Morality Is An Emergent Phenomenon.

I’ve talked a lot about the origin, foundation and commonality of morality across different cultures being due not to god whispering in our ears (or hearts) but rather due to the consistency of human nature – what kills one person kills another person, what hurts one person hurts another person.  But after writing my last blog (which you can read here) I realized that morality is an emergent phenomenon just like the bridge and the snowflake that works for exactly the same reasons, and that seemingly planned, coordinated things take place without any guiding force whatsoever due to each individual component (in this case people) simply behaving with any level of consistency.

Who would have thought morality and snowflakes and wobbly bridges would all be tied together under one theory? 

I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a sort of unified field theory for morality.

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About agnophilo

Nerd.
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20 Responses to Morality Is An Emergent Phenomenon.

  1. Morality is only an emergent phenomenon if you’ve had your head up your ass for the last 5000 years.

  2. agnophilo says:

    @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – You don’t know what the term emergent phenomenon means and didn’t read my blog.  You are just being an asshole.Shoo fly.

  3. The_ATM says:

    You should check out how certain morality has only occurred as a function of Judeo-Christian cultural influence.  Infanticide was practiced almost all over.  The only cultures (I have heard of) to explicitly condemn it in ancient times was Jewish culture and Egyptian culture.  This was one of the things forbidden in Leviticus.  It took Rome until 374 AD to outlaw it.

  4. agnophilo says:

    @The_ATM – Yes, but infants cannot fight back, speak up for themselves etc so it is like the difference between comparing a snowflake and a snowstorm (to use the example in my blog).  It’s very complicated and has layers upon layers of cause and effect.  I don’t think you could argue that infanticide would not be considered unethical without christianity, or that no non-judeo-christian culture has ever outlawed or condemned it.  And I think that if you asked a modern person why it’s wrong to kill an infant or a toddler, they will overwhelmingly express concern for the well-being of the infant/toddler and a desire to limit it’s suffering, protect the weak and so forth, and I doubt many would cite leviticus.But yeah, I wasn’t meaning to suggest religion has no impact, I was just talking about snowflakes man : )

  5. agnophilo says:

    @Kristenmomof3 – : D  Did you check out the other blog btw?

  6. @agnophilo – yup. I enjoyed watching the bridge shake 🙂

  7. The_ATM says:

    @agnophilo – Yeah, the only important conclusion I would want to draw from my earlier comment is that religion has, in the past, had an important role in the evolution of morality. 

  8. agnophilo says:

    @Kristenmomof3 – : )  Yeah that was pretty cool.@The_ATM – I agree, though I don’t think religions were the origin of those ethics, but a means of trying to get people to follow them before things like modern law enforcement.

  9. your thoughts are very interesting!reminds me of a discussion I recently had about divine providence. but w/e.So what you’re saying is that morality is developed, or evolved, over time, because like the people walking on the bridge, the unconscious predisposition is to act a certain way in response to what is going on… it is the “best option/method”. It starts out like w/e, but eventually everyone falls into the same behavior. ? Kinda like Carl Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious? 

  10. The_ATM says:

    @agnophilo – I think that view is a bit naive.  No cop is going to pull you over for eating at McDonalds twelve times a week or caring more about money than your family, yet we would both agree that society should do a bit more to discourage and even condemn that sort of behavior.  Morality for most any religion extends far beyond murder, stealing, and lying.  Religion also plays the ‘should’ part of society.Both of these things, however, are things religion can condemn and be reasonably successful at curtailing (though I am sad to say I have not seen much of).  On the other hand, government has no business telling people how they should make their personal choices.  I have noticed that often atheists forget how complex society should be in order to be healthy.  Morality has traditionally been maintained (passed on culturally) by religion.  To me, this is one of the biggest deficiencies of atheism as a whole, it seems their only system for passing on any fixed moral code is through government which miserably fails at telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do.  ( of course, there are those who would like government to put out people’s cigarettes and the like, but let us hope people 100 years from now are still too concerned about personal liberty to allow that sort of thing. )

  11. YouToMe says:

    Well, you know what’s been kicking around in my head sort of. this gives me more to think on.

