference that he finds inconceivable. My objection above simply asks Hume’s question of those who accept the idea of morality as a result of natural selection to explain the inference from “is disposed to value killing people such as you” and “deserves to die.”

People who have followed my writing know that I think that the ‘is’/‘ought’ problem can be solved. I argue that if we had to choose between ‘is’/‘ought’ dualism and ‘is/‘ought’ reductionism, we need something a lot stronger than, “I don’t see how it can be done” to force us into dualism. Reductionism is the default position unless we are forced into dualism. Even then, we at least need a theory that starts to explain how something not a part of the ‘is’ universe can have any influence or relevance in the real ‘is’ world.

Yet, the inference form, “I have an evolved disposition to value killing people like you,” to “you deserve to die” does not solve that problem. It exemplifies the problem.

The Euthyphro Problem

The idea of morality as a result of natural selection suffers from the Euthyphro problem.

“Wrongness,” in this case, consists in being the type of person that others have an evolved disposition to kill (or to harm in other ways). If this is what “wrongness” is, then “wrongness” could be just about anything.

Above, I mentioned the fact that evolution has given us (even men) nipples and an appendix. It has given us a fondness for high calorie food, to store excess as fat, and to store as much fat as possible (because our ancestors were those that actually survived those frequent famines).

In short, evolution has given us traits that are useless, and traits that are positively harmful now that our environment has changed. We even have very real reason to worry that our evolved dispositions will ultimately lead to our extinction through war or global environmental catastrophe.

Even if it made sense to speak about an “evolved disposition to view something as wrong,” we still have to ask the question, “Is it such a good thing that we have this evolved disposition?” Perhaps it is an evolved disposition that we are well advised to get rid of. This, in turn, invites the question, “How do we determine if an evolved disposition to view something as wrong,” is, itself, a good or a bad disposition?

For example, it may be the case that we have an evolved disposition to value ridding land of people who “do not look like us” so that it can be populated by people who “look like us”. It is not outside the realm of possibility that we are the descendents of ancestors who had this disposition and who, because they were successful at ridding the land of rivals and populating it with like-minded people, actually ended up winning the war of natural selection.

It might also be the case that we have more ancestors disposed to rape than we may want to admit. As such, men might have an evolved disposition to force sex on women, rather than wait patiently for their consent and possible rejection.

Yet, I suspect that many people would see problems with the argument, “I have an evolved disposition to kill those who do not look like me; therefore, those who do not look like me deserve to die,” or, “I have an evolved disposition to value sex with you whether you want it or not; therefore, you have an obligation to let me have sex with you.”

These are not idle possibilities. Male lions, for example, have an evolved disposition to value killing their step children when they take over a new pride. This is evolutionarily useful – since they then devote their resources to raising their own genetic offspring, rather than the offspring of the pride members they drove off or killed.

Plus, of course, evolution has not given lions any altruistic attitudes at all towards antelope. Indeed, evolution has selected lions to value the hunting and killing of antelope. There is a long list of very obvious observations that easily falsify the idea that there is some necessary link – even conceptual link – between ‘evolved disposition to value’ and ‘altruism.’

Research

Some people look at the results of brain research that shows what happens in the brain when people make moral judgment to argue for a biological – and, from there, an evolved foundation for morality. Yet, these inferences are also flawed.

We can inevitably expect that some sort of brain process is going on when people make moral judgments. This is not a surprise. Moral judgments are a mental process – we knew this before we started the experiments.

However, the fact that we can take a picture of what happens in the brain when a person processes some information is not proof that the processes are valid.

I could, perhaps, take a picture of what goes on in the brain as a subject is converted to Christianity. Yet, the fact that I have data describing the mental process does not, in any way, prove the legitimacy of the inferences and implications that were a part of it. In fact, every time a fallacy has an effect on a listener, I should (theoretically) be able to generate data on the mental processes that result. Yet, the existence of physical evidence does not prove that the arguments were, in fact, valid.

If we were taking an MRI of Bush’s brain when he decided to attack Iraq, or that global warming was not a threat, or that the only people qualified to be judges are those who believed that our rights come from God, we would find that some mental process had to take place.

