I was reading Darwinian Natural Right a bit and noticed that apparently, Darwin thought that morality might have originated due to a variety of factors, but necessarily needing group selection. Susan Blackmore also needs to appeal to group selection for some of the theories she espouses in The Meme Machine.
For those of you that don’t know what group selection is, it is the selection of genes based on the fact that one group is more successful than another. Group selection requires that the individuals are aware of the group boundaries (and so tend not to interbreed). As with other times when I touch upon this topic, be sure to read the EvolutionaryReasoningDisclaimer.
Group selection requires a notion of “us” versus “them”, which we commonly see in phenomena such as racism, etc…. In the current societal understanding of things, a majority of people would seem to oppose this notion of “us” versus “them”. I’m guessing this is because people realize that we are all one interconnected group. I’m afraid, however, that as people realize that, they wind up removing the evolutionary pressure that group selection can provide, and thus the evolutionary pressure towards having a genetic basis (or instinct) for morality. Whether or not retaining a moral impetus is possible in a purely memetic (adjectival form of meme) manner or not I don’t know. Arguably though, as we become less as less dependant on genetic instincts and more and more memetic beings, perhaps we will either need to find a purely memetic basis for a moral impetus, or perhaps we will become less moral? Might this be the explaination for the so-called “decline of society” that we’re seeing?
I’m not proposing anything here. I’m merely pointing out what might be a grim irony inherent within how the nature of intelligent life on this planet is set up and the valuation of morality.