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An analysis of the relationship between evolutionary theories and value: Reassessing the consensus on biological fitness and evolutionary explanations of behaviour


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An analysis of the relationship between evolutionary theories and value: Reassessing the consensus on biological fitness and evolutionary explanations of behaviour …

An analysis of the relationship between evolutionary theories and value: Reassessing the consensus on biological fitness and evolutionary explanations of behaviour

Stuart R. G. Calimport

MA Dissertation, Practical Ethics (2010)

Published in: Education, Technology, Spiritual

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  • 1. 1 Department of Philosophy Stuart R. G. Calimport MA Dissertation Practical Ethics An analysis of the relationship between evolutionary theories and value: Reassessing the consensus on biological fitness and evolutionary explanations of behaviour August 2010 Minor edits - September 2013
  • 2. 2 An analysis of the relationship between evolutionary theories and value: Reassessing the consensus on biological fitness and evolutionary explanations of behaviour Introduction The grounds for value and ethics have long been contested between philosophers. With the rise of scientific investigation there have been attempts to provide scientific explanations, frameworks and support for ethics and ethical behaviours. This piece will endeavour to show how scientific theories and frameworks might be beneficial to support ethical thinking, argue against the major objections to naturalism, and attempt to further thinking in the field of naturalism by reducing the amount of assumptions made in naturalism with regards to how ethical behaviours have arisen and can be explained. This will be done by questioning the evolutionary psychology accounts of behaviour, particularly ethical behaviour, that explain such behaviours only by the existence and transmission of evolutionary units that have been selected for because they promote or are conducive to replication and reproduction. This piece will ask whether there is basis for a view of good based on the value of individuals that is also wary of the effects of evolutionary processes on the ability of individuals to value their existence, its continuance and their welfare. One will also analyse
  • 3. 3 whether evolutionary processes and theories including memetics - which posits that ideas are subject to evolutionary processes like genes - can shed some light on the ability for evolutionary processes to effect valuation processes. Can evolutionary theory highlight which genes and memes if any appear to be instrumental in upholding the value of individuals via being instrumental for the existence of beings that can value their own existence, its continuance and their welfare? For this would be the first step towards utilising evolutionary theory in normative ethical thinking. Ethical systems appear to persist in an evolutionary manner which may cause values to diverge and benefit the existence of other things than those that it is something to be like which may value their own existence, continued existence and ability to survive. The case will be made that one should be highly critical of any evolutionary ethics theory or scientific theory that has counter-intuitive claims about why individuals behave in certain ways or where individual’s behaviours are caused by something other than that which the individual is conscious of. Including being critical of explanations of behaviours that appear to go against that which could be said to be of value, namely the existence, continuance and welfare of individuals - which appears to be a very intuitive, common and non-controversial ethical standpoint. Although scientific theories of evolution, evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics theories of human behaviour may attempt to be value-neutral, the effects of these theories on individuals via the value judgements these individuals could make and the changes in ethical value that could take place mean that individuals possessing value may stop
  • 4. 4 valuing existence and continued survival in order to more efficiently do what evolutionary psychologists suggest that individuals behave like for. This is an especially prominent point if explanations of how structures such as genes survive is not comprehensive enough, as this may promote certain methods of survival being enacted over others if other modes of survival for evolutionary structures such as genes are possible other than replication and reproduction – such as biological immortality. The definition of an individual that is able to value should have a time element attached as argued by Horrobin who states that there is value not just in life but in the length of life, for in order to experience and for valuing activity to take place one requires an extension of a individual in time. Whereby a being that has no extension of time does not exist (Horrobin, 2006). Thus existence through time of an individual is a necessary and integral part of the discussion of value and conscious experience. This is important as Horrobin makes a clear link between length of life and value, which is critical when thinking about explanations of why individuals value things that are beneficial to the continuance of the survival of themselves as valuers and as lives that have value. The link between value and the continuance of existence of individuals needs to be shown to be important. Where those things which many value or see as being good for the welfare of individuals actually give survival advantages to that individual, and thus that which is of value and that which aids the continuance of existence of individuals appears to be near synonymous – this cannot be said of traditional ethical values and evolutionary psychology explanations of behaviour. The definitions of survival as used within this piece
  • 5. 5 will be more comprehensive and less reductive so as to distinguish them from simple survival. Whereby any action that has a positive impact on survival and is thus instrumental for the continued existence of individuals will be part of what is meant by welfare. This additional clarification is necessary due a widespread philosophical assumption that survival needs are lower or less valuable or important than other higher or more important desires or values that have no relation to survival, when in fact, many activities can give survival benefits. Activities instrumental to survival will not just be shelter and food, but all behaviours which when done in such a way, in the right balance with other behaviours give an advantage to survival such as moral codes, law, medicine, social interaction, knowledge, self-deception, art, aesthetics, technology, autonomy, health and happiness. There has been a large historical prevalence of theological and metaphysical claims that there is something higher and mystical about both value and conscious experience. This has meant that much time in philosophical discourse has been spent arguing about value and conscious experience without trying to convert or relate philosophical statements or moral facts to scientific facts via scientific research into neuroscience to discover more about the emergent phenomenon of consciousness. Values and individuals exist within the physical world. Thus one should not need to define one's stance as naturalistic or have to relate one's value systems to that which naturalism or evolutionary ethics says values are or arose from, for all ethical discussion takes place in the physical world. Perhaps the most apt approach to philosophy would be to focus on which ethical intuitions appear the strongest and see whether any scientific evidence may help uncover whether there is any
  • 6. 6 physical evidence for the philosophical claim by starting with a reverse engineering approach until one has all the data to explain ethics from a purely bottom-up approach. By examining a view of ethics based on the value of individuals continued existence and welfare that is also wary of the effects of evolutionary processes on the ability to value this, one is making use of evolutionary theory and also taking the stance that both mental processes and moral facts are physical objects and processes. Of course, there is little evidence as to which specific physical objects and processes relate directly to mental processes and moral facts, but there is a rising body of evidence in neuroscience that morality and conscious experience can be affected by altering physical processes in the brain, this can be seen in the research of Kornhuber, Young et al and Koenigs et al amongst others (Kornhuber, 1978; Kornhuber, 1984; Koenigs et al, 2007; Young et al, 2010). Which natural facts relate to which values and things called moral facts appears to be a hard problem, but this piece will focus on the property of being a conscious individual that appears to be a physical, distinct and valuable property for those who possess this property, and that many actions that are said to have value or are called ethical appear to maintain the existence of this particular phenomenon throughout time. We exist in a period in time whereby the physical processes or natural facts involved in explanation of value, such as how individuals can value their own existence, continued existence and their welfare, have not yet been fully explained, but it may still be valuable to keep in mind that such an explanation would be useful and may be possible in the future. Thinking that mind or values are not physical processes or natural facts seems non-
