Obey, or (and) die.
This post is a response to Rev. Dr. Incitatus who has brought the conversation from meaning back to morality. This is cause for great excitement around here because we LOVE talking about morality! =) To get the background on this post please visit the back-story here.
Before I dig in I would like to enter a plea to all who visit this blog. Please don't let each thread die as a new one begins! If there are still areas you wish to explore in an existing thread, by all means, continue commenting on it. I would encourage everyone to make the "recent comments/rss feed" link the first stop on each visit. I know as we speak there are conversations going on in threads that have long sense sunk to the bottom of the list. I just hate seeing productive threads disappear as soon as a new one is posted. Okay, enough on that. Let the show begin!
Rev. Dr. Incitatus,
Okay here's where I'm at. I can see how our sense of morality could have evolved in parallel with our species. I don't really have a problem with that. My objection begins when the naturalistic assumption goes no further than "mindless purposeless matter and energy". Working within that paradigm you then have a organism that is able to step outside of it's self and see the meaninglessness of it's situation. If pure naturalism is correct this odd little organism could see that his empathy is nothing more than an evolved survival mechanism, then freely circumvent this feature when it advantageous to the current circumstance. Granted, this organism would have to overcome it's ingrained "feelings" to do so, (as in your dehumanizing of the enemy example) but there should certainly be no need for "guilt" in the matter. Living in this paradigm can you then say that is it "wrong" to dehumanize the enemy?
I get the feeling I really need to read Dawkins Selfish Gene. The reason I say that is because I see in the naturalist perspective a continual appeal to what is advantageous for the survival of the species. All morality is viewed through the lens of species survival. There is this undercurrent running through all life on this planet that exudes the need to survive. Where does that come from? What a sad little joke if pure naturalism is correct. You get a planet of organisms that become animated then proceed to strive an yearn for survival on a planet that is doomed to annihilation. That fact renders null this mysterious survival instinct and the morality that has evolved along with it.
Of course that is a big picture view and none of us are existing in the "big picture". We exist in the now. So in the here-and-now how should we operate with regards to morality if pure naturalism is adopted? I'd guess you just do what works. Ride the pony while it's still walking. In a practical sense no one is going to walk around striving to live their life for the good of the species. We will live our lives for the good of US. Nature will decide what is good for the species. Sounds pretty liberating does it not?
So what of the vast populations of the world that do not live in a privileged life filled with the benefits that we in developed nations enjoy?
No worries, nature will take care of it.
What of all wars for territory and resources?
No worries, that is just the natural process of selection in action. Things will be as they will be. All you need to concern yourself with is enjoying this ride as much as possible given your circumstances.
You encapsulate this position well when you state:
Basically, to me morality is simply one of evolutions dirty tricks. But like sex, I'm quite happy to go along with it.
You seem to acknowledge the reality that pure naturalism brings. Your life is a dirty trick. But you may as well enjoy it while you have it. If your life is filled with misery and despair (as many are), tough cookies. If you don't like it you can leave. (and many do)
I don't know man, this treatise on the evolutionary origins of morality may have progressed my thoughts on the natural aspect of morality, but it has done nothing to explain why it should be obeyed. It's not our job to ensure the survival of the species. Our job is to be random variations. It's natures job to sort out who survives.
If my view stands it should be no surprise that morality has a natural aspect as well as spiritual aspect. This is consistent with my view of what it means to be human. We are natural, flesh and bone, yet we are spiritual as well. To separate the two does violence to the way we operate in our day-to-day lives. If morality is purely natural there is no reason to follow it's leadings. If Man is purely natural there is no reason He should be esteemed or bestowed with inherent worth.
If the "now" that we live in continues to tell us to value others, to live a good life, to choose to love your spouse so that "true love" may develop, etc...—yet the big picture that swirls around us takes no notice of us and progresses on to a future that will quickly be the end of us all... The result is a wicked hoax that taunts us. We are all deceived. We have been given a life we never asked for and forced to watch those we love die the deaths they always feared.