Yes, Hexi, I am saying that your points are not really valid. To begin, do you actually have a good picture in mind of a one year old baby--an infant, that is. Such a being could not possibly conclude logically that because it is being cared for it must care for others and punish wrong-doers. That is simply too much of a stretch.
Yes, babies begin to imitate parents from birth, but such imitation is quite straight-forward and not at all nuanced. Most babies have not seen their parents beating on a bad-acting puppet, and it is hard to imagine that they were imitating the morality involved in punishing an "unfair" puppet when less than a year old. I suppose it is possible, but it is a very long stretch as well.
Occam's razor: the explanation requiring the fewest moving parts (assumptions) is most likely the correct one. It is much easier to interpret the results of that study, as well as many others of a similar kind as indicating inborn, innate abilities. This is particularly true in the light of Donald E. Brown's list of a couple of hundred traits which are found in all cultures in more or less identical form. In other words, regardless of culture human beings act in fixed ways. The mind is not a blank slate at birth as you seem to want to believe, but comes already programmed in many ways. I see that you resist this idea, and I would be interested to know why.
Now all of this is still under investigation, Hexi, and I have come to no fixed conclusions, but
the idea that the moral sense is an innate part of human nature is not far-fetched at all as you seem to want to argue. The list of human universals to which I referred includes many moral concepts and emotions, including a distinction between right and wrong; empathy; fairness; admiration of generosity; rights and obligations; proscription of murder, rape and other forms of violence; redress of wrongs; sanctions for wrongs against the community; shame; and taboos.
The fact that these exist in all cultures without exception, including small tribes which had been cut off from the rest of humanity until very recently, means that they were not passed from culture to culture, but arose independently everywhere on Earth without exception. The jury is still out, of course, but this suggests very strongly that these ways of thinking and behaving, comprising many modes which certainly pertain to morality, are not socially constructed as you imagine, but are present, at least in part, a birth. Again, I wonder why you are so vehement in opposing this idea.
FYI, here is the full list of Brown's Universals:
abstraction in speech & thought
actions under self-control distinguished from those not under control
affection expressed and felt
belief in supernatural/religion
beliefs about death
beliefs about disease
beliefs about fortune and misfortune
binary cognitive distinctions
biological mother and social mother normally the same person
black (color term)
childhood fear of loud noises
childhood fear of strangers
choice making (choosing alternatives)
classification of age
classification of behavioral propensities
classification of body parts
classification of colors
classification of fauna
classification of flora
classification of inner states
classification of kin
classification of sex
classification of space
classification of tools
classification of weather conditions
conflict, consultation to deal with
conflict, means of dealing with
conflict, mediation of
continua (ordering as cognitive pattern)
contrasting marked and nonmarked sememes (meaningful elements in language)
copulation normally conducted in privacy
corporate (perpetual) statuses
critical learning periods
decision making, collective
directions, giving of
discrepancies between speech, thought, and action
distinguishing right and wrong
division of labor
division of labor by age
division of labor by sex
economic inequalities, consciousness of
entification (treating patterns and relations as things)
environment, adjustments to
envy, symbolic means of coping with
face (word for)
facial expression of anger
facial expression of contempt
facial expression of disgust
facial expression of fear
facial expression of happiness
facial expression of surprise
facial expressions, masking/modifying of
fairness (equity), concept of
family (or household)
father and mother, separate kin terms for
fear of death
fears, ability to overcome some
females do more direct childcare
future, attempts to predict
good and bad distinguished
groups that are not based on family
hand (word for)
healing the sick (or attempting to)
husband older than wife on average
incest between mother and son unthinkable or tabooed
incest, prevention or avoidance
in-group distinguished from out-group(s)
in-group biases in favor of
institutions (organized co-activities)
interest in bioforms (living things or things that resemble them)
intertwining (e.g., weaving)
kin, close distinguished from distant
kin terms translatable by basic relations of procreation
language employed to manipulate others
language employed to misinform or mislead
language is translatable
language not a simple reflection of reality
language, prestige from proficient use of
law (rights and obligations)
law (rules of membership)
likes and dislikes
logical notion of "and"
logical notion of "equivalent"
logical notion of "general/particular"
logical notion of "not"
logical notion of "opposite"
logical notion of "part/whole"
logical notion of "same"
magic to increase life
magic to sustain life
magic to win love
male and female and adult and child seen as having different natures
males dominate public/political realm
males engage in more coalitional violence
males more aggressive
males more prone to lethal violence
males more prone to theft
males, on average, travel greater distances over lifetime
manipulate social relations
marking at phonemic, syntactic, and lexical levels
mearning, most units of are non-universal
mood- or consciousness-altering techniques and/or substances
moral sentiments, limited effective range of
mother normally has consort during child-rearing years
music related in part to dance
music related in part to religious activity
music seen as art (a creation)
music, vocal, includes speech forms
nomenclature (perhaps the same as classification)
nonbodily decorative art
normal distinguished from abnormal states
oligarchy (de facto)
overestimating objectivity of thought
person, concept of
phonemes defined by set of minimally constrasting features
phonemes, merging of
phonemes, range from 10 to 70 in number
phonemic change, inevitability of
phonemic change, rules of
planning for future
play to perfect skills
poetic line, uniform length range
poetic lines characterized by repetition and variation
poetic lines demarcated by pauses
polysemy (one word has several meanings)
practice to improve skills
precedence, concept of (that's how the leopard got its spots)
preference for own children and close kin (nepotism)
private inner life
pronouns, minimum two numbers
pronouns, minimum three persons
