Application

By Application, I mean both groups, as their best instrumental choice, adopting the Evolutionary Morality principle as a moral reference for determining which norms to enforce and individuals, again as their best instrumental choice, adopting it as a personal moral reference.

It seems sensible to talk about an individual deliberating about whether to adopt it as a personal moral reference.

However, it is a grossly simplified idealization of the process to talk about “groups, as their best instrumental choice, deciding to adopt it as a moral reference for determining which norms to enforce”, except for the special case of cultural norms that are enforced by rule of law. Norms enforced by rule of law are usually determined, at least in democracies, by some consensus process that might be described as group decisions. There are no such formal consensus processes for groups deciding to socially enforce cultural norms which are not enforced by rule of law.

Some assistance is needed here from sociology both in 1) how to talk about such a process of intentional cultural change in a group’s socially enforced norms and 2) practical advice for people wishing to further such changes in determining which cultural norms (moral standards) ought to be enforced.

For the sake of simplifying the presentation, I will continue to use the idealization of “groups, …, deciding to adopt the Evolutionary Morality principle as a moral reference for determining which norms to enforce”.

Keeping this in mind, we can proceed.

The immediate effects of cultures adopting Altruistic Cooperation as a moral reference might be hardly noticeable in many cultures, even religious ones. 

Adopting it for a personal moral reference might similarly be a near non-event. However, a person adopting might see a change if they felt motivated to increase their altruistic (moral) behavior based on the understanding that such behavior is a means of, on average, increasing benefits, in particular psychological benefits.

Groups adopting Altruistic Cooperation as a cultural moral reference might find doing so hardly noticeable because “Altruistic acts that also increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are evolutionarily moral” appears to be the underlying principle for virtually all past and present enforced moral standards, including religious moralities. And it seems likely that most cultures will be of the opinion that whatever enforced moral standards they have, are the best at increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups.

Altruistic Cooperation becomes noticeably culturally useful when there is a dispute about what moral standards ought to be enforced. However, even if increasing the benefits of cooperation by altruistic acts is agreed to be the goal of social morality, there is still plenty of room for argument, scholarship, and science concerning which enforced norms are most likely to actually do that. But at least people will be focusing on the right issues, not the irrelevancies that so often characterize present moral discussions.

The second focus of such hypothetical arguments concerns the benefits that ought to be pursued in order to best meet the needs and preferences of the group. The above universal part of Evolutionary Morality is silent on this matter (except it would be immoral to pursue benefits which would reduce future benefits within the group).  Its silence explains how cultures could have included the exploitation of slaves and womenas ‘moral’ benefits of cooperation . This permissibility of exploiting out-groups is what I have referred to as the Dark Side of morality as a biological and cultural adaptation.

But two subgroups or an in-group and an out-group taken together also form a group. It would therefore be intellectually consistent to claim a corollary moral principle: “Altruistic acts that increase the benefits of cooperation between groups are moral”. This is a claim beyond morality as a biological and cultural adaptation. But why should groups accept its burdens of not exploiting other groups? They should accept its burdens as rationally justified by an expectation of better meeting their common overriding common desires, assuming those desires are best met by cooperating in groups. I am aware of no other conclusively demonstrated rational justification for accepting the burdens of a morality.

Evolutionary Morality also provides a means of ranking the moral utility of different cultural norms in terms of their ability to increase the benefits of altruistic cooperation within groups. For example, it appears to be empirically true that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, “All people have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and “Equality under rule of law” are superior to “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.

What about religious cultures? Could they find Evolutionary Morality culturally useful for choosing which religious moral standards to enforce?

It may seem a little contradictory for a religious culture to be choosing which moral standards to enforce. It is often implied that religious moralities are sets of immutable commandments from a supernatural source. Well, not so much.

Actually sorting out and discarding previously enforced religious norms is standard practice and has been a long time. Religious Jews seldom seek to enforce moral standards requiring killing witches or stoning to death brides who turn out to not be virgins. Many Christians no longer enforce moral obligations for women to be submissive to their husbands and be silent during church services.

It seems possible that religious groups could use Evolutionary Morality to 1) better understand their supernatural based morality, 2) reject the Dark Side elements such as exploitation of out-groups such as women and homosexuals (homosexuals have often been exploited as imagined threats to society), and 3) identify and understand the real importance (perhaps lack of importance) of “marker” moral obligations (markers of membership and commitment to a group) such as circumcision and sexual prohibitions against homosexuality, masturbation, and sex before marriage.

The picture is “Amiens Cathedral Illuminated”

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