  • 7. 7 beneficial for things one should do normatively in order to uphold values, and it appears more to be an avoidance of reality, so that one cannot be proved wrong. What is possible now is to observe that individuals do express that they value their own existence, continued existence and welfare, and record these trends, whilst possibly start explaining them within the scientific framework we have presently. For if the value of the lives of individuals ever does become a proven natural fact, one would presumably want to air on the side of caution and take heed of the philosophical intuitions that lead one to think so, and to start the process of explaining these philosophical intuitions with the scientific frameworks available at the time. Of course, the problems and objections raised by Hume and Moore with regards to the Naturalistic Fallacy (Hume, 1740; Moore, 1903) will be analysed within this piece after a critique of evolutionary theory, evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics has been attempted. With regards to the Naturalistic Fallacy, one will support the claim that as values exist within the physical world, they must have physical correlates as physical facts or processes. The question then is not whether there are physical correlates to values, but instead the following questions arise: 1) what are their physical correlates 2) what properties do these physical correlates have and 3) how their properties might distinguish behaviours from ethical behaviours and thus 4) what may cause values to change or diverge. If one intuition can be taken from traditional ethics, this intuition shall be that there is something known as ethical value that is to be ascertained, and this value is related to
  • 8. 8 individuals and interactions between individuals. Where although there is much still unknown about the human brain and consciousness, the value of individuals appears to be linked to that which many philosophers argue has value, such as the value of life and the length of life. Regan in The Case for Animal Rights states this quite clearly as a common intuition: ...the really crucial, the basic similarity is simply this: we are each of us the experiencing subject of a life, a conscious creature having an individual welfare that has importance to us whatever our usefulness to others....our continued existence or our untimely death- all make a difference to the quality of our life as lived, as experienced, by us as individuals. (Regan, 2004, p229) Regan in The Case for Animal Rights argues that individuals have value in their existence, continuance of life and their welfare (Regan, 2004). The major claim of this piece will be that a critically important property of many ethical valuations is that ethical behaviours are involved in maintaining the existence, continuance and welfare of the lives of individuals and that such ethical valuations are explainable by evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics once one takes into account alternate methods of survival for evolutionary structures – such as biological immortality, which would extend the continuance and welfare of individuals. During this piece, one will try to support Regan's claim about value (Regan, 2004, p229)
  • 9. 9 with the caveats of memetics and evolutionary theory that will hopefully deal with counter- examples as to why one might disagree with this statement or why one might be seen to value other things. Of course, there is nothing to say that Regan's own statement is nothing more that the product of genes and memes that value their own survival but not Regan’s existence. As Regan’s intuition is such a common intuition and also goes against the survival benefit of many genes and memes that are not beneficial to the existence of valuers, there might be reason to think that the value of life is more than just an adaptation to help the survival of the species and aid reproductive success. In addition, as consciousness appears to be beneficial for the survival of genes and memes that are beneficial to consciousness, there appears to be a process whereby genes and memes that benefit individuals are more able to survive via either transmission or survival within that individual as they continue to exist. Critiquing the consensus on biological fitness and evolutionary explanations of behaviour Biological fitness is a currently a measure not of the ability of individuals to continue through time but of their proven ability to procreate and pass on their genes. If one were to try and argue that biological fitness or even the survival of evolutionary structures has explanatory power for ethical values and behaviours that are unrelated to procreation, then there exist several counter-examples, which must be explained. I shall use the properties of evolutionary theories and structures to critique and invite thought on the presumptions of evolutionarily ethics, evolutionarily psychology, biological assessments of function and the
  • 10. 10 definition of biological fitness that stipulates the cycle of reproduction and finite existence of individuals is the only method of survival for evolutionary structures such as genes. One shall also showcase multiple properties of genes that allow them to continue existing, give examples, and argue that alternative methods of gene and meme survival gives greater explanatory power over human behaviours. These additional properties of the products of evolutionary units appear to be more closely related with valuing the continuance of life of individuals and the welfare of individuals. This may not fit into the standard Neo-Darwinian account of ethical behaviours, where behaviours remain in existence because of the benefit that they have for reproduction. Ruse (1986) states this standard explanation that I wish to bring into question in Evolutionary Ethics: A Phoenix Arisen: In a sense … the evolutionist's case is that ethics is a collective illusion of the human race, fashioned and maintained by natural selection in order to promote individual reproduction... (Ruse, 1986, p235) If an explanation of evolutionary units and their role in human behaviour, specifically ethical behaviour, that does not focus only on biological fitness and reproduction has a greater explanatory power, then one must question the way evolutionary units such as genes, and potentially memes, are defined as replicative units which would presumably also lead to a redefinition of biological fitness that included scoring for other methods of genes surviving – such as biological immortality.
  • 11. 11 If human behaviour is related to reproduction and evolutionary accounts of ethical behaviours are supposed be accounts of successful behaviours for reproductive success, then one may think this implies that ethical behaviour has a function or presumed function related to reproductive success. The notion of the healthy function of humans to survive and reproduce has been remarked on by Boorse in Health as a Theoretical Concept (Boorse, 1977). Boorse does acknowledge individual survival as well as species survival is part of healthy human function (Boorse, 1977), but the notion that reproduction is part of what human function is would surely lead to the idea that individuals who do not reproduce are neither healthy or achieving their biological function. What is worrying is that this view and similar views that focus on function are reasonably wide-spread throughout evolutionary studies and the biological sciences, yet many ethical behaviours and intuitions about the continuance of and the welfare of individuals that exist appear to go against this idea of what is healthy and normal human function. For instance, most human behaviours and ethical behaviours appear to have a direct benefit on those individuals that behave in that way, and may also benefit other individuals that are alive. To think that human behaviour and society is like it is because this is an efficient way of reproducing does not seem intuitive for surely there would be more ways to do this more efficiently. Thus this appears to create a scenario whereby either ethical behaviours and intuitions that value the existence, continuance and welfare of life are somehow not healthy or normal with regards to function unless they aid reproduction or reproduction is not related to human function or value in a meaningful or correct way and thus there is something factually incorrect about this sort of statement and the concepts of the function or explanation of human behaviours via evolutionary structures and organisms are not value-free.
