The Instigator
Dimmitri.C
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
BruteApologia
Con (against)
Winning
9 Points

Evolutionary Theory Can Adequately Account For An Objective Morality

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
BruteApologia
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/7/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,267 times Debate No: 16339
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (13)
Votes (3)

 

Dimmitri.C

Pro

In the past to this point in time in history a great number of questions have been asked and answered by philosophers and scientists. However ever great those questions have been, no other question is more relevantly practical than the question being asked in the field of evolutionary ethics by scientists and philosophers. Namely, can evolutionary ethics amalgamate and synthesize the ever so distant gap between philosophy and the natural sciences. The main contention of this debate will be the main concern of this debate—I will be playing the Devil’s Advocate by contending that the main contention of this debate is most plausibly true. My opponents role in this debate is, therefore, the opposite.

Theistic philosophers and theologians have argued by declaring that morality is most appropriately and credibly grounded in the nature of an all-Loving Deity. Theologians, philosophers and scientists—specialists who affirm this conviction—ranging from molecular biophysicist Dr. Alister McGrath to mathematician and philosopher Dr. John Lennox have argued determinedly for the truth of their ethical conclusions against prominent atheists, such as, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who affirm the contrary. William Lane Craig, a distinguished Christian philosopher and theologian, has been recorded saying, [1]

‘On the theistic view, objective moral values are rooted in God. God's own holy and perfectly good nature supplies the absolute standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. God's moral nature is what Plato called the "Good." He is the locus and source of moral value. He is by nature loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so forth.’ – William Lane Craig

However, naturalistic scientists like Sam Harris—a scientist who denies the existence of God as a plausible explanation of an objective foundation for morality—argue against; rather, than for the traditional theistic position by positing that an objective morality can be derived from a statistical utilitarian framework. The most notable principle of the utilitarian theorists position is that the ethical theory concludes that an objective morality can be justified by deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ by synthesizing the success rate of communal statistics with our biological disposition, i.e., what is helpful for the survival of an organism is, therefore, evidentially successful and qualitatively good for the organism and its community in question—this moral theory is contended methodologically tenable. Sam Harris has been noted praising and affirming The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity. The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a morality, ethical code and or maxim that support the following:[2]



1 One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself

2. One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated


The only argument I will be presenting is based on a communal ethic of utilitarianism; a communal ethic of loving reciprocity.

Thus, my first argument is as follows,


1. Natural selection will ensure the survival of the fittest as it is a key mechanism of adaptive evolution.

2. Person A ought to help person B from starvation as it will certify a greater chance of being for both groups if they were to work in unity with one another.

3. Therefore, fellow individuals ought to ethically aid person B so that the greatest of all goods can be assured comprehensively for that of the community.


There will only be two rounds in this debate. I have set forth what I believe to be the most powerful argument for the utilitarian theorist’s position. Con will merely have to argue contrary while affirming the plausibility of his position in contrast with that of the position I am arguing for.

I wish you all the best of luck.

Bibliography:

[1] http://www.leaderu.com...

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...

BruteApologia

Con

Thanks Dimmitri, I look forward to this brief debate.

The Naturalistic Fallacy

In order for naturalism to adequately account for objective morality, it must demonstrate how an "ought" can be derived from an "is". Unfortunately, I do not think my opponent has given a successful justification besides merely asserting that it does. A mere synthesis of communal statistics with our biological well-being only gives us a statistical norm of what happens to be good for us, not a moral prescription of how we ought to be. For naturalism, the external world has no intrinsic teleology (or final cause) apart from what a conjunction of purposeless matter happens to form. Science is a mere descriptive discipline that tells us how things are but not how they ought to be. For example, the fact that a plant is healthy when watered does not suddenly provide us with a moral obligation to water the plant. On the other hand, if it is our teleological intention to produce a healthy plant, then we "should" water the plant to achieve that end but not everyone must have that intention nor would we say that the plant ought to be healthy unless that is its proper function. In which case, we’d be assuming an Aristotelian view of final causes, which is inherently theistic in nature.

When evaluating his provided argument, I think we can clearly see how it fails to ground morality. Premise (1) appeals to a natural process that is only concerned with the adaptive survival that can for all intents and purposes, be used to justify all sorts of crimes. For example, if we take premise (2), we can imagine a scenario where there is only enough food for one person. Even if they shared the food, it would not be enough to get to their destination. Thus, for survival, both of them are obliged to murder each other. Would this be right? Even with a sufficient food supply, there's a distinction between knowing what makes something flourish and whether we have an obligation to make "flourishing" our intention (refer to the plant analogy). If the person intends to promote well being then he is pragmatically doing good by fulfilling those intentions but if the person does not intend to promote it then he too is pragmatically doing good by fulfilling those intentions. These are clearly not the same as moral goods. For these reasons, I consider the conclusion to be demonstrably false.

