Do atheist objections to homosexuality exist?

One of the more amusing responses to my post on the recent Moldbug/Lambdaconf affair was Orthosphere‘s objection that conservatives cannot make an anti-homosexuality argument that appeals to atheists because, “if God doesn’t oppose homosexuality then there’s ultimately nothing wrong with it.” In other words, the only argument against homosexuality is religious, ergo, atheists will always be pro (or at least neutral) on the subject.

Yes, I recognize that this does not actually have anything directly to do with the Moldbug/Lambdaconf affair. Don’t worry; it doesn’t matter. My relevant bit was:

Take the most common argument against homosexuality: “God says it is a sin.” Young people are fairly atheist, believe in separation of church and state, and think a god who doesn’t like gay people is a jerk. This argument doesn’t just fail at convincing young people that gay marriage is bad; it also convinces them that God is bad.

By contrast, a simple graph showing STD rates among gay people makes a pretty persuasive argument that the “gay lifestyle” isn’t terribly healthy.

A further argument (made elsewhere, I believe, but on the same subject,) is that atheists simply do not believe in moral absolutes, because only god can command belief in moral absolutes, and since the argument against homosexuality is a moral absolute, therefore, atheists cannot be convinced.

So I thought this would make for an interesting bit of rumination: do there exist any arguments that can convince atheists that homosexuality is bad? And if not, why have Republicans harped on a guaranteed losing issue?

(Since my original post was only using the arguments for and against homosexuality as a means of illustrating a broader point germane to the Moldbug/Lambdaconf topic, I attempted to treat the matter quickly and without much depth. The version of those paragraphs I hashed out originally went on for much longer, but little of that could fit in the post without overtaking it and distracting from the actual point.)

First, can atheists hold absolute moral values?

As a practical matter, we do. We might not be able to justify why we believe something, but that doesn’t stop us from believing it.

For example, I believe that child abuse/neglect/rape/murder is absolutely, 100% morally wrong. I am normally a peaceful, tree-hugging person who feels guilty about eating animals, but harm a child, and I want to see you drawn and quartered.

I feel no compelling need to justify to myself why I believe that. It is obviously true, in the same sense that scraping my knee on the sidewalk is obviously painful.

I also believe other things in a fairly absolutest way, like “don’t torture puppies” and “don’t poop on the sidewalk.”

But to use a source with possibly a little more authority than me, the Spring 2006 volume of Religious Humanism, published by the Unitarian Universalists contains an article titled, “Theistic Moral Intuitions in a Secular Context: A Plea for Ficionalism in Moral Philosophy,” by Loobuyck, which essentially proposes that atheists should “fake it till they make it”:

Some essential ideas about the nature of morality are survivals of Judaic-Christian ideas, and function now outside the framework of thought that made them intelligible. Our ideas of the moral self, human dignity, and the Kantian summum bonum also survive from an earlier conception of theistic ethics. All these ideas became “self-evident” and essential elements of our secular moral discourse, but they belong to theistic metaphysics and do not easily fit into secular metaphysical naturalism.

Secular moral philosophers are confronted with the following dilemma: since the moral discourse is useful and confirms our deepest moral intuitions, doing away with it incurs a cost; a price is also paid for keeping a flawed discourse, for “truth” is a very valuable commodity. … the stance of moral fictionalism makes it possible to keep a discourse while knowing it is inherently flawed. …

Nietzsche seems to be suggesting that the acceptance of the death of God will involve the ending of all our accepted standards of morality, but if we look around, this has not proved correct. As for losing our European morality, the opposite is true. We still think about morality as theists did: as a system of objective prescriptive laws with special authority, and many of the so-called universal secular values are values we can find in the Judaic-Christian tradition. We did not reject the slave-morality, and most people will not see the Nietzschean superman as a paragon of moral excellence. We still believe in the intrinsic and equal value of human being, and moreover, we build a whole construction of human rights on these fundamental but religious ideas. …