  • 12. 12 What is worrying here is ideas of human behaviour or function related to reproduction seem counter-intuitive with what individuals might think they are behaving ethically for. If one instead takes into account that if ethical behaviours have other consequences rather than primarily increasing biological fitness, then perhaps ethical behaviours may be linked to other natural facts other than increasing ones likelihood of passing on genes to the next generation or passing on memes. If one analyses what ethical behaviours appear to do, which is to confer length of life to individuals through increasing their safety and health etc. and also takes a more generalised view of the properties of units such as genes or memes that says that genes and memes that survive are the ones that are most efficient at surviving, then it appears that both ethical behaviour and the survival strategies of genes and memes appear to share similarities. The current Neo-Darwinian account is that evolutionary units that enable an organism to survive and reproduce will be those that are passed on just because the organism has survived and reproduced via natural selection. Instead one is suggesting that this could be re-written as: The evolutionary units that exist are those that enable an organism to survive. Where this survival can be due to replication, repair, robustness and any other mechanism that allows this. Nowhere in this piece is one stating that individuals aren't affected by genes and memes which gives them a proclivity for procreation or that many behaviours including those labelled as ethical can give advantages to reproduction or even that genes and memes
  • 13. 13 that are efficient at reproduction cannot survive. What one is stating is that there are many ways for genes and memes to survive and continue existing and replication is but one mode of survival. How is this idea changing the way biological fitness is viewed and judged by individuals? The ideas of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary theory are commonplace due to pop-psychology and education systems, and these ideas may well modify what individuals see as valuable or see as their purpose in life and may act on information about why evolutionary psychology says we behave as we do which may lessen the welfare and continued existence of these individuals, and thus an incorrect view of how things survive may affect both valuers and values. Procreation can have a direct positive effect on the survival of individuals due to the actions of the other individuals created by this process such as the young being able to care for the old and maintain society. Thus if procreation and a biological fitness can have the benefit of continuance of life and welfare of individuals then perhaps procreation in some instances can be seen as ethical behaviour. In addition, many genes and memes both benefit procreation and individual survival, but this should not reduce all human behaviours down to having genes that can survive by being beneficial to procreation. For if this is so, what must one say of human behaviours that aren't beneficial to procreation? To make clear the problem being analysed: If either human behaviours or ethical human behaviours are solely to procreate, then why would humans be behaving as they are now or valuing as they do now? One might say that nowhere is there a Neo-Darwinist claim that procreation is good or valuable, and this is true, but the underlying assumptions in
  • 14. 14 evolutionary psychology, evolutionary ethics and biological assumptions about fitness may have an effect on how and what individuals might value if individuals believe what they are being told these explanations of human behaviours. Additionally, apart from individuals valuing their own existence, continued existence and welfare, behaviours that are described as ethical or good also appear to take into account the survival of other individuals. Mutual survival for the benefit of the survival and welfare of individuals appears to occur. Whereby helping other individuals survive in a manner that is instrumental to ones own survival appears to have a genetic and memetic component, where memes and genes that promote group survival also promote individual survival. This has been heavily debated and documented by Blackmore, Dawkins, Midgley and Radcliffe Richards and strong evidence appears to support at least a partly genetic basis for reciprocal or mutual survival (Dawkins,1976; Midgley, 1978; Blackmore 1999; Radcliffe Richards 2001). It is not within the scope of this piece of writing to defend this, it is only important for this piece to note that mutual survival appears to be a mechanism which keeps certain individuals, genes and memes in existence. Where altruism allows these genes and memes to continue their existence and increase the welfare of individuals by allowing individuals access to more tools and resources etc. Also it is important to note that if behaviour can generally be called ethical if it allows the continuance of life and welfare of all individuals, then altruism and mutual survival appears to be ethical behaviour because of the consequences of this behaviour. Moreover, genetics and memetics provides a strong framework for explaining why some behaviours that individuals do, do not lead to the continuance of existence and welfare of those individuals, because their
  • 15. 15 values can change and diverge and their genes and their products can differ, malfunction, mutate or drift - this would explain self-sacrificial or non-ethical behaviours. The idea of individuals working together to both improve ones own welfare and to continue their existence by helping others appears to be similar to the theory of mutualism in biological sciences. Yet mutualism in the biological context presently is defined as the way that more than one organism interacts to increase both their biological fitness scores. It is this pervasive idea that increases in biological fitness are the reason for many ethical actions such as helping others that needs to be brought into question. Nowhere here am I stating that by helping others that one cannot do this in order to more efficiently procreate or that helping others doesn't lead to procreation advantages, but that ethical behaviours can help individuals, genes and memes survive and this survival isn't just linked to procreation but is linked to the continuance of the lives and welfare of individuals which has been argued is of ethical value. One can see individuals continuing to exist for longer if one looks at life expectancy and mortality curves for humans living in safer and more resource rich societies over time (Sinclair, D. 2008) where there is increased mutualism. Examining ethical behaviour with the law of parsimony may be useful in order to highlight the assumptions and emphasis made about biological fitness in relation to ethical behaviours. It is assumed that the genes that exist do so because they benefit the propagation and survival of themselves. It is also assumed that ethical behaviours such as mutual survival are passed on through evolutionary units have only remained in existence because of their benefit to passing on genetic material. Thus there are two major
  • 16. 16 assumptions once broken down. The first assumption is that individuals as the product of genes, behave in ways beneficial for the survival of their genes, this includes behaviours described as ethical. The second assumption is that the only way for genes to survive is by reproduction. Additionally, it is of worth to point out that this biological view of human behaviour is purported to be value-neutral. Yet the second assumption that ethical behaviours such as mutual survival of multiple individuals have the consequences of increasing biological fitness and that genes that code for ethical behaviour can only survive by being transmitted via replication does not appear to be factually correct for it is possible that there are other ways of surviving such as having repair mechanisms, altering the environment, or by creating a more robust host vehicle. I hereby suggest that a more general theory of survival should be constructed, whereby any means of increasing survival increases fitness, rather than the current definition of biological fitness which only scores the ability of genes to continue existing by being passed on to the next generation. Whereby, if a construct such as a gene or a meme can survive via alternative means to replication or reproduction such as through being more robust or having efficient repair mechanisms these should be viable strategies too. In addition, it does not seem to make sense to describe ethical behaviours as just having the consequences of increasing the ability for genes to be passed on, for ethical behaviours appear to benefit the continuance of life and welfare of conscious individuals no matter whether these individuals are passing on their genes or not. For individuals do not always consciously act in ethical ways in order to benefit their biological fitness, but
