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Is morality genetic?

by gravenewworld
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gravenewworld
#1
Nov19-12, 05:45 PM
P: 1,405
Thought this was an interesting piece on 60 minutes last night:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRvVFW85IcU
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BenG549
#2
Jan12-13, 03:50 PM
P: 70
Quote Quote by gravenewworld View Post
Thought this was an interesting piece on 60 minutes last night:
Hi, unfortunately the link you provided is not available in the UK but for what it is worth... I think it is more than likely morality has an evolutionary basis, ancestors that learned to treat each other well and act in a 'good' way are more likely to survive... (although someone with a background in evolutionary biology might qualify that a little better) and hence genetics, and subsequently socialisation are likely to play a definitive role in how you think and feel about the world and hence govern your morality.
viryan23
#3
Apr21-13, 09:02 AM
P: 6
The Definition of Morality, retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/, April 21, 2013.

The term “morality” can be used either

1) descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
some other group, such as a religion, or
accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
2) normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

Morality is not genetic. It is conceived from the interaction of people. The common idea from above's definitions is people. Human beings are social animals. Check this link for more information: http://www.wiringthebrain.com/2011/0...come-from.html

ImaLooser
#4
Apr21-13, 08:52 PM
P: 570
Is morality genetic?

Quote Quote by gravenewworld View Post
Thought this was an interesting piece on 60 minutes last night:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRvVFW85IcU
I think that morality is both learned and genetic. If you send any time around animals it is pretty clear they have a moral code. It seems obvious that ants and bees have a generic moral code.

The ant/bee moral code is simple and not learned. In the case of dogs it is a bit more abstract -- loyalty to the group and all that -- and partly learned and partly innate. With humans it is even more abstract and more is learned and less is innate, but the basics are in there. Loyalty to the group is important. The question is, what is the group? Everyone has a different concept of the group, so that complicates things. Unlike ants, two groups may develop moral codes that are quite different. But I think that the basic moral principles are more or less the same for the great majority of people.

When I was at Harvard the ideas of BF Skinner dominated the psychology department. Basically it was that everything was learned. I thought that was a crock. Later the idea fell from favor, largely due to the work in linguistics of Noam Chomsky, who convinced most that the basics of language are innate.

I don't really know, but think Chomsky won like this. Marvin Minsky and the artificial intelligence people wanted to do automated understanding of language. They went to the then-orthodox Skiinner faction and were told that there were no innate rules and everything was learned by trial and error. Minsky tried that and it didn't work. He then went to Chomsky, who was also at MIT, and they figured out what the innate laws of language were. That worked.
zoobyshoe
#5
Apr21-13, 08:59 PM
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P: 5,625
Quote Quote by gravenewworld View Post
Thought this was an interesting piece on 60 minutes last night:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRvVFW85IcU
I didn't watch the whole thing but noticed something fishy. When they offered the babies a choice of the good guy or bad guy they only held them both equidistant from the baby in the case of the first baby shown. With the babies after that the good guy was always held closer to the baby than the bad guy, making the good guy an easier reach, a fact they obscured with a tricky camera angle.
Tzikin
#6
Jun6-13, 01:53 AM
P: 18
I consider that the developmental stages each has its specific morality, meaning the everybody has the spectrum within them. The one that is followed is learned by experience.
One specific level of morality that must be mentioned is that those who live by rational thought and abstract concepts are the only ones capable of altruism beyond those that they meet on a daily basis. Knowledge, objectivity and rationality are central to the concept of psychological assertiveness and considering the outcomes of their actions. Those that have learned to live by their emotions and the emotions of others have not reached this level of morality.
Well that just about explains the state of our society.
TimTimmy
#7
Jun6-13, 06:01 AM
P: 2
I don't like when people say things are because of "genetics". Sure it may play a role in some things but a lot of people write it off as "meant to be" and "no control over it".

I think morality is learned and how you were raised such as parents, media, school, environment, etc.
Tzikin
#8
Jun6-13, 12:25 PM
P: 18
Genetics is used as the ultimate excuse but so to an extent is learning. What about free will, especially when it comes to a subject like morality. Once you are an adult, you are largely able to choose your environment and learning experiences.
The only problem with free will is that choices are clustered in a similar way to the Locus of Control.

Internal Locus of Control - Knowledge and rational decision making are clustered with doing good deeds for the common good and also honest self-evaluation and taking responsibility for self-improvement and self-confidence. Assertiveness, which boils down to forethought about outcomes, is dependent on objective, rational and informed decision making.

External Locus of Control - Ignorance, subjectivity, emotional decisions, self-adoration, passive aggressivity and co-dependency. If there is one objective evil in the world, it must be co-dependency, destroying a person that you allegedly love and care for for the sake of blind egoism.

