Re: ESSAY: 'Debunking 'Hippy dippy moral philosophy'

From: Marc Geddes (
Date: Thu Jun 17 2004 - 04:46:08 MDT

--- Eliezer Yudkowsky <> wrote: >
> For myself, it is my contention that humans would be
> the ones who decide
> that XYZ is an "objective morality", and this would
> be decided on the basis
> of those forces that determine our decisions *right
> now* - patterns already
> in our brain, that got there via social and genetic
> processes. The causal
> explanation of why humans regarded XYZ as an
> "objective morality" would end
> up being phrased in terms other than XYZ. We
> already know how humans got
> to be the way they are; an objective morality wasn't
> part of it. An
> objectively existing optimization process,
> evolution, did the job.
> Evolution constructed psychologies whose reaction to
> evolution, when we
> found out about it, was a strict spandrel of
> existing adaptations. We
> looked at the objective morality that produced us,
> and said, "Yuck, how
> immoral." Why wouldn't that happen to any other
> objective morality we ran
> across, if it took no notice of love and life and
> laughter? This, I think,
> is the same sentiment expressed by John K Clark's
> objection - though I may
> have misunderstood him.
> --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for
> Artificial Intelligence

Is the evolutionary process alone sufficient to
account for all the characteristics of living things?
If you look the theories of people like Stuart
Kuaffman working in complexity theory, there is the
possibility that many characteristics of living things
were not determined via natural selection alone but in
part via a 'spontaneous order' arising as a direct
consequence of physical law itself.

For instance:

"At Home in the Universe: The Search for Laws of
Self-Organization and Complexity"

by Stuart Kauffman


"What we are now only discovering, Kauffman says, is
that range of spontaneous order is enormously greater
than we had supposed and, in fact, self-organization
is a great undiscovered principle of nature. He
contends that complexity itself triggers
self-organization--what Kauffman calls "order for
free"--and that if enough different molecules pass a
certain threshold of complexity, they begin to
self-organize into a new entity: a living cell. There
is a phase transition when water abruptly turns to
ice. Likewise, life may have originated when the mix
of different molecules in the primordial soup passed a
certain level of complexity and re-grouped into living
entities (if so, then life is not a highly improbable
chance event, but almost inevitable). Using the basic
insight of "order for free" Kauffman illuminates a
staggering range of phenomena. Darwin's natural
selection has not acted alone, but in a persistent
marriage with self-organization to create the majesty
of the biosphere. A new slant can also be applied to
the field of genetic engineering wherein trillions of
novel molecules can be generated to find new drugs,
vaccines, and enzymes. Kauffman extends this new
paradigm to economic and cultural systems, showing
that all may evolve according to similar general laws.

"Live Free or Die, Death is not the Worst of Evils."
                                      - Gen. John Stark

"The Universe...or nothing!"

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