I am always confused that what the significance of life. You see ,in several years anyone whoever will die, then everything will go away.
I am always confused that what the significance of life. You see ,in several years anyone whoever will die, then everything will go away.
Should that not be moved over to "Religion"
The title topic of this forum is "Philosophy and Religion".
No need to move.
[MOD - I DID move it from the science area - my mistake for not attaching a note. Bikerman]
Back on topic...
Perhaps you should read Nietzsche... Though much of what he says is dubious, he does make a good point occasionally, and one thing he was a firm believer in was that the purpose of life is aesthetics. As in, life itself in all it's varied forms is one huge work of art.
To me, there is no significance in the big picture, if one only thinks about the big picture in terms of 'the meaning of life'. The meanings and significances, to me, are found in all the small things. These little moments of fascination are what create meaning for me.
I don't understand why there has to be a meaning to life. Shouldn't we just be happy with our lives as they are and stop trying to attach some sort of elitist significance to it? The meaning of life is to just live it and be content with what you have and don't take it for granted.
there is any....significance, that is...to life...it just...is...
Gaia hypothesis states that life is part of the Earth necessary for homeostasis. By having life, Earth is much more resilient to changes compared to other planets, and it gives opportunity for Earth to extend its "power" to dominate other planets (by evolving space-faring species).
Of course that's all just "hypothesis", but a good point of view for life
Perhaps there is beauty. Like when one is in a planetarium and looking at the planets and stars, or the Grand Canyon or diving in the ocean, or a cute baby. And then the price to pay for it as its opposite in ugliness. War, destruction, pollution, death, dying. Hopefully in the meanwhile there is some fun to be had among all the confusion. For some it is partying, others mental pursuits, exploring, new discoveries. And Frihost
see this is what I don't get, why is the need for intelligent life, humans aren't exactly the greatest of biological creatures, sure we get too space travel but at the cost of millions of dead species, destroyed environment etc...
with this logic we humans are like a disease destroying the actual environment....we should be killed off
Personally I think you are dead wrong - I see human consciousness as a wonderful thing. It could even be a unique thing. Most of the 'destruction' you talk about is framed in human aesthetic terms. There have been huge extinction events before mankind and there will be again.
That does not mean that we are absolved from responsibility for our environment. Neither does it mean that we are the 'pinnacle' of evolution, the 'meaning' of it all. Neither of those are true.
But, consider, do you not find it absolutely awe inspiring that you CAN think about these issues?
I am not arguing that we are not special, we are, we think and are able too choose based on our thoughts/emotions etc which most animals cannot do (instinct) BUT like you said it doesn't stop us having responsibilities for the planet.
Yes there were extinction before humanity BUT how many things has Humanity destroyed,
lets see in the last 100 years we killed off
that's just the animals, what about insect species and small animals like frogs etc...we are killing them off, not meteorites of tsunamis that wipe species out but US with our choices and our actions, who contributes more too global warming humanity or the monkey? ITS only humanity....we destroy the planet, if the GAIA theory is true then we are like an infection we are slowly taking over changing everything too suits us.
at this point in history we humans are going against the course of nature, we are changing our environment t0o suits Our needs (taller buildings, factories, farms etc) in ancient times we used too adapt too the environment.
that's what needs to be done now, instead of changing the environment too suits our needs we should be adapting too it by working together with it for the greater good of all life.
No, not really.
Still, even if you have species competing, some need to cooperate with one another for survival. In some instances cooperation may even be necessary for the competition.
Certainly. We have complex eco-systems in which species are inter-dependant. I don't like the word 'co-operation' in that context - it implies some 'plan'.
I am not arguing that humans should kill off all other species, but I am challenging this woolly-minded eco-warrior nonsense that all life is somehow sacred and we should do our best to 'live in harmony with nature'. It is poppycock. Ask an Amazonian Indian whether he/she would like to kill off the mosquito if they could.
Most people have an 'instinctive' feeling that swatting a fly is fine but killing a dog is not. Some, very few (such as Jains) take the view AND ACT ON IT that all life is sacred. Most people have a sort of assumed, but not very well defined, sense of what it is OK to kill and what it is not. Thus they have no problem with a flu virus or an annoying fly being killed.
I would like to see a bit more rigour and a bit less emotionalism in the debate - simply bleating on about 'protecting the environment' is just verbiage.
The 'Gaia' argument simply doesn't fly with me. Even Lovelock (the 'inventor' of the hypothesis) thinks that far too much importance is given to the place and role of man. If mankind kills a huge number of species, and then disappears, it is likely that a new 'balance' would arise based on the age-old evolutionary algorithm.