Not a very good mental process, but a mental process nonetheless.

And that’s the point. An MRI or similar brain experiments will show us what the mental process was. However, we have to do a lot of extra work to determine the quality of those brain functions and the relationships of the results to that which is true.

A research-oriented bio-ethicist points to a brain scan and says, “Ah ha! There’s my proof! I was right!”

Right about what? Do you think that I deny that moral judgments are brain function? That is something I am not going to deny. In fact, it is something I readily agree to. Yet, we still need a theory to distinguish good brain functions from bad brain functions, and that is what I am seeking to offer.

Effects of Evolution

One of the things that natural selection has given us is a malleable brain – one that changes as a result of experience.

This makes sense. If our survival depends entirely on genetic factors, then we need to hope that there are enough members of the species that has the right genes to fit into the new environment every time the environment changes, or that’s the end of its survival. When the environment shifts again, it needs enough members with a gene to fit it to that environment. In each instance, the genes that fit it to the new environment need not have given any special advantage in the original environment.

With a malleable brain, we do not need this type of luck. As the environment changes, it gives different feedback, which modifies our behavior to fit the new environment without any need for any genetic shift whatsoever. Furthermore, we can adapt others to the new environment without changing their genetics – simply by changing the (malleable) structure of their brain to match the new circumstances.

A round peg can only fit in a round hole. However, a malleable peg can fit in a round hole if the hole it encounters is round, or a square hold if the hole it encounters is square.

Natural selection has not only given us malleable brains, but a form of malleability where changes are more likely to promote survival over extinction. That is to say, there must be a way of making sure that changes in brain structure actually fit the creature to the environment. Of course, a history of environmental change, with only those whose malleable structure fit it to the new environment surviving, gives us this.

If you have a malleable brain whose structure is affected by environmental factors, and I wish not to be killed, then all I need to do is ‘figure out’ ways to modify the structure of your brain in ways that make it less likely that you will not kill me. Better yet, I might find ways that will cause you to care for me when I am sick or injured.

Meanwhile, you are doing the same to me.

Please note, we left “natural selection” behind once we had malleable brains influenced through interaction with the environment. At that point, we can start asking questions about how to influence the environment in order to generate useful brain states. If, as I argue elsewhere, desires are the only reasons for action that exist, then we only have ‘reasons for action’ to mold brain states to promote those that fill other desires and inhibit those that thwart other desires.

Now, let be briefly revisit my claim that “morality as a result of natural selection” is like “round squares.” Ultimately, this rests on the idea that moral questions are questions about how we are going to use environmental factors to influence mental states. In other words, morality is about social selection. Natural selection (except insofar as it makes social selection possible) has nothing to do with it.

4 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

Thank you for your reply concerning my question.

Although I am not sure we are thinking about the same topic, or the same words with the same definitions. I was a little confused by your reply, in all honesty.

It may just be that I have not understood your reply the way it was intended. That is certainly an option. I cannot claim to be the sharpest tool in the shed ;)

Firstly though, I am not convinced that any sort of morality/ethics which could be the result of natural selection, would be able to be pinpointed to a specific example, such as the right to kill another human and I doubt that any geneticist would press for an argument as "nature" being a valid excuse for chosen behaviour.

My take on it is that all our natural dispositions have had evolutionary advantage. This certainly doesn't mean that we as humans and conscious of the effects and affects of our behaviours would approve of our natural dispositions under all circumstances.

The social, cultural and religious constructs that all human societies have created, have done so not only in order to artificially select natural human behaviours; but to create frameworks through which these naturally occurring behaviours are considered appropriate.

An example of this would be the human ability to kill its own kind. This must have been evolutionary advantageous, or this ability would no longer be evidenced. (Big statement, I know...)

Certainly, when I think of natural selection, I do not think of specific instances where one could argue for the right to kill someone according to genetic precriptors.

However, whether natural selection may or may not influence human cultural behaviours is ameliorated by our awareness of the process and by our ability to reason.

