Thursday, September 06, 2007

Delusion XVIII - Chapter 6: morality dillemma

Page 222 "Sexual Lust is the driving force behind a large proportion of human ambition and struggle, and much of it constitutes a mis-firing. There is no reason why the same should not be true of the lust to be generous and compassionate, if this is the misfired consequence of ancestral village life. The best way for natural selection to build in both kinds of lust in ancestral times was to install rules of thumb in the brain."

Dawkins invokes "mis-firing" quite heavily in chapter 5 and chapter 6. Anything which appears not to be of benefit in a "selfish gene" way is presumed a persisted redundant feature. This is the way he fills the gap in our understanding of evolved traits. My view is that for any persistent trait, the assumption should be that however useless a trait may appear, its persistence is evidence of proximal evolutionary advantage. He is selective in choosing things which *he* believes to be pointless (thus mis-firings, eg religiosity, altruism), rather than just conceding the truth - that it is a field of open study in which we are finding the evolutionary relevance in due course (Just like the "gaps"). He correctly demonstrates that individual morality given certain dillemas is an in-built trait, irrespective of religion, but he ignores research that dwells on the actual differences between societies that have differing levels of religious uptake. One such study, for instance (*) that I have read about is how paired "believers", as opposed to those nominally religious, are more likely to remain faithful to their partners. Organised morality of religions may be even more useful than the instinctive morality of our genes. Dawkins has two definitions of "good" - 1) That which human instincts tells us is good.
and 2) That which gives us an individual competitive advantage.

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