Need I bring up again my system for determining when it is acceptable to kill? The nice thing is that it applies equally to mosquitoes, dogs, humans, and bacteria.
Don't worry - I am keeping an eye on your system, and will comment when it is more complete and posted
Everything in this post is a lie.
Bokonon addresses the purpose of life in the First Book of Bokonon:
Personally, I think this is as good a foma to live by as any. Your life has the significance you give it - no more, no less.
Well see that I agree with but if you actually read the link you sent most of the extinctions suggested are the effects of a meteorite or huge volcano eruptions, those are natural disasters and I understand that but the dodo bird did not die because the earth erupted it died because we ate it, us humans, we are not a natural disaster, if you say that its how evolution works then you are not letting evolution do its job, the dodo bird did not have enough time too evolve or survive, think about it each species that survived those meteorites millions of years ago (lucky buggers) they evolved and adapted, the dodo bird did not have a chance since we ate it.
Why not just eat all the cows and bison and call those ‘natural disasters’.
I am not against nature taking and doing its job but we aren’t exactly playing by the rules.
No let me explain, firstly I never said man is outside nature, I wouldn’t be arguing this if I thought it BUT even when we are inside of nature we aren’t exactly playing by the rules are we.
Firstly I have never heard of a species of animal that ATE itself into extinction or an animal that actually killed off a whole species. If you can name me some I would gladly take this back.
But humans have, we have killed off and ate things into extinction and sure you can argue that we evolved and are superior too all life because of our intelligence and it natural for us to do what we do (eat, destroy, create etc) BUT that goes against nature itself, I am not sure the plan of nature was too create the perfect environment for humanity, if anything nature is a way too create a perfect ground for creating life.
show me a single species on animal that has done THAT much of damage in such a short period of time, literally if it wasn’t for those Greenpeace activist and country borders most of the forest around the world would have been destroyed and that’s not natures doing…that’s us
Sure but no one is telling you too do that, of course no one wants too protect the mosquito but that doesn’t mean we should wipe it off the face of the planet. And yes I know that most of the animal kingdom is all about competition too be the best but at the same time they all need each other..
You don’t see lions hunting birds in tress and you don’t see birds attacking elephants, whether you like it or not there is a sort of balance, when an animal is full and has eaten he wont attack, take a shark for example or piranha they are usually safe too swim with if and when they are full, they wont attack just because they felt like it…but us humans we have no problem of killing and destroying just for the sake of it.
and about your taxes, i am sure you and me live in different countries and I certainly don't want my taxes to be used for destroying rain forest etc when we have perfectly fine alternatives....hemp...but no my taxes and your are still used that way.
also how do you feel about the fact that your taxes are used too destroy rain forests in other countries?
ps - I am not a modern age hippie but I do think we have an obligation (because of our intelligence) to do better then what we are doing like i said if instead of using trees we used hemp for paper we could be saving and helping the environment and its not that hard too do...but no that's not going too happen is it.
Actually, we didn't eat the dodo bird, rats did. Rats were brought to the island on ships that visited, they jumped ship, and discovered a veritable smörgåsbord of dodo eggs free for the taking in ground nests. It is entirely possible that rats would have eventually come to that island on their own. Rats are quite the versatile survivors, and it's entirely possible that a pregnant female rat, washed out to sea on a piece of flotsam, would have eventually ended up on that island and the result would have been the same. The same goes for any invasive species. How do you think those islands ended up with plants and animals on them in the first place?
Ok, what are the rules? Who made those rules (and by what right does that person or being make the rules)? Why should we follow them?
And without us, there would be no cows as we know them today. The cattle we raise today are the result of thousands of years of cattle breeding, and couldn't survive well in the wild.
Army Ants have been known to strip whole stretches of the rain forest bare for miles. Sharks will continue to feed even when full, and recent research shows that they will even stalk prey and kill for fun(or at least for no apparent purpose other than simply wanting to). Apes commit murder. Locust swarms will eat anything green in their path (they don't seem to care if any particular plant is endangered and they devour the very last specimen for dinner).
I agree with you that we have an obligation to be good guests on this wonderful planet of ours, to conserve our resources and ensure that what we have will last. And I think we should do it for the highest moral reason - the survival of our species.
But how can you say we aren't playing by the rules when the same forces that created this planet (regardless of whether you believe it was god or cosmic coincidence) created us as well. We are a product of this planet, just as much as a lion or a bear or a Kudzu vine. We do exactly what any other animal does - survive by any means possible.
We aren't outside of nature, or separate from it. We are an animal like any other, driven by the same desires for food, safety, mates, territory. While the lion evolved teeth and claws, we evolved intelligence to keep us out of the lion's belly.