Certainly one could attempt to make the case that the ability to use reason is the direct result of natural selection as an increase in brain size would have led to the potential for higher intelligence and the faculties of intelligence such as logic and reason.

According to natural selection, individual organisms with unfavorable traits are less likely to survive and reproduce than those with favorable traits, add to this the concept that this happens over a long period of time and it strongly suggests that the human ability to kill its own kind has NOT been lessened by the process of natural selection.

Take onboard that natural selection works on the inheritable component of a trait which then can be passed on to the offspring with the result that favorable, heritable traits become more common in the next generation; and you have a biological model of gene expression which results in naturally occurring human behaviours.

Naturally occurring human behaviours are then, through the influence of culture, frameworked to be of best advantage to each specific culture. So, my suggestion would be that moral or ethical constructs more than likely mirror our evolved behaviours, rather than supply "new ideas" about how a human being should or should not act.

Of course human beings, through the ability to be self aware and aware of the processes that drive us, have the potential to not only be passive in the process of evolution but active participants.

When we ascribe a "right and a wrong" to human behaviours we are actively participating and arbitrarily pronouncing, that natural human behaviours though advantageous, do not meet with our approval under all circumstances.

These artificial constructs for human behaviour do not lessen behaviours which we find distasteful, they merely place them into frameworks which state when, how, and why these naturally occurring human behaviours can be utilized, or when they are appropriate or inappropriate.

Therefore the constructs more than likely mirror our potentially naturally occurring behaviours, rather than providing, as we like to imagine, models of behaviour.

Humans have the ability to love, hate, kill, protect, have sex and reason. Aparts from numerous other characteristics which would probably make a huge list.

We have these abilities because they are evolutionary advantageous. (Even the abilities we may disaprove of. Afterall, natural selection is not concerned about how we feel about it, or our intentions. Natural selection occurs regardless of our intentions or our approval. )

Human beings then attempt to create the social, cultural and religious constructs for these naturally occurring behaviours. Morality and the study of it, are just parts of the many frameworks we use to try to justify or rationalize the natural existence of these behaviours.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

beepbeepitsme

when I encounter the concept of ethics by natural selection, it is typically from sociobiologists who argue that evolution has written a moral code into our brains - much as theists claim that God has written a moral code into our consciousness. Indeed, I do not think that the similarity of these views is an accident. Both are looking for an outside author of our moral sense.

Ethics by natural selection, then, is the view that specific moral principles are biologically/genetically hardwired into the brain/consciousness through a process of natural selection.


My take on it is that all our natural dispositions have had evolutionary advantage.

You mention that this is a 'big statement.'

In fact, it is false.

Our dispositions typically come bundled. Some are good, some provide evolutionary advantage, some do not. It is not uncommon for a bad trait to come bundled with a good trait and survive for that reason. One example: The same genetic trait that causes cicle cell anemia also provides an immunity from malaria.

Also, 'evolutionary advantage' itself is not an absolute. It depends on context. A trait might provide an advantage in one context, and a disadvantage in another. Its usefulness depends on the context that the creature then finds itself in.

A creature that alters his environment can turn a disadvantage into an advantage, or vica versa, as I illustrated in my posting.

Finally, 'atruism' does not provide an absolute advantage. Every time a predator eats we have a counter-example to the claims that evolution favors altruistic traits.


The social, cultural and religious constructs that all human societies have created, have done so . . . to create frameworks through which these naturally occurring behaviors are considered appropriate.

The idea of "considering something to be appropriate" assumes that there is something called "appropriateness" that it makes sense to consider something to be. If there is no such thing as "appropriateness", then anybody who considers something to be appropriate is considering something to be that which it is not.

So, we're stuck here until we first get an answer to the question, "What is 'appropriateness'?" Then we can determine whether it makes sense to consider something to be appropriate.


So, my suggestion would be that moral or ethical constructs more than likely mirror our evolved behaviours, rather than supply "new ideas" about how a human being should or should not act.

We have no need for 'moral or ethical concepts' to 'mirror our evolved behaviors' - any more than we need a concept of obligation to obey the laws of gravity, or a duty to follow the laws of thermodynamics. Our evolved dispositions are simply background conditions, like the laws of physics.