Clustering means that unless you choose knowledge, rationality and objectivity, and the difficult process of honest self-evaluation and taking the blame for your part in life's problems, you will be co-dependent. The problem is that in the world of ratings, sales and facebook likes, what sells is the myth that you can have your cake and eat it. People are being told that they can be irrational, overemotional, ignorant and subjective and be independent and empowered. They can have self-confidence that is independent of others rather than a brittle shell of egoism. They can be moral.

So their free will is corrupted in a society filled with myths and lies. Their decision making process is corrupted.

That appears to be the major influence of learning on morality.
exfret
#9
Jun19-13, 08:52 AM
P: 16
I do not know for sure if morals are genetic, but it does not seem to me to be otherwise. Sure, there might be free will, which, by the way, might not even exist, but how would so many cultures choose basically the same set of morals? You do not see anyone killing anyone else because they believe it is "right." In fact, pretty much our whole society has adopted the same set set of values. Ask almost anyone and they will almost certainly say that killing is wrong. I find this much too coincidental to even be a learned behavior. Sure, there are cannibals, but even they do not eat everyone. And, what about the moral of self-preservation? You may not consider it a moral, but if the idea that one should not die has somehow survived the ages, then how else could it have been passed down if not for genetics? Sure, there are depressed persons in society who choose suicide over self-preservation, but they make up the minority by far. Self-preservation prevails in every culture, and I do not even see how it can even be a learned behavior. For example, if a little kid tries to ride his/her tricycle without a helmet, his/her parents might say to him/her, "Wear a helmet, it is dangerous to go without one." The kid immediately understands that it is bad for something to be "dangerous" (this does not mean that they won't still argue, though) even though the parent has never specifically stated that the kid should be worried about self-preservation. Even if you find a way that self-preservation is learned somehow through imitation or something like that, then how would the behavior be accepted? Why would the behavior be learned? Even if the parent specifically said to the child, "Remember self-preservation!" then why would the child listen to the parent? How would understanding and listening to authority be a learned behavior, as well? If the child learns self-preservation through imitation, then why would the child be imitating things? And finally, what about feelings? Have you ever seen people say that they don't like happiness, besides goths (I hope I'm not being stereotypical by saying that goths don't like happiness, but that is my understanding of them), which are, once again, an insignificantly small minority? Happiness is not a learned behavior, yet almost 100% of the population experience and like it. Even if it was a learned behavior, then there would have to be some behavior in society that is passed down from generation to generation so that the set of morals adopted by each person in our society was so similar. Otherwise everyone would have a completely random set of values, or, more likely, none at all, which obviously isn't the case for our self-preserving, imitating, happiness-loving, and curious society.
Ken Natton
#10
Jun19-13, 05:56 PM
P: 272
This does feel like familiar ground that gets covered on a fairly regular basis, but I must confess that this is at least a different angle on it. A couple of responses to what has already been said here – throughout the development of life there have been repeated examples of co-operation overcoming the basic programming of self-interest, from the first genes collecting together on chromosomes, and the first multi-cellular organisms, through to the development of animal societies and ultimately the complexities of modern human society. But the underlying reason why that has happened at every level is not because of nobility or morality, which are entirely intellectual constructs, but simply because ultimately co-operation is more effective than self interest in achieving the primary goal, which is not just self-preservation, but actually maximum self-replication.

But the drum that I beat every time, and this is where it feels like so familiar ground to me, is to recognise that human beings, utterly uniquely, have a capability to act against mere instinct, against mere genetic programming. Though our genes undoubtedly influence our behaviour to a very deep degree, it is entirely mistaken to search for genetic explanations for a great deal of modern human behaviour. And pompous as this probably sounds, the very easy examples I would have to point to are the various humanitarian organisations around the world whose actions are excellent examples of humanity using its intellect to overcome its basic genetic programming. Of course there are plenty of obvious if more mundane examples of that kind of thing in everyday life. A much darker example of the same point is to say that when a male lion kills the cubs of the rival male it has just defeated, it would clearly be ludicrous to hold that lion criminally responsible for its behaviour. When a human step father maltreats the existing children of a new partner, it is right to hold him criminally responsible because it is reasonable to expect much more of a human being. That is not because of his genes and is entirely because of his ability to recognise and to understand the harm that he does, and therefore to expect him to choose to behave differently. The lion doesn’t have that choice.
exfret
#11
Jun19-13, 07:58 PM
P: 16
[QUOTE=Ken Natton;4421046] "throughout the development of life there have been repeated examples of co-operation overcoming the basic programming of self-interest, from the first genes collecting together on chromosomes, and the first multi-cellular organisms, through to the development of animal societies and ultimately the complexities of modern human society. But the underlying reason why that has happened at every level is not because of nobility or morality, which are entirely intellectual constructs, but simply because ultimately co-operation is more effective than self interest in achieving the primary goal, which is not just self-preservation, but actually maximum self-replication."

