Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The State of Philosophy and Atheism Regarding Evolution and Morality

Classes start in 348 days.

Actually, it seems that there are no current obstacles - just potential setbacks (like being hit by a bus and suffering brain damage). So . . . Yeah . . . 348 days from today I will be nervously anticipating the start of my first class.

On the department website yesterday I saw an invitation to perspective graduate students to visit the department, contact the professors, and attend presentations. I had been assuming that those options were not available until I was enrolled and paying my tuition. I will be taking advantage of that in the weeks ahead.

One of the issues where I was thinking I could be making a contribution was concerning the relationship between evolution and morality. One of my current themes has been the criticism that evolutionary psychologists have discovered the evolutionary foundation for moral beliefs. My complaint has been that an evolved moral belief is a contradiction in terms. It simply makes no sense to day, "I have evolved a disposition to kill you and feel justified in doing so; therefore, you deserve to be killed."

Well, as I have gone through the Philosophy Bites podcasts, one thing that has become clear is that moral philosophers already know these things.

Take, for example, Amia Srinivasan on Genealogy.. Srinivasan talks about using the genesis of an idea as a justification, and specifically about linking moral arguments to evolved beliefs. She specifically mentions the points that I have made on the illegitimacy of those types of inferences. We need some type f independent verification that our evolved beliefs are true. Where is that independent verification to come from?

Previous episodes also addressed these concerns - enough for me to now conclude that the objections that I have raised are already generally known among philosophers.

In terms that I have used in the past – evolution perhaps can explain why we have a certain amount or a certain kind of altruism. However, I am still waiting for the evolutionary justification for the claim “altruism is good” and for evolution to justify claims about how much and what kinds of altruism we SHOULD have.

I am not surprised that moral philosophers are already aware of these concerns. The objections are actually quite obvious to any who are concerned enough to have their beliefs grounded on reason to look for them. There has to be some psychological need to believe that evolution justifies morality to gloss over these concerns.

In ignoring these objections, atheist tribes are behaving in substantially similar ways as the religious tribes they ridicule. They have a favorite belief that they are comfortable with (evolution explains morality), and the simply shut out objections to a favorite belief. They do not ask whether these beliefs are reasonable, and if they happen to encounter an objection to a favored belief their eyes glaze over and brain stops until they get beyond the objection, and they can continue with their favored beliefs intact.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog posting, atheist tribes like to blame religion for things that are actually the fault of human psychology. Consequently, atheist tribes fall into the mistake of assuming that, in virtue of being atheists, they are immune to the cognitive biases that afflict “lesser” (theist) humans. That is a mistake.

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