  • 17. 17 individuals consciously act in ways beneficial for themselves and other conscious individuals. In addition individuals that do not procreate can be seen to still act in an ethical ways that promote their own continued existence and welfare and that of others. Of course, one could object to this by describing the phenomenon of childless individuals are purely counter-examples of evolutionary processes due to mutations and diversity in genes and memes in a way that was inefficient for the survival of the childless individual's genes and memes. Evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics objections might try to explain away individuals behaving in ways they thought would increase their own survival as a self-deception or misunderstanding of the evolutionary processes that they are part of. One could also explain individuals that do not procreate as still being ethical because they can still have genes and memes that allow them to be ethical and as such behave in ways that increase their own welfare and that of others instrumentally and value their continued existence, even though they do not have functioning genes and memes that function for procreation. The existence of those individuals who have genes and memes that promote ethical behaviours but do not have as strong dispositions to act on genes and memes related to procreation are an interesting case study. From an evolutionary perspective of why humans behave as they do, one must observe what individuals are actually doing. Where it appears that ethical behaviours such as acting in the interest of the continuance of life and welfare of individuals appear to be presently being selected for and these behaviours are surviving through allowing individuals to live longer lives, repair themselves, live in more safe and robust environments etc. Lastly, the Neo-Darwinian or evolutionary psychology explanations of behaviour are
  • 18. 18 themselves altering what memes exist, and which genes survive, by themselves propagating ideas and causing a selection pressure towards memes and the genes that are linked to Neo-Darwinian memes by being in the same host vehicle for those that change their behaviours due to having read evolutionary psychology explanations of behaviour. On childlessness and evolutionary explanations of behaviour and ethics With the number of individuals from various groups that are having fewer or no children on the rise (Bachu, 1999 ; Espenshade et al, 2003), it would seem that the phenomenon can no longer be looked at as a biological anomaly, and in fact there may be many genes and memes that are efficient at or improving their efficiency in surviving for longer periods without procreation and which may in the near-future be able to survive independently of procreation. Some of these genes and memes appear to focus on the survival of the individual, and many of the behaviours caused by genes and memes that focus on survival of the individual are thought to be ethical. Whereby those individuals in higher socio- economic classes, those with higher IQ and thus those with access to more resources such as healthcare and technologies not only appear to live longer (Stockwell, 1961; Stockwell, 1963; Swanson, n.d.; Growing disparities in life expectancy, n.d) but have less children (Osborne, 1975; Shatz, 2008). These patterns may be down to memes and genes surviving in different ways other than via procreation or transmission. Instead it appears that genes and memes are surviving by being part of structurally complex, robust, long- lived individuals that are able to modify their environment and have mechanisms for
  • 19. 19 repairing damage on a cellular and organismal level. Additionally, if what is valuable is the continuance and welfare of individual’s lives, then it is important to note that genes and memes that are conducive to what is commonly accepted or required for value and valuers appears to be on the increase. It is not obvious that all ethical behaviours have continued to survive because they could potentially increase biological fitness. Whereas one might see that many ethical behaviours appear to directly affect individual survival without any specific or additional assumptions. Taking groups that do not procreate as an apt example, if one assumes increasing biological fitness is the major consequence of ethical behaviour, one might be forced to say that via a naturalistic assessment of ethical value, childless populations are not behaving in ways that one may have assigned as explanations of ethical and altruistic behaviour. In addition, one might be forced to defend ones position by stating that childless groups are not healthy or not normal in order to explain away this counter-example of evolutionarily psychology and evolutionary ethics. Yet if there is one thing that many childless groups have in common, it is that they still appear to be acting in a manner conducive to their individual survival and are also being altruistic. If this is so, this comes with the realisation of a trend - that those with a zero biological fitness and a high biological fitness appear to share common behaviours related to acting ethically. Next one might see that there are genes and memes that are able to survive for the benefit of a variety of entities and survive in numerous ways. For instance, one could imagine genes and memes that don't favour reproduction that can survive via reproduction, where the individuals that have these genes and memes may have more time and resources and the disposition or
  • 20. 20 memes needed to find other methods surviving rather than via reproduction. In addition, although many genes that are successful at surviving might be linked to procreation, memes are not held by the same constraints for they can be passed on horizontally and also can modify themselves without procreation. I find that the example of childless groups, or those who do not reach their potential biological fitness, might be more than a counter-example needing to be explained away by genetic abnormalities or that childless individuals have genes that favour the survival of those who are rearing children. Genes and memes that promote ethical behaviours, behaviours that benefit the continuance of life and welfare of individuals, can be present in childless populations, and by not having to look after children more time and resources can be put towards the promotion of the continuance of life and welfare of these individuals. This is because certain childless groups, such as those who do not wish to have children, are not being affected by genes and memes that are trying to promote the survival of those genes or memes through reproduction at any cost to the host, but instead have genes and memes that may promote the survival of individuals that are already alive including themselves. The genes and memes that childless groups have appear to be genes and memes that are evolving in ways that may help the host survive and the genes and memes survive whilst being in that host vehicle, or by horizontal meme transfer. Examples of such genes that appear to be linked to having a lower biological fitness include genes linked to health, sexuality and intelligence such as STX1A (Gao et al, 2010) and DTNBP1 (Straub et al,
  • 21. 21 2002). The memes that play a part in this are memes concerning values about ones life, continuance of life and ones welfare. In addition, childless groups may highlight how alternative method of survival might be possible for genes and memes that existing within robust, long-lived vehicles. These alternative methods of survival might include computer networks and data storage, gene banks, modified environments that are safer and allow greater repair and maintenance, healthier humans, and better medical technologies allowing humans to live for longer periods including antibiotics and regenerative medicine. In addition, by remaining childless individuals have a greater amount of wealth to potentially spend on physical fitness, healthcare, living environment, increasing their own social status and intellect and many other activities that are associated with an increased likelihood of survival. Thus although reproduction is still necessary for survival of genes and memes at present, one can see that there is a trend of genes and memes growing in prevalence that favour different modes of genetic and memetic survival to reproduction. The different modes of survival that increase the length of life and quality of life appear to be more in keeping with ethical values about the inherent value of life which is a commonly held and discussed value. Thus there appears to be a link between 1) certain genes and memes and their effects on individuals, 2) these individual's methods of survival and 3) philosophical thinking in meta- ethics. If one actually views the effects of human behaviours such as ethical discussion, ethical behaviour, increasing knowledge, society, technology, medicine, law etc. it actually seems