And yes, we are changing our environment. We are cutting down forests, introducing invasive species, logging spotted owls right into extinction, etc... But, even if we weren't here nature would be constantly changing anyway. Minor mutations lead to new species better able to survive which drive out the old species. Ice ages come and go. So do warm periods and droughts and monsoons. Our planet wasn't a perfect utopia before man came along. It wasn't in stasis, some mythical perfect balance.
We just happen to be capable of seeing the bigger picture, but that doesn't remove us from nature - red in tooth and claw such as it is. It just means we have to try not to succeed ourselves out of house and home.
I love how you blamed rats okay firstly it wasn’t rats it was rats, cats, dogs and Crab-eating Macaques who ate like you said the dodo eggs. Secondly they didn’t JUMP ships, they were brought on the island (dogs don’t just jump on board ships nor do monkeys) and the rats would only be found on the ship because it makes a perfect environment for itself.
But did you forget too mention that even though they ate all the eggs the HUMANS us we destroyed their forests so they couldn’t nest and ate and killed them for ornaments (gifts etc) and just for the sake of hunting.
The rats that apparently JUMPED on the ship did what any animals would do try and survive, but it did not actively seek out the dodo and try too eat it or destroy its forests, we did that and we brought the rats over.
Also the dodo bird did start too die when humans made contact with it….your logic by saying a rat could have washed ashore and destroyed it is foolish because it didn’t it happened because we brought them over, accident or not its still our fault.
Also those islands did not create themselves because some animal was washed ashore….it was an island a place of land cut off from the mainland and still had life on it….read about Madagascar and secluded evolution if you want too.
I don’t know the rules all I know is that nature did not intend for us too kill off all other species and by your logic why have animals?, let’s just kill em all. why not? Am I right, let me go to my next door neighbor and kills his dogs, why should it matter, heck why not just wipe of snakes…they kill all those people in India, why not kill hippos they kill more people in Africa then any other animal….
And what did we use too raise this cattle? We used bison and ox (and clsoe relatives)etc too breed perfect cattle….but wait wasn’t the bison almost killed off in America…yes it was....
Why not KILL all animals that aren’t of use too us, think about it….if we killed all the snakes and spiders so many more people would have live its just illogical not to do it.
pigeons lets kill them....nothing but trouble and useless..
Firstly ants have existed for 100 millions years (at least) how many rainforest have been fully destroyed, if they were a huge threat they would have killed off the planet, but wait, ants are also a food source for hundreds of species who feed on them, if anything any modern problems with ants is because we killed off its major predators like ant eaters who are getting rarer and rare every day.
The shark I have a problem with….if you can link info on it I would gladly disagree and has an animal like the shark stalked an animal just too kill it…not eat it after wards but too kill it.
Apes commit murder, so do humans but does an ape go out and look for a rat kill it and leave it ….does an ape go out and wipe a whole species off the planet for no reason….there have been few cases of murder and most involve its own species….and even then they most likely eat the looser….so no its not really the same.
Locust are like ants, they existed for a long time if they were real threat we would all be dead…they do what they do because again we killed off a lot of the creatures that fed on them like species of birds etc….plus they wipe those field and crops because they have too, too survive BUT WE DON’T our intelligence gives us alternatives….so no its not the same.
No…animals don’t survive by any 'means necessary', if that was the case lions would actively seek out other big cats and kill em off, the biggest groups etc would rule etc…elephants would just trample any creatures in its sight, why not its for the survival of its species. (have you ever seen ants kill and not use the dead body for some sort of purpose)
That doesn’t mean we can go and kill the lion just because we felt like it, yes intelligence is our weapon, it is our means of survival but by killing the forest and the animals we are killing ourselves cause we would be damaging the environment, just because we are smarter then the monkey doesn’t mean we should just kill em. We are given a gift from evolution, that gift is intelligence and thinking etc…use it wisely
Of course it wasn’t heck some say the planet is violent and not great for life (floods etc) but like you said MINOR mutations and natural disasters happen never in the history of earth has a creature just destroyed everything in its path….the ant wouldn’t cause it would die out etc. no creature other then humans have done more harm too this wonderful planet, if what we do (pollution, the rape of forest, killing off species etc) is evolution for humanity then I am sorry but being human is a bad thing….
deanhills you rock my world...
Seriously though, I agree, the ships did not get to the islands themselves, nor were the rats steering the ships .... would have been interesting if they did though, sort of Stuart Little style, but rat like ...
