The Evolution of Ethics attempts to construct a conceptual bridge between biology and human behavior by examining the cultural and biological feedback system that inspires the evolution of social rules. In theory, at the heart of developing ethical systems is a cybernetic process that arises between the interaction of biology and culture using the informational feedback between the two to further human adaptation and survival.
Living systems of all descriptions have evolved both cooperatively and competitively for more than a billion years. Since biological systems have been intertwined for so long, a change in one system can cause a change in many others. In theory, these changes disperse through the environment like waves generated by an object hitting the surface of a quiet pond. Biological interrelatedness extends to human social systems as well, thereby imposing limits upon what people can reasonably do. Human beings are not at liberty to do as they wish because personal actions often inspire consequent reactions and sometimes overreactions that need regulating by way of laws and morals. This regulation affects individuals as well as large groups. An example of this might be seen in the careless use of fluorocarbons that thin the ozone layer, allowing harmful radiation to reach the earth and threaten the survival of all humans and organisms. Such a dangerous situation forces humans to choose between doing what they freely wish to do (risking pain, suffering, and death in the process) or setting limits on their behavior. The demonstrable effects of pollutants on people appears to force the formation of laws and enlightened moral attitudes that discourage the practice of releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere. These kinds of laws cannot be said to have emerged from some abstract philosophical theory of right and wrong. Instead, they appear to have evolved from real life situations in which human beings are forced to adapt to threatening circumstances in order to maintain their health and quality of life.
Morality is sometimes viewed in a negative context because it is associated with self-serving political and religious causes. In spite of this fact, the imposition of rules in the main does not lower the quality of human life. To the contrary, carefully laid out rules have the greater potential to improve its quality. Broadly imposing guidelines through the promotion of statutory laws as well as moral, manner, and customary rule systems, redirects social priorities in an efficient way. In turn, there is an increase in societal organization and efficiency that enhances cultural peace, prosperity, and productivity. Social evolution in this light acts as an extension of the same biological processes observed in lower organisms where it appears that tight hierarchical organization and efficient survival strategies further the life of many types of organisms.
In theory, nature provides human beings with the means to motivate themselves and create great things by giving them passion and sensitivity. At the same time, it appears to endow them with an extraordinary intelligence to limit the excesses of their emotions. Unfortunately, while people strive to be rational, their actions are still governed by strong emotions. When they respond to emotions that are a derivative of physiology, behavioral excesses inspiring a host of problems manifest themselves. When emotions run high, there needs to be some mechanism present to keep passions from getting out of hand and causing harm to people or the societies they have spent so many years building. In much the same way that circuit breakers in a house prevent an overloaded circuit from melting the wires and causing a fire, moral restraints naturally arise and intervene as reasons (or a reason) to break up the vicious circles of conflict that passions can produce. The emergence of moral laws and sentiments, shaping the course of history, is therefore an extension of human physiology that stabilizes relationships so that people grow and prosper instead of conflicting to the point of extinction.
Go to chapter 1 click here
Return to front page