proverbs, sayings - in mutually contradictory forms
psychological defense mechanisms
reciprocal exchanges (0f labor, goods, or services)
reciprocity, negative (revenge, retaliation)
regocnition of individuals by face
redress of wrongs
resistance to abuse of poser, to dominance
right-handedness as population norm
rites of passage
role and personality seen in dynamic interrlationship (i.e., departures from role can be explained in terms of individual personality)
sanctions fro crimes against the collectivity
sanctions include removal from the social unit
self distinguished from other
self as neither wholly passive nor wholly autonomous
self as subject and object
self-image, awareness of (concern for what others think)
self-image, manipulation of
self-image, wanted to be positive
self is responsible
semantic category of affecting things and people
semantic category of dimension
semantic category of giving
semantic category of location
semantic category of motion
semantic category of other physical properties
semantic components, generation
semantic components, sex
sememes, commonly used ones are short, infrequently used ones are longer
sex differences in spatial cognition and behavior
sex (gender) terminology is fundamentally binary
sexual regulation includes incest prevention
sexuality as focus of interest
sickness and death seen as related
snakes, wariness around
socialization expected from senior kin
socialization includes toilet training
special speech for special occasions
statuses and roles
statuses, ascribed and achieved
statuses distinguished from individuals
statuses on other than sex, age, or kinship bases
stinginess, disapproval of
stop/nonstop contrasts (in speech sounds)
time, cyclicity of
tools for cutting
tools to make tools
tools patterned culturally
tools for pounding
triangular awareness (assessinjg relationships among the self and two other people)
true and false distinguished)
tying material (i.e., something like string)
units of time
violence, some forms of proscribed
vocalic/nonvocalic contrasts in phonemes
weather control (attempts to)
while (color term)
Now that's a good point, Hexi. I mean about seclusion.
Dragontongue, I am a bit jammed up right now, but I will try to get back to you on this. Evolutionary psychology is a fascinating realm of speculation.
The article essentially elaborates two biological factors at play. The first is straight forward selfish genes. Genes want to survive and replicate, and individuals are the means to do so. Considering this, a father dying for his son, or a uncle forgoing children of his own to help raise his nephews, makes sense, though apparently unselfish, as a self preservation from the genetic point of view.
The second, is so called reciprocal altruism. Gregarious animals do better if different genetic lines cooperate, as in the Baboons the author references. 'maintaining strong, equal, enduring social bonds — even when the individuals were not related — can promote individual longevity more effectively than gaining dominance rank, and can enhance the survival of progeny'. If we can imagine a small tribe, composed of different and still unmixed bloodlines, cooperation and group bonding will more often than not be better for the individual, and thus, their genes.
The anxiety expressed in the article, as I see it, it the fear that between them there two factors can at best present a sort of genetic social contract. We have morality, but only at the group level, and as pointed out, groups can do far worse to other groups than individuals to other individuals (racism and the like). If you like, we're half way to the Golden rule: Do unto tribes men as you would have them do unto you, where tribes men can mean any member of the group (be that a tribe, ethnicity, nation and so on).
But there is always someone outside the group, and how can we, from the genetic point of view, make the leap to true morality, the complete rule, the rule we talk about in the universal declaration of human rights: Do unto others (ANY other) as you would have them do unto you? The differences between a small tribe, a nation state and a Civilisation are one of scale, but all can be thought of as mechanisms for enhancing the survival of the individual and progeny, using the above two biological factors. But how do we encompass humanity as a whole, one big happy tribe? And, crucially, do so within a Darwinian framework?
'Humans somehow have managed to redeploy and leverage their limited, partial, human-scale psychologies to develop shared inquiry, experimental procedures, technologies and norms of logic and evidence that have resulted in genuine scientific knowledge and responsiveness to the force of logic...As Wittgenstein observed, crude tools can be used to make refined tools'
The author seems to be believe that we have, collectively, have made these two biological factors (familial bonds and reciprocal altruism) theoretical, putting them on humanity as a whole. This has taken a long time, and still wavers. On an individual level I can endorse global human rights and the basic equality of all men, and, when a plane crashes into a building on TV, switch back to Group Think and us vs. them.
In the end then, morality and science are possible only as a collective, with us still faltering very often on the individual level. But, just as it is possible to view the advancement of scientific knowledge as a purely practicle pursuit (for the benefits, and not for the love of knowledge itself), it is possible on this view to see universal morality as just an extension of the moral camouflage. A collectively, intelligently theoretical extension (human culture), but motivated by the same base purpose, to live and pass on genes. Of course, just as we know there are individuals who pursue science of it's own reward, so are there clearly individuals who do practice universal morality. We can apply suspicion to morality, as with science, but it's not the whole picture. Morality is holding on to the complex view. But we cannot eliminate this suspicion, so have we achieved true morality (on the monkey level)?
Of course, we still have the problem that my moral feelings as an individual seem universal (sometimes) but can't be all the time, and so I (on the individual level) have always to suspect myself. The article has not alleviated my anxieties on this issue.
Sorry for the lengthy reply, I find concision difficult, especially where ethics is concerned
Basically, Railton is suggesting that the more cynical view of a Darwinian derived morality is overstated. Fair enough.
I suppose I agree with his general view. It is obvious that the evolutionarily jerry-rigged moral sense passed on by both the genes and the memes has also worked to enlarge many nations circle of concern. Yes, we can point out all the horrors of modern society and the sins of the US, etc ad nauseum. But compared to other great powers of the past (like the Roman empire for instance), the West is actually pretty saintly.
