The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (59 page)

BOOK: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology
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The solution to such mysteries is one of the great challenges in contemporary science. Often the route to solution will involve these themes: (1) distinguishing between the behavior and the mental organ governing it; (2) remembering that the mental organ, not the behavior, is what was actually designed by natural selection; (3) remembering further that, though these organs must have led to adaptive behavior
in the environment of their design (since that's the only reason natural selection ever designs a mental organ), they may no longer do so; (4) remembering that the human mind is incredibly complex, that it was designed to yield a large array of behavior, depending on all kinds of subtleties of circumstance, and that the array of behaviors it yields is tremendously expanded by the unprecedented diversity of circunv stance in the modern social environment.




* Actually, Darwin divided the "survival" and "reproductive" aspects of the process. Traits leading to successful mating he attributed to "sexual selection," as distinct from natural selection. But these days, natural selection is often denned broadly, to encompass both aspects: the preservation of traits that are in any way conducive to getting an organism's genes into the next generation.

* In this book I will sometimes talk about what natural selection "wants" or "intends," or about what "values" are implicit in its workings. I'll always use quotation marks, since these are just metaphors. But the metaphors are worth using, I believe, because they help us come to moral terms with Darwinism.

* Actually, a ground squirrel (or a person) shares much more than half of his genes with a sibling — and, indeed, with other members of his species. But fairly novel genes, genes that have just appeared within a population, will, on average, reside in half of an organism's full siblings. And novel genes are the ones that matter when we're talking about the evolution of new traits.

* The argument here is crucially different from other arguments about morality that have been made in this book. Here the contention is not just that the new Darwinian paradigm can help us realize whichever moral values we happen to choose. The claim is that the new paradigm can actually influence — legitimately — our choice of basis values in the first place. Some Darwinians insist that such influence can never be legitimate. What they have in mind is the naturalistic fallacy, whose past violation has so tainted their line of work. But what we're doing here doesn't violate the naturalistic fallacy. Quite the opposite. By studying nature — by seeing the origins of the retributive impulse — we see how we have been conned into committing the naturalistic fallacy without knowing it; we discover that the aura of divine truth surrounding retribution is nothing more than a tool with which nature — natural selection — gets us to uncritically accept its "values." Once this revelation hits norm, we are less likely to obey this aura, and thus less likely to commit the fallacy.

* Actually, one premise of the new Darwinian paradigm is that natural selection's guiding light is a bit more complex than "survival and reproduction." But that nuance won't matter until chapter seven.

BOOK: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology
13.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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