kalch

The true evolution of morality

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Well, we will grow a cortex no matter what kind of environment we find ourselves in but not the complex network of neurons necessary for higher level thinking, the way I understand it.

You understand it wrong. Human children grow an overabundance of neurons of all sorts, and in the second year of life they have to "prune the tree" so to speak. The number of neurons is cut down, those neural paths not getting much use are eliminated and those which are used are strengthened.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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At the moment, I can only say I acquired knowing that view regarding language learning from reading some of Philip Jose Farmer's writings, where, as an appendage, there was science referents to substantiate this view, which he had used in the body of his writing [it was my understanding Farmer grounded his works, however 'off-the-wall', in firm science as it was known at the time]...

Edited by anonrobt

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GS,

Do you have something you can point to that we can observe that substantiates this understanding?

I'm not asking with prejudgment. I am truly curious where this idea comes from in your thinking.

I agree that "neural pathways" exist and develop with experience, and the more you make them, the more they become complex (i.e., networks). But we are discussing a point on a very primitive level—the start of language in an infant.

Well, I found this here http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neur...eb3/Tucker.html

There is a growing body of research documenting the way in which undifferentiated neural pathways present at birth make connections during the early years of a child’s life. The resulting concept of cognitive development has therefore changed, and the traditional nature versus nurture debate has given way to the idea that genetics and the environment influence each other and work together. Remarks one researcher, “The more we understand about development and behavior, the more obvious it becomes that nature and nurture are similarly influences rather than determinants, not only singly but also in combination (11).” Basically, the paradigm for how people end up with their own unique intellectual personalities- their thoughts, idea, modes of processing, strengths and weaknesses- is dependent not only on their genome, but also on their environment. A concise summary of the current body of research is that, while most neuroscientists believe that the human brain possesses all of its neurons from birth, only those connections which control autonomic functions such as breathing and heartbeat are fully established at birth. The balance of neural connections form after birth, the result of environmental input (6). This notion has been variously described as the refining of a blueprint (4), a “fever of creation” in which neural cells continue to migrate and position themselves throughout the brain after birth (10), and a waiting orchestra, whose musicians (the neurons), are waiting to play a “complex musical composition” (3).

And this here http://www.jeannesegal.com/eq/relationship..._evolution.html

Through the new brain scanning technologies, science has also revealed that not only is the brain capable, at birth, of building new neural pathways based on experience, but that it retains that ability throughout life. We used to believe that the brain was incapable of change once we were adults—now we don’t! " According to UCLA child psychiatrist and developmental specialist, Daniel J. Siegel, “At birth, the brain is the most undifferentiated organ in the body—with a plasticity that enables it to create new circuitry throughout life.”

This capacity for structural and functional change is most apparent in infancy and early childhood—but it never really ceases. In fact, modern ways of measuring the brain’s electrical activities and new types of brain scans confirm this ability for life-long learning. Scientists using brain imagery technologies to study people over age ninety have found that their subjects’ brains continue producing new neural pathways even though older pathways are dying. We now understand that the brain remains capable of renewing itself throughout life—so, our minds are always a work in progress.

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GS,

Do you have something you can point to that we can observe that substantiates this understanding?

I'm not asking with prejudgment. I am truly curious where this idea comes from in your thinking.

I agree that "neural pathways" exist and develop with experience, and the more you make them, the more they become complex (i.e., networks). But we are discussing a point on a very primitive level—the start of language in an infant.

Well, I found this here http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neur...eb3/Tucker.html

There is a growing body of research documenting the way in which undifferentiated neural pathways present at birth make connections during the early years of a child’s life. The resulting concept of cognitive development has therefore changed, and the traditional nature versus nurture debate has given way to the idea that genetics and the environment influence each other and work together. Remarks one researcher, “The more we understand about development and behavior, the more obvious it becomes that nature and nurture are similarly influences rather than determinants, not only singly but also in combination (11).” Basically, the paradigm for how people end up with their own unique intellectual personalities- their thoughts, idea, modes of processing, strengths and weaknesses- is dependent not only on their genome, but also on their environment. A concise summary of the current body of research is that, while most neuroscientists believe that the human brain possesses all of its neurons from birth, only those connections which control autonomic functions such as breathing and heartbeat are fully established at birth. The balance of neural connections form after birth, the result of environmental input (6). This notion has been variously described as the refining of a blueprint (4), a “fever of creation” in which neural cells continue to migrate and position themselves throughout the brain after birth (10), and a waiting orchestra, whose musicians (the neurons), are waiting to play a “complex musical composition” (3).