You could even argue that the occasional 'clean out' is good from an evolutionary perspective - it introduces a high 'evolutionary potential' where there are many new niches to exploit in the new environment. This is what happened after the Dinosaur extinction event, for example, and there are other examples in geological history.
If we want to 'set our policy' in terms of what is good for mankind then fine - but it might lead to consequences that many would find unacceptable. If we want to set policy based on some notion of what is good for 'nature' then I need some convincing that there is any such 'entity'. You can try to adopt some objective measures - number and diversity of species would be an obvious one. By that strict measure, however, we should certainly not be trying to artificially 'save' species that would go extinct in the normal course of things. Should we put effort into trying to save (for example) the Giant Panda, the horned toad, the snow leopard? Why? Is the rationale simple to preserve the current diversity of species? Why is that a good idea? Evolution certainly doesn't 'work' like that.
Most of the arguments I see revolve around anthropocentric views of what is 'nice', or what may be useful in the future. 'Nature' simply doesn't care about either of those. Any 'rules' are therefore framed in a human perspective of what is desirable, not some absolute measure of 'good' or 'natural'.
I'm concerned that you as a scientist can't see a lion as a noble creature. Since we are so much interconnected in "life" our views of nature are "mirror images" of ourselves. If we cannot have reverence for it, it will lead to our own self-destruction eventually.
I'll have one last try:
If you really believe that 'nature' is some entity, as you seem to, then clearly swine flu is a normal result of the evolutionary algorithm (from my perspective), or it is a 'facet' of nature (to use a less defined perspective). Why should you seek to kill the swine-flu virus and at the same time save the lion? Please explain your reasoning. Whilst you are about it, please explain what this notion of 'reverence' means in this context - I really don't understand it.
^Perhaps instead of talking of protecting nature, we could look at as protecting the environment?
Natural or not, a polluted wasteland where nothing can live is not a good thing.
This is also completely beyond me. Only comment I can make is that I never said that nature was an entity, that was your interpretation. I believe everything is one whole like leaves of a tree - holistic. We are all interrelated and whatever harm we do to one another, affects the sum total.
So, is bio-diversity some possible measure of what we should do - some 'ethical' measure we can apply to our behaviour? It is certainly quoted often and indeed seems to be taken as a given by many, that reducing bio-diversity is bad. I'm not so sure. I don't particularly want a bio-diverse ecosystem in my house. In fact I'm quite happy to have a very limited biodiversity around me - the fact that there are no (wild) lions in the UK is fine by me.
Now, I'm not saying that we should concrete the Amazon and kill species willy-nilly. I am simply challenging the 'eco warrior' brigade to think through their position and come up with some rational proposals instead of knee-jerk emotional appeals to some vague, ill-defined concepts of what nature is or is not. If you want to save the whale then tell me why.
Let me put it in really simple terms;
"If you could wipe out the mosquito tomorrow then would you?'
If you would then clearly the 'bio-diversity' principle is called into question.
If you wouldn't then clearly the 'sanctity of human life' is called into question.
Now, if you support the 'Gaia' notion then you certainly should not eliminate the mossie - 'harming one harms all' (or words to that effect). Me? I'd be prepared to live with the results and I'd 'press the button'.
Now it could be that my decision had unintended consequences - maybe killing mosquitos would result in some 'ecological catastrophe'. My question remains - by what measure do you consider it a catastrophe? By the measure of human survival it almost certainly wouldn't be so.
Thanks for your explanation about the ending of species that would naturally evolve into changing into something different. I believe that destruction of the world with the human species in it is implicit in that. Including the destruction of rain forests and contribution to environmental pollution. And allowing the human species to become as populous as it is at present. We are responsible for making earth less and less habitable.
Living in rainforests is really tricky - lots of things want to do you in. Chop all the trees down and it is much easier to live - no creepy crawlies, no snakes, spiders and other venomous nasties. From a human perspective that is much more habitable than a rain forest.
The notion that doing-in other species is necessarily harmful to mankind is clearly untrue - as the population figures show. Mankind might indeed eat himself out of existence (though I think that is extremely unlikely) - that is a sign of success. The population of homo-sapiens has shot through the roof over the last century - corresponding to our impact on the environment increasing.
Well coming from a pro-human evolutionary perspective I suppose that Bikerman is correct. Although I completely disagree with him. While chopping down rainforests would make the world more habitable for humans (although breathing might be harder), I definitely do not agree with chopping down forests. I do think that deforestation is a huge problem. I also believe that there is no reason why human beings cannot advanced while preserving "nature*." I do not really wish to go into details about my beliefs here because this really is off-topic here, but I do donate some of my income to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature so I am sure that you can probably tell where some of my beliefs are...