  • 22. 22 counter-intuitive to explain these as being solely linked to adaptations for reproduction. For surely if there might be other more efficient strategies for increasing reproduction, they surely would have been enacted if human psychology is influenced heavily by traits that are conducive to procreation. Instead, it appears to be more likely that the genes and memes and their products that exist currently as individuals and their society and environment are actually more beneficial to the existence, continuance and welfare of individuals that are alive. Lastly, to summarise analysis of childless groups: If there are groups of individuals who are still doing what may be considered ethical, yet these actions are not leading to reproduction, then surely this disconnect between ethics and reproduction highlights a problem with thinking about behaviours. This problem looks to be rectified once alternate methods of survival are taken into account. Alternate methods of survival for evolutionary units? If one is to say that procreation is not the only method of survival for genes and memes and that procreation does not appear to primarily uphold the inherent value of the lives of individuals and the value of the continuance and welfare of these lives, one would have to account for how tendencies that promote otherwise remain in existence. One would also have to account for how those tendencies in the form of genes and ideas might survive as their host vehicle would presumably die of ageing. One might also want to say whether there are presently efficient medical technologies and genes that are sufficient to be able
  • 23. 23 to maintenance the continuance of life and welfare of individuals. If the means for genes or individuals to survive independently of reproduction do not currently exist this would not stop such means being of value, it only proves there is a disparity between realising what is good and valuable to being able to act effectively once one has assessed what is of value. There does not appear to be any governing biological theory, function of biological organisms or specific method of survival such as reproduction that makes survival by other means impossible. In fact many other means have been documented in science, but are only viewed as special cases. But as they exist one should not relate evolutionary psychology and ethics specifically to one method of survival such as replication. Evolutionarily ethics that focuses only on how traits are linked to their ability to be transmitted appears to be reductive in its explanation of how genes, memes and individuals do or could survive. There appears to be a widespread fallacy whereby evolutionary theory, evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics extrapolate the idea that genes and memes can only survive by replication into an assumption that survival of a species can only occur through reproduction, and that individuals cannot survive via any other way – such as biological immortality. By assuming that individuals cannot survive another way, this appears to be suggesting or defining the function of individuals and limiting their choices, how they can respond to that which they value, and what they can hope to achieve. These false assumptions about how constructs such as genes, memes and individuals can survive, is making a teleological and biological flaw concerning the
  • 24. 24 basic properties of how things can remain in existence. There are potentially alternate ways to survive, such as by increasing complexity, gaining emergent properties (Corning, 2002) such as consciousness, becoming more robust, modifying the external environment or existing in an environment conducive to survival and by having repair mechanisms. All these ways of surviving are found in nature, and do not potentially have to be linked to replication. In addition, even though on a cellular or intracellular level replication of genetic material might take place, this does not mean that the individual organism has to undergo the same fate of replication combined with death of the individual organism. There are a few examples found in nature of individual organisms, and thus the species they are part of, existing for long periods without reproduction: The B. permians micro- organism survived via suspended animation for 250 million years. The Bacillus sphaericus which is 40 million years old after a state of suspended animation was re-animated. Lomatia tasmanica is a plant that is particularly interesting because an individual plant has survived for 43,000 years and is unable to reproduce sexually yet still survives adequately (Longest lived organism, n.d.). In addition the Hydra genus includes many simple freshwater animals, which although reproduce, due to its regenerative ability does not undergo senescence, which is the process of ageing (Martinez, 1998). Thus clearly there are methods by which species can survive in addition to the reproduction and deaths of individuals. If this is the case in some species, then biological definitions of fitness, evolutionary psychology and ethical explanations of behaviour should account for these
  • 25. 25 other methods of survival. This includes relating such examples of other species utilising other methods of survival to human behaviours, psychology and explanations of ethical behaviour and thinking. Not only can individual organisms survive via alternate methods to reproduction but genes and memes can survive without replication once in robust structures such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Charles, 2006), genomic databases such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information database ( and via written and online documentation. Many of these discoveries are relatively recent yet the nomenclature and definitions of biology have not changed to incorporate them as more than just counter-examples or irregularities but valid methods of survival that should be taken into account when discussing biological fitness and behaviour. If these changes are not incorporated, evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics will continue attributing human behaviours to replication and reproduction and this may create an incomplete picture and alter why individuals think they are behaving, which may affect the valuable lives of individuals. This might be the case whether values are just memes or instead something more fundamental and only explainable once consciousness has been scientifically explained in full, or simply if memes that value the life of the individual happen to be efficient at surviving. Kirkwood a renowned gerontologist writes conservatively in his book Times of Our Lives (Kirkwood,1999) that at some time in the future, albeit potentially far away, the process of ageing might be stopped. If this were so, then this would have a great impact on what genes and memes might survive and how species and individuals might survive. Such a feat as stopping or reversing ageing might potentially mean that the inherent value of the
  • 26. 26 continuance of life and welfare of individuals might be attained and upheld rather than being in a state where the continuance of life and welfare of lives is valuable yet unable to be acted upon or upheld. To conclude, the nomenclature of replicative structures, the class to which both genes and memes currently belong, may hold within it an assumption based upon only a single method of survival. This assumption that genes and memes can only survive via replication seems to have affected naturalistic interpretations of ethics and attempts to find out why individuals have certain values and how and why they act upon them. Perhaps instead of replicative structures, genes and potentially ideas, should be termed surviving structures. In addition, it appears that the term replicative structures might be disingenuous. For memes and genes spend significant amounts of time being beneficial to survival rather than engaging in their dissemination and replication. Where the focus should be placed less on reproduction but on a more general idea that what survives is what is successful at surviving. It appears that neither genes or memes or individuals must survive via replication or reproduction. Thus the explanations one must give in evolutionary psychology or ethics should take this into account and also not view these alternate ways of surviving as counter-examples or rarities that should only be analysed by their effect on replication and reproduction.