some intuitions can be so successful that they can persist as self-evident even when the philosophical context that gives meaning to those intuitions vanished. … Secular ethics is modeled upon theological ethics and talks abut a moral agent in such terms that it structurally parallels the  notion of God… someone who argues that morality is a “myth” is seen frequently as maintaining not merely a counter-intuitive position, but also a pernicious or dangerous position. …

we can suggest the stance of “fictionalism”: the possibility of maintaining the discourse but taking an attitude other than belief towards it (disbelieving acceptance.) … atheistic Darwinists live as if their life has and ultimate meaning, we look at our child as if it is the most wonderful baby in the wold, and we think as if there is a real difference instead of a gradual difference between animals and human beings. … We could say that we must live and think as if there are absolute prohibitions, intrinsic values, human dignity and act as if morality is not a Sartrian passion inutile. … fictionalism… helps to save morality in our age of secularization, science, and deconstruction.

Now, I understand that religious folks might not be comfortable with the philosophy of “If we’re all going to act like we have a coherent theoretical basis for our moral intuitions, then let’s just go ahead and pretend we have one,” but as a practical matter, I think that’s what most atheists are basically doing.

Consider that about 20% of Americans are pretty openly atheists, (and about half of the “religious” people seem like they’re just going through the motions.) And yet, these 20-50% of Americans don’t have higher than average rates of murder, theft, abuse, or public defecation than the rest of the country. We also don’t have higher than average rates of sins like gluttony, premarital sex, drug use, or divorce.*

When you encounter an atheist, do you feel a sudden surge of fear that here is someone who might randomly stab you in a fit of Nietzschean ubermenschen glory? Or are you generally pretty confident that this person will act a lot like a normal person who believes in the principles laid down in the Ten Commandments?

To turn this around, to many atheists, the Christian reliance on an outside source for their morality makes their morality seem less absolute. Atheists see, “Do not sacrifice your children to Moloch,” as obvious, not something that needs to be spelled out multiple times. Suppose those verses had not made it into the Bible: would it then be acceptable to sacrifice one’s children to Moloch?

Consider the story of Abraham, Isaac, and the ram. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham obeyed. God stopped him, not Abraham’s own moral conscience.

To an atheist, this story is horrifying. You do not murder your children. It does not matter if human sacrifice is common in your neighborhood; it does not matter if god told you to. Murdering your children is always immoral.

I can hear your objection: I’ve misunderstood the story; the point is not that sacrificing your kid is good, but human sacrifice was common in Abraham’s time and God changed this by showing Abraham a new, better way. Yahweh was not like those other gods; Yahweh’s morality is superior to those other gods’.

But this is at odds with the text, in which “the Angel of the Lord” praises Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son:

Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. … I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22)

Further, there is that whole affair with Jephthah sacrificing his daughter and not even getting smited for it, but becoming a Judge of Israel.

To be fair, the Bible is pretty anti-human sacrifice overall–there are just exceptions.

I don’t think moral absolutes are supposed to have exceptions.

Nevertheless, every religious person I’ve ever met treats “don’t sacrifice children” as a moral absolute; I certainly don’t feel any fear upon meeting a Christian that they might sacrifice me as a result of an awkwardly worded and poorly thought-out vow.

As far as daily life interactions are concerned, Christians and atheists perform remarkably similar moral actions.

We ascribe, however, different origins to our beliefs. Atheists attribute theirs to “common sense,” Christians to “God.” Perhaps common sense is actually God or was created by God, allowing atheists and theists alike to act like moral beings, or perhaps religious people have just as much common sense as everyone else.

Personally, I think morality is basically instinctual.

First, most people–atheist or theist–tend not to think too much about philosophical issues like, “What if we had a 2-ton Hitler on rollerskates to push in front of the trolley? Then would it be moral?” We all use mental shortcuts that make dealing with 99.99% of everyday life easier rather than spend time thinking about the 0.01% exceptions. Likewise, I am content to proclaim that it absolutely morally wrong to torture babies without wasting my time trying to think up extremely rare exceptions.