Note that our clearest and most basic evolved behaviors are those that have the fewest moral entanglements. We do not have an obligation to have sex, a duty to eat, a moral requirement to avoid pain. We simply desire sex, food, and have an aversion to pain.

If our other dispositions are like these, then why add the concepts of duty, obligation, or any moral term to the discussion at all?

I argue that we use moral terms to direct the course of social conditioning where they can have an effect. We call something 'wrong' to direct the forces of social conditioning (condemnation) against it and, thereby, make it less common.

There is no duty to eat or moral requirement to avoid pain precisely because these are naturally occuring desires, and social conditioning has no role to play.

These artificial constructs . . . place them into frameworks which state when, how, and why these naturally occurring human behaviours can be utilized, or when they are appropriate or inappropriate.

Again, what is 'appropriateness'.

See, I agree with this statement. We do use social tools to mold desires to promote some actions and discourage others. Desires are the only 'reasons for action' that actually exist. Therefore, they are the only 'reasons for action' to use in determining the structure of this framework. Finally, there is no need to use social tools where they can have no affect - so they are used only in areas where the mind/brain is maleable and can be influenced through social forces.

But we do not need - in fact, we have no room for an 'ethics from natural selection' in any of this. It plays no useful role.

We use our brains in order to alter our environment to fulfill our desires. We use it to avoid situations that are painful or uncomfortable - to create heat when we are cold, to gather food when we are hungry, to keep our children safe. We invent tools to do this more efficiently. Also, the more we learn, the more efficiently we can fulfill our desires.

Morality is not a framework for 'rationalizing' the behaviors we naturally have. We don't need a framework for that. Morality is a tool for altering our environment - primarily, for creating neighbors who will help us rather than to us harm.

(Or, if it not about the use of such tools, it sure makes a lot of sense to make it about the use of such tools.)

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: Alonzo Fyfe

"Ethics by natural selection, then, is the view that specific moral principles are biologically/genetically hardwired into the brain/consciousness through a process of natural selection."

The natural abilities to perform human behaviours would be genetically available and expressed through gene expression. This would, in my opinion, mean that the ability to kill can be genetically expressed, the framework for when it is appropriate to kill is where morality as a human construct comes in. The ability to create human constructs such as morality, ethics etc would also accordingly, be as a result of gene expression.

RE: " Our dispositions typically come bundled. Some are good, some provide evolutionary advantage, some do not. It is not uncommon for a bad trait to come bundled with a good trait and survive for that reason. One example: The same genetic trait that causes cicle cell anemia also provides an immunity from malaria."

I agree that this is true. I am aware of the sickle cell anemia situation. I suppose I am speaking more on how our genes may contain not only genetic information which may predispose us to varying illnesses, but also that because of our genes, various human behaviours are expressed.

RE: "Also, 'evolutionary advantage' itself is not an absolute. It depends on context. A trait might provide an advantage in one context, and a disadvantage in another. Its usefulness depends on the context that the creature then finds itself in."

I agree with qualifications. That human beings still exhibit the physical human behaviour of violence, would indicate to me that violence has a survival advantage. It does not have a survival advantage under all circumstances, but in a potentially violent world, human beings do have the ability to either counter violence with violence, or to choose violence as a method of conflict resolution. Whether or not we individually, or collectively approve of said examples of violence makes little difference to the fact that genetically, we are able to display violence. We just create human constructs such as ethics, religion, laws etc according to our ability to reason; which suggest how, when and why violence is permissible. Very few human societies have an absolute ban on violence, none that I can think of, not even buddhists, as violence has been a tool used in our ancestral genetic makeup - and remains there where it can be used if and when societal frameworks consider it is necessary for survival.

I don't see natural selection as "the god of the geneticist" any more than I see cosmology or physics as a god. Once the concept of supernatural entities such as gods, is removed from the equation, all that we can be is the expression of our genes and the potential and limitations of our genes within a human constructed framework of societies and cultures.