  • 27. 27 The evolutionary nature of ideas and the effect this may have on losing or changing values If ethical thoughts and behaviours are composed of natural elements, and ethical outcomes follow from the naturalistic premises, examination of what naturalistic factors might be involved is important. One set of factors that appear to be involved are evolutionary processes that might influence ethical outcomes. It has been postulated that ideas are themselves subject to evolutionary processes more directly than being influenced by dispositions from genes, whereby ideas are themselves evolutionary units. In particular if values can be subject to changes in genes and memes, knowing how what is of value could be discerned in an empirical way, or knowing how values can be lost or changed is important for ethical thinking. Thus, even if there are values that align with what is good for an individual, this individual may not know what that good is, or their values could change so they are no longer aligned with what is good for them as conscious individuals. It is possible to think about ideas as themselves being subject to Darwinian processes as we see ideas improve, change, split in half, die out, transfer from one person to another, add or remove small parts of them, new ideas happen, ideas interact, ideas stopping other ideas in everyday life. This phenomenon has been noted and the theory of memetics has been formed around this (Dawkins, 1976; Dawkins, 1983; Blackmore, 1999). What is controversial about memetics is that the physical component of ideas has not been found as of yet, so although it may be clear that ideas may behave in ways common to Darwinian
  • 28. 28 processes, there is only some observational evidence of this and not structural evidence of this process. Thus if 1) values are ideas and 2) ideas might be subject to the properties of physical constructs, and 3) Darwinian process occur in physical constructs then discussion of memetics appears important in discussing the relationship between facts and values and in making statements about what good is. Many naturalistic theories of ethics ignore the possibility that there may be factors at work other than the products of genes. Thus not only do evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics nominally take into account other mechanisms of survival for evolutionary units and individuals, but they do not take into account in any strong explanatory way how differences in value might occur. Note that I am not stating that genes do not play a part in behaviour or ethical behaviour, just that there may be a second evolutionary unit that is involved and that certain genes and memes may be involved in certain behaviours, which are described and thought to be ethical. Although no structure has been physically identified as a meme within the brain which would be important if one wishes to explain ethics and human behaviour convincingly in a scientific way, research into physicalism, embodied philosophy (Garbarini and Adenzato, 2004) and neuroscience (Koenigs et al, 2007; Young et al, 2010) provide evidence for and argue that the mind exists physically within the body, and thus ideas are in some way linked to biological processes. Scientific research is critical in order to move on from the mind-body problem and the fact-value gap. The idea of physically identifying memes and potentially the relationship between memes and the physical consciousness is important when trying to provide a complete naturalistic explanation of consciousness and ethics.
  • 29. 29 This remains important whether those that first wrote about ideas such as consciousness, ethics and memetics truly deemed empirical theories to explain observed phenomenon necessary. For without empirical observation to back up philosophy, one would resign oneself to philosophising over questions whose answers cannot be proved correct or incorrect. This is succinctly put by Tullberg and Tullberg in A Critique of The Naturalistic Fallacy Thesis (Tullberg and Tullberg, 2001) whereby they state that for values to be understood and respected this can only happen when they have an empirical foundation and that the Naturalistic Fallacy is an anti-intellectual device that shields values from rational scientific enquiry. This viewpoint is critical to this piece as it explains why one might try to look further into what naturalistic processes are involved in valuing and related to the values of continuance of life and welfare of individuals, which are common ethical intuitions. For if one can explain the empirical basis of values and which behaviours appear to be linked to ethical values, one would expect normative implications to follow from this descriptive research. A general defence of naturalism against the is-ought dichotomy and committing the Naturalistic Fallacy One must properly address the criticisms to naturalistic or evolutionary approaches to ethics. The major objection to naturalism is by Hume in the form of the no-'ought'-from-'is' argument in the Treatise of Human Nature. Hume argues that one cannot derive values from facts (Hume, 1740). This line of thinking was also propounded by Moore in Principia Ethica who thought that it would always make sense to question why something was good,
  • 30. 30 and this cannot be done if good is synonymous with another property or action (Moore, 1903). The major criticism of naturalistic explanations of ethics is due to Moore's Naturalistic Fallacy. Moore described a common fallacy that naturalism is putatively guilty of, that the property of goodness has been confused with that which possesses that property or some property that good things have (Moore, 1903). Yet, the major point Moore was trying to make is that what is good about things is not to be found within their properties alone. Teehan and DiCarlo in On the Naturalistic Fallacy: A Conceptual Basis for Evolutionary Ethics (2004) raise an important point about the Naturalistic Fallacy and the is-ought problem. The question is raised as to why non-empirical philosophy can pass through the Naturalistic Fallacy whereas any scientific approach such as naturalism and evolutionarily meta-ethics are barred from discussion of ethics and value. Teehan and DiCarlo state that the Naturalistic Fallacy may also impede non-empirical philosophical approaches too. The observation is then made that metaphysicians are guilty of equating good to a super-sensible property or objects, and by doing so, by equating good to a property, metaphysicians have committed a similar fallacy to the naturalists. Thus of course it appears useful to question what is good, which is part of Moore's point, but it does not seem to follow that we can just know good when we see it as one could then potentially argue anything was good. Neither does it follow that it is impossible to define good in naturalistic terms because values and consciousness exist within in the physical world. Yet, as non-empirical philosophy can never prove what is good, whereas empirically founded philosophy has at least the chance of being able to explain consciousness and value and relate them to physical facts, it seems appropriate to look at
  • 31. 31 what evolutionary theory and memetics might have to offer as well as to presume that values and consciousness have physical correlates even if we do not know quite what they are yet. Teehan and DiCarlo state the point that Moore should have called the Naturalistic Fallacy the Definist Fallacy, for the fallacy seems to actually be one in which an attempt is made to define good as any other quality, natural or metaphysical. It has been suggested by Regan that Moore created the fallacy to maintain the autonomy of ethical study and thus the ability to understand and ask what good is, which might be lost and which would be dangerous (Regan, 1986). Teehan and DiCarlo also describe that there is a more complex way of understanding evolutionary ethics than simply stating that just because a behaviour has played a certain role in the evolution, adaptation or survival of individuals or a species before, that it must continue to do this or else be seen as changing the behaviour's ethical value. One can see that with a fuller understanding of the definist fallacy one cannot make value statements based on factual statements of any kind. This may seem like a counter- productive conclusion to end on, and this is so, because I agree with Teehan and DiCarlo that to say that you cannot deduce value from facts is simply not the case for moral dilemmas. Individuals exist within the physical world, values conflict, and one may still ask, 'what ought I do?' in a real life situation. One can also question what a simple non-natural property is or the assumption that inherent value cannot be potentially explained by science. Additionally, although the universe can be seen to be value-neutral, there exists