Second, people who murder their own children have historically probably been evolutionary failures, while people who have a strong urge to nurture and protect their children have had better luck at actually passing on their genes to the next generation. As a result, any genes that lead to murdering one’s own children probably get selected against, while genes that lead to caring for one’s children are selected for.

The result is an instinctive desire to protect and care for your children. This desire to care for your children is so strong that it can even be triggered by baby animals, cute toys, and other people’s unborn fetuses.

Can I hug it? (source)
Can I hug it? (source)

Obviously there is some cultural variation on this; some groups today still practice ritual child sacrifice, though typically apparently not of their own children, but of other people’s children whom they’ve kidnapped. But I don’t live in one of these societies; I live in a society where human (and animal) sacrifice has never been practiced. So for me, at least, child sacrifice is a giant NO.

We can extend this argument to all sorts of behaviors, like not stealing from your neighbors, that have lead to evolutionary success over the generations. In short: if your morals lead to you dying out without descendants, then your morals die with you. If your morals lead to you leaving lots of descendants, then lots of people end up believing in your morals. We don’t even need a genetic mechanism to cause this, but there is plenty of evidence in favor of one.

“Evolutionary morality” (and “game theoretic morality”) are the keys Loobuyck needs to unlock why atheists still have moral intuitions.

Second: Having established that atheists do basically act like they believe in moral absolutes, do there exist any arguments against homosexuality that would actually work on atheists?

Now, obviously, the argument, “God says so,” does not work with atheists. (It doesn’t always work on Christians, either, given that the New Testament forbids women from braiding their hair or wearing pearls, and commands them to keep their hair covered.) When atheists do engage in moral reasoning, they tend toward utilitarian arguments–X makes people happy, Y makes people sad, therefore X is good and Y is bad.

There are many critiques of utilitarianism, especially when it comes to experiences outside of people’s normal, everyday lives, but it’s not a bad way of articulating why you shouldn’t hit your brother. Therefore:

Potential Argument A: “Homosexual Happiness” 

If you can demonstrate that homosexuality causes harm/suffering and that somehow convincing people not to be gay prevents this harm/suffering, then you have a good chance of convincing the atheists.

So far, people have not convincingly made this argument. Yes, gay folks have high suicide rates, but no one has convincingly argued that being gay causes this and that, say, outlawing gay marriage or convincing gay people that homosexuality is wrong lowers their suicide rate. By contrast, the other side argues pretty loudly that gay people are less happy when you tell them they’re immoral, and more happy when you say they aren’t.

Of course, you do not actually have to prove a point so much as argue it loudly and effectively. Most people are not strict utilitarians who check the statistical validity of other people’s arguments–they just react to the funny pictures they see on TV and process things in a fairly instinctual way. If they are surrounded by the narrative that gay people are happy being gay and that only meanie pantses who make them sad are opposed to them, then they will be fine with gay people. If they are surrounded by the narrative that gay people are miserable, rape children, and die of AIDS or suicide unless convinced to reject homosexuality, then they will (probably) view homosexuality as a weird aberration.

Outside of San Francisco and a few scattered neighborhoods across the US, most people encounter very few gay people in real life, just because gay people are a relatively small % of the population that is highly concentrated in a few places. (The 10% statistic turns out to be false.) Perhaps you know 2 or 3 gay people–of those, maybe one reasonably well. What do you know, genuinely, about them? How happy are they? How productive? How much do they give back to their community or civic organizations? By contrast, how many gay people have you encountered in books, TV shows, movies, or newspapers?

I’ll go ahead and admit it: far more of my “knowledge” of gay people comes from fiction of various sorts than from real life. The random vagaries of life simply have not led to me knowing that many gay people.

(Which means that that my entire conception of “what gay people are like” could be wrong.)

You will point out that there are practical issues with influencing the media narrative. So there are. No one ever said convincing people was easy. But conservatives do get enough opportunities to share their point of view that people are amply familiar with their arguments on the subject of homosexuality–so I don’t see this as a good reason to use arguments that don’t work.