RE: "We have no need for 'moral or ethical concepts' to 'mirror our evolved behaviors' - any more than we need a concept of obligation to obey the laws of gravity, or a duty to follow the laws of thermodynamics. Our evolved dispositions are simply background conditions, like the laws of physics."

I don't think we have a need for this to happen. I just think it IS what happens. In the same way that gravity happens, or photosynthesis happens regardless of our opinion, knowledge of their processes, or human defined need for their existence. I don't think there is a great degree of human consciousness about it, nor does natural selection require our consciousness of it in order to occur.

Humans have been for thousands of years needing for human behaviour to slot into whatever it is that their respective god belief has supposedly allocated for them as appropriate. Whereas, I think that we just haven't been consciously aware that our human behaviours exist, not because of a god or gods who have handed down to us through men sets of absolute laws, but because those "laws" or the nuances and variety of those laws, are genetically encrypted and are expressed in one form or another through our genes. This doesn't make our genes gods, it makes them what they have always been, the building blocks for our physical survival.

RE: "If our other dispositions are like these, then why add the concepts of duty, obligation, or any moral term to the discussion at all?" Because it is what complex intelligent life does? We create frameworks which we believe will best serve the interests of the group or groups in which we individually exist. If we accept that humans have evolved and that our common ancestors are other hominids, then other monkey groups also have societal frameworks which have evolved to best suit the needs of the group. Human behaviours such as duty, obligation also can be used to serve the needs of the group. Duty can be expressed not only as an individual quality towards another individual, but also towards the group. These behaviours have a survival advantage to the group. Though, once again, not under every circumstance that one could imagine.

RE: "I argue that we use moral terms to direct the course of social conditioning where they can have an effect. We call something 'wrong' to direct the forces of social conditioning (condemnation) against it and, thereby, make it less common."

I don't think that our human frameworks alleviate or diminish the human behaviours that we find inappropriate. They may only provide frameworks where it is socially condoned or permissible to exhibit or display those behaviours to the group's survival advantage.

An example: I am capable of driving my car on the footpath rather than the road. I am capable of making this decision. Does it make any negotiable difference to me if there is no law prohibiting me from doing so? It doesn't to me. If the law about driving on the footpath was removed, I wouldn't have this compulsion to get my car on the pavement and knock over as many little old ladies as I could. Regardless of the existence or my knowledge of that law - it doesn't factor into either my desire to do so, my ability to do so, nor any perceived need to do so. Because under most circumstances, that behaviour is not beneficial to individual or group survival. If, at some stage, it was perceived to be beneficial to either my survival or someone else's survival, that a law existed that said I COULDN'T do it - would mean diddly squat. I would do, at that instant, what I considered beneficial for survival, either my own or others. The existence or non-existence of the law itself, however, neither encourages me, nor disencourages me.

The law only reflects what most people are capable of working out for themselves. That if we all choose to drive on the pavement/footpath/sidewalk, then we had better walk somewhere else. And as we have a vested interest in our own survival, it isn't difficult to imagine that the majority of other people do as well. This innate desire for group cohension and individual survival is what "drives" us - not the existence of any law which piggybacks these innate desires. So, is it the existence of the law which alters behaviour, or the obvious benefits that accrue to the individual or the group which influences behaviour? To me, laws of morality, civil laws are only indications of what individuals may naturally individually decide anyway. We are pack animals. We have, on the whole, the desire to "get along."

RE: "But we do not need - in fact, we have no room for an 'ethics from natural selection' in any of this. It plays no useful role. " Natural selection plays a role if you consider the social frameworks of our ancestors through common descent.

RE: "Morality is not a framework for 'rationalizing' the behaviors we naturally have. We don't need a framework for that. Morality is a tool for altering our environment - primarily, for creating neighbors who will help us rather than to us harm." I think morality IS this. The human construct of morality IS the attempt to rationalise naturally occurring behaviours into a construct which is of best advantage to the group. I think that our codes of morality are little more than the expression of that which would basically occur whether those codes existed or not.