I realize that this paragraph is probably intentioned to make a point as to the fact that most organisms don't really have morals and that they are just acting in the interests of the group, but if, instead, you are referring to my post, then I was not stating that people always acted in self-interest, I was just saying that people had a basic want for self-preservation. Of course, sometimes, other wants override this one, such as the want to help others, but that doesn't mean that the want isn't still their. Also, I was just using self-preservation as an example to show that humans seem to have wants in common, which may show some genetic correlation.

[QUOTE=Ken Natton;4421046] "The lion doesn’t have that choice."

Assuming that lions don't have the ability to make choices and humans do places the human above the lion. There is no proof that a human is superior, even in thinking skills, over the lion. It is not scientifically correct to say that the lion cannot make decisions for himself/herself. This is something that is unprovable, or at least yet to be proven. It would, on the other hand, be okay to say that the lion has less choice than the human.

[QUOTE=Ken Natton;4421046] "But the drum that I beat every time, and this is where it feels like so familiar ground to me, is to recognise that human beings, utterly uniquely, have a capability to act against mere instinct, against mere genetic programming."

The point I was trying to get to was why someone would act against instinct. If our goals are not just to follow what feeling has us do, then what would our goals be? If each of us humans were to devise a unique set of morals to stick to, even when instinct tells us not to follow those morals, then our set of morals would all be completely different. For example, in my post, I wrote that, if you were to ask someone if killing was wrong, they would almost certainly say yes. Why would this happen amongst almost every member of the human race?

I like to draw an analogy to a calculator, which the human brain obviously is not, but it is still a good comparison. If you were a graphing calculator with a specific function, and you were provided inputs, then you would input these numbers into the function you were designed to carry out and come up with outputs. There will always be a specific pattern in which these outputs follow based on the inputs, but you would be the one "choosing" the outputs, so there is no reason for you to think that you have no free will. In fact, even if you were to try and do something unexpected to prove that you have free will, that still wouldn't prove your free will, because you have done that simply because you don't like the idea that you don't have free will, so you tried to disprove it. I don't mean to say that we are all just observers; this is what the calculator analogy was for: the calculator doesn't just observe the inputs as they come and go, it does something with them. This isn't just sitting around, but it is still without free will. Also, I don't mean to say that we definitely don't have free will, I was just showing that it is possible for free will to not exist. We live in a world without an apparent set of morals of its own, after all.

The main point I want to make is that there is no reason for us to stray from our feelings. When you feel like you have strayed from instinct, you may actually be following it. For example, if you donate to charity, this is probably because you not only get a good feeling from doing it, but you also feel that it is right. But where would this feeling of what is right and wrong come from? There is no way to prove through logical thought that something is right or wrong, so these morals must come from feelings. And why do we feel things? Feelings cannot be a cause of the mind, because you do not place them upon yourself. You are not the one who chooses to feel sad or angry. You are not the one who chooses to be happy. You can influence your feelings, but you can't control them, and even if you could, then why would you, for no reason at all, choose to feel certain feelings and not others? What logic would you follow to decide to have the feelings you feel? (Remember, you can't follow feelings to determine the feelings you feel, because that would involve a choice of the feelings you feel that hasn't been made yet). Also, for what reason would you choose to feel guilty about doing something like killing someone else? Guilt is a feeling that almost everyone dislikes, meaning that you probably dislike it, too, so there is no reason why you should place it upon yourself.
This means that feelings must come from somewhere outside of you, because there is no way for you to determine your feelings from the 'inside', which means that your morals must come from somewhere outside of you as well, because there is no way for your morals to be determined from anything but feelings that come from outside of you, which means that because you can't choose your morals from the 'inside', though you may or may not have a choice over your actions, you have no choice over your morals.
Ken Natton
#12
Jun20-13, 02:45 AM
P: 272
exfret - My previous comment was not aimed at you in particular but was just a general contribution to the discussion as I perceived it. And there is the rub, clearly you and I perceive it very differently. There has been a previous, very lengthy thread discussing the issue of free will at a level that was generally way above anything that I could contribute to, but the general basis was to doubt, if not to utterly reject the notion of free will. My personal, entirely unscientific response to that is to powerfully dislike, nay to despise the notion that we are merely chemical machines governed ultimately and entirely by the quantum interactions of the fundamental particles of which we are made. You will have to go some to convince me that a human being is not far, far more than merely the sum of its parts.

