The Instigator
Sotiras
Pro (for)
Losing
12 Points
The Contender
larztheloser
Con (against)
Winning
28 Points

Morality is an evolved social construct

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 9 votes the winner is...
larztheloser
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/28/2011 Category: Science
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,971 times Debate No: 14587
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
Votes (9)

 

Sotiras

Pro

My position is that morality can be explained by Darwinian evolution, in the sense that social animals who interacted in a positive way with others were favored above those who did not. My opponent will be debating that evolution is not evolved, and will likely suggest it is an absolute morality derived from religion. If so, I will debate that in the next round. Otherwise, I'd be interested to hear where they think morality comes from.
larztheloser

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent for starting this topic. One thing that I think we both agree on is that morality is socially constructed - that is, without a society, you cannot construct a morality. My position, however, is that morality has not evolved - or put another way, everything is relatively amoral (the nihilistic perspective). I reject the idea that there are moral norms across society, and therefore, I reject the idea that our society is moral. Perceptions of morality exist, but these are determined amorally (based on the outcome of the action) and so can hardly be called "evolved," rather, they are a by-product of reasoning, as distinct from morality.

For people who might be confused...
MORALITY means
1. a code of conduct put forward by a society or,
1a. some other group, such as a religion, or
1b. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
2. a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons. [1]

My argument is as follows:
1. That morality is never objective, therefore it does not objectively exist, therefore it did not evolve
2. That a subjective view of morality is not directly evolved because it is determined amorally
3. That if neither form of morality was evolved, the motion falls, and therefore I win

To win this debate, pro must not only meet his own burden of proof, which is to show that morality was evolved (which is rather impossible without access to reliable early human DNA) ... pro must also refute my contention above.

My argument in detail
1. That morality is never objective
1.1 If morality was objective, we would expect all people to agree
1.1.1 Humans have the vast majority of their DNA in common [2]
1.1.2 DNA is the substance that passes traits between generations
1.1.3 If morality was evolved, it would therefore be coded in our DNA
1.1.4 As our DNA is all very much the same, we would expect all humans to have very similar morality
1.1.5 In human experience, we have diverse morality - as evidenced by the large number of moral arguments on this site
1.1.6 Even with moral rules with a simple reasonable logical answer, such as "don't kill," we still disagree on issues like abortion, euthanasia, war-time and the death penalty

1.2 If the alternative cannot be ruled out, a decision is not justified
1.2.1 Presume I make a claim ("this is a lake")
1.2.2 The validity of that claim is based on whether I can rule out the alternative ("this is a bay")
1.2.3 Presume I make a moral claim ("it is wrong to pick your nose")
1.2.4 The validity of that claim is based on whether I can rule out the alternative ("it is right to pick your nose")
1.2.5 With moral claims, ruling out the alternative is impossible
1.2.6 Therefore, there are no moral claims

2. That a subjective view of morality is determined amorally
2.1 There is no moral basis to build a subjective view on
2.1.1 Everything in argument #1 above is completely and unreservedly correct
2.1.2 Therefore objective morality does not exist
2.1.3 Therefore we cannot determine things morally
2.1.4 Therefore any moral judgements we make are determined amorally

2.2 Even if there were, that's not how we make decisions
2.2.1 Most people make justified moral decisions ("I offer hospitality to others so that they might offer it to me")
2.2.2 This justification comes from reasoning
2.2.3 Reasoning is not equal to morality
2.2.4 Therefore, people use reasoning to make decisions, though they may falsely label it morality.

Conclusion
In this first round I have offered a very simple case for why my opponent is dead wrong. I have shown that we live in an amoral world. While this conclusion might be a little hard to swallow, please try to follow my logic. I have built four solid arguments to substantiate my claim. My opponent has got a serious burden to meet. I wish him well, and look forward to hearing some rebuttals.

References
[1] - http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] - http://www.telegraph.co.uk...
[3] - http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 1
Sotiras

Pro







Thank you to my opponent for accepting this debate, and I hope we both emerge from this enlightened in some way.

Arguments:
The attached videos are all in a short series by YouTube user AronRa, as well as the full version of the video he references, explaining the evolution of moral constructs, and the basic things that we can all basically accept as moral absolutes. I wish to explain how morality is an evolved social instinct, biologically innate.[1] While the moral codes of different theological and societal groups may differ, there are certain simple morals that are inherently present [2] in the minds of all mentally fit humans, if they are not twisted by a morally corruptive upbringing.

This view that I hold is supported by the fact that other forms of life that have grown to be considered social creatures are known to sometimes reject basic instincts for an obvious moral reason. Take the example in the "Battle at Kruger" video, where a group of buffalo risks taking on a pride of lions in order to save a single one of their young.

Mentally capable creatures know innately about cause and effect, in the sense that doing things causes things. It is not a complex path to learn about the causes and effects of actions taken against other creatures, and act accordingly.[3] Religious moralities have come from the biased assumptions of the ancient mythmakers who invent the religions. Religions are born of an inability to explain, so it is easy for flawed morality to be asserted by religions born of a lack of knowledge, and then be implanted into the children of the next generation during the indoctrination process.

My opponent argues that if morality were evolved, it would be coded into our genes, and be relatively similar throughout the world. Of course, in many ways it is. We find that all throughout the world, killing civilians is generall frowned upon, as well as stealing. The finer outcroppings of morality that differ, I argue, are the result of the indoctrinated beliefs I referenced earlier.

I eagerly await my opponent's rebuttal, and hope that we can both get our points across clearly and eloquently.

Source(s):
[1] - http://webspace.ship.edu...
[2] - http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] - http://www.strongatheism.net...
larztheloser

Con

While I would like to thank my opponent for building his case, I would also like to ask that he refrains from posting youtube videos, as I am on a 2kb/s connection. Besides this, the sources lack all credibility - you cannot prove I did not create those videos to confuse you and post them on youtube. However, I will respond to every argument you directly make.

"While the moral codes of different theological and societal groups may differ, there are certain simple morals that are inherently present in the minds of all mentally fit humans"
There are two problems with this reasoning:
1) It is not an argument, because the conclusion (we are the same) does not follow logically from the premise (that we often differ)
2) You fail to define "certain simple morals"

"This view that I hold is supported by the fact that other forms of life that have grown to be considered social creatures are known to sometimes reject basic instincts for an obvious moral reason."
This is a clear example of subjective morality - you describe what you perceive as being a moral truth, although to an ant (very much a social creature) that same moral truth may not apply as it does for a buffalo. In order for this case to stand you must first defeat my two arguments against subjective morality. Furthermore, while creatures often do reject basic instincts, just as often they do not. Dogs, for instance, can at times be incredibly moral (not barking loudly at children that annoy them) and at times show the very opposite (mauling innocents to death). This range has been observed both in the wild and in domestic situations.

"It is not a complex path to learn about the causes and effects of actions taken against other creatures, and act accordingly."
This is true. It proves that there are no objective morals, only perceptions of morals based on amoral determinism. As a matter of fact, this whole paragraph paraphrases my first argument. What my opponent fails to do is show why this means that morality is inherited, as opposed to learnt, as "evolved" would suggest.

"We find that all throughout the world, killing civilians is generall frowned upon, as well as stealing."
Actually, in many parts of the world, killing enemy civilians is morally acceptable. Take, for instance, the World Trade Center bombing. 3000 civilians were deliberately killed. The NAZIs considered killing civilians OK. So did Stalin, the biggest mass murderer of all time - and he was far from being religious. Is not euthanasia a form of killing civilians? You might think, from your subjective perspective, that this is the "wrong" interpretation of morality, but that is far from being a universal or provable point. Just as I wrote in my previous round - when you are unable to exclude the alternative you cannot accept something as true. I can make the same case for stealing - have you ever read "Robin Hood?"

That is everything of substance that my opponent said.

No proof that morality was evolved. Not even a tiny scrap of evidence that my morals are at all based on my grandmother's.

Nothing to suggest that any of my arguments were wrong. No direct engagement with any of my previous points.

All that my opponent said was some fallacious evidence for morality's existence.

Frankly, I am a little disappointed. Before I seriously start to extend my case, I want to know my opponent's arguments. I want my opponent to walk me through how he thinks he can prove that our morality was evolved. Not assertions, not non-sequiters, not rants about religion ... I want proof. Then, I want my opponent to tell me where, exactly, in my reasoning, my counter-argument fails. I even made this easy for him by providing index numbers for my arguments. Then, and only then, I want my opponent to respond to my counter-arguments in this round. That is the bare minimum my opponent needs to do at this point to meet his burden of proof. We're going in to round three now, and I have already done more than enough to meet mine. I seriously urge my opponent to consider his response carefully and hope for better things next round.
Debate Round No. 2
Sotiras

Pro

First of all, I would ask that my opponent refrain from resorting to simple slander, claiming everything I said to be "fallacious", and that I went on a "religious rant." I was merely trying to lay a simple outline on many of the videos and websites that I cited, and I'd appreciate that you didn't unnecessarily bad-mouth every point that I made, as there were points that weren't addressed.

