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RE: rant on the morality of confidentiality
The reason morality is impossible to nail down is because it does not exist al all in any absolute sense, at least as far as science is concerned. If you declare, for example, that "murder" is "wrong" you are always left with dilemmas, such as whether soldiers who kill during a war are doing something "wrong".
According to the principle of natural selection, all people, including scientists, exist purely to maximize their own inclusive genetic fitness. "Fit" means that an organism is well adapted to it's environment, so "maximizing inclusive genetic fitness" means having the maximum number of offspring which are themselves fit.
Keep in mind that all natural selection really does is decide which genes are allowed to propagate, and since genes are just digital information stored on DNA molecules, what we call "life" is really just a complex interaction of matter/energy which determines which bits of information continue to exist over time.
The underlying reason people benefit by promoting themselves as moral people, in general, is because of the benefit of what evolutionary psychologists call reciprocal altruism. With reciprocal altruism, both parties benefit if they are in a non-zero-sum situation. Because most situations are non-zero-sum and the benefits are so great, everyone has a stake in promoting themselves as a good reciprocal altruist, in other words, a good, trustworthy, moral person. This is how natural selection explains the existence of the concept of "morality".
So it is a myth that scientists live to find deep truths or to benefit humanity. They may do those things, but their real goal is maximizing their own inclusive fitness. However, it may profit them if everyone else believes they live to find deep truths or to benefit humanity. Natural selection has created human beings, and the concept of "morality" in our minds, because moral justifications benefit the people promoting them -- which ultimately benefits their genes.
The only way out is to believe in the afterlife, and religion, and that life has meaning beyond the genes and material world. Doing so doesn't make moral dilemmas go away, and you never know, people may just be believing such things for the benefit of genes, after all natural selection has no real concern for "truth".
From: Blanc[SMTP:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 1998 7:20 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: rant on the morality of confidentiality
>X-Authentication-Warning: netcom5.netcom.com: [email protected] didn't use
>To: Tim May <[email protected]>
>cc: Bill Stewart <[email protected]>, Blanc <[email protected]>,
> [email protected], [email protected]
>Subject: Re: rant on the morality of confidentiality
>Date: Wed, 14 Jan 98 15:07:48 -0800
>From: "Vladimir Z. Nuri" <[email protected]>
>timmy predictably states the case for moral relativism.
>>I think it's an error to use "moral" or "immoral" as a modifier for
>>It's a matter of opinion/ethics as to whether some science is "for immoral
>>purposes," but calling something "immoral science" is fraught with trouble.
>>To a vegetarian, any science related to meat production is "immoral
>well, the concept of "criminality" is likewise fraught with trouble.
>what is criminal and what is not? obviously some definitions stretch
>the limits. is a jaywalker a criminal? a political dissident? ok, how
>about an axe murderer? similarly, I think your predictable opposition
>to the use of the word "immoral" is specious.
>moreover, I think such a misunderstanding, or worldview, is
>detrimental to human welfare in general. I think all the evil
>government scientists I've been referring to recently would
>very much agree with you on rejecting ideas of "morality" and
>"conscience". a person does not need an infallible definition
>of morality to navigate the world, imho, but a person that has
>none, or rejects any such attempt, is part of the problem and
>not part of the solution, imho.
>>Personally, I don't view scientific experiments done on condemned prisoners
>>as immoral. If a human being has already been sentenced to die, and, for
>>example, accepts some payment (perhaps for his heirs) to die in some
>>scientifically interesting way, why call it "immoral"?
>oh, well, lets see, you have a very obvious glitch in your reasoning.
>you presume the prisoner gives his permssion. now lets see, assume he
>doesn't? just to pop a hypothetical example out of the blue,
>say someone named timmy gets arrested for gun violations and
>gets thrown in jail temporarily. would it be immoral for the
>police to remove his organs? perhaps without his permission?
>perhaps without anesthetic? if not immoral, what? criminal? criminal
>but not immoral?
>>While I would not have, I hope, worked in a Nazi death camp, the science
>>obtained is undeniably real science, some of the only solid data we have on
>>freezing humans, on exposing them to pathogens, etc.
>I've seen your defense of these experiments before-- its a topic of
>interest for you for obvious reasons; it presents a possible glitch
>in your moral relativism.
>I don't think BWs claim that there is a difference between
>immoral scientists and immoral science. immoral science is what
>immoral scientists practice. what's the point? my personal point
>is that if we had a culture of people who were concerned about
>morality, perhaps we would have institutions that reflect
>contrary to most here, I believe that our institutions
>are correctly representing the people of a country-- their thoughts,
>their motivations, their concerns. its key to the philosophy of
>disenfranchisement, apathy, and nihilism (and anarchism) to
>claim that the government is not representing the people. what
>is the evidence for this?
>because the government is corrupt,
>the people are not necessarily corrupt? because the government
>is greedy and full of powermongers, the population is not
>full of greedy powermongers who would do the same given the
>opportunity? government is a mirror into our psyches that
>few people care to gaze on, precisely because we are not
>the fairest of them all.
>we've got the government we deserve, and it reflects our
>own pathologies within our psyches back to us. it reflects our
>laziness and apathy, our cynicism, our alienation, our
>withdrawal. and it takes a person who can master themselves
>to face up to this simple truth-- something that most everone of our
>country has failed to admit.
>when we begin to ask questions like "what is integrity" and
>"what is moral" and come up with serious answers, our world
>will improve. it will degenerate otherwise, and has given us
>a tremendous existence proof of that fact to date.
>but just remember, again, that I'm aimlessly ranting here, and there's no
>need to take any of this seriously <g>