Then again, the answer to the question of which view is more accurate, the cynical or the optimistic one, all depends on who is answering the question. The cynic can point to many examples to bolster the case for his more jaded interpretation. For instance, for all the moral strides nations have made in recent centuries, we can still point to many "horrific abuses" as well, and they are happening every day, everywhere. Not to mention the obvious point that moral growth greatly depends on having a stable society. Should society collapse, we'll see how long all those Western values like egalitarianism and fair play and compassion last when hunger overtakes you and yours.
As an aside Dr. Robert, you forgot to mention all those twin studies which indicate that personality traits are at least 50% genetically heritable in your response. I would lump the innate moral sense as partially an expression of an individual's unique personality traits. As has been established, my own moral sense appears to be "turned down" comparatively speaking. I think this ties in with the other traits that comprise my idiosyncratic psychology. In any event, personality traits, intelligence, a facility for language and the moral sense all seem to be partially genetically inherited. Combined with the universals you listed, the blank slate theory of human and moral development seems unlikely.
OK, Dragontongue. By offering his well-considered explanation and commentary, James has relieved me of the necessity of replying to you directly. This works well for me in this busy week.
James, no need to apologize for length. In my book cogency trumps brevity any day.
Daniel,I have referred often to the twin studies, and so did not feel it necessary to do it again, but you are correct. Contemporary thinking imagines three roots of personality structure: 1) genetic dotation; 2) intrauterine experience; and 3) influence of the cultural surround, and sees genetics as being highly influencial--perhaps 50% or more. This is one reason--but not the only one--for my insistence that the power of so-called "free will" is greatly exaggerated in the belief structures of most human beings I have met.
Another interesting aspect of the genetic side of how human psychology has evolved is so-called "sexual selection." Since getting genetic material into the next generation requires mating, traits and attributes which are sexually attractive are likely to be replicated more often than those which are unattractive. Thus, it is not just physical appearance and such physical attributes as strength which have genetic staying power, but also aspects of the personality. For example, a man who is kind and gentle might attract more female attention than one who is only "strong." Or a man who is creative might attract mates by singing, dancing, reciting poetry, etc. We see this latter effect at work in the crowds of groupies surrounding otherwise unappealing rock musicians.
I greatly appreciate the high level of intelligence and erudition which Forum regulars have been bringing to this work. My gamble in setting this space up seems to be paying off. Thanks to all who contribute.
You're most welcome Dr.
Your website has been the most powerful influence on my current thought regarding morality, and I speak as a Philosophy graduate. I really did buy into that free will stuff before, and scolded those who didn't.
I must confess, I still have great difficulty reconciling my new views on the individual and talking about morality. As you wrote somewhere, even the language we use is stacked against us, containing the idea of agency.
Yet, it really does seem at least 50% genetic, and a great deal social, which is completely down to chance. We seem to make choices, but all are conditioned, and all deontological (duty based) or existential ethical views need something more than this to work (they need what you might call hard responsibility, which I don't think anyone is really capable of).
The question I now have is, does this mean I'm a determinist?
You hit the nail on the head, and, reading back, I realise I didn't make enough of this in my post.
To get what the Prof considers true morality (where there is no other to whom we would deny the rights), we have to make this theoretical jump.
Now, HOW you can do that in a purely darwinian framework is something that he fuzzes over. You CAN explain it by human reason (as in the science example) becoming stand alone, if you will. But the prof. doesn't make explicit why this would be desirable from the genetic/darwinist/evolutionary point of view. Why not competition? Why make universal that which works best partial?
(Indeed, science may eventually do far more harm to humanity than not having science. Think of A-bombs, CO2, toxic waste etc. Though obviously tool use and innovation has been an advantage for humans, it may eventually backfire. Evolution is a blind process)
Although I can't find it in the article, in answer to you, I'd have to say that competition is over rated, Dragontongue. The recipricle altruism described doesn't need another group of baboons to work, just a harsh environment that makes it worth it. So in principle there is not reason for it not to go universal, after all we all have more chance of passing on our genes today than in humanities past, due to the advent of complex society. When you talk of fighting wars to weed out the week, advancing the species and so on, you seem to have a very simplistic view of Darwin.
He wrote somewhere 'its not the strongest or the fastest that survive, but the most adaptable to change'. We no longer need to get stronger, faster, tougher to stay at the top of the food chain, like other animals. We MANAGE the food chain now, and are a very different sort of animal altogether. The nature of the evolutionary playing field has changed, and improving humanity, as you put it, doesn't really require weeding out the physically week. In fact, the more genetic diversity the better, better to deal with unexpected diseases and the like.
Glad to hear it, James. Coming down from the self-aggrandizing, and quite unlikely idea of so-called "free will" opens up new vistas well-worth consideration in my opinion. And no, simply noticing how much of ones so-called "self" is unchosen: original temperament (one baby is timid, another is bold from birth as every mother knows), parents and other family influences, time and place of birth, the larger cultural surround, ones physical and mental strengths and weakness--including, for example, "IQ," lung capacity, good or not so good looks, health or lack of it--etc., does not make you a determinist, because, strictly speaking, determinism means that given a specified way things are at a certain time, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law, but that is not at all what I am claiming. My argument simply holds that "free will" is not a fact but a story we tell ourselves, milliseconds after the fact, about imagined "choices" which really are the outcome of unchosen factors, and which happen automatically. That does not mean that future events are unalterably determined. To take just one example, I may by chance find a book left behind on a park bench, read it, and find my views of the world changing. The person who left the book did not choose to leave it, and I did not choose to find it. Nevertheless, my mind has been altered by this accidental—as a philosopher you might prefer to say "aleatory"--happening which could not have been predicted as determinism requires.