  • 32. 32 within it complex interactions between individuals and the environment. Values are not properties of objects in the universe that exist without individuals but assessments or predictions made by conscious individuals in relation to each other and their environment. If values can be seen in this way, then, after the Naturalistic Fallacy has done its work to address which natural facts one shouldn't link value to, one may still wish to link values to physical properties within individuals, and if science and evolutionary ethics can help one to understand the complex interactions between individuals and the environment then evolutionarily ethics and naturalism are vital tools to help contribute to the field of ethics. Teehan and DiCarlo (2004) argue that moral dilemmas are problematic situations which question what behaviour is appropriate, and as such, to claim that something is good is not committing the Naturalistic Fallacy, but to judge that to do that particular something is to resolve the problematic situation. In addition, as the problematic situation is composed of natural elements, so must the moral conclusion follow from the naturalistic premises. To then ask whether the something that solved the ethical dilemma is good is either redundant or is to ask for a further evaluation or optimisation of that solution, and as such is asking a different question such as 'did that something truly solve the problem or did it create other long or short term issues?'. Asking whether there is redundancy or further issues concerning how better to solve moral dilemma is a vital question and is part of an optimisation or maintenance of ethical behaviour, but this does not appear to be committing the Naturalistic Fallacy. Teehan and DiCarlo (2004) thus make the claim that the deeper lesson to learn from the Naturalistic Fallacy is that ethics is not about identifying pre-existing moral definitions, but is part of discovering an ongoing process of
  • 33. 33 what to do, and that evolutionary studies can give critical insights into the natural elements that are present in moral dilemmas, and are integral to this ongoing process, as well as asking whether something truly solved an ethical problem or not. Thus in relationship to the main claim of this piece that not all ethical behaviours can be explained by adaptations that benefit procreation: If individuals are basing their values and behaving due to genes and memes that promote the continuance of their own life and the lives of other individuals rather acting due to genes and memes promoting reproduction then this can add valuable insight into how to deal with moral dilemmas surround individuals that heavily value the continuance of their life and their welfare. Additional points that appear to be ignored when focusing on the is-ought dichotomy are 1) prescription in which action is carried out in relation to value, 2) the relationship between predicting current and future states, and 3) that acting upon such predictions or evaluations seems to bypass the need to create distinctions between is and ought. Thus if one has certain values and is in a certain context, one will do what act in a certain way in this context, as the values and context lead to a certain behaviour. This is examined by Bromberg (2009) who states succinctly that: The voluntary or involuntary disposition to survive shapes the definition of human value. In the dynamic here-and-now value means "evaluation." Some choices are better than others. If a person values their safety it questions their choice to drive at high speed through rush hour traffic. Value modifies the moral question of choice. If you desire this, you can only do that. You cannot have it both ways. This means that the overly
  • 34. 34 simplistic idea of the is/ought dichotomy and the naturalistic fallacy have failed to address the relation between value and prescribed choice in a way that prevents these theories from being reasonable and relevant. (Bromberg, 2009) Bromberg's point is critical as it directly relates values to the natural facts that one acts on and quite clearly states that one values certain physical outcomes that one sees as better. Not only this, but the intuitive example used of speeding and safety is quite an apt one as the behaviour based on values appears to function in a manner that will be beneficial for the continued existence of the individuals involved. This ethical behaviour does not necessarily imply a relationship between ethical behaviour and human function that is based on valuing procreation and thus brings into questioning the relationship between ethical behaviour and procreation. If one is to move forward from what has been learnt from Hume and Moore, one can still ask “Has the action solved a moral dilemma?”, or “Did the action truly resolve a dilemma?” in order to improve ethical decisions from a point where the behaviour is perceived to have solved a dilemma towards that which would truly solve the dilemma until an asymptote is reached between the predicted existence of objective value and the closest approximation of a naturalistic assessment of what this value is. By highlighting what look to be factual errors in evolutionary psychology one can see that the genes and memes that appear to be surviving by increasing the continuance of life and welfare of the individual appear to closely related to, if not synonymous with, predictions or intuitions about what is of value
  • 35. 35 that are not said to be based on natural facts. Although one must admit that there may be no objective good, but due to the value of life and welfare being so commonplace, if objective good was conceivable, this would be an apt set of values to start from. Of course, if there is no objective good, evolutionary theory is still important and noting that there are several mechanisms genes and memes can use to survive can perhaps help solve moral dilemmas more efficiently than only thinking of individuals competing or working together in order to best procreate. Additionally, even if a certain physical processes or set of facts were synonymous with good, asking whether this was truly good for individuals is still relevant as one should take into account the properties of evolutionary structures such as genes and memetics. Whereby properties of genes and memes such as their ability to diverge, mutate, transfer with varying fidelity and change over time means that the meaning of good once found could be lost. Thus on a practical level, whilst the brains of individuals and the way ideas are stored are based on the products of evolution and are prone to disrepair or loss, even if it is possible to relate natural facts or processes to value, one might want to keep asking what good is in case one has forgotten its meaning. Thus this is probably the only reason one should always ask the question “Is what is good, good?” regardless of whether certain natural facts can be related to value. This problem further highlights the link between values and natural facts and processes. Hume's is-ought dichotomy and the Naturalistic Fallacy in a sense appear to open the way for a naturalistic and evolutionary account of ethics due to other accounts of ethics such as
  • 36. 36 non-empirical philosophy having very little to offer after the definist fallacy has finished with them. Thus the only option left available appears to be rational scientific inquiry because valuers, values and moral decisions still exist in the physical world, and they still require resolving. Similarities between evolutionary ethics that focus on survival and intuitions of value: Towards an objective good? As the continued existence and welfare of individuals is necessary for individuals to exist and thus value, it appears that these ethical values are somehow different to just valuing or desiring anything. It appears that the even once the Naturalistic Fallacy has been discounted there still appears to be natural facts and processes that relate to how individuals view the world and ones which do not - where it is not whether evolution should be linked to ethics but how. Additionally if one accepts that there is no objective good but that different values are caused by different memes and genes utilising various modes of survival this seems to leave one with a problem, namely, what to do about individuals whose values do not promote their own survival or welfare? If one were to say that there is no objective good, then it might be acceptable to say that once understood, one may let a suicidal individual think that death is good. Thus in trying to navigate around the Naturalistic Fallacy, one tends to come to a point where it might appear acceptable to say there is no objective value, but surely this does not make sense because moral dilemmas only appear to exist when something affects the lives or welfare of individuals. Additionally even if one were to say that valuing suicide or homicide is explainable, one might wish to
  • 37. 37 say that there is something functionally wrong with that valuer, perhaps on a biological or memetic level, rather than to say that the majority of individuals who value life and their welfare may as well be valuing anything and that there is no objective good. As it appears to be the case that most ethical values are in some way related to the existence, continuance and welfare of individuals, facts and processes that relate to these concepts, it should allow normative statements to be drawn from them. Such that if there are genes, memes and their products that relate to ethical value in that they allow the existence, continuance and welfare of individuals these should be acted upon and promoted. To relate this thinking about value to the biological point made earlier about fitness, reproduction and replication - the point to be made explicitly clear is that many genes and memes that benefit their own survival over the individual may be seen as not good. In addition, as evolutionary theory appears to focus primarily on replication and reproduction even so far as to have a concept of biological fitness that scores individuals for their ability to procreate, this appears to underplay the importance of, or existence of genes and their products that have found alternate ways of surviving. This omission in biological sciences has impacted upon ethical thinking in that the full range of value-neutral biological facts does not appear to represented equally. This has led to evolutionary theories of psychology and ethics trying to describe ethical behaviours only with regards to reproduction. One benefit of placing the importance back on the individual rather than on offspring, genes or memes as much of naturalistic and evolutionary psychology or evolutionary ethics does is that ethics appears to regain an alignment with the basic intuition that there is something valuable about the existence, continuance and welfare of