Potential Argument B: “Disease Rates”

Whether you are concerned for gay people themselves or just concerned about diseases, gay people do catch STDS at a higher rate than straight people. Personally, I happen to really dislike being sick, so anti-disease arguments work pretty well on me.

An anti-disease argument doesn’t have to be rational. My fear of Ebola may not be rational, because I worry about it even though no one in my entire continent, to my knowledge, has the disease. I just think Ebola is really scary. Likewise, put some disease statistics and quotes from “bug chasing” forums on TV or in the papers every so often, and you’ll completely disgust and horrify people. Even atheists will want to hear about “gay rights” about as much as the average person wants to hear about poop.

Yes, a libertarian would argue that it’s gay people’s business if they want to engage in high-risk activities, but it does not follow that lots of people would therefore go out of their way to advocate in favor of gay peoples’ rights to do risky things. I believe that people have the right to bathe in pudding if they feel like it, but I don’t spend much time advocating it.

Further, most people are not libertarians, which is why the libertarian candidate never gets to be president.

Someone partial to gay people would point out that bug chasers are not representative of the gay population as a whole and that non-promiscuous gay people who use condoms don’t get a bunch of diseases, but since this is an argument based on triggering peoples’ instinctual disgust mechanisms, they’re probably not going to hear anything over their brains going “EW EW EW.”

Most people act on instinct, and one important instinct that’s pretty solidly embedded in most people is to avoid disease vectors. This is why poop and rotting corpses are icky–so icky, you might actually throw up from being near them.

So, even though someone could make all kinds of reasonable counter-arguments about personal liberty, medical advances, safe sex, monogamy, etc., you can may be able to hijack people’s instinctual fear of disease to make them completely unwilling to even listen to counter-arguments.

Potential Argument C: “So Few Homosexuals”

Americans vastly overestimate the number of gay people–when Gallop asked people to estimate the % of people who are gay, 33% of responders estimated that more than 25% of people are gay; 20% of responders estimated that 20-25% of people are gay. Only 9% of people got the correct answer, “Less than 5%.” (Actually, about 3.8% of people are gay.) Of these, about 60% say they would like to get married–or 2.3% of Americans.

Let’s step back for a moment and wonder at the fact that liberals and conservatives alike have devoted untold hours and dollars to fighting over the legal marriage status of 2.3% of Americans while 8% of people are unemployed; in 2013, 2.5 million American children were homeless, and 15% of Americans live in poverty and face “food insecurity.” 52% of Americans will be victims of multiple violent crimes in their lives; 1 in 30 black men will be murdered. About 50% of marriages end in divorce; the Iraq war cost between 2 and 6 trillion dollars (not to mention the continuing cost of fighting ISIS). And if you are the kind of person who cares about people in other countries, there are a few billion poor people in the third world who would appreciate some help.

In other words, there are a lot of problems in this world that a reasonable person might consider higher priority than whether or not gay people should be allowed to “get married” or have “civil unions.”

Why let the other side take the moral high ground? Whenever the subject comes up, just divert to something else that affects far more people and claim that your opponent is trying to use an obscure, tiny issue to distract from the real problems facing America.

Potential Argument D: “Functional Purpose”

This is very close to an argument that conservatives do make, which is that the purpose of marriage is to produce children. This, of course, sounds like total nonsense to young people, who don’t think marriage has a function other than to serve as a means of saying “we like each other.”

Skipping over the potential misunderstanding, let’s talk about things like insurance benefits. Why does one spouse working entitle the other spouse to health insurance?

So that one spouse can work while the other takes care of the children. “Taking care of children” and “making socks” are both activities that someone has to do for society to keep functioning, but we recognize that factories produce better socks and parents produce better children, so we try to keep sock-making in factories and child-rearing at home.

Sometimes people get confused on this point, so I’m going to spell it out in more detail: not all valuable work is paid. You could pay someone to wash your dishes, sweep your floors, cook your meals, and take care of your children, or you could do all of these jobs yourself and get the exact same benefits. These are all things that have to get done; sweeping the floor does not become “legitimate work” just because you pay someone to do it and stop being “legitimate work” the moment you do it yourself.