*By nature, I mean natural habitats such as the ocean, jungles, forests, etc. I felt the need to define that since the definition of "nature" did come up in the argument.
Careful...I haven't expressed an opinion to disagree with, yet. I have simply framed the debate in some sort of rational language...
Oh I am sorry. I misread. I thought you were expressing your opinion and that you thought it would be a good idea to cut all the forests down because it makes human life better...
Nope - I am simply challenging the view that this is automatically a bad thing. I wish to know what rationale is being applied. What is the overall ethical principle in play? Where human interests conflict with some perceived 'natural balance' then how do we decide what to do?
Now, taking the 'it is good for humans' line is certainly one approach and you must admit that it has a certain rationality about it surely?
Personally I am not satisfied with that rationale - but the reason I pose the question is to get some comments and opinions, rather than simple platitudes about saving the planet.
I do agree that it is a rational approach - which is why I did say that from a pro-human evolutionary point-of-view it is correct. Although I then pointed out that I disagree with it. I do believe that environmental issues are some of the biggest problems. Although I do not want to give off the impression that I am anti-human (which is a terrible stereotype of environmentalists). I donate money and do volunteer work for both environmental causes and humanitarian causes.
The interesting philosophical questions are always the hard ones - which is why I have taken this stance - which you might think is confrontational. In a sense it is - I really wish to get to the heart of this debate in philosophical terms - what principles are we applying here and what are they based on?
If the principle is 'human weal' then there is little evidence to support many current policies on ecology - including the ban on whale hunting, to take one example. Now, if you ask me 'do you think we should hunt and kill whales?' then I say no. But that 'no' is a belief - almost a faith system. It is not based on sound rational principles. I know some of the principles that I could employ to back up my own belief - I could cite utilitarian arguments or I could cite aesthetic arguments. Both are valid and neither is compelling....
You could also cite moral arguments.
Well you can always use the "practical approach" to conservation arguments.
1. Global Warming - Climatologists are fairly certain that global warming can lead to many catastrophes (crop failures, natural disasters, sea level rising that can put some habitable land under water, etc.). By not taking actions to stop global warming (cutting back on driving, driving fuel efficient cars, not using plastic, etc. you are effectively being evil by willingly living a lifestyle that can certainly end up killing people.
2. Deforestation - Many plants found in jungles/rainforests have been known to have properties that can heal diseases. By cutting down trees, you are preventing treatments. Trees also produce oxygen. You are suffocating people by cutting down trees (and also speeding along global warming which then can kill other people).
Would that be a valid argument for the morality surrounding protecting the natural environment?
However, you can look at this from the other way around. Maybe it's immoral to protect the environment (this is most definitely not my opinion - I am just trying to provide both sides). I think that most environmentally conscience people (myself included) do have their own motives that may be somewhat selfish (which can be considered immoral). I was having a conversation in another thread about some of my hobbies being backpacking (it's called "trekking" in some places), wilderness survival, canoeing (especially long canoeing camping trips), climbing, amateur mountaineering, fishing, hunting, etc. I've done these things in forests all over the place and I intend to continue doing these hobbies around the world until the day I die.
Many environmentalists have similar hobbies to mine. Let's say, for instance, that hunting regulations went away. Currently in the U.S., there are regulations as to how many deer can be shot in a season. Now if these regulations went away (let's also say that every forest reserve/national park was cut down), then what am I going to shoot next deer season? Also, where am I going to hike, backpack, fish, hunt, etc.?
It is to my benefit to make sure that substantial forest reserves are left in the world. I must say that I love being able to go somewhere, like Canada for instance, and go on a two week/one hundred mile backpacking trip without seeing any other people and seeing nothing living but plants and animals. I also really love wildlife viewing (except in zoos; I like seeing them completely wild after I've hiked many miles for many days to see them).
So now that I've covered that it's to my benefit, am I being selfish now that I've publicly shown that I do have my own motives for donating to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and living the "greenest" life possible? I mean, Bikerman has already shown the benefits of cutting down the forests and I am trying to stop the forests from being cut down!
Now back to it being immoral to hurt the environment... I just thought I'd briefly go back to the first point. Now that I've pointed out that there are many people like me who really want forests to stand and animals to live (well enough to keep stable populations that I can shoot), are the loggers being selfish by depriving people like me of that opportunity?
Well I think that looking at the issue from any of these standpoints alone is a little silly. The issue is a lot bigger than that. I don't think you can label it in one way. I do not think there is a single person who will argue that forests aren't important. They do provide oxygen, stabilize the climate, and contain many ingredients to medication. But human needs also exist. These are the tough solutions. However, there are many solutions that have already come out (better farming techniques, using regrown forests for logging to preserve "virgin forests," alternative fuels, etc.).
