Godwin's Law ends this one before it even begins.
Published on January 13, 2006 By stutefish In Ethics
WARNING! I am about to say something morally repugnant. If you are offended by things like Holocaust Denial and thought experiments depending on extreme examples of moral relativism, stop reading now.




Okay, so the problem with the Theory of Evolution is that it leads to conclusion that the Holocaust, which killed many of undesireables such as Jews, Gypsies, and Homosexuals, is no more evil than the Bird Flu, which kills many birds of various types.

According to evolution, both human beings and deadly viruses are the product of natural processes that do not involve a moral component. Hitler, a human being and therefore a product of evolution, was just as natural as the wolverine, the great white shark, and the bird flu. Thus, his policies were also products of nature. Deadly? Sure. Evil? Not at all. We don't make a moral judgement of Dutch Elm Disease, do we? So why should we make a moral judgement of Nazism, which is just as natural?




One problem with my line of reasoning is that we seem to also have evolved to think of some things--such as the Holocaust--as evil.

But this raises a dilemma: which natural result of natural processes is more "natural"? Which is the evolutionary outcome we should embrace, the Holocaust or Human Rights?

And if some of us choose the Holocaust, how can the rest of us claim that such a choice is unnatural? Wouldn't that choice be a result of the natural processes of evolution?

I mean, if it isn't a result of evolution, than what did cause it? What else is there?




Of course, you theists out there have your assorted answers already prepared, so this is really for the atheists in the audience: Evolution says Hitler is a-okay. What's up with that?

Comments (Page 1)
on Jan 13, 2006
Bear in mind as well, that anti-semitism aimed at Jews was rampant among most of the western world at that time. Many who didn't openly support it, at least maintained those feelings, making them to a degree complicitous. This may end up coming across as rather cold and offensive, so I will apologize in advance if I am too blunt and openly offend anyone.

You state that because a natural evolution led to it, then it must be the appropriate result. I'm not saying that's what you believe, just what you've stated in your article. Of course, the natural result of that was also the defeat of Hitler, and while anti-semitism exists today, it is not nearly as rampant; and is certainly not accepted, in general.

So if you look at it from the perspective you've posited, its final result was reduction/elimination of an incorrect attitude held toward Jews, ultimately leading to a beneficial change. The issue in evolution is that there needs to be some stimulus before things change. Since we evolve primarily from a mental standpoint now, this stimulus was the atrocity that occurred under Hitler.

Evolution is an iterative process, and since we are to a degree in control of it now, it's a likelihood that from time to time we will veer in the wrong direction, and not until we find ourselves lost in the desert without water do we force a course correction. That also doesn't mean that we won't repeat the same mistakes, because if anything, history has taught us just that. I think this to be more a result of the fact that it takes multiple teachings of the lesson before it begins to transform societal underpinnings. Hmm, I've been thinking about this last part for a while, so maybe I'll try to make it my first article.

Interesting article, and I hope it leads to some interesting viewpoints.
on Jan 13, 2006
The Theory of Evolution isn't really saying that the process is acceptable, just that that is how things came to be. But the difference between bird flu & Hitler is that Hitler made a conscious choice. And that choice was morally repugnant.

But let's say that his actions are a natural force of evolution attempting to favor the Aryan tribe. In that case, the minority tribes adapted nicely by defeating him and setting new policies to guarantee that such a deadly force doesn't try to wipe them out ever again. If Hitler is a force of evolution, then the moral repugnance of his actions is a force of adaptability under those kind of conditions.
on Jan 13, 2006
we seem to also have evolved to think of some things--such as the Holocaust--as evil. But this raises a dilemma: which natural result of natural processes is more "natural"? Which is the evolutionary outcome we should embrace, the Holocaust or Human Rights?

And if some of us choose the Holocaust, how can the rest of us claim that such a choice is unnatural? Wouldn't that choice be a result of the natural processes of evolution?


You're interpreting evolution from a purely materialistic perspective, which is somewhat one dimensional and mechanical. The arrival of human beings demonstrated a spiritual dimension, which includes forces of volition. This is where “choice” came into play.

Incidentally, who is to say that spirituality didn’t exist before the arrival of human beings? Indeed, our religions teach that the ultimate dimension of reality is Spirit, and that the whole cosmic process is a divine Idea, rather than an accident.
on Jan 13, 2006
Sure, Hitler may have been evolutionarily undesirable. I'm just saying he can't have been morally undesireable, any more than the Bird Flu is morally undesireable. Pacdragon says that morality is an evolutionary necessity, because it motivates us to eliminate undesireable evolutionary outcomes from our population. But then why don't we make a moral judgement against polio? We seem to have been motivated quite well to eliminate polio, without ever thinking of it as a moral evil.

Introducing "spirituality" into the debate means admitting that there is something other than evolution at play in the universe. Something beyond evolution, to which we must answer.

Introducing "choice" doesn't really change things, in my opinion, since the Bird Flu also "chooses" which birds (and, apparently, people) to infect. Just because our "choice" mechanism is more complex and less well-understood than the "choice" mechanism of Bird Flu, that doesn't mean that our "choice" mechanism has a moral component. We just think it does. So why have we evolved to think that there's a moral component to our actions? And why have some of us evolved to not take the idea of a moral component seriously?

Going back to the idea of "evolutionarily undesireable" vs. "morally undesireable", I will try to explain what I mean:

An old, crippled, or deformed antelope is evolutionarily undesireable. But we don't make a moral judgement of the antelope herd that allowed such an antelope to occur. We also don't make a moral judgement of the herd when they flee the lion at top speed and leave the weak behind. Nor do we make a moral judgement of the lion who preys on the weak antelope.

