Re: naturally selected ethics, and liking chocolate

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 22:57:40 -0800

Eric Hawthorne writes:
> I think each form of emergent complex order which is capable of becoming
> intelligent and forming goals in general contexts
> problably would have by default an ethical principle promoting the
> continued existence of the most complex (high-level)
> emergent system in its vicinity of which it perceives itself to be a
> part, and which it perceives to be beneficial to its own survival.
> I can say this because forms of emergent complex order that included
> SAS's that didn't have this ethic would not survive long
> compared to other emergent complex orders whose SAS's did have this
> ethic.

This is getting somewhat off-topic for this list, as it's not really
multiverse related (except insofar as everything is multiverse related,
since the multiverse includes everything).

However you should be aware that evolutionary theory prefers to avoid this
kind of reasoning. At one time it was widely assumed that such behaviors
as altruism could be evolved and maintained for reasons similar to what
you describe, that they benefit the group, and so groups whose members
were altruistic would tend to survive better than groups whose members
were selfish.

Later analyses showed that this doesn't really work; that selfish
behaviors have strong selective advantage compared to the relatively
weak effects of group selection. It would be very difficult for an
altruistic behavior to spread and persist within a group if it caused
disadvantage to the individuals who possessed it.

Instead, biologists eventually identified alternative explanations for
altruistic behavior, in terms of kin selection and similar factors.
Group selection is now discredited as an evolutionary force.

See for some class lecture
notes discussiong group selection.

Hal Finney
Received on Fri Jan 23 2004 - 01:59:55 PST

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