I remember watching a programme,about a civilisation (somewhere in south america i think but i could be wrong) that built a great city in the middle of (seemingly) nowhere,then all of the sudden almost over night,they disappeared. The conclusion that was reached as to why all the people abandoned the city was that they had killed all the trees and fauna in the surrounding area,the ground became infertile and they couldn't grow crops,without crops the city they had built became unsustainable.
This on a small scale is the obvious reason why on a worldwide scale we should protect the rain forests and protect the environment.
There is an even better example - Easter Island. Imagine the islanders - chopping down the trees to drag their huge religious icons into position, knowing that there were few trees left, but locked-into a cycle of behaviour which demanded chopping them all down. Imagine the islander who chopped-down the last tree - knowing that this was it - no more statues, no more fishing boats....
The point I'm trying to make is that if this discussion belongs at all in this forum, it should be on philosophical or religious basis, which is why I am trying to establish exactly which philosophical principles are in play here - self interest is clearly one. I have yet to see someone make a case built on less selfish grounds. If self-interest IS the deciding factor then, as I've tried to outline above, this leads to a different perception of what we should do. Why try to save species which have no utility to us as humans?
Later, later... reasoning might change as ideas are integrated.
Well, let me kick it off then;
The assumption that humans, as a species, have some 'duty' to the 'environment' that is not based on self-interest relies on first defining a moral principle that over-rides that self-interest. To which moral principle should we appeal?
How about beauty/aesthetics? OK - that is possible, but it depends on defining an aesthetic which many people would not share. If you are going to defend many less 'good looking' species on aesthetic grounds, then you either have to link them to some intangible (and I say invalid) 'grand vision' of nature which is itself beautiful, or you have to re-educate a lot of people to see beauty where they currently see horror or ugliness.
Fairness/Justice? Again possible but now you have to define non-human species in terms of what is just or fair. This opens a minefield, which I am perfectly willing to explore, but will lead us into deep philosophical areas.
Since this is a philosophy AND religion forum, I should also say that another approach would be the spiritual 'imperative' based on the beliefs/doctrines/scriptures of a particular religion, or based on some personal notion of spirituality. Here we get into stuff like the Genesis account and man being granted 'dominion' over nature. This, unfortunately, leads to a dead end in debate, because the ultimate argument is always 'God said so' in one form or another, and at that point no further debate is really possible. One can only really debate about the semantics of the account (ie what is meant by dominion or whether the Hebrew account actually meant 'dominion'), but ultimately it comes down to whether you accept that interpretation as 'authoritative' - and you would only do so if you were a member of that faith/creed/sect.
I think the question deserves a bit of grown-up thinking.....
A common one that is not necessarily based on religion is "Do onto others as you would like them to do to you". Perhaps implicit in that is that every action has a logical reaction and consequence. And that actions should be such that their consequences would not be harmful to others. Logical consequence of that is laws that get written to safeguard the public.
The 'Golden' or 'Universal' rule 'do unto others' is not a religious principle, though it does feature in many religions including Christianity.
If you are saying that this can apply to other species then you are going to run into absurdities very quickly.
Only if you take current human behavior for granted.
Let's try a different approach.
Earth is discovered by a vastly superior alien race... as superior to us as we are to ants.
How would we like that alien race to treat us?
We will most likely project our own rational and moral thinking on how we would want them to treat us, rather than how they can treat us. For all we know, they could potentially make an enormous contribution to earth by interference, and save us from ourselves. Quite a number of scenarios are possible. If they are superior to us, we may likely get the same situation as the animal species have vs. us as the superior species on earth. They will make assumptions about us and "tame us"/"domesticate us" according to their superior ways. Or simply get rid of us.
The question is really whether there are other moral principles in play and we don't need to hypothesise aliens to address that - in fact it is quite likely that any alien morality would be different to our own....
I don't believe there can be morality separate from self-interest.
Though perhaps 'self-interest' isn't the right term - it's more like tribe interest, or group-interest.
Let me lay it out this way:
Go back to the dawn of human kind-
Say there is only one man. What can he do that is immoral?
There is no one for him to murder or steal from. One man alone cannot kill enough animals or chop down enough trees to make a difference in the environment. Morality is a useless concept for one man alone.
What is Good is what helps him survive, and what is Bad is what endangers his survival.
Then he finds a mate. He's going to refrain from hurting her - not because it's a moral imperative, but because he doesn't want to be alone. The two of them together can survive more easily that one alone.