Further, the human mind evolved to deal effectively with real world problems, not to understand causality or any other ultimate matters. Therefore, it is possible that factors beyond our ken and beyond our capacity to understand influence events in ways we do not, and perhaps cannot fathom, so free will and determinism might not be the only possibilities.
OK. Be disappointed no more. You ask, "Where could that come from? That 'inborn, innate sense of right and wrong'? Although I may not really care one way or the other, even I know what's right and what isn't. How come?"
To be able to grasp the answer, you must first try to understand two important ideas: 1) the basic workings of the entirely automatic filtering processes which we call "evolution," and 2) the vast amounts of time and great number of generations involved in human evolution.
To understand number 1, let us imagine that a small tribe falls on hard times. Perhaps a permanent change in weather patterns is making food, which once was plentiful, increasingly scarce. Now imagine a new generation of babies born into this tribe, Some of the fathers, through normal variations in temperament, are more inclined to tighten their belts and share the scarce food with their offspring, while others are more inclined to eat selfishly while children go hungry. Obviously, more of the offspring of the "generous" fathers will survive; hence more of the genetic material of those fathers, as opposed to the "selfish" ones, will survive into the next generation. This is straightforward logic, right?
OK. Now as to number 2: Homo sapiens has been around for 250,000 years. If one guesses that humans have in average reproduced when they are 15, this would mean, there has been 16,000 generations of humans. With thousands of generations, the initial difference between the "generous" fathers and the "selfish" ones could be quite small but still over a long period of time produce a very large change. This is because if even a few more of the carriers of the "generous gene" survived in each generation, eventually that gene would come to predominate. This slow filtering process, by the way, is completely automatic and has nothing to do with intention or "intelligent design."
If you factor in sexual selection, which I explained earlier, in which, for example, females are more attracted to "generous" men, and so mate with them more often, the process could be hastened considerably.
I hope this example will put you on the right track to grasping these interesting matters.
Again, thanks to all for your intelligent participation. Spread the word.
Genes which produced traits which fostered proliferation of themselves tended to spread through the population. This is basic Darwin. This tendency is true not only of physical and mental traits, but also psychological ones--in my invented example, generosity. Once a psychological trait has become established and widely shared in a population, that trait will seem "normal," and so become a basis for shared values, which, when further institutionalized, become a system of morality.
I think you do have the idea, Drangontongue. One caveat: I have simplified greatly. In actual practice, things are far more complicated than in my example. Nevertheless, my example does explain, as you asked, how morality could have arisen via evolution.
Excellent summation, including the proviso about over simplifying what is undoubtedly a complex subject.
I was going to ask you what your thoughts were on why those of us who are a bit deficient on the moral emotion thing continue to exist in the population, but I remembered you covered that here. I also read the sociobiological paper written by someone named Linda Mealey which purports to give an "integrated" explanation for the variance in conscientiousness which gives rise to the so called sociopath. That was also very interesting. All of it is, really.
My friend is currently getting his MD/PHD. He stands with a Masters degree in neuroscience and is about 2 years out from being a brain sergeant. I have mentioned your theories to him. I have shown him your research and he dismissed your information like it was nothing more than a joke.
Then he explained to me the difference between neuroscience and psychology. Neuroscience is actual knowledge of how the brain functions in exact terms. Neuroscience is.. science. It can be explained in real terms where as psychology is more or less.. an educated guess because it cannot be explained in concrete terms.
However, I have learned that while we pamper the ego.. neuroscience has no such restraint.
In this chapter we examine how emotion is represented in the brain. A neural analysis of emotion must take into account at least four issues. First, we must understand how stimuli acquire emotional significance and what roles conscious cognitive processes and automatic unconscious processes have in determining whether a particular stimulus at a particular moment will have emotional significance (Figure 50-1). Second, we must understand how certain autonomic and skeletomotor responses are triggered once a stimulus acquires emotional significance. Third, we must identify the circuits in the cerebral cortex responsible for feelings. Finally, we need to understand how somatic emotional states and conscious feeling states interact—how feedback from peripheral, autonomic, and skeletomotor systems to the cerebral cortex shapes emotional experience.
Furthermore, patients in whom the spinal cord has been accidentally severed so that they lack feedback from the autonomic nervous system appear to experience a reduction in the intensity of their emotions. <---where emotional impact comes from
Dr. Robert, have you applied the laws of neuroscience in any way to your psychology theories? Can you give me specific locations of the brain that are in control of said emotional reactions or show me the process from which you base your information?
No offense but after considerable influence from the research of neuroscience.. it just doesn't seem like you are really saying anything at all. You have identified a possible theory that could be associated to one culture. But without any scientific support.. how can I give that any more thought than pleasant theory?
You have not shown me the mechanical basis for which the external observation of children was made. Besides having kids sitting there playing with toys.. what else was done? How where the toddlers brains analyzed and observed? Was there an increased heart rate during their decision making? What science do we have to support these observations?
For the love of God.. give me something more than what I think is coming.. please... please don't tell me all this knowledge is simply based off a controlled observation....
Show me the guts of your research rather than this amusing experimental stuff. I have come to learn that psychology in it's whole is more or less a response to mental illness that seems to stem from anglo-saxon decent.
You must forgive my change in nature. My current influence of thought is that neuroscience is where the truth comes from and psychology is just a distorted attempt to achieve comprehension. But really what bothers me is the lack of evidence is psychology. Which rather associates it to religion for me and while I enjoy the fables of both religion and the applicable fables of psychology.. i must recognize that neither psychology nor religion share in real truths only interpretive thoughts of what the truth is. As psychology was developed to replace mans philosophical knowledge of man.. I cannot see where it has achieved much else.
