RE: Religion and evidence

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 20 Jan 2006 - 00:01:16 GMT

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    At 10:48 AM 1/19/2006 -0800, Richard Brodie wrote:


    >I'm reluctant to kill a bottle of Scotch, let alone people with different
    >dietary habits from mine. The term "morality" carries with it a lot of
    >black-and-white, right-and-wrong baggage and invites people to judge one
    >another, usually with woefully incomplete information. I'm pretty sure the
    >Bible warns against that, but people seem to do it anyway.

    The bible also has accounts where the chosen of god killed everybody in another tribe except for the young women.

    I propose that your (and mine too!) moral objections to killing are the result of the growth of this class of "don't kill" moral memes over a long period where the populations that hold our culture were not stressed into killing neighbors in order to get enough to feed the kids.

    Obviously if you are in a serious bind for resources or are attacked this class of memes is going to become less common (i.e., non adaptive). There are stressed populations (I don't need to name them) in the world where there isn't much reluctance to killing anyone not of your kin group.


    >A more workable system, to me, is to be clear about my values, and the
    >values generally shared by humanity, and act accordingly. I value life and
    >justice so wanton killing is right out.

    "Wanton killing," that is killing without some inclusive fitness benefit to your genes, does not make sense because killing has always been a risky business. In general the psychological traits leading to killing con-specifics would only be activated when the inclusive benefit to genes exceeds the potential risk.

    The problem is that "values generally shared" is dependent on environmental conditions, recent history *and* prospects for the future.

    Keith Henson

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