  12. EricBeck says:

    @The_ATM – You’re missing out on the actual solutions presented by people who happen to be atheists.  Check out Humanism as something I would consider far preferable to the moralities presented by religion.

  13. EricBeck says:

    @agnophilo – But if Loborn wasn’t going around being an asshole troll, would she have anything left to live for?

  14. The_ATM says:

    @EricBeck – “You’re missing out on the actual solutions presented by people who happen to be atheists.”No, you are assuming I am.”Check out Humanism as something I would consider far preferable to the moralities presented by religion.”My aunt was into this for a while.  Before that, Buddhism.  I strongly doubt the morality defined in any such scheme would likely be more clearly defined than the scheme I already believe.  But there is more reason to believe in a religion than just the moral scheme provided.

  15. EricBeck says:

    @The_ATM – I wouldn’t consider it an assumption.  I think the following statement is a strong indication of your ignorance.To me, this is one of the biggest deficiencies of atheism as a whole, it seems their only system for passing on any fixed moral code is through government which miserably fails at telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do.”But there is more reason to believe in a religion than just the moral scheme provided.”Like what?I’ve only heard one reason so far.  (If you grow up amongst people who all believe the same way and discourages questioning it, then the biology rather strongly enforces believing the same way.  Our biology does have us learning from adults.  So if you’re not exposed to other ideas then there’s a limited ability to go against it.)

  16. The_ATM says:

    @EricBeck – What you are saying is because I did not come to the same conclusion as you did about humanism I am ignorant.  You assumed I was not aware of them, whereas I am.We can go into details about why humanism is so far a shotty replacement for religion.  I think it would be safe for me to simply point out that most atheists do not participate in any humanist organizations.  ( This is safe for me to assume, because of the atheists I know, not a single one participates in anything like this.  It is not conclusive, but should work for our discussion. )  I doubt that even people who claim themselves to be humanists participate in any sort of organization.  It is organizations such as these that structure society in a way that transmits culture with morality in tact.  Without transmitting morality in the context of culture, humanism and any other moral framework to which this applies is useless. I should also mention I have found humanism is extremely vague to the degree of being pointless.You do have a point that I excluded humanism as if tit did not exist.  I should have been more clear and said, “it seems their only effectual system for passing on any fixed moral code is through government.”  But then again, I tend not to be so guarded with my statements when I am not trolling around trying to debate someone.  As it turns out, I enjoy conversation where I explore a matter with someone else rather than attempting to prove whatever they said was wrong.  That is why I come to comment on agnophilo’s blog.Like what? I’ve only heard one reason so far“Well, I figured you might understand that a person might accept a religion based on reasons other than being the means to moral ends.  It is hardly any different than accepting that a person may choose to believe atheism for reasons other than the morality it produces.  Unfortunately, I do not have time to discuss reasons as it is bound to be a stupendously lengthly discussion.  This is why I mentioned them in passing.  If you feel you need to feed your desire to ‘intellectually dominate’ some religious extremist rube, I would suggest Youtube or at least some blogger that has time to waste.

  17. BobRichter says:

    @The_ATM – I’m afraid you’ve mistaken the roles played by churches and humanist organizations in our societies. Most of us get our morals from our parents, our teachers, our mentors, and our neighbors. The levels at which society discusses morality are so far removed from things like humanist organizations or churches that it would be easy to conclude the two had nothing to do with each other.And it was not ultimately religion that finally reached the conclusion that slavery was simply wrong.