It isn't my fault that your connection does not permit the viewing of my cited videos, but rest assured that you would have some valid points to refute were you able to actually watch them. I don't see why you couldn't have looked at some of the cited articles on objective and evolved morality, though, as you didn't refute any of what any of the sites said.

I'd also like to specifically ask that you, in the next round, explain how the "Battle at Kruger" video, depicting the aforementioned group of buffalo risking life and limb, which would go against survival instincts, in order to save a young calf from the jaws of a pride of lions, does not depict an evolved sense of morality and compassion in the minds of the buffalo.

Rebuttals:

"Actually, in many parts of the world, killing enemy civilians is morally acceptable."
Well, not necessarily. In these parts of the world, it is asserted that enemy civilians are just "enemies" what I was referring to is that it is frowned upon if you were walk up to your neighbor and shoot them point-blank in the forehead. They were another member of your contingent of society, and you killed them without any reason whatsoever. That is what I asserted is frowned upon. Senseless cultural fratricide.

"There are two problems with this reasoning: 1) It is not an argument, because the conclusion (we are the same) does not follow logically from the premise (that we often differ)"
You make it sound as though I said that because they are different, we are similar. I obviously said nothing of the sort. What I said was that while the specific moral codes of one society may differ from another when it comes to complex issues, it is generally accepted that, for example, killing is bad, stealing is bad, sharing is good, compliments are nice, etc. Simple things that even a child can understand from the outset, if they are mentally fit, and not brainwashed.

Summary:

In a nutshell, what I'm saying is that once a societal structure enters the equation, evolution favors those who do not do negative things to others, as they will be more accepted socially, and more likely to live and procreate, so whatever genes affect their innate morality are indeed passed from one generation to another.

Once again, I respectfully await my opponent's response.

larztheloser

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent for clarifying some of his arguments. I wish to point out that nothing I said in my second half of round two was an ad hominum attack - I was merely pointing out what my opponent still needs to do in order to build a complete argument. I don't mean to slander, but feel obliged, if my opponent has missed critical parts of his argument (in fact, he had no rebuttal whatsoever) to point that out to my opponent. I would hope that if I had missed out chunks of my case or made fallacious points, my opponent would point that out to me, giving reasons as I did.

My opponent has specifically asked that I rebut the battle of Kreugar video. Frankly, I was quite proud of the rebuttal I offered last round, which was in paragraph three (animals following conventional morality). What I said was that this is a confusion of subjective morality, that I have already rebutted subjective morality in round one, and that while sometimes creatures are moral, just as often they are not, proving they behave amorally. Just for fun, I'll extend the case to show how this does not prove EVOLVED morality - if I was God, I could have implanted morality in those buffalo. This is an alternative my opponent cannot exclude, so the point is null.

What is interesting is that I made seven counter-arguments in the previous round, and four direct attacks against my opponent's case in round one. Of these, my opponent has only attempted to rebut two very selective counter-arguments. By way of contrast, I have, in fact, rebutted everything that my opponent has directly said, just as I told you I would last round. I still hold out hope that in the last round, my opponent will attempt to rebut the rest of my arguments.

What my opponent chose to rebut was the following:

1. "Actually, in many parts of the world, killing enemy civilians is morally acceptable."
REBUTTAL 1: "what I was referring to is that it is frowned upon if you were walk up to your neighbor and shoot them point-blank in the forehead"
Cool. So you're saying that nobody has ever shot their neighbor point blank in the forehead and found it morally acceptable? As a matter of fact, they have - slaves revolting against their masters who lived next door, Serbian Ethnic Cleansing, and so on. I would also suggest that if this is a morally evolved instinct, then evolution must be working really fast, as guns are a quite recent invention.

REBUTTAL 2: "Senseless cultural fratricide."
Cool. So NOW you're saying nobody likes killing their brother. Think of ancient Rome's founding. Enough said. There are numerous cases of people killing their brother and calling this action justified.

2. "the conclusion (we are the same) does not follow logically from the premise (that we often differ)"
REBUTTAL 1: "while the specific moral codes of one society may differ from another when it comes to complex issues"
Define a complex issue. I would argue that killing, stealing, sharing and complimenting are all complex issues.

REBUTTAL 2: "killing is bad"
Not generally accepted. War, abortion etc all still divide people. This is an argument I have made before.

REBUTTAL 3: "stealing is bad"
Not generally accepted. Stealing from rich to give to poor, looting after disasters, stealing something that is rightfully yours and so on ... these are divisive issues.

REBUTTAL 4: "sharing is good"
Not generally accepted. That's why the United States won't share their nuclear weapons technology with Iran.

REBUTTAL 5: "compliments are nice"
Not generally accepted. Some parts of the world have specific rules about the time and place at which compliments may be said.