While I agree there is truth in psychology.. I don't agree that either psychology or religion can achieve true understanding and comprehension of reality as it is.. reality.. without emotional distortions. Science is cold facts of truth. It is not a happy thought or nice way of being passively aggressive. No, it defines the rules of engagement and eliminates all the theory BS.
If you have nothing real in the terms of science.. I feel cheated and somewhat deceived by you. As I look to you to not BS me and it seems like you have unintentionally violated my boundary of comfort and now I must re-evaluate my perception of all of your theories.
Ever notice life seems to have a lot of change all at once or no change at all? Like.. it will be quiet but then a friend will call and someone will knock on the door ect.. I take comfort in the chaos theory. Or could you rather tell me what the perception actually is?
I want to believe that neuroscience is the study of the hardwired structure of the mind and psychology the software of the brain. I want to believe because there is a noted gap in the knowledge of the exact functioning of emotions. Like sometimes an emotion is experienced before the body actually reacts to the emotion. Meaning that emotions are both a chemical reaction and electrical impulses.
I need a faith refill and don't give me that church crap. I want a real refill not wishful thinking. :-(
I feel like a kid building something with legos. For the longest time it seemed I was building exactly what I wanted but then I was introduced to new pieces that have changed the dynamics of everything. Why use those weaker pieces when I can use these better pieces and build a better castle?
Mania.. stop the mania.
Nice copy-pasting there.
But you responded within 3 minutes.
I can see why authentication is a concern to some. How much value can you really invest in something so temporary? Doesn't bother me at all.. really.. it just levels the playing field. Takes away all the dramatic flare and simplifies it down to basic human stupidity.
Your friend--despite his upcoming status as what you are calling a "brain sergeant," whatever that is, seems to be lacking a bit of information. One sign of foolishness is not knowing how much you don't know. This is what is called "sophomoric," ie. being only part way through ones basic education, but believing one is already hatched as a pro. Perhaps by the time this guy actually earns his degrees and works in the field for some years, he will have learned and understood more:
Recent brain scan technology has enabled studies of the timing of what is called "volition," or will, versus the timing of associated movement—in other words, studies of the timing of the experience ofdeciding to move versus actually doing so—which lead to the surprising result that the the neural preparations for moving occur prior to the experience of choosing, deciding, or willing
to move, perhaps even ten seconds earlier.
Your own dismissal of the entire field of psychology, and your unquestioning belief in what you imagine is "science" is beyond foolish, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to make the effort to explain why. Perhaps one of the Forum regulars would like to take a crack at it, or at some of the many other misapprehensions in your letter.
Not only are you rude, ill-mannered, and disrespectful, but your anger is palpable and obviously did not begin with this particular subject, nor with my views about so-called "free-will." You seem to be using this subject as an excuse to ventilate your fear and your disappointment about something (I cannot guess what), but that is not the objective of this kind of discussion which is aimed at trying to explore our ethical situation and moral possibilities as human beings, not doing psychotherapy for Zenemy. Somehow you have tried to convert a discussion about free-will--which, as James points out, is a vital part of any serious inquiry into human consciousness--into an argument about whether psychology is inferior to neuroscience, or whether psychological thinking is valid at all. Apparently your half-baked student-friend has hypnotized you into playing "mine is bigger than yours," which is a game only fools enjoy.
Further, Zenemy, you are completely intellectually dishonest, and that sticks out like a sore thumb in a discussion thread which has been respectful, intelligent, and open-minded. You asked me to show you some scientific data to back up my idea that free-will may be an illusion. I gave you two links to such data. You failed even to comment, and instead changed the subject to "fearful faces" which has absolutely nothing to do with free-will. Did you even look at the links? I rather hope you did not, because if you did read them and then went on to produce that rant of yours, you are in deep trouble intellectually.
Your over-valuation of neurology as a mode of understanding human motivation is beyond absurd. Do you really imagine that examining the physical characteristics of the brain can explain the entire universe of human experience?
I have taken the time to reply again because this thread has attracted a good bit of interest, and I did not want anyone to be confused by the nonsense you have been spewing. However, I will not reply to you again. You would do better, in my opinion to stop writing and start reading. Try a basic text on neuropsychology.
I suggest also that you get your brain sergeant student-friend to x-ray your brain to find out what happened to development in the area which provides for honest inquiry and respect for learning. Perhaps he can also check the area that stimulates you to call others stupid (projection!) to see how it became so overdeveloped.
Thanks for the link. Enjoyed reading it.
I would like very much for you to produce for me a comprehensive attempt to explain large scale civilization, solely through neuroscience. Obviously any attempt to do so, not involving neuroscience, is a waste of time
I would then like you to show me a neuroscientist who, solely through neuroscience, can provide helpful relationship advice, or perhaps console a rape victim.
While your at it, perhaps you can ask your friend to solve the hard problem of consciousness. If so I'd like to meet him.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_correlates_of_consciousness)
You seem unduly angry - maybe you should talk to a neurotherapist.
If you were trying to make rape virtuous, I think you'd need to flesh out your example a little bit, but you seem to get the idea. If it were better for the species for rape to occur frequently then individuals inclinded to it would have proliferated, and it would be more common and possibly cultural by now. Of course, the psychological damage it causes preclude this, as having stable mothers to raise children is also important.
As it happens, many cultures were almost indifferent to rape (just look at how often it comes up in Hellenistic Myths, and how often it was punished).
Sadly, some parts of the world still are indifferent to rape
It was not an argument, but a rhetorical comment that I'd hoped might produce some reflection. Obviously it failed.