  18. agnophilo says:

    @nodnarbassoon – Well it’s a combination of things, obviously not every ethic in every philosophy and culture came from one thing, but two driving forces I think for why human ethics match up to the extent they do over different cultures is the commonalities in human nature, (ie what kills an englishman will kill a frenchman, an italian, a hungarian etc too), and the commonalities in human psychology and disposition.  Also zillions of little ideological groups arise out of things like common goals, needs, desires, concerns etc, and these could be viewed as a minor version of the same sort of thing.Just an interesting way of looking at it.@The_ATM – “I think that view is a bit naive.  No cop is going to pull you over for eating at McDonalds twelve times a week or caring more about money than your family, yet we would both agree that society should do a bit more to discourage and even condemn that sort of behavior.”  Yes, but everyone (barring a few freaks of nature) who eats that much mcdonalds is going to get fat and have heart problems and potentially die.  And I think that if you asked people on a diet why they’re dieting “I want to lose weight” and “I want to be healthier” will rank higher than “the bible condemns gluttony” every time.  I wonder how many thousands of people you would even need to ask before someone would even think to mention the bible.  I suspect it’s a lot, even among christians.  I’ve never even heard of dieting and biblical morality mentioned in conjunction in my life, as far as I can remember.  And I didn’t mean to suggest that every kind of morality came from the same thing, or that all morality consisted of was throwing people in jail for things.”Morality for most any religion extends far beyond murder, stealing, and lying.”  Yes, it also ventures into killing witches and homosexuals, stoning children to death and setting people on fire.  If we actually read the texts, that is.And of course taking credit for the goodness in people.”Religion also plays the ‘should’ part of society.”I think moral philosophy is better at that, but maybe I’m biased.”Both of these things, however, are things religion can condemn and be reasonably successful at curtailing (though I am sad to say I have not seen much of).”  I don’t think so.  I don’t think religion makes people good or bad, I think more than anything it tends to just amplify whatever someone is.  There are lots of passages about kindness and virtue and self-sacrifice and many good things, and many passages that would appeal to an egomaniac or a selfish asshole or a bigot or a psychopath (again if we read all of the texts).  People invariably follow the part of scripture that reverberates with them, and kind of gloss over the rest.  So I think scripture might, in most cases, make good people a little better and bad people a little worse.  Most good christians I’ve met seem to be good people regardless of their religious beliefs, and think those good moral precepts are wonderful whatever the source of them is.”On the other hand, government has no business telling people how they should make their personal choices.”  For the most part I agree.  I do however think there’s a difference between telling you what you can eat (for instance) and telling a businessman what he can sell to a million people.  Because one is your business, the other is a public hazard.  So if you want to go milk a cow and get unpasteurized milk and drink it you should have the right to do that.  But a milk company should not be allowed to sell it to millions of people knowing a percentage of them will get sick and possibly die from it.”I have noticed that often atheists forget how complex society should be in order to be healthy.”  ?”Morality has traditionally been maintained (passed on culturally) by religion.  To me, this is one of the biggest deficiencies of atheism as a whole, it seems their only system for passing on any fixed moral code is through government which miserably fails at telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do.”  Atheists are un-electable in this country.  Very, very bad example.  And have you ever heard of moral philosophy?  Ever noticed that atheists by and large tend to be very ethical people (even if you don’t 100% agree with their ethics)?”(of course, there are those who would like government to put out people’s cigarettes and the like, but let us hope people 100 years from now are still too concerned about personal liberty to allow that sort of thing. )”The issue isn’t about stamping out people’s cigarettes to be meddlesome, but keeping smokers from inhibiting the rights of non-smokers.  There are lots of people with asthma and smoke allergies.  It’s not like eating food other people have a problem with, if by eating it in public you forced other people to eat it too, it would be a bit different, no?  Imagine if people went around eating peanut butter by smoking it and made other people either sick or not able to go to x restaurant or bar because they were allergic?  That’s ignoring all of the problems secondary smoke likely causes, like asthma and other problems, especially in kids.I’m not advocating smoking bans in public places, but it’s not about wanting to keep you from smoking because the government wants to control you, it’s about weighing your liberties against those of the people around you, which is what government is for.

  19. agnophilo says:

    @YouTOme – Hope it’s good things : )@EricBeck – I can’t even pretend to begin to understand his/her motives.@The_ATM – And that is what, faith?

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