REBUTTAL 6: "Simple things that even a child can understand from the outset"
Is that so? So you are saying that children forced to grow up in the wild become moral creatures? While not proving your case, this is a mad assertion, because children naturally take on role models whose behavior they follow (http://tvnz.co.nz...).

A point about many of my rebuttals. It only takes a single example of your morality to be false to prove amorality. One wrong observation breaks the rule. My theory has got a sum total of 0 wrong observations, while I have listed 9 specific examples of wrong observations in your model (counting from last round). And you can't counter them by making them as specific as hell either - the whole point of morality is that they are general rules on whether a wide range of situations is good or bad.

I'm still disappointed that my opponent has chosen not to rebut the vast majority of my case, and is yet to offer any complete proof of his assertion like I have. I'd like to wish my opponent luck for the final round and, probably for the first time ... I hope that I will have lots of work to do.
Debate Round No. 3
Sotiras

Pro

Let's look at this from a secular standpoint. From a rational, deep-thinking standpoint. Someone is killed, who was not armed, and was not assaulting someone in some way. Without any of the complex bits of information, i.e. the murdered person's political, religious and other such beliefs. Not considering their race or location. If you are mentally fit, you will understand that what happened is, for all intents and purposes, bad.

This is because you, through the intrinsic and unspoiled reasoning that your slowly develop from birth, have an ingrained ability to feel empathy. You know that you wouldn't have liked it if you had been killed, and could in some way contemplate hoiw you felt about it. You reason that other people are likely to dislike being killed also, and that other people consider other people being killed bad.

Through our observations, we've found no reason to believe that single-celled euglenas have any sense of morality, or any ability to reason what is "good" or "bad." We can also observe that ants have no verifiable morality, and just blindly follow the pheremonic commands of the queen. Therefore, through, for lack of a better phrase, "connecting the dots," we can conclude that it is reasonable to believe that morality, in its observable state as we know it, is not present this low in the evolutionary chain. As we move up, however, we find that some animals bear remarkable parralels with our own idea of morality, including bonobos, african buffalo, dogs, etc. To quote Frans de Waal, one of the world's most respected and popular primatologists, on the subject of bonobos in particular, "The Bonobo is capable of altruism, compassion, empathy, kindness, patience, and sensitivity."

Obviously, some animals have morality as we know it, and some do not. The fact that morality becomes more sharply defined and focused as we move up the evolutionary ladder, it is not unreasonable to conclude that morality is, indeed, an evolved social construct.

larztheloser

Con

I'd like to thank my opponent for blindly restating his case and ignoring my argument. Ladies and gentlemen, this debate has come down to two questions:

1) Does morality exist?
2) If question 1 is true, is morality evolved?

My opponent gave you what I thought was good analysis in the last round, about why people have morality. He said it happens "through ... reasoning." As such, he practically concedes my argument 2.2, where I showed that much of what my opponent labels morality is in fact reasoning. I provided good analysis in round one that they are distinct, and my opponent never responded to that throughout this entire debate.

Starting from a skeptical perspective, my opponent would need to prove the claim that morality exists, because he is the one bringing the claim - the burden of proof is on him. His only analysis to "prove" morality was to attempt to rebut one of my claims about it. This is not sufficient as a proof, and therefore, my opponent cannot possibly win this argument. However, just because my opponent said that both sides have a burden to carry, I proved in two ways that there are no universal principles to base subjective morality on. You can review these by scrolling back up to round one. Argument 1.2 my opponent never responded to, despite my frequent pleas. The only conclusion I can reasonably draw from this is that my opponent concedes this point.

On the very first argument I made, my opponent has searched in vain for a universal principle to disprove my theory. All he has come up with is "don't kill." By the last round, however, my opponent has made so many concessions that he had to agree that even the mentally fit will disagree on when killing is alright and when it is not. Oh dear. The long and short of it is that this is far from a universal principle - therefore, this counter-argument will not stand. My opponent provided no analysis other than this on that point, so argument 1.1 holds as well. Therefore, having proved in two ways objective morality does not exist, I have also shown that subjective morality cannot exist, meaning argument 2.1 holds as well. All the pieces of the puzzle having come together, it seems there is only one conclusion that can be drawn - morality does not exist.