A better picture of my viewpoint on this is the idea – most definitely not my original idea – that humanity’s basic, genetically programmed behaviour is essentially barbaric, that civilised behaviour is entirely something that is learned, but is a very thin veneer that is very easily stripped away, exposing the unedifying reality that lies beneath. Guilt is a very interesting case in point. It is well established that guilt has nothing to do with the actual act, and only everything to do with our sense of how others perceive us because of it. Conscience is a sense of how others judge us, not directly a sense of right and wrong about our actions, although such a sense does inform our understanding of the judgements of others.

And to me, the point about this being something uniquely human is so glaringly obvious as to make me doubt the prospect of common ground. If we don’t agree on that point then I think we can safely assume that any consensus between us is impossible.
exfret
#13
Jun20-13, 02:01 PM
P: 16
Quote Quote by Ken Natton View Post
exfret - My previous comment was not aimed at you in particular but was just a general contribution to the discussion as I perceived it. And there is the rub, clearly you and I perceive it very differently. There has been a previous, very lengthy thread discussing the issue of free will at a level that was generally way above anything that I could contribute to, but the general basis was to doubt, if not to utterly reject the notion of free will.
I do not oppose the idea of free will completely. I did make a small comment that I wasn't trying to take sides. I was only writing about free will because the previous replies to the thread seemed to disregard the fact that humans could be without free will. Also, the possibility of being without free will isn't something to despise. Whether or not we are without free will doesn't change what happens in the Universe, so if it is then it is and if it isn't then it isn't. It's like despising Newton's law of gravity. Despise it if you want, but my stance is that free will may exist, but then again, it may not.

Quote Quote by Ken Natton View Post
And to me, the point about this being something uniquely human is so glaringly obvious as to make me doubt the prospect of common ground.
Why do you believe that the ability to make choices is so uniquely human? Do you believe that as we developed from apes that this ability suddenly popped up out of nowhere? I think that you have to give the lion some responsibility, even if their ability to make choices (if they have this ability) is nearly nonexistent. I would believe that we can process information better, but I think that lions and humans would still have the same chance of being without free will. After all, the lion still has a brain, which is thought to be the same organ in which thoughts are carried out in the human. What would be different about the human that would not be in a lion?

What I really wanted to emphasize is that there is no right or wrong, and if you have found out what is right and/or wrong through logical thinking, then I would be happy to hear it. (I say this quite literally, actually. It is a gloomy stance to take). Morals have to come from genetics, because we wouldn't produce them ourselves, and even if they did (I feel like I have repeated this multiple times before), everyone's morals would be completely different. Everyone's morals aren't different, though. Almost everyone has the same set morals. This is a fact only explainable by genetics.
Ken Natton
#14
Jun20-13, 03:33 PM
P: 272
Quote Quote by exfret View Post
Morals have to come from genetics, because we wouldn't produce them ourselves, and even if they did (I feel like I have repeated this multiple times before), everyone's morals would be completely different. Everyone's morals aren't different, though. Almost everyone has the same set morals. This is a fact only explainable by genetics.
The commonality in human morality is because of the common function of that morality – to make society work which is ultimately in the greater interest of every individual within it. Let’s not get dragged off on a discussion about whether or not society is in the greater interests of the individual – the current point is about common purpose. I do not accept your premise that if morality were not genetic then everybody’s morals would be different. Clearly, such a situation would serve no purpose at all, and morality exists for a purpose. Slightly at a tangent, I recall reading an excellent piece on this issue about the conflict between the principles of personal freedom in a liberal society and the need for restrictions to personal freedoms to make that society work, and how, for the most part, liberal societies work because of the restrictions we impose on ourselves with our own perceptions of our roles within that society, rather than restrictions imposed from above by a higher authority within that society. That is a tangent, but it perhaps helps to reinforce the point about how function drives the common themes in a morality system.


Quote Quote by exfret View Post
Despise it if you want,...
It is very good of you to invite me to continue with my feeling about the notion of a human being a prisoner of its make-up – believe me, I intend to continue with that viewpoint, whether or not you perceive any reason for it.


Quote Quote by exfret View Post
Why do you believe that the ability to make choices is so uniquely human?
And I do not believe that an ability to make any choices at all is uniquely human, but the kind of intellectual capacity required to act against genetic programming is. Doubtless some will point out to me other animal societies that also only work because of something identifiable as a form of morality – most obviously those of other great ape species – but that those systems are far cruder than the one that governs human society is a glaringly obvious point to me. The lion kills the cubs of its defeated rival entirely because it is genetically programmed to do so. It is not good enough to excuse human criminal behaviour on that basis. It would be pointless to imprison the lion for its actions because it would not attach its loss of freedom to its previous murderous act. Again, I am finding it difficult to believe that I am actually having to present this argument…
Evo
#15
Jun20-13, 05:28 PM
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Unfortunately this has devolved into a purely philosophic thread, as had been feared.


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