100 years ago, most people lived on farms and did almost all of their work themselves–they planted their own crops, built their own houses, installed their own plumbing (or outhouses), sewed their own clothes, cooked their own food, and raised their own children. Few people were formally employed. The vast majority of economic production occurred–and was consumed–within families or small communities.

But this does not mean the economic production did not occur.

Today, the locus of employment has shifted outside the home–to factories, offices, shops, etc.–and we have decided to route many valuable social functions–like health insurance–through paid employers.

This runs into a problem, because some people (mainly women) are still engaged in the valuable economic work of raising children and running households. Moms get sick, too, so the health insurance men get through work extends to cover their non-working spouses.

The same is true of various other legal/inheritance benefits accorded by marriage–they basically exist to protect the non-working spouse who is raising children instead of engaging in paid employment.

Health insurance is not some special perk society decided to give people just because they’re in love. You’re not supposed to marry someone just to get health insurance benefits. That is an abuse of the system. If you have no intention of having children (or cannot have children,) then there is no reason for you to stay home while your spouse works: you can get your own job and qualify for your own health insurance.

Of course, some gay people do have children, whether biologically or through adoption, and I see no reason to deny these children health insurance, inheritance, etc. But even fewer gay people want children than want to get married–only about 16% of gay people have children.

________________________________________

The point of this post has not been give any of my own, personal opinions on the morality of homosexuality or gay marriage, but to explore potential arguments on the subject besides “God doesn’t like it.”

Some of these arguments are appeals to emotion or otherwise dishonest, but they still exist; people could have used them. Instead, Republicans have chosen for the past 20 years to focus primarily on an argument that comes across to young people as violating the establishment clause of the Bill of Rights, which I suspect has done more to alienate young people than convince them.

 

 

Effective Altruists are Cute but Wrong

Note: For a more complete derivation, start with Survival of the Moral-ist (and Morality is what other People Want you to do.)

Effective Altruists mean well. They want to be moral people. They just don’t quite get what morality is. This leads to amusing results like EAs stressing out to themselves about whether or not they should donate all of their money to make animals happy and, if they don’t sacrifice themselves to the “save the cockroaches” fund, are they being meta-inconsistent?

The best synthesis of game-theoretic morality and evolutionary morality is that morality is about mutual systems of responsibility toward each other. You have no moral duties toward people (animals, beings, etc.,) who have none toward you. Your dog loves you and would sacrifice himself for you, so you have a moral obligation to your dog. A random animal feels no obligation to you and would not help you in even the most dire of situations. You have no moral obligation to them. (Nice people are nice to animals anyway because niceness is a genetic trait, and so nice people are nice to everyone.)

The EA calculations fail to take into account the opportunity cost of your altruism: if I donate all of my money to other animals, I no longer have money to buy bones for my dog, and my dog will be unhappy. If I spend my excess money on malaria nets for strangers in Africa, then I can’t spend that money on medical treatment for my own children.

If you feel compelled to do something about Problem X, then it’s a good idea to take the EA route and try to do so effectively. If I am concerned about malaria, then of course I should spend my time/money doing whatever is best to fight malaria.

As I mentioned in my post about “the other”, a lot of people just use our ideas/demands about what’s best for people they really have no personal interest in as a bludgeon in political debates with people they strongly dislike. If you are really concerned about far-off others, then by all means, better the EA route than the “destroying people’s careers via Twitter” route.

But morality, ultimately, is about your relationships with people. EA does not account for this, and so is wrong.