Yet we make a moral judgement of the serial killer who preys on the weak among us. From a strict evolutionary standpoint, shouldn't we make a purely materialistic judgement in favor of the serial killer, who works to remove the traits of weakness from our gene pool?

And yes, this is a materialistic approach. That's my point. Perhaps one of JU's self-proclaimed nihilists could explain it better.
on Jan 13, 2006

Sure, Hitler may have been evolutionarily undesirable. I'm just saying he can't have been morally undesireable, any more than the Bird Flu is morally undesireable

Gotcha!  Your article was very thought provoking, but that statement defines it.  A moral relatavist.

If so, no one can fight you. if one casts out that ideal, then yes we can.  Man has choice.  Nature is not choice.  If you accept the inevitability of time, then yea, man is but a plant!  No will. 

if not, then you know we have a will, unlike plants and bacteria and we can decide.

Nice straw dog.  Actually good, but again with the fatal flaw.

on Jan 13, 2006
Oh, fine, I'll bite this obvious bait.

The major flaw with this article is that you anthropomorphise "evolution" into something that "says Hitler is a-okay." Evolution, being a process, doesn't "say" anything. Evolution isn't a person or a god, it doesn't make moral judgements one way or another. Your whole article, therefore, is based on on an incorrect premise.

Sincerely,

Self-proclaimed Nihilist (and if you don't get the joke of the self-proclaimed nihilist, I'm afraid I don't have the time to explain right now)
on Jan 13, 2006

Evolution doesn't make moral conclusions at all. Humans do.

It's like saying that E=MC^2 means that atomic bombs are okay.

on Jan 13, 2006
Draginol (and others) say that Evolution doesn't make moral conclusions at all.

This is my point.

Evoluotion doen't make moral conclusions; why should we? More importantly, why should we make moral conclusions that contradict the natural process of evolution as we currently understand it? And why should we make moral conclusions that are inconsistent?

Hitler, a product of evolution, kills Jews. Therefore, we conclude that he is morally evil. Bird flu, a product of evolution, kills birds (and some people), but we do not conclude that the Bird Flu virus is morally evil. Why not?

We don't conclude that antelope are morally wrong for abandoning their weakest members to suffer and die in the lion's jaws. But we do conclude that human societies who take a similar view of their weakest members are quite morally wrong. Why is that?

If it's true that evolution doesn't care, then why should we? We call it "natural" selection for a reason. Isn't every welfare program ever devised a form of "unnatural" selection? There aren't many practical objections to living like antelopes (or lions). Why all the moral objections?

Eugenics is evil when HItler practices it, but not when the flu virus practices it. Why not?
on Jan 14, 2006
We don't conclude that antelope are morally wrong for abandoning their weakest members to suffer and die in the lion's jaws. But we do conclude that human societies who take a similar view of their weakest members are quite morally wrong. Why is that?


Well I for one consider antelopes morally suspect, and all those other animals as well. Shifty eyes they have. You can't trust anyone that runs away all the time.

We make moral conclusions because we want to and because we can. I think it's safe to say that humanity is the species least influenced by evolution. Just because evolution is an observable phenomenon doesn't mean we need to pay any attention to it when it comes to us.

Anyway, in general you see animal style survival of the fittest only in the situations where survival is threatened. Very little threatens the average westerner. Without any real threats to survival Darwinism can't really have an influence.
on Jan 14, 2006
Eugenics is evil when HItler practices it, but not when the flu virus practices it. Why not?


Eugenics isn't practised in nature. I think that's perhaps the fault in your logic. Eugenics implies planning; I doubt the antelopes deliberately cripple weaker members of their group so they are taken by lions, or kill the weak themselves.

evolution is morally okay because there's no element of choice in the way it operates. The weak and the sick die not because of a conscious act of their fellows, but because they cannot flee or survive illness. Noone chooses to kill the victims (predators can't be considered to be making a choice to kill; they have to do it), and therefore it can't be argued as a moral issue.

it's like saying that rocks are immoral because of landslides. But if a person pushes that rock onto someone down below, they can be considered immoral because they had the choice to do otherwise.
on Jan 14, 2006
Evolution, being a process, doesn't "say" anything.


Evolution doesn't make moral conclusions at all. Humans do.


This is my point.

Evoluotion doen't make moral conclusions; why should we?


These points uphold the religious point of view. Materialists, or atheistis, perceive evolution as blind, mechanical interactions of inanimate matter. But your points show that human beings are more than this. I believe that the spark of divinity within us (the soul) sets us apart from the lower forms of animal life and blind evolutionary processes, because even though evolution doesn’t make moral conclusions, the spiritual dimension within us does.

Introducing "spirituality" into the debate means admitting that there is something other than evolution at play in the universe.


Yes, I agree.

Something beyond evolution, to which we must answer.


What do you mean, to which we must answer?

Introducing "choice" doesn't really change things, in my opinion, since the Bird Flu also "chooses" which birds (and, apparently, people) to infect.


No. Bird flu doesn’t consciously choose anything in the way that we can consciously make choices.
on Jan 14, 2006
It's like saying that E=MC^2 means that atomic bombs are okay.


That's extremely well put.
on Jan 14, 2006
We don't conclude that antelope are morally wrong for abandoning their weakest members to suffer and die in the lion's jaws


the disney organization has made millions by doing exactly that. or didn't you see 'finding nemo', 'bambi' and 'dumbo'?
on Jan 14, 2006
Ummm, is a theory or process able to "say" or "conclude" anything at all? There's something seriously wrong with the basic premise.
on Jan 14, 2006
he's an idiot, that's pretty obvious
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