And this here http://www.jeannesegal.com/eq/relationship..._evolution.html

Through the new brain scanning technologies, science has also revealed that not only is the brain capable, at birth, of building new neural pathways based on experience, but that it retains that ability throughout life. We used to believe that the brain was incapable of change once we were adults—now we don’t! " According to UCLA child psychiatrist and developmental specialist, Daniel J. Siegel, “At birth, the brain is the most undifferentiated organ in the body—with a plasticity that enables it to create new circuitry throughout life.”

This capacity for structural and functional change is most apparent in infancy and early childhood—but it never really ceases. In fact, modern ways of measuring the brain’s electrical activities and new types of brain scans confirm this ability for life-long learning. Scientists using brain imagery technologies to study people over age ninety have found that their subjects’ brains continue producing new neural pathways even though older pathways are dying. We now understand that the brain remains capable of renewing itself throughout life—so, our minds are always a work in progress.

This would certainly make sense, in that life is a continual process of growth and the alternative is death - and with the mind being the most important aspect of being human, it would needs be that aspect with the most inducement to continued growth...

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This would certainly make sense, in that life is a continual process of growth and the alternative is death - and with the mind being the most important aspect of being human, it would needs be that aspect with the most inducement to continued growth...

From an evolutionary standpoint our reproductive capacity is the most important thing. Once we have gone upstream to spawn any other attributes we have do not have evolutionary significance. From an evolutionary standpoint, mind is highly overrated. Rats with a 21 day gestation period are likely to survive in the long run with greater probability than humans.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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GS,

The quotes you provided are more or less how I have come to view it, with one difference. In the nature/nurture (or genes/environment) being influences or determinants, I believe both are both. It is not either-or. And I also believe that two elements are not enough to explain cognitive development. I include volition as a third fundamental influence and determinant.

Michael

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From an evolutionary standpoint our reproductive capacity is the most important thing. Once we have gone upstream to spawn any other attributes we have do not have evolutionary significance. From an evolutionary standpoint, mind is highly overrated. Rats with a 21 day gestation period are likely to survive in the long run with greater probability than humans.

Ba'al Chatzaf

What about human knowledge? This survives after all individuals perish and it enables future generations to continue where we left off. Rats stop reproducing when their food runs out - humans can produce their own food.

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GS,

The quotes you provided are more or less how I have come to view it, with one difference. In the nature/nurture (or genes/environment) being influences or determinants, I believe both are both. It is not either-or. And I also believe that two elements are not enough to explain cognitive development. I include volition as a third fundamental influence and determinant.

Michael

So you mean, for example, some people are more willing to learn than others?

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Gentlemen:

I think we have buried one of the false dichotomies. I have also always believed both were critical. I like volition as the 3rd leg of the human stool.

Adam

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I believe AR wrote: "Every person is free to rise as far as they are able, and, or willing. But it is only the degree to which you think that will determine how far you will rise"

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From “The Objectivist Ethics”:

Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. His own consciousness has to discover the answers to all these questions—but his consciousness will not function automatically.

From “The Objectivist Ethics”:

Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.”

----------------------------------

It's good to angle the conversation along a single-unit development path such as that of a child (Piaget). My personal approach has always been more along the lines of natural selection. Here is the intro to a university paper I wrote (and quoted N.Branden in):

It is Ethology’s claim that the human psyche continues to resonate with environmental demands that existed over 50,000 years ago (Miller, 2002, p.315). Evidence suggests the first conscious distinction between reason and emotion arose in ancient Greece a mere 2,300 years ago (Epicurus, 300BC); thus one might suggest that logical analysis was not the primary means of survival in our ancestral heritage. In the absence of logic or any specialized cognitive skill, survival required an evaluative and motivational component that guaranteed species’ survival, and this component was emotion.

Emotions are unconscious value appraisals that serve as a mechanism for evaluating goal congruence in human activity (Lazarus, 1991). Similar to the physical experience of pleasure and pain, emotions operate according to psychological experiences of pleasure or pain, motivating an individual to either approach or avoid certain behaviors and situations (Branden, 1969). When an individual places a hand on an active stovetop burner, the physical experience is pain and the desire is to remove the hand as quickly as possible. Similarly, when an individual notices a snake suddenly appearing nearby, the psychological experience is fear and the desire is to move away as quickly as possible.

There is a lot of both theoretical and observational evidence suggesting that the mind is hard-wired for motives. For example, women implicitly evaluate human babies very differently than the way a snake implicitly valuates the same object. Clearly the baby has no universal value to all living beings, therefore evaluations were made by the evaluating organisms. Yet, to suggest that either women or snakes had to learn to make these evaluations is counter-intuitive to evolutionary forces/instincts/desires.