West African Marriage and Child-Rearing Norms vs. African American Norms

“Divorce is not a new thing, people have been getting divorces in this part of the world for centuries. The truth is that marriage was not necessarily about love, but wait this is not a bad thing, marriage was a contract in which both the husband and the wife would receive mutual benefits. In addition, women married families, not just the man. If the wife was not gaining her benefits, why should she stay in the marriage? Some of us are the grand- or great-grand daughters of women who divorced several times. It was not a taboo and was not treated as something shameful. Apparently no woman getting married believed that it would last a lifetime. Women left their husbands under various pretexts and returned to their parents’ home leaving children with the husband’s family, they would frequently return to continue playing a role in their children’s lives. Women could have several husbands in their lifetime not unlike men who married multiple women.”

–Cosmic Yoruba, “Would Your Ancestors be Shocked by Traditional Marriage?” on pre-colonial marriage practices among the Yoruba (She also posts about other West African tribes.) Bold mine.

Further:

“I have noted that the most popular women in Yoruba history who are still remembered today are thought to have never married or had children (starting with Efunsetan). When women divorced, sometimes they would leave their children with their husbands’ families, so blended families always existed too. And there were several reasons people did not marry, sometimes not by choice, for example certain priests/priestesses never married because they were already married to the dieties they worshipped.”

” I can’t speak authoritatively for every society, but in parts of Yorubaland this love of kids was not limited to ones biological children. It’s interesting that people would say Africans in the past loved kids, but would limit this to biological children. Have we all not heard of the “it takes a whole village to raise a child” thing? Marriage was never for procreation because children were seen as communal. I have learned that adoption was not uncommon among some Yoruba of the past (and in fact among other ethnic groups, remember King Ahebi’s most beloved son was adopted). Usually temporary unlike the Western adoption model today, it was normal for children to live away from their parents. My own parents did not grow up with their parents but with relatives. It was common back in the day to send children to a place where they could learn a trade and work as an apprentice. Basically everyone took care of children.”

“I think a lot of us tend to be ashamed of polygamy when referring to the past but look at it this way; the polygamy of the past existed because people needed to make a living. Again marriage was mutually beneficial. In places where land was usually owned by men, wives would work on land, farm and sell their produce in order to make money for themselves.”

The location of pre-colonial Yorubaland (from Wikipedia):

The Niger is a pretty major river.
Locations of medieval Yoruba cities
zooom
Yorubaland, relative to the rest of the world

Note:

They don't call it the "slave coast" for nothing.
Geographic origins of the American African population (from the Slavery Site’s “Maps of Africa and the Slave Trade”)

 

From Slavery Site: “Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with a population of 149,229,090. It is bordered on the coast by Benin to the west and Cameroon to the east. Lagos was originally settled by the Yorubas, and is now the largest city in Nigeria (8-10 million population) and one of the largest in Africa, second to Cairo in urban area population. Located on the Slave Coast, it was a major center of the slave trade from 1704 to 1851.”

Statistically, most maltreatment is neglect
Foster care and child abuse rates broken down by race in California — from “Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect: Trends and Issues

From Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect: Trend and Issues (discussing the CA foster care system):

Foster Care Population by Race/Ethnicity. As shown in Figure 10, African–American and Native American children make up a disproportionately high amount of the foster care population relative to their share of the total state population (for those ages 20 or younger). The rates of African–Americans in foster care are four times that of the rates of African–Americans in the state’s total population, [bold mine] and similar disproportionality exists for Native Americans. Conversely, there are lower rates of Whites, Latinos, and Asian/Pacific Islanders in the foster care population as there are in the state’s total population. Most notably, Asian/Pacific Islanders make up approximately 11 percent of the state population but only 2.5 percent of the foster care population. [Me: Even though a lot of these folks were Vietnamese refugees who’ve had it pretty damn hard in life.]

“Foster Care Outcomes by Race/Ethnicity. There are also differences in foster care outcomes when comparing one race/ethnicity to another, some of which are displayed in Figure 11. As shown in the figure, African–American and Native American children are significantly more likely to be the subject of a substantiated maltreatment report and enter foster care as compared to White, Latino, or Asian/Pacific Islander children. … African–American and Native American children are also less likely to reunify with their families than White, Latino, and Asian/Pacific Islander children. Further, African–American children have less stability in their foster care