  • 38. 38 individuals. In this piece this has been argued by relating values to specific natural facts and processes, which maintains that there may be real judgements about value, but they are not inexplicable, but based on certain natural facts and processes. To again paraphrase Tullberg and Tullberg - to think that moral facts cannot be understood or that their status can be changed by being able to understand them empirically is unhelpful to ethical thinking and is an anti-intellectual device. Whereby only naturalism can provide a cogent testable framework for understanding and supporting ethical thinking (Tullberg and Tullberg, 2001). One must question the factual basis of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics that these fields use to explain behaviours and their emission of biological immortality and long lived organisms. Factual errors in evolutionary psychology can have a negative effect upon the existence, continuance and welfare of individuals who live and make value judgements based on evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics that unduly focus on reproduction, which is morally weighty if moral facts about the value of the existence, continuance and welfare of individuals have an empirical basis and retain their validity and status. Ethical behaviours can be seen to give an advantage to the continuance of life and welfare of individuals, such as by resolving conflicts peacefully and being altruistic. Where most actions deemed to be unethical such as murder, war, damage to individuals and their property or environment and thievery tend to reduce the ability of an individual to be healthy, safe and happy, all of which are instrumental to their welfare and continuance of
  • 39. 39 life. Whereas things deemed valuable or good such as creativity, beauty, diversity, health, team-work, knowledge, peace and learning appear to increase the likelihood of continuing to exist and promoting a state of well-being of individuals. Thus there appears to a fundamental pattern arising from the consequences of ethical behaviours, and thus one can see that it appears that ethical behaviours may continue to exist, not solely because they can be passed on genetically or mimetically, but that these genes and memes enhance the ability of individuals to continue existing. Thus the realisation that genes and memes that relate to ethical behaviours appear to have the direct consequences of upholding the value of individuals lives, their continuance of life and welfare means that although genes and memes may be involved in creating or distorting values and behaviours, it appears clear that behaviours one might think of as ethical are not being caused by standard evolutionary psychology explanations of behaviour linked to replication and reproduction. In addition, by focusing on the ability of ethical behaviours to help the continuance of life and welfare of individuals by aiding their survival, there appears to be a direct link to ethical thinking, rather than relating ethical behaviours just to the survival of the species. By wrongly assuming that evolutionary units only have one way of surviving and attributing all behaviours to reproduction seems to de-value the lives of individuals or be a value-free statement. Evolutionary theory that both takes into account alternate methods of survival to replication might lead to a point where one might be able to say: Ethical behaviour is good for the continuing existence and welfare of individuals, where many ethicists agree that the continuing existence and welfare of individuals is valuable or good. By taking into account
  • 40. 40 alternate methods of survival of evolutionary units one has re-conciliated the effects of evolution with common ethical intuitions about value and thus there is little disagreement between the natural facts that exist and why an individual may think they are doing something ethical. For the major reason why evolutionary psychology and ethics does not appear to be an attractive or popular set of explanations is that their explanatory power does not seem to fit with our own understanding of why individuals do things that they think are valuable. Thus to conclude, a naturalistic explanation of ethics can affect ethics if the naturalistic explanations of behaviours no longer appear different to what is valuable. If some genes and memes appear to be able to survive by benefiting their hosts, and individuals are valuing their continued existence and welfare, then evolutionary and naturalistic ethics is no longer an illusion, but affirms ethical values. Conclusion Therefore, one can see that there are grounds and merit to naturalistic and evolutionarily approaches to ethics once they are based on a correct assessment of natural facts, and that the primary objections of Hume and Moore are not as strong as many report for it appears that values and ethical behaviours are explainable by rational scientific investigation into consciousness, evolutionary processes, genes, memes and their products which can help with solving moral dilemmas. A major point is that: What individuals value is directly related to what is, for the only values and valuers that survive efficiently are the values and valuers that value either their own life or the lives of others.
  • 41. 41 All of which appears to be explainable by the brain, evolutionary psychology and memetics. Thus once one has accepted that consciousness and values correspond to natural facts and processes, one has moved forward to a point where the valuer can be explained by natural facts as can the values that they hold, and thus one can then also discuss which natural facts are related to value and how so. In discussion of this, one has attempted to discuss that some natural facts or processes such as replication and reproduction do not fully explain ethical behaviour, and that natural facts and processes that relate to the existence, continuance of and welfare of individuals appear to linked to both evolutionary explanations of behaviour and also to ethical value. Of course, a full explanation of consciousness or value by scientific investigation is not possible at present, but evolutionary psychology, evolutionary ethics, memetics and experiments that show that there is a link between the physical brain and consciousness and values in combination with alternative modes of survival such as biological immortality appears to give a more comprehensive explanation of ethics via what values and valuers are in scientific terms. The assumption that a scientific explanation should destroy ethics, once the natural facts and processes that relate to ethics are uncovered makes little sense. The idea that evolutionary psychology undermines ethics only makes sense without taking into account memetic drift in values and alternate modes of survival. If one takes into account other modes of survival for evolutionary units such as through long lived or biologically immortal organisms as well as species, one can then see that evolutionary accounts of behaviour and ethics actually support ethical thinking because of the natural processes of genes and memes promoting individual survival and the ethical value of life, continuance of life and
  • 42. 42 welfare align. Additionally, one should note that although memetics is highly speculative, it does hold merit for modelling behaviours and knowledge and also explains how values can change and how differences in what can be thought of as good or valuable might arise. Whereby what is objectively good for individuals might exist, yet due to memetic changes individuals might no longer value what is good for them. Memetics may also explain how ideas and genes might be selected for and might survive that benefit individuals over those that only benefit the survival of the species which is of course important when considering the dynamics of which values remain in existence as well as which natural facts and processes create and affect values. It can also be seen that when one attempts to critique evolutionarily ethics, one must also look at prior scientific, particularly biological assumptions about behaviours and behaviours seen as ethical. This piece has highlighted the inadequacy of current evolutionary psychology and evolutionary ethics to take into account alternative modes of survival for genes, memes and individuals such as by repair and maintenance, increasing robustness, increasing safety and modifying environmental conditions. Bibliography: Bachu, A. (1999) Is Childlessness Among American Women On the Rise Available at:
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