Then they have children, and papa hands down the first moral law to his kids - do what I tell you, do what your mother tells you, don't fight with your brothers and sisters, work hard or we don't eat.
This is the beginning of morality - rules to ensure harmony within the group because the group must be able to live and work together to survive.
The family merges with another family and becomes a clan. The clan won't survive if it's members steal from each other, if spouses cheat, if there is murder. So now there is a reason to codify a set of rules. As groups get bigger the rules are even more important. They become ingrained in the culture - to be followed, but not questioned.
Consider this - Why is murder wrong, yet killing in war is not?
Because the rules are all about the survival of the group. If you go to war, those who are being killed are 'other' - not part of the group. The enemy's survival doesn't help the survival of the Tribe.
So, I posit that all morality is derived from group-interest. What is good is that which allows the group to survive and work together in harmony. Stories about souls and Heaven and Hell and about the Boogie Man and other myths and fables are codifications and justifications for these morals - memes to propagate those social traits that aid survival of the group.
As groups grow larger, they have more of an impact on the world around them. They change the environment and use more resources. Therefore, careful husbanding and management of those resources is imperative to the survival of the group. So, on the global scale we now live on, being careful to maintain ecological balance, conserving our resources, ensuring that there will be plenty of trees to filter our atmosphere and keep us breathing is a moral imperative.
It may not directly impact New York City if all of the lions in Africa disappear, but then again, it might. We don't yet entirely understand the complex interconnections between all the living things on this planet. But we do know enough to know that if one part of the balance is upset it sends ripples throughout the environment.
For example - here in the US most of the large predators are gone. There are very few wolves and bears left - so now there is nothing to keep the deer population in check (especially since not as many people hunt anymore), so the deer over breed, eat crops, breed diseases, run out into the road and cause car wrecks.
It is in our own best interest to maintain bio-diversity, to ensure a healthy planet, therefore, it is the moral thing to do.
Of course it would be different, really it's just a way of looking at it from the opposite angle. (As a way to apply the 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' principle.)
What if we were the ants?
Ok, on the suicide thing you may have a point - it bears thinking about.
In a group setting suicide causes pain, confusion, and guilt to those who loved the suicidee, in a small enough group the loss of a member would impact the chances of survival for the whole group, so I can see how suicide came to be considered immoral. But is it really immoral if the person who commits suicide is completely alone? (and when I say alone I'm talking about complete physical isolation, not just emotional 'lonely in a crowd' feelings - ie, no one to grieve, no viable gene pool to harm (since there is no one to mate with anyway).
My point being that morals only have meaning in a situation where two or more people interact.
As for the rest of your post, I don't understand what you mean. If I build a chair, then smash it to splinters against a rock, how have I done something immoral? I can create stuff and break it as much as I want and I don't see how morality applies.
I'm not sure how successful the socio-biological approach is when considering morality (ie considering it from the standpoint of the survival of genes).
I can see why you might want to say that morality emerges from group interaction but I see problems with that approach unless you can also show how the behaviours are codified and passed-on. Here it may be useful to consider meme theory - morality as a set of memes (ideas and concepts) which are passed-on via imitation in a manner analogous to genes. Here you get horizontal transmission (between members of a group) rather than the vertical transmission of genes (through the generations). Applying this idea to morality certainly seems promising - and it is something that meme theorists like Susan Blackmore are looking at...
Some starting points;
I mentioned that in my first post. Sets of rules and morals codified in religion, myths, legends, fables, fairy tales, and boogy-man stories (and in more recently urban legends). Memes.
If you take on board the memetic explanation, however, then we have to get away from the entirely genetic approach (ie explaining how a particular morality could survive and prosper by explaining what survival advantage it offered). Memes and genes can be in competition. The survival of a particular meme or memeplex is not dependant on the genetic survival advantage it offers - in fact some memes can be 'anti survival' in a strict Darwinian sense....
I read the article at the first link (don't have time to read the other two, but I will get to them), and that is exactly the point I was trying to make about how I think morals evolve and are spread.
I can envision the progression from simple instructional stories (that cave is dangerous, but inquisitive children might not understand about unstable footing and ceiling collapse - but they will stay out of it if they believe there is a monster in it that will eat their faces off.) to more complex theologies (The simple warning story about the monster in the cave is embellished by a talented story teller and grouped together with many other such stories to form a system of myths, or even a proto-religion.) to codified rigid dogmatic systems (Christianity).
And I can see your point about some memes being anti-survival (the idea of strict celibacy, for example.)
I never meant to imply that there was any genetic component to morality. My point was that morality can only exist in a group, and is essential to the survival of a group, but on an individual level (ie a person with no group with which to interact) it is meaningless.
