Morality for the World We Live In: Evidence


Is there any evidence for evolutionary intuitionism?  There are confirmed predictions, which any good theory is supposed to have.  The confirmed predictions include the following.

1)  There would be no human society without a code of ethics.  The only ethnic group that any anthropologist has described as amoral are the Ik of Uganda, who were enduring a famine when they were observed.  When they found out what had been said about them, their first reaction was to investigate whether they could take legal action against the anthropologist.

2)  Anyone who was truly amoral would be bad at medium to long range projects.  The only truly amoral human beings are psychopaths.  They are also bad at medium to long range projects.

3)  People would rationalize wrong-doing because that would be, when doing wrong, the only way to preserve the advantages of believing that they were of value.  People do rationalize.  For instance, delinquents hold conventional moral views and rationalize their infractions of the moral code they maintain.

There are limits to the advantages of rationalization because it is in the interests of others to prevent it.  We all want freedom to rationalize for ourselves but want to deny the same freedom to others.

Rationalization doesn’t change morality because the rationalizer’s actions are inconsistent with their belief that they are of value no matter how they describe the actions to themselves.  Rationalization merely enables the rationalizer to avoid one of the consequences, namely, loss of the benefits of believing that they are of value.

4)  Different societies will have different moral codes.  You might think that the theory would predict that moral codes would be the same in every society.  But ignorance and error can alter moral codes; and different societies tend to be ignorant and in error in different ways.  Furthermore, when it comes to cooperation, it is more important to agree than to be right, so societies can – and are liable to – maintain mistaken codes, particularly when the societies are small and isolated.  Different societies also confront different circumstances:  we should minimize loss of life and that can mean care homes in some societies but ice floes in others, depending on the nature and resources of the societies.

5)  There will be moral reformers from time to time.  These will be people who have not been fully socialized into the moral code of their society, and whose grasp of morality has not therefore been distorted by mistaken societal norms.

6)  When moral reform occurs, it will be accepted by younger people before it is accepted by older people.  Younger people will not have been socialized to the same extent as older people.  They will also not have rationalized acting in accordance with the old code as much as older people.

7)  When different societies interact cooperatively on a basis of equality, their moral codes will tend to merge into a new moral code that they share.

8)  There will occasionally be moral saints.  These will be people who are unusually bad at rationalizing, as some people inevitably will be from time to time, given normal variation in characteristics.

9)  People will have moral intuitions, as we shall see.

10)  The norms of evolutionary intuitionism will constitute a plausible morality, as we shall also see.

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