Darwinian Morality as an Oxymoron
Naturalistic Darwinism does not possess the causative
tools to account for observable moral judgments humans make.
If it evolved, it’s not moral. It’s as simple as that. But because Darwinians continue to put out just-so stories about the “evolution of morality,” their claims must be refuted. As we will show, their claims refute themselves.
Before looking at some of the latest attempts to account for human morality in naturalistic terms, read Neil Thomas’s entry at Evolution News today about “How Darwin and Wallace Split Over the Human Mind.” Many students of Darwinism may not realize that Alfred Russel Wallace evolved into a non-Darwinian in the mid-1860s, because he could not accept the human mind with its consciousness and morality as a product of natural processes. Not that Wallace became a thoroughgoing theist, but through a long process of thought, he lost his faith in natural selection as a sufficient cause for the mental and moral faculties of the human mind. As Thomas relates, Richard Dawkins and other Darwin cheerleaders try to airbrush this fact out of their presentations of a mythical Darwin-Wallace triumph over natural theology.
In his older years Wallace came to reject natural selection as an explanation for the unfurling of all human and even animal life. By then he had transitioned towards the espousal of a form of natural theology; but his initial and gravest misgiving in the 1860s was focused four-square on the mystery of how the human brain could have evolved according to Darwinian lines of explanation. For Wallace it had become so clear that an additional power must have played a role that he thenceforth felt constrained to bid adieu to material modes of explanation.
Read the entire article first before proceeding if you can. It will help define a debate for the links that follow. Will committed naturalistic evolutionists be able to overcome Wallace’s doubt? Can they account for “moral psychology” with the tools of evolutionary naturalism? Or are there even deeper reasons why Darwinian foul balls require them to forfeit the game?
What oxytocin can tell us about the evolution of human prosociality (University of Barcelona, June 2, 2022).
Prosociality is Darwinians’ preferred word for morality, because it has less of a theological aftertaste. It means any behavior that is beneficial to the group, which could be a colony of bacteria or a human society. In typical naturalistic fashion—prosocial behavior, interpreted as morality—is just chemical at its basis. Oxytocin makes people behave with moral motions.
New Darwinism inductee Constantina Theofanopoulou is smiling with anticipation at getting her PhD and D-Merit Badge for keeping everything in the materialist box.
“We used an interdisciplinary approach to understand the evolution of hominid prosociality through the lens of the oxytocin and vasotocin receptors, where we combined evidence from modern and archaic genomics, population genetics, transcriptomics, and behavioural and neuroscientific studies, among other methods. These results can shed light on the genetics underlying possible sociality differences identified between modern humans and archaic humans, as well as the similarities between the modern human and bonobo social behaviour”, said first author Constantina Theofanopoulou. This research is part of her doctoral thesis carried out under the co-supervision of Cedric Boeckx, ICREA researcher at the Institute of Complex Systems at the UB (UBICS) and Erich D. Jarvis, professor at Rockefeller University.
Her thesis, though, cannot possibly be true: “there is nothing about conscious experience that is relatable to the physical stuff or material of the brain,” Thomas writes. And yet for each person except “the most abject psychopaths,” our morally-aware conscious experience is the thing we know best. At every moment we are bombarded with choices, contemplations and decisions tainted with conceptions of what would be true or good: ‘What should I do right now?’. We may not feel like doing it, and succumb to temptation to violate our consciences, but that inner voice assumes truth and morality exist, even if our conceptions of them are flawed.
Moral psychology from the lab to the wild: Relief registries as a paradigm for studying real-world altruism (O’Conner et al., PLoS One, 13 June 2022).
This paper promotes the use of “relief registries” (rolls of charitable contributions) as proxies for human altruism. Why? Because other methods, like online studies, vignettes, questionnaires, games, and thought experiments are, in the authors’ opinion, inadequate. They never mention Darwinism or evolution, true, but their mindset never ventures from the naturalistic box. They want to probe “naturalistic behavior” in “naturalistic settings” with “naturalistic studies.” One has to wonder if they would subject themselves to a naturalistic study of their own behavior of writing scientific papers. Or are they afflicted with a Yoda Complex that exempts them as scientists from their own policies, like politicians who confiscate guns from citizens while protecting themselves with armed guards?
Are we born with a moral compass? (Osaka University, 9 June 2022).
An embedded video clip explains how these behavioral psychologists concluded that infants are born with a “moral compass” that likes to see bad guys get punished. The simplistic experiment only evaluated infants’ gazes as they watched boxes with eyes move around on a screen. When a box that appeared to bully another box got smashed, the infants gazed longer at it. Conclusion: morality evolved!
“The observation of this behavior in very young children indicates that humans may have acquired behavioral tendencies toward moral behavior during the course of evolution,” says Kanakogi. “Specifically, the punishment of antisocial behavior may have evolved as an important element of human cooperation.”
Whether the experiment reveals any such thing is certainly open for debate; the infants cannot be interviewed to discuss their philosophical reasons for gazing at the bully box. One weakness appears in that word “antisocial behavior,” which is amoral. It could just as easily refer to the punishment of freedom fighters trying to rebel against a cruel tyrannical government, as in the Hunger Games movies. Were they moral for trying, even if they got smashed?
Well, I see it differently! (Stuart Wolpert, UCLA Newsroom, 9 June 2022).
Why do people disagree? Is it because of philosophical content, education or reasoning? No; UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman, trained to never venture outside the materialist box of causes, “explains why people don’t view the world the same way others do.” Lieberman locates political differences in a brain region behind the ear they call the “gestalt cortex.”