As such, I also believe that there is no absolute good or absolute evil. Since morals are a function of group survival they must be flexible and change with the curcumstances of the group. For example a group living in proximity to aggressive warrior tribes must have an allowance for killing in self defense, or better, a strong warrior ethos like Sparta, built into their culture or they will not survive. The Amish would not have survived in such a situation. It is only the relative peacefulness of modern times that allows for the luxury of complete pacifism.
Or another example: The Cattle Raids of the Ancient Irish were praised and immortalized in poems like the Táin Bó Cúalnge, whereas cattle rustlers in the American West were despised and hanged.
No, I can't entirely support this line of argument.
Clearly many animals are social - they live in groups. We can look at chimps, or we can go to insect hive structures. Now, if you want to say that this is some proto-morality, then I have difficulty there in seeing how it helps.
Also, the notion that morals are a function of group survival - I take that to mean that circumstances/environment will alter morality in such a way as to permit group survival/thriving?
A meme approach would result in a different view - here the survival of the meme is the key, not the 'carrier', so the 'meme' would give not a hoot about the survival of a particular group.
Obviously there is a complex interplay between the genes and the memes - a meme that has drastic genetic consequences - such as your example, celibacy - has to either adapt by co-opting other memes (some sort of partial celibacy), or it has to spread horizontally. Ultimately that horizontal spread is limited by population and geo-politics, but it could be sufficient to survive....
Likewise the memes influence the genes (just look at how important cultural aspects are in choosing a 'mate').
No, morality doesn't apply to bee hives or antelope herds. Those animals run on instinct. You can look at numerous bee hives (within the same species of bee) and you will see the same behavior in each hive. This argues for a genetic basis for their behavior.
Human groupings may be influenced in some ways by instinct (we do tend to like to live in groups, we have a tendency to select a leader to follow, etc) but for the most part our cultural structures are the result of passing on ideas and the adopting of rules to live by. Each social group has differences in the way they do things.
Humans are capable of discarding those ideas that don't work. The ideas may survive in group memory, but that doesn't mean we have to blindly incorporate it into our lives.
Take for example the Warrior. At one point in our early history every man of fighting age in a particular group would have had a moral obligation to his group to learn to use a weapon for the defense of his group. Strong warriors were honored as heroes (again, look at Sparta, or even as recently as the American Pioneers, though the idea was already starting to change by that point).
Today, only a few men and women become warriors - those that join the military or the police force (or football players if you want to stretch it to ritualized warfare). The idea that every man of fighting age must fight has almost passed out of our culture. You have no need to defend your town against the next town over. The idea of a warrior as an honored individual persists, but the implementation has changed. The idea that is rising to prevalence in our societies is that aggression is something to be suppressed.
America's Founding Fathers believed that every American had the right and the need to own firearms, but modern thought is changing toward the idea that it is undesirable to even own a gun, much less use one.
So, you have a meme that warriors are good and to be honored (we still cheer for John McClain when we watch Diehard, so this meme has persisted), and you have a competing meme that aggression is wrong in a civilized society (as evidenced by the idea that guns are bad, and you should give your children 'time out' rather than a spanking).
If our society were to collapse back into a kill or be killed situation (I'm talking the hypothetical apocalypse) those people who can decide which meme to implement, rather than blindly following the "fighting is bad" meme will be the ones to survive.
Morality changes with circumstances - either slowly evolving over time, or abruptly to cope with catastrophic circumstances. Memes carry the ideas and keep them alive, but reason must be used to determine which memes apply.
Yes, memes can determine what is desirable in a mate, and can therefore affect our genetics (like the relatively recent idea that a gap between your front teeth is a sign of beauty). Memes can carry all kinds of information, but I'm trying to focus on how morals are formed and passed on... genetics seems like a bit of a red herring in this conversation - unless you are arguing for a genetic basis for morality?
PS - wow, this conversation has gone pretty far afield, but it's an interesting topic and I'm having fun
I suppose I ought to tie it back to what got it going - man's relationship to the environment.
If, as I propose, what is moral is that which aids survival, then it is absolutely a moral obligation to maintain the health of our biosphere for our own survival.
So if Tom Hank's character in Castaway had gotten fed up and shoved a sharp stick through Wilson the Soccer Ball that would have been somehow immoral?
Imaginary friend or not, Wilson was an inanimate object. I can't see anything immoral in that situation. Silly, maybe, but not immoral.
Whereas if Robinson Crusoe had shoved a sharp stick through Friday, that would have been an immoral act. Unless Friday was trying to kill him, then it would have been self-defense.