Monday, June 17, 2013

Evolution Always Wins

In the movie Man of Steel Superman is getting a sound thrashing from a female villain whose power appears to be superior to his. In the course of administering the drubbing she says to him:
"The fact that you possess a sense of morality and we do not gives us an evolutionary advantage and if history has proven anything it is that evolution always wins."
Well, this got me to thinking. It does seem that being unburdened by a sense of moral obligation to others would confer an evolutionary advantage. Behavior unrestrained by conscience or guilt would seem more likely to promote the survival and thus the reproductive success of those who exhibit it.

So why, then, does morality exist? Why do we have a conscience and experience guilt? Why do we have such a strong sense that some things are right and others are wrong? Why would a sense of moral duty have ever evolved? Such things would seem to be handicaps in the struggle for survival and thus have little evolutionary utility.

I'm sure the Darwinian sachems have an explanation for this, as they do for almost everything which challenges the doctrines of their creed, no matter outlandish the explanation may seem to those not imprisoned behind the bars of a materialist metaphysics, but I'd like to hear it.

I'd like to hear how, if evolution always wins, morality, conscience, and guilt increase our fitness for survival. I suspect that any explanation that's forthcoming will involve a certain amount of magic wand-waving, the fortuitous occurrence of dozens of genetic mutations at just the right time, and lots of vague speculations about how prehistoric societies probably benefited from the presence of those individuals who subordinated their own interests to the interests of others.

Aside from the scientific veneer that usually overlays such accounts the story will doubtless have all the characteristics normally associated with a fairy tale, not the least of which will be a requirement that we suspend our credulity while undirected, blind processes work their magic.

Anyway, here's the scene from Man of Steel. Apologies for all the extra stuff that I couldn't figure out how to get rid of: