What may be new ideas

For people working at the intersection of biological and cultural evolution, game theory, and social morality, I expect the following concepts are not strictly speaking new, and I hope might even be considered obvious.   “Newness” for these readers is likely only that these claims have not been specifically presented in the peer-reviewed literature (so far as I know), only sometimes implied.

For readers unfamiliar with the presently highly active intersection of science and morality, many of the following claims may be genuinely new ideas.

1. The following claim is empirically true as objective fact, in the normal sense of provisional truth in science, based on relevant criteria from science for provisional truth: “The universal function (the primary reason they exist) of enforced cultural norms (enforced moral standards) is to increase the benefits of altruistic cooperation in groups.”

2. The following moral principle is the best presently available instrumental choice (best choice for meeting common human overriding desires) for a moral reference for groups deciding which cultural norms to enforce and individuals deciding which enforced cultural norms to accept the burdens of: “Altruistic acts that also increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are moral”.

3. The emotional experience of durable well-being (happiness) largely exists because it evolved by maintaining and increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups. That experience, as demonstrated in world-wide happiness studies, is largely typified by a sense of belonging to cooperative groups, the security that belonging produces, and pleasure in the cooperative company of friends and family.

4. “Altruistic acts that also increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are moral” fits the needs of human beings like a key fits a well-oiled lock because this key is what largely shaped this lock (the aspects of people that make us social animals). Further, this moral principle is a key for exploiting almost whatever synergistic benefits of cooperation we might desire. It is not a morality defined by a set of obligations best avoided.

5. “Altruistic acts that also increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are moral” is a species and even biology independent moral principle (for defining enforced cultural norms) that is as intrinsic to physical reality and as objective as mathematics.

6. Logical consequences of the universal moral principle “Altruistic acts that also increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are moral” enables objectively sorting out Dark Side moral standards, such as slavery and required submission of women to men, which reduce the benefits of cooperation between groups (which is immoral by the principle because together the groups form one group). The principle also enables objectively ranking the instrumental utility of cultural heuristics such as “An eye for an eye” versus “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” plus the instrumental utility of culturally enforced punishment (aimed at increasing future benefits of cooperation) of people who take advantage of other people’s altruism.

7. The ultimate source of cultural moralities (enforced cultural norms) is not biological moral motivations. The common ultimate source of cultural moralities and biological moral motivations is an aspect of physical reality (as in part revealed by evolutionary game theory) regarding the synergistic benefits of altruistic cooperation that is unchanged since the fusion fires of the first star lit and that can be expected to remain unchanged till the last star dies.

The picture is “The Pillars of Creation” from the Hubble Space telescope. It shows gas clouds giving birth to new stars. The first star might have been born in such a gas cloud, but before the fusion fire of that first star lit, the universe would have been a darker place than shown here.

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