Moral Responsibility


When it is said that we “ought” to do something, that implies that we “can” do it. However, under naturalism, we cannot be held morally culpable for our own actions any more than asserting that natural disasters are morally responsible for the destruction of human beings. If physical determinism is true then we are coerced into doing as we do because of prior causal conditions. This completely undermines any attempt to ground morality in naturalism.

Possible Worlds

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this account of morality is true. The problem is, this would only be contingently true upon our brains rather than necessarily true - that is to say, it would not be true of all possible worlds. For example, it is conceivable that a psychopath could derive pleasure from inflicting plain on others and that would be its own means of flourishing. With such opposing conceptions of well being, I do not think there can be a uniform understanding of “good” for all groups if something that would otherwise be recognized as “evil” in some other world is now seen as good. In fact, this is already the case in our world as about three million psychopaths reportedly exist in America alone. There may also be a possible world where no living organisms exist at all. In which case, there wouldn’t be any moral truths even though they are said to be necessary. If morals are only contingently true then how can we expect them to be universally binding on all people?

Furthermore, if we appeal to a moral landscape of the continuum of well-being, then we could say that the elderly are passed the peak of their "flourishing" and have now declined into social dependency. This consequently burdens society from flourishing as it should and therefore it seems logical to conclude that the elderly ought to be put to death. In another scenario, perhaps one person sacrifices his own life to save another but what would be right about this? Either way, a life is lost so does that entail that they’re equally bad decisions? That seems absurd. Therefore, I think we can safely conclude that Harris’s moral landscape is not an adequate foundation for objective morality because human well being is not identical to moral goodness.

Hope to see my opponent try to refute these unrefutable criticisms!

Debate Round No. 1
Dimmitri.C

Pro

It is not often you find an argument that completely refutes what you have said. I think Con's initial response in this case has done exactly that. I thank Con for finding the spare time to participate in commiting himself to this debate. I also would like to apologise for not being a better Devils Advocate.

I urge you to vote Con!
BruteApologia

Con

Kudos to my opponent for being willing to defend a position that (imho) gives him an unfair disadvantage. If only it was more defensible, then we could have had a more lengthy exchange. Thank you for the debate!
Debate Round No. 2
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Cliff.Stamp,

I honestly don't have the time to debate that topic right now nor do I am interested debating it. I am sorry!

All the best.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Care to debate that?
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Cliff.Stamp,

The utilitarian argument rests upon arbitrarily defined evolutionary premisses. Charles Darwin has noted that if we were to evolve under a set of different evolutionary constants, then, we would inevitably find the behaviour of a queen-bee ethically permissible--the queen-bee murders her daughters in order to retain her position in rank so that she may continue to reproduce. Methodological Naturalism in conjunction with evolutionary theory assumes that rationality can be deduced from a physical cause; rather, than the subsequent. Thus, moral responsibility becomes superfluous. For we are nothing more than the literal product of our deterministic brain-chemistry and environmental surroundings on this view. It is impossible to derive an 'ought' from an 'is,' as well. Simply because we know something is destructive doesn't, therefore, leave you with the axiomatic conclusion that it is. The epistemological conclusion Sam Harris has reached needs to be grounded in something more than his conclusion--epistemology doesn't entail ontology.

All the best, Cliff.Stamp.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Because?
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Cliff.Stamp,

Sam Harris' utilitarian argument for an objective morality is affirmatively untenable.
Posted by BruteApologia 5 years ago
BruteApologia
@Cliff.Stamp

I am doubtful that he can surmount them, seeing how awful he did with WLC. I suppose it is possible that he has now refined it, but I have so far not been impressed with his reasoning abilities. Do you have a link to this lecture? Thanks!
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Note Harris has a number of responses to the issues raised by Con which are very similar to the objections raised by Craig in their last debate. If you see the recent lecture/round-table Harris had with Dawkin's he explores these issues in great detail.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Cliff.Stamp,

Thank you for being so polite.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Excellent response Con, gentleman concession Pro.
Posted by Dimmitri.C 5 years ago
Dimmitri.C
Gil,

I really dislike you, ha ha. Thanks for granting me such a challenge!
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by detachment345 5 years ago
detachment345
Dimmitri.CBruteApologiaTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: pro even said con won in the end and gave up his original position
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Dimmitri.CBruteApologiaTied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: Solid opening by Pro, excellent response by Con. This was very similar to the recent Harris vs Craig debate. I would have very much liked to see Pro carry though, I think he could have.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 5 years ago
socialpinko
Dimmitri.CBruteApologiaTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: concession