It would be stupid to undergo brain surgery by anyone other than a brain surgeon, which I did not suggest, nor imply.
What I did suggest, however, was that if I have suffered a major psychological trauma, I would take little comfort from a neurological explanation of my trauma (all neuroscience can currently offer, and even then, barely), nor would I receive PRACTICAL advice on what to do now.
So maybe it's a little early to dismiss it all, which you seem to be doing. This of course does not mean that neuroscience is bunk, or not worth studying, before you try to read that into my post.
I'm very sorry if my less than perfect English means you will not consider the point I was driving at, even though you seem to be able to read and comprehend it. This is, of course, a very good reason for disregarding an idea.
On the topic of English, 'Retardation' is awfully strong word to be used by someone who's 'ego is se cure regardless of judgement'.
But that is just the problem Zenemy - You may remember that I apologised for the length of my first post, and these weren't empty words. The point of a forum such as this is to facilitate discussion, and when one person speaks for far longer than the other, real conversation is impossible.
But you have not only spewed a response of ungodly length, not only broken it up with long, technical quotations, but crucially, JUMPED from topic to topic, often in the same paragraph, covering morality, will, jabs at Dr. Robert and brain talk at a dizzying pace.
Thus a remotely extensive reply, responding to all your points, questioning what you mean by certain terms, etc AND putting forward my own point of view on all these topics, would take an entire day or longer.
As I visit this forum for fun, I won't do this. I don't know if this is a concious effort on your part, or that you are so unwell that you naturally come across as so aggressive and convoluted, but I no longer care to engage.
This thread is going to places. I like it. /popcorn
EDIT: Dragontongue. I don't know where you get this "most people would die for their children" crap from. Only those that never have or never will make that choice would say that. Considering the amount of human trafficking in the world, your assertion is wrong. Unless you are somehow under the impression that it's not their parents that sell their children to be prostitutes?
I usually just read and seldom write, but here goes.
Zemeny's posts were really off the mark in so many ways. For one thing he took Railton's article as if it was the work of Dr. Robert, but of course it wasn't. Dr. Robert didn't write it or even vouch for it. He only posted it and asked forum members to comment on it. All of a sudden Zemeny claims disillusionment and tells the doctor, "Dr. Robert, have you applied the laws of neuroscience in any way to your psychology theories? Can you give me specific locations of the brain that are in control of said emotional reactions or show me the process from which you base your information?" Where is that coming from.
Then when the doctor gives him two links to neurological observations that back up the doc's ideas Zenemy just ignores it and goes on with his jabber.
Zenemy comes off pretty dense really. He is stuck on thinking that if certain parts of the brain are "in control" of certain emotions then knowing more about those parts of the brain will somehow help the individual to understand and deal with emotions. That may be true to some extent, but certainly will be only a part of the picture, and probably a pretty small one. The idea that by knowing more about the neurological organization of the brain humans eventually will come to understand their emotions, their values, their lives, their entire being, is called reductionism. The various comments were right. Intelligent people avoid reductionism and putting all their eggs in one basket. Zenemy I am sure has read all those comments but has found a way to shoot holes in them. He is smart enough to shoot but not smart enough to know how little he really knows as was said by others.
Zay did the same thing in imagining that the doctor wrote the Railton piece: "I find comfort in your words. You just unknowingly defined the difference between the love for a spouse and the love we have for our children, etc., etc., etc. . . I may have theorized much off your statement but that research creates such possibilities. I don't think it will be as great as you think though. If nothing else you have just justified racisum, war, denounced religion as a WHOLE (which is exactly what the catholic church feared Science would do), and many other aspects of human civilization.
Question: does psychopathy somehow stimulate the part of the brain that likes to rant and rave without ever really listening to anyone else? I thought that was narcissism.
Doc, you are doing yeoman work out here. More power to you.
Almost spooky. After posting yesterday I see this in today's New York Times:
July 25, 2010, 5:26 pm
The Limits of the Coded World
By WILLIAM EGGINTON
In an influential article in the Annual Review of Neuroscience, Joshua Gold of the University of Pennsylvania and Michael Shadlen of the University of Washington sum up experiments aimed at discovering the neural basis of decision-making. In one set of experiments, researchers attached sensors to the parts of monkeys’ brains responsible for visual pattern recognition. The monkeys were then taught to respond to a cue by choosing to look at one of two patterns. Computers reading the sensors were able to register the decision a fraction of a second before the monkeys’ eyes turned to the pattern. As the monkeys were not deliberating, but rather reacting to visual stimuli, researchers were able to plausibly claim that the computer could successfully predict the monkeys’ reaction. In other words, the computer was reading the monkeys’ minds and knew before they did what their decision would be.
The implications are immediate. If researchers can in theory predict what human beings will decide before they themselves know it, what is left of the notion of human freedom? How can we say that humans are free in any meaningful way if others can know what their decisions will be before they themselves make them?
How is that for some scientific evidence, Zenemy?
I guess you are right, Daniel. I am always puzzled by people who believe they are more intelligent than the rest of us, but in fact have no insight, and no understanding of anyone else either. Do you think this is a common feature of psychopathy? I am wondering if the lack of emotional connection could cause such people who begin to lose it narcissistically to be so out of touch with others that there is no road back, whereas a "normal" could be guilted or shamed into seeing his own intellectual weaknesses. Several people have pointed out to Zenemy that he totally ignored the doc's citation of evidence and that that was intellectual dishonesty. Do you really mean that he won't get that at all? Won't even question it within himself? Or in your opinion is it more likely that he will get it, and will question himself about it, but would never admit it to anyone else?
