Author’s Chapter Abstract1
- In Chapter 12, we'll deal with some questions that have cost a lot of people a lot of sleep over the years.
- Does evolutionary theory imply that we should adopt the survival of the fittest as an ethical maxim?
- Does it justify the status quo and the disadvantaged position of women in society?
- Does it imply that men cannot be held accountable for infidelity or rape?
- Does it imply that social welfare should be abolished and that dog-eat-dog capitalism is the only acceptable political system?
- Does it imply that we should forcibly prevent the least fit among us from having children?
- Does it justify the Nazis' attempt to cleanse the gene pool?
- More generally, if something we consider bad (e.g., aggression or sexism or racism) can be traced to evolved aspects of the mind, does this imply that it is actually good?
- I won't keep you in suspense; you'll be relieved to hear that the answer to all these questions is an unequivocal 'no'. But this might not be for the reason you think. If you know a little about the area already, you will have heard of the 'naturalistic fallacy'. This is generally understood as the fallacy of inferring that because something is natural, it must therefore be good, or that the way things are is the way things ought to be.
- Technically, such inferences would indeed be logically fallacious; thus, the fact that something has an evolutionary origin does not automatically imply that it is obligatory or even morally acceptable.
- However, we'll see in Chapter 12 that there is in fact no logical barrier preventing facts about evolution from informing our ethical conclusions, as long as we attend to certain logical niceties.
- Thus, if there's anything wrong with the ethical conclusions alluded to in the above paragraph (which there certainly is), it is not that they commit the naturalistic fallacy. All will be revealed in Chapter 12.
Footnote 1: Taken from Chapter 1 ("Stewart-Williams (Steve) - Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life: Darwin and the Big Questions").
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