Having already lost on question one, my opponent cannot win the debate on question two. However, he did make a simplistic case for why morality is evolved - some higher order animals apparently showing sympathy or patience. Great. This is what is known as observational evidence. You cannot prove a hypothesis based on observation. To prove a hypothesis, you need an experiment, for instance, finding a gene that controls morality. My opponent has entirely failed to provide any proof whatsoever. He cannot disprove any other theory - that the animals behave randomly, that God sent morality, or any other competing theory is still just as likely as his. He also was using his subjective view of morality to justify some animals being objectively more moral than others - as I pointed out in round two, this is a fallacy. This, and a few other counter-arguments I made against this point, have all been entirely ignored by my opponent. Therefore my opponent has failed to show that morality is an evolved construct.

Having successfully demolished both aspects of my opponent's case, all that is left for me to do is to urge all voters to vote con.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"non-academic unverified user-generated content with no editorial system and few policy guidelines which cannot be cross-checked by many people (such as me) is an excellent source?'

The videos are of a keynote presentation on evolution at Broward College by Aron Nelson in front of a room of scientists, it isn't the random rambling of some guy on youtube.

My point was in regards to the completely nonsensical assertion that Aron Nelson would come on DDO, fake an anon ID and then cite his own video's which he made up for just this debate - this is Icke-level projection, especially as he has been debating this subject IRL for over 10 years.

Now had you argued as Roy noted, that evidence for an argument has to be just that, not simply saying - go look here someone is making my argument then you would be justified.

However by making the assertion, or even implying that the entire thing could just be faked is nonsensical on an extreme level, especially as it contains such references as the "Battle at Kruger" which has been featured in a National Geographic documentary.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
RoyLatham
There is an argument against physical evolution that if natural selection really worked, then all human design flaws should be gone. That argument fails because evolved processes only have to work well enough for the organism to survive, which is a good deal short of perfection. Con is using that same flawed argument against moral evolution -- it isn't perfectly uniform, so therefore it is arbitrary. Humans are tribal and loyalty to their tribe is a moral instinct, however that instinct can conflict with moral instincts for self-preservation and preservation of family. Differing resolutions of moral conflicts does not invalidate the general rules of morality that are shared. Pro established the generality of moral principles, there being exceptions notwithstanding.

Videos can be referenced as evidence, but they cannot be used to make arguments. That would exceed the equivalent of the 8000 character limit. Con was right to only consider arguments made in the text.

it's okay to insult arguments, but not to insult the opponent. I think Con narrowly skirted a conduct violation on that basis.
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
larztheloser
@ Cliff.Stamp - "...that is advocated as an argument?"
No, that was me saying the sources were poor. It had nothing to do with any of my four arguments or any of my opponent's zero arguments.

Could somebody please explain to me why...
1) non-academic unverified user-generated content with no editorial system and few policy guidelines which cannot be cross-checked by many people (such as me) is an excellent source? Is this not exactly akin to me creating a website full of my local town's ramblings, and putting it on a website only accessible from NZ, before using that as a source?
2) the use of these sources grants pro the exclusive right to ignore my case and not prove theirs.
3) the sources were even used - why did it take my opponent six videos to try to show that "some scientists have observed morality in the wild," when a single web or book page would have done an equivalent just as well.

Generally, people have a misconception that videos are more reliable than text. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Few universities will accept youtube as a source for exactly the reasons I mentioned, and now voters criticize me for it? I feel personally insulted.
Posted by USRugbyfan 6 years ago
USRugbyfan
As a christian I view this debate to be a struggle of honest athiesm vs. dishonest athiesm. When assuming in advance that God does not exist, I couln't agree more with larztheloser.
Posted by larztheloser 6 years ago
larztheloser
It is my understanding that the first 5 out of his 6 videos were not documentaries. Besides, films involving nature are staged all the time. Surely you've seen the advertisement where the antelope runs in to a tree for the lazy lion?
Posted by Greyparrot 6 years ago
Greyparrot
Claiming a nature film to be unreliable? Really? If you think that nature film was staged, then I tip my tinfoil cap to you sir.
Posted by uppitynumber 6 years ago
uppitynumber
Interesting resolution BUT VERY confusing wording.

CON is debating that evolution... is not evolved?
What do you mean by "will likely suggest it is an absolute morality derived from religion"?

Just to make clear........
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by MrCarroll 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: PRO seemed to be unable to grasp the fact that CON didn't engage in the theological vs Darwinian debate that PRO hoped to argue. PRO provides no basis from which to derive moral claims, admitting in the final round, "we've found no reason to believe that single-celled euglenas have any sense of morality.'" In light of CON's uncontested points, PRO's arguments at best establish that particular social norms are reasonable, not moral.
Vote Placed by apologia101 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: "the sources lack all credibility - you cannot prove I did not create those videos to confuse you and post them on youtube" really, AronRa did all of the YouTube work simply to win a single debate here - that is advocated as an argument?
Vote Placed by Cobo 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Battle of Kruger pwns
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