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Morality and Behaviour: Part 2

by John Richards

[See Part 1 here]

Do not harm anyone or even threaten to harm them…

And there we have it: evolved socially adapted behaviour: ‘morality’. 

Neither mechanism requires a deity.

The whole thing is biological, it is evolved social tendencies overlain with conscious decision making, and that’s why the concept of ‘morality’ is not useful. There’s nothing objectively ‘moral’ about it. The part that looks the most ‘objective’ is actually the subconscious reaction, which has evolved.

How did the inherited behaviours originate? I hear you ask.

Good question!
It’s all about breeding!

If you study animals you will see that there are different strategies for reproduction. Take codfish for example. A female cod lays 4-6 million eggs and then swims away leaving them to fend for themselves; there’s no maternal instinct. They may even eat their young.

When we look at mammals and birds though, we see that they have a small number of offspring and invest some time in helping them to start life. Looking after the young is role model behaviour that can spread to caring for siblings, partners, the sick and the elderly. We can even observe cuddling and feeding between different species! Having intuition about another’s needs and a desire to meet them is what we call empathy.

Individuals that receive the most assistance are more likely to survive and produce more offspring in their turn, and they may pass on that nurturing behaviour. A spin-off of this is a tendency to co-operate and that has proven to be a fantastic evolutionary advantage, giving us what we call ‘social animals’. Working together multiplies capabilities enormously. One man is a lion’s prey, several men are a lion’s predators. Effort can be shared and we can even enlist other social animals like dogs and elephants in the execution and achievement of our projects.
The corollary of this is alienation, which is likely to result in the loss of cooperation. So, don’t

Of course, every population exhibits variation in all characteristics, including empathy. Some individuals are more caring and others are more callous – sociopaths or psychopaths. There is even a condition of ‘hyper-empathy’ in which a sufferer actually experiences the same physical feelings as he observes in another.

Check out this article: The doctor who really feels his patients’ pain

No god is needed… We are naturally ‘moral’, (if you want to adopt the concept of ‘morality’, which is a human fabrication).
Claiming to possess ‘morality’, and to be authorized to dispense it, is theft!

My conclusion:

Nurturing + Co-operating = ‘Morality’


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