There is also evidence that strongly argues against "tabula rasa" cognitive functioning. In computer simulations, it has been demonstrated time and time again that specialized cognitive skills are far more efficient and speedy in making evaluations of the external world than general cognitive functioning. Generalized cognitive functioning (like a CPU) simply can't cut it for natural selection. Thus, it has been my view that the mind is organized around specific motivations, and we as humans have both emotions and specialized cognitive paths to support our motives required for survival (long before we could read books or talk).

Rand's view I think is very logical and elegant, but we can observe from her focus that instincts, etc. didn't really fit in with her personal world view and desire for a sense of absolute self-control.

Christopher

Edited by Christopher

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That plus "some people have more capacity to learn than others" and "some people have been trained to learn better than others."

All of them.

Michael

But don't forget some people get turned off of learning by bad teachers or pushy parents etc. When you speak about 'volition' I think about something that's highly variable. If you can motivate people then you can effect their volition.

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GS,

The quotes you provided are more or less how I have come to view it, with one difference. In the nature/nurture (or genes/environment) being influences or determinants, I believe both are both. It is not either-or. And I also believe that two elements are not enough to explain cognitive development. I include volition as a third fundamental influence and determinant.

Michael

That's a nice way to see it.

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But don't forget some people get turned off of learning by bad teachers or pushy parents etc. When you speak about 'volition' I think about something that's highly variable. If you can motivate people then you can effect their volition.

GS,

You can also feed people bad food (by volition) and impact their biology. So what? These elements still exist.

Of course they all impact each other because they are not isolated existents. They are all part of the same human being. If you impact the human being in a drastic manner, you impact the human being's components.

You just mentioned the part of the triad above that is called "environment" or "nurture." Are you trying to say that this component is existentially more important than the others?

I will admit that volition is highly variable. It has to be. This is one thing that drives crusader-like folks bananas (I am not saying this is your case). They want to control others and an individual's volition is exercised by... er... the individual. As there are many different kinds of individuals, there are many different exercises of volition. To the dismay of those who wish to control others, all those little suckers just won't act right.

I say thank God they don't.

Michael

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But don't forget some people get turned off of learning by bad teachers or pushy parents etc. When you speak about 'volition' I think about something that's highly variable. If you can motivate people then you can effect their volition.

GS,

You can also feed people bad food (by volition) and impact their biology. So what? These elements still exist.

Of course they all impact each other because they are not isolated existents. They are all part of the same human being. If you impact the human being in a drastic manner, you impact the human being's components.

You just mentioned the part of the triad above that is called "environment" or "nurture." Are you trying to say that this component is existentially more important than the others?

I will admit that volition is highly variable. It has to be. This is one thing that drives crusader-like folks bananas (I am not saying this is your case). They want to control others and an individual's volition is exercised by... er... the individual. As there are many different kinds of individuals, there are many different exercises of volition. To the dismay of those who wish to control others, all those little suckers just won't act right.

I say thank God they don't.

Michael

The evolution or acquisition of cognition, and relative reasonable emotional response could be deduced to be a result of environment, to some degree. If there is a community or collective that conditions each generation in a particular manner to emotionally respond to, I would have to conclude a couple of things: Firstly, as I think has been demonstrated that emotions are a response to environmental stimuli (pain, sensory perception including voice tone; smell, taste, sound; etc), and perhaps from a biological point of view, some level of morality may be humanly either learned and deduced or part of the neural network from such. Secondly, if this is the case and due to a combination of evolution and environmental influences, relative/cultural morality may be something to consider.

For the record, yes, different individuals have different capacities to learn. I don't think scientists know why, but the answer is yes, and the extrapolation to coritcal evolution or application is a mystery. It's a normal curve if using some quantitative type measure.

Can anyone think of examples?

Edited by watson

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I didn't think there was any question that morality is determined by the interaction of biology and environment. Morality is clearly something that is foundational to humans and also shaped through learning.

Interesting idea to measure facial expressions. Suggests that moral emotions are similarly felt to non-moral emotions. On the flip side, facial expressions function as interpersonal communication, so we could also say that the face is simply communicating morality using pre-existing facial-expressive circuitry (which could be nearly identical to saying that moral emotions are built upon pre-existing emotional circuitry).

Morality is two parts emotion, one part cognition. At least, that's what research suggests.

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Deleted by MSK.

Looks like there is a web bot taking random passages from previous posts and adding a link at the bottom.

NOTE FROM MSK: GS, Correct. This is a spammer. All gone...

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