Religionists have a major problem with this as they see naturally occurring human behaviours as either being inherently evil or inherently holy/good. Which is why they continually bash their heads against the natural world in hope that by doing so, that a naturally occurring sexual behaviour such as homosexuality will in some way cease to exist. (And no, I am not homosexual, but it would have been ok if you wanted to ask.)

Religious people have a serious problem with the natural world. In various arguments they are part of it, but above it, not part of it, but only here physically and not spiritually etc etc. The natural world is to many of them, something to be conquered, something to be subdued, something to be controlled, and their natural dispositions are something to be conquered or placed in a construct which would be pleasing to their supernatural deity.

It is essentially this mindset that the natural world is flawed through the sin of mankind, that makes them quite unreasonable when attempting to discuss morality and human nature with them. Obviously, I don't see the natural world as automatically my enemy. I am a part of it - an expression of it and I see no sense in railing against human behaviours which are an expression of this natural world. I may wish that those human behaviours are exhibited to my advantage, but I see no point in considering any human behaviour as sinful. (Sinful as per a religious point of view.)

In other words, it is more probable that human behaviours exist because of natural processes, rather than because of supernatural ones.

TheAman_1 said...

My take on this subject is a bit different. As Alonzo stated not all genes are beneficial and natural selection may select against a favorable gene if the gene is in the wrong environment, which is absolutely correct. He also stated that our brains are fluid and allow us to adjust to various environments without a need for genetic change which is also true. However there are other factors to consider.
Foremost is that many scientists seem to agree (at least concerning those I have read) that we have stopped our evolution at an intermediate stage. Essentially, through science, we are gradually gaining some control over our evolution, a process that will probably continue for better of for worse. This ability to have more control over our destiny is a positive trait because it acts against the blind forces of natural selection to some extent. It is true that as we gain a more complete scientific knowledge we may create problems, but I have far more faith in the learning ability of mankind than in the somewhat random forces of natural selection.

This brings up the question of religion and morality. In my estimation religion began as a system of government and a way to explain the unknown, and has now assumed only the latter. Mankind would observe natural events such as the rising of the sun or an eclipse and assign a mythology to explain its happenings. This gave him the illusion of having more control over his destiny because he could now appeal to the ‘gods’ and delude himself into believing that this would give him a measure of control over these natural forces. But then, this coincides with my former statement that obtaining a control over natural selection would present a survival advantage; our modern world is a testament to this because the whole of our society is due to the manipulation of the natural world. We build houses to keep out the elements and cities to exchange services and make finding a suitable mate easier. This leads to the question of morality because the concept of morality depends on the ability to manipulate not only our destiny, but also the destiny of others. This leads us to the basic rules of morality for which there are many ways to factor in natural selection.

Consider murder or warfare. Obviously death results in the depletion of the gene pool and increases the chances of suffering pain, and thus a more altruistic world view would be beneficial to avoiding this. The loss of genetic information also reduces the ability to adapt to various environments. I read your comment with lions with interest, but must comment that lions are not as highly evolved as we are and thus probably have not been as successful as homo-sapiens as far as survival is considered, and thus we should not take any lessons from them. Also consider that the most successful civilizations in the world have been based on a system of tolerance (some to a greater degree than others) from the early days of the Roman Empire to America. Thus I would consider the actions of the lions and mankind’s history to prove that there is a survival benefit to a moral belief against useless killing or murder.

Another factor you must consider is emotional pain. You stated that one of the primary instincts of animals is the avoidance of pain. I have read several studies that show that emotional pain is manifest in a way that is identical to physical pain (I can’t remember the sources otherwise I would give one). If this is true than one would seek to avoid this pain by not wanting to be lied to, or not being cheated on, etc. Good relationships help us establish a sense of identity because without others we have no other standard with which to compare ourselves, but this is only beneficial if ground rules are established that reduce the chances of suffering emotional damage and increase the chances of experiencing a positive relationship.

To conclude, I feel that we are at an intermediate stage where we are having a battle with the primitive nature of our primitive ancestors, and our new ability to control our fate and rely on something other than pure instinct. Morality is nothing more than a system that allows us to better establish a community, which provides us with more survival advantages, and thus natural selection is perfectly compatible with morality.