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

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat Jun 19 2004 - 07:09:37 MDT

At 09:08 AM 17/06/04 -0800, John K Clark wrote:
>On Thu, 17 Jun 2004 "Marc Geddes" Wrote:


> > Objective knowledge can correlate with subjective experience.
>If by objective knowledge you mean information, and I can't imagine what
>else you could mean, then the above is certainly true but a tautology.
>At least you could say it more succinctly, "Shit happens".

Subjective is what you feel inside.

Objective is what people can see and more or less agree about on the outside.

Objective morality would be what we could agree about. The common feature
that people can see in moral behavior is that it takes a viewpoint from
genes, life enhancing in a longer term sense.

So, to take extreme examples, it is moral (from the viewpoint of your
genes) to defend your family against those who would kill them.

But it is also moral (from the viewpoint of *their* genes) for a hungry
tribe to attack and kill off the males of your tribe (or even all your
tribe's members) so the hungry tribe can eat through the winter.

This kind of behavior almost certainly goes back to the split between us
and the chimps--since they engage in genocide as well. It is rooted in the
fact that humans (and chimps) in the wild state reproduce in excess of that
the environment can support and have no significant predators besides other
humans (chimps).

(If anyone knows what limits bonobo populations, please post or send me a

To paraphrase EO Wilson, we are incredibly lucky that the response of human
females to high material wealth is to strongly restrict the number of
children they have (at least this has happened with European and Asian
populations). There is no reasonable mechanism by which this could have
evolved, so it must be a side effect of something else.

Objective morality doesn't have to go back to the origin of the universe,
it is just something that emerges from life, particularly social animals
such as us.

Keith Henson

PS. Not wishing to be on either side of a tribal morality play, my
preference is to strike out for new "lands"--preferable at a significant
fraction of the speed of light.

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