The gestalt cortex is located behind the ear, and it is situated between the parts of the brain responsible for processing vision, sound and touch; those parts are connected by a structure called the temporoparietal junction, which is part of the gestalt cortex. In the new study, Lieberman proposes that the temporoparietal junction is central to conscious experience and that it helps organize and integrate psychological features of situations that people see so they can make sense of them effortlessly.
But does the gestalt cortex create consciousness, or does consciousness use that part of the brain as a tool? Lieberman fails to see how his own worldview would be reduced to a materialist construct; his own gestalt cortex would make him believe in materialism. It would undermine any truth claim of his own thesis [cue sound of implosion].
Brain scans remarkably good at predicting political ideology (Ohio State University, 2 June 2022).
It’s hard to believe that intelligent people can conclude that political beliefs are a function of the brain, but these researchers are sure of it. The opening graphic shows a red brain and a blue brain, with the caption, “A brain scan can reveal whether a person would identify as a Republican or a Democrat.”
“We looked at the brain as a complex system of regions interacting with each other to produce these behaviors. Most other studies have looked at one region of the brain in isolation to see how it was activated or not activated when they were subjected to political stimuli,” he said.
This study showed that activations of specific regions of the brain – the amygdala, inferior frontal gyrus and the hippocampus – were most strongly associated with political affiliation.
If the brain produces political behaviors, abandon all hope of unifying a country. It would mean nobody can be persuaded by logic, reason, or evidence. If you have one kind of brain, you will be a Democrat. If you have another kind of brain, you will be a Republican. If you have a scrambled brain, you will become a materialist neuroscientist. It’s all determined by “a complex system of regions interacting with each other to produce these behaviors.” So much for the founding documents of the United States, and the Federalist Papers, that have long been regarded as epitomizing the Age of Reason. And so much for the steady stream of left-leaning science articles telling Americans what they “should” believe about issues of the day (e.g., 20 Feb 2022).
Does brain activity cause consciousness? A thought experiment (Gidon, Aru and Larkum, PLoS Biology, 10 June 2022).
To give these authors a chance to talk, let’s overlook their oxymoron “thought experiment” and see if they can make a point from their materialist premises.
Rapid advances in neuroscience have provided remarkable breakthroughs in understanding the brain on many fronts. Although promising, the role of these advancements in solving the problem of consciousness is still unclear. Based on technologies conceivably within the grasp of modern neuroscience, we discuss a thought experiment in which neural activity, in the form of action potentials, is initially recorded from all the neurons in a participant’s brain during a conscious experience and then played back into the same neurons. We consider whether this artificial replay can reconstitute a conscious experience. The possible outcomes of this experiment unravel hidden costs and pitfalls in understanding consciousness from the neurosciences’ perspective and challenge the conventional wisdom that causally links action potentials and consciousness.
If one wishes to waste time on a self-refuting proposition, go ahead and read this one. Their attempt to present what they believe is a true and good proposition implodes. It’s just a replay of action potentials in their brains. And where did those come from? Maybe someone is playing games with their material brains in a matrix.
Science must overcome its racist legacy: Nature’s guest editors speak (Nature, 8 June 2022).
Let’s end with a moralizing article by four speakers asking Nature‘s editors to prostrate themselves before the idol of political correctness (i.e., diversity, equity and inclusion). The point is not to evaluate the merits of their accusations, some of which are surely legitimate (scientific racism, eugenics, genocide—note how they finger Darwin and Galton; see our 24 Feb 2019 entry). The present focus is on the universal human experience that truth and morality matter. They cannot be reduced to material stuff. This passionate essay proves it.
Every scientific paper includes propositions that the authors believe are true. Every author presumes that it is good to tell the truth. If that were not the case, we would have to consider everything in Nature, Science, and these other journals, and the river of verbiage pouring out of academia, as a pack of lies trying to take advantage of us. All scientists would reduce to material organisms like stick insects pretending to be twigs on a tree, or angler fish pretending to be lures for some unwary prey. Why don’t any of the materialists see that? One cannot espouse any proposition without validating human consciousness as aspiring to requisite non-evolving standards of truth and morality.
Wallace saw it; Darwin did not. How tragic, and dangerous, that academicians around the world do not see it. Thomas notes that even Francis Crick, an atheist, saw the problem but had no answer, as did “Neuroscientist Donald Hoffman, who once worked with DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick in attempting to crack the problem of human consciousness.” At least those two were humble enough to recognize an “eternal mystery” when confronted with it and admit the failure of materialism to explain it. All the authors in the links above wallow like drunks in their Yoda Complex, oblivious to the self-contradictory nature of their ideas.
Both Hoffman and Crick were finally forced to conclude that all purely physicalist theories of consciousness had failed to provide illumination and that the state of consciousness could not be explained in neurological terms, a conclusion powerfully endorsed for more than three decades by distinguished British neuroscientist Raymond Tallis in his long opposition to what he terms “Darwinitis.”10 In short, consciousness is simply not derivable from physical laws but remains an inexplicable phenomenon of the human endowment which we are simply left to wonder at. To suggest otherwise, writes philosopher David Bentley Hart, is to fall into the trap of a “misapplication of quantitative and empirical terms to unquantifiable and intrinsically non-empirical realities.” This indicates that vague, would-be Darwinian attempts to imagine consciousness arising as an “epiphenomenon” of other physiological processes are misconceived. In fact, not being able to identify the precise biological pathway leading to the claimed “epiphenomena” disqualifies this contention as a bona fide theory and relegates it to the status of little more than magical thinking (which I define as postulating an effect without an identifiable agent or cause).
Thomas quips that “Nonsense can apparently be exempted from critique when it supports the materialist cause.” Well, not here it can’t! And we go further than Thomas. He disputes the epistemic credentials of materialism. We show that it is self-refuting, which relegates it to the demonstrably false.