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The moral police...they are coming to get you

Given that morality is so important, you’d think we’d want to make sure that we were doing it right. That is, you’d think that we would insist on knowing why we have the beliefs that we have, how those beliefs came into being, who they benefit, and where they are likely to lead us

Very often, however, our moral judgments are based primarily on our immediate emotional reactions to the behavior of others, and our attempts to justify our judgments are just post hoc rationalizations of these emotions

There is something called a post hoc fallacy in logic, which says that because one thing happened, a second development, say a moral label is put on the event
and ,is erroneously thought to be directly caused by it.


Making an evolutionary perspective on human nature is highly commendable when the purpose is to improve society. Changing the course of human evolution is more questionable – in the biological sense of the term

The “science of intentional change” should preferably have a terminology that distinguishes between genetic changes and cultural transformation, and it needs a direction

The reason evolutionary science can enable moral progress is because knowledge about the function of a moral belief is essential for evaluating the belief’s current utility. 

By testing predictions about how a moral belief relates to certain individual and environmental variables, we can learn a lot about what problems the belief was designed (by biological or cultural evolution) to solve in past environments, and about whether it continues to fulfil this function in current environments. 

For example, recent studies suggest that a man’s physical strength—that is, the degree to which he would have been capable of competing aggressively for status (and thus for resources) in ancestral environments—predicts his attitudes towards political violence and social inequality [5-8]. In other words, men seem to hold moral beliefs that would advantage them individually in a society in which status competitions were decided in large part by physical strength. 

These results suggest that the mental mechanisms producing their beliefs a) were designed for status acquisition, and b) may not fulfil this function particularly well in modern societies in which status competitions are decided more by technology, intelligence and education then by physical strength.

Take the current parlous partisan state of US Politics, Moral disputes are a seriously divisive force in many contemporary societies, and a lot is riding on their outcome, in terms of both individual well-being and societal competiveness. By illuminating human nature, and the origin and function of biologically and culturally evolved moral beliefs, evolutionary science is currently generating knowledge that can help us move on from these disputes in the most rational and productive ways possible and thereby by ways of research findings help to illuminate the nature and intractability of moral disagreements in the current American "culture war

Research on moral judgment has been dominated by rationalist models, in which moral judgment is thought to be caused by moral reasoning, however  moral reasoning does not cause moral judgment; rather, moral reasoning is usually a post hoc construction, generated after a judgment has been reached. 

The other view point on our moral grandstanding is that the social intuitionist model is presented as an alternative to rationalist models. The model is a social model in that it deemphasizes the private reasoning done by individuals and emphasizes instead the importance of social and cultural influences. The model is an intuitionist model in that it states that moral judgment is generally the result of quick, automatic evaluations (intuitions). The model is more consistent that rationalist models with recent findings in social, cultural, evolutionary, and biological psychology, as well as in anthropology and primatology.

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