I followed the long dialog you had with the doc, and loved it. You say you lack emotional connection, yet you seemed to be able to modify your views in response to the doc, just as he listened and responded to you. What makes that impossible for Zenemy or Zay? I am curious about this. More than curious. It seems central to the entire question of morality.
Thanks for posting that article, famfav5. I read the whole piece, and was struck by the support it contains for the thinking I developed independently some time ago and have been trying to explain to my critics in this thread. They seem to feel that my explanation was an effort somehow to justify myself, but that was not my intention at all, nor is it the point. The point of my posts here was to explore the well-springs of morality with the intelligent readers here. I am saddened that some people here would rather snipe disrespectfully than to converse seriously and with good intentions. I see that as the sign of a small mind, regardless of psychological tendencies.
To quote further from the article:
"(1) You do what you do — in the circumstances in which you find yourself—because of the way you then are.
(2) So if you’re going to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you’re going to have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are — at least in certain mental respects.
(3) But you can’t be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all.
(4) So you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.
The key move is (3). Why can’t you be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all? In answer, consider an expanded version of the argument.
(a) It’s undeniable that the way you are initially is a result of your genetic inheritance and early experience.
(b) It’s undeniable that these are things for which you can’t be held to be in any way responsible (morally or otherwise).
(c) But you can’t at any later stage of life hope to acquire true or ultimate moral responsibility for the way you are by trying to change the way you already are as a result of genetic inheritance and previous experience.
(d) Why not? Because both the particular ways in which you try to change yourself, and the amount of success you have when trying to change yourself, will be determined by how you already are as a result of your genetic inheritance and previous experience.
(e) And any further changes that you may become able to bring about after you have brought about certain initial changes will in turn be determined, via the initial changes, by your genetic inheritance and previous experience."
That pretty much covers it, I think, and if Zay or Zenemy don't want to see it, that unthinking resistance says a lot I think.
I reply to your question about narcissism and psychopathy: As I wrote in another thread, there is a current theory that psychopathy is a particularly strong form of narcissism. I doubt this. My idea, as you know, is that what we call "psychopathy" really isn't a "pathy" at all, but a normal human personality variant. Narcissism, on the other hand, I do consider pathology, although in contemporary Western culture it is beginning to seem almost normal since so many suffer from it--and make the rest of us to suffer them.
I do like your idea, however, that a psychopath, since he cannot be moved emotionally and seems not to require much connection to others, might be more easily lost in narcissism, and have no road back from it, than a so-called "normal." That may be. Recent posts in this thread seem to back up your idea.
Daniel, I am sorry that the original idea of the thread seems to have been lost. As Hexi said, it was just getting good (although I don't think he meant it in the way that I do). Perhaps you would like to start a new one on morality in one form or another.
Philosophy.. it is where psychology was risen from and you can see the influence. Just as philosophy rambles on and on about how the world is flat oh but then round and then there are witches but then there are none.
Philosophy.. the story of mankind but rest assured.. in the world of science.. we do not blindly go into the night. We do not trust some Catholic wise man to tell us how the mysteries of the world work..
because we have no faith...
We are scientists.. we are the logical minds of the world... we seek TRUE wisdom. Because we have seen where the darkness of unenlightened thinking has taken societies and we do not want to join them in oblivion.
All nations rise and fall. Only through science can we really know why.. why the world is the way it is. It was science that told us the Earth isn't flat, witches aren't real, and the color of a persons skin does not define them as an individual.
Science brings light to the darkness. I have offered you all wisdom and in it's light you all screamed and cried but you all did nothing. ou all said nothing. You whine that I do not examine your points of view yet you seek me to look for your information. No, if you have an arguement you will display it to me. You will not ask me to go look it up. As I do not ask you to look it up. i bring the facts to you.
Which is where we stand. I have brought the facts to you. What have you brought me in turn?
Words.. just like the Bible had words. You know why you only bring words and minor demeaning statements? Your egos are damaged... threatened by an undeniable truth. I have shaken the very foundation from which you stand because while Dr Robert will stimulate your egos.. I will not.
And my actions are only an amplification of the feelings Hexi has, We know you have nothing but words. As scientists I laugh at you. Look at your lack of knowledge towards the psychopath.
Their opinions of the psychopath are constantly evolving ideas and no more. In scientific terms.. there is no disorder in the mind of a psychopath. There is no dysfunction. A lose of consciousness is not considered a mental illness but is rather considered to be a mental deficiency of emotion.
All these psychopaths that psychology studies.. are in ******* PRISONS!!! I don't know about any of you but doesn't it seem rather odd that we have no other psychopaths to study? Better yet. why aren't you all asking these questions? Where are all these psychopaths that aren't being detected?! Maybe they are living more functional lives.. maybe they are more intelligent than prison idiots.
In scientific terms.. the test are all biased. The problem is.. psychologists cannot naturally locate psychopaths unless they are caught.
Anytime I can lie to your face and you have no way in your field of proving I'm a liar... you have no real science and I will not measure you to be anything more than you are until you validate reason for change.. but you can't and we both know that because any arguement you make that comes in conflict of neuroscience is not true.
You are a person of changing faith. I am a person of logic. I don't take comfort in feelings. I take comfort in knowledge. So when I see everyones egos scream and whine under the crushing power that is my reality... I am validated.
Further you really can't continue this.. joke. You forget that it is not me you are arguing against.. it's Harvard and the entire medical field. Fools.. you have not challenged anything more than the very cream of societies crop.
So.. that doctor that saved your family members life.. he practices my science. That preacher/philosopher/psychologist who makes you spiritually feel better but doesn't explain why your son is dying of aids.. he's not a real scientist. He just wants your ego to find him appealing so you will listen to his ideas that are unsupported.
This is all nothing more than a scientific experiment to me. Take a bunch of brainwashed egos and expose them to reality. Do they maintain brainwashing as designed upon their egos or do they reconsider?
They maintain brainwashing. While at the same time.. the psychopath remains vigilantly aware and does not fall into the manipulative traps that egos would submit to naturally.
It's always funnier to do psychological tricks to people who study psychology. It just shows you how inferior the ego really is. how quickly it is deceieved and fooled into submission.
Look at all of you sad little egos. All of you upset by my words.. no doubt many of you coming back time and again to see what has happened next.. what has been going on. I assume that though.. i assume it because egos crave conflict. People who wouldn't normal say anything.. will rise and say much when threatened but not when introduced to positive stimuli.
You all supported neuroscience through your actions.. do you get it now... oysters. I can explain to you why... actually I already have. It's a function of your autonomic nervous system.. which is often refereed to here as your subconscious or unconscious but really it does.. a lot more.
I'm not a psychopath you ignorant fool. I am a normal person who suffered brain trauma. Which means that while I do have a conscious.. my emotions are short lived, unlike a psychopath that has no feelings at all. however, outwardly appearing.. you might think i was a psychopath. Fortunately, THE MEDICAL FIELD OF SCIENCE has proven otherwise.
You can actually live with a depleted sense of consciousness. You don't become a mindless drone with no feelings either. But consider this...
Imagine you didn't know that. Imagine science never proved it. That would mean that if a person suffered coma and then came out and you didn't understand what was going on.. you would think they have become a cold blooded psychopath.
If you were religious you might think they were possessed by a demon and all the time you think this of that person.. they feel it when you say it. but they don't feel it very long. Nevertheless.. it hurts.. So maybe they start becoming like a psychopath.. maybe they start losing their connection.
But do you know why? Cause other people rejected them for being different. All the time.. this person has feelings just like everyone else but without science.. you wouldn't know that.
**** on what you think you know. **** on your deception. **** on your dark ways of thinking. I find comfort in science.. it does not guess but rather knows what is going on and if science does not know.. they tell you they don't know. They tell you they have theories but.. they don't know for a fact BECAUSE.. unlike Fox News, Preachers, philosophy, Psychology ect ect.. Science does not leave anything to question. Science is a collection of facts and as more facts are added.. more knowledge is obtained and the more we know about hw the brain works.. the more we can enlighten the world from darkness that is ignorant thinking.
Dr. Robert was right about at least one thing. You are intellectually quite dishonest which is the sign of a second rate mind at best. After asking him to offer some scientific evidence for his idea and then implying that he had none and was just making stuff up, you completely ignored the evidence he did offer you. Never commented on it, never even acknowledged it. I took a look at it, and it does seem to support his idea, and these were neurological experiments with MRI's of brains and all that.
I know your game, I have played your game, I see your game, and it's a loser called I'm Always Right. No wonder the doc cut you off. You deserved it.
I agree ROR and it's even worse that that because all of the guy's words adds up to nothing. Not that the experiments might not have been interesting but the idea that physical impairment of the brain can cause changes in consciousness is obvious and proves little which has not been known for decades or even centuries. Yes I guess that zeroing in on the actual cells responsibile is interesting in its way, but has nothing to do with what the Doc or James were talking about. Zenemy is one of those guys whose estimation of his own intellect is way out of line with what he really comes up with and he is blind to it because he is all ego and nothing else. I watched some of the truly bright people on this forum like Daniel debate things with the Doctor and those were good discussions because there was respect and listening on both sides and the Doctor is super bright and well informed and doesn't mind sharing ideas. This guy Zemeny doesn't know what he is talking about and is afraid to face up to being in a group of people like James and the Doctor who do know a thing or two. So he just ignores what they say and goes on raving.
Riddle me this, smart people. What does all of the preceeding discussing mean for morality's ontological status, in your opinion?
Morality ultimately resides in the ideas and behaviour of humans (assume that there are no smart, ethical aliens for the moment).
Thus, if there were no humans, morality wouldn't be.
However, we seem to have developed it for beneficial evolutionary reasons. I'd wager that for any animal broadly similar to us, something like morality and group dynamics would develop.
Of course, one can't know this, there's loads of good sci-fi built on this not being the case, but in the same way the complex eye replicates itself again and again in nature, in multifacetedd ways, in drastically different creatures. Consider how different an insect, octopod and mammalian eye are. But having an eye confers such an advantage on a planet such as this, so these diverse animals all have them.
So it's as if we can say, that for a certain type of animal, in X, Y and Z conditions, its a FACT that an eye is advantages.
It's an odd thing, a fact like this. What's its ontological status? It is supervenient on more fundamental rules of nature. If there were no planets in the universe, as there weren't in it's early history, then in a sense there was no geography. Yet as soon as planet begin to form, they do so in certain consistent and rationally comprehendible ways, and we have geography, with geographical facts. Geography exists, factually, but only when there are bodies to which it applies
In the same way, morality exists, when there are moral agents (not that I believe they have agency). Language exists only when there are those that can speak it, yet linguistics can be considered a science, with its own OBJECTIVE facts (basics structures of all human grammar and so on).
So is morality objective, actually existing? Yes, but supervening on other natural facts, and laws.
As to what the natural law, physics, reality that these things are derived from really are, ontologically speaking... It's late, I just finished a shift and that's a long pitch. My monism is getting the best of me.
What I've written is very skatty, but hopefully I gave some sort of idea. I'll update when I can if it interests you. And I need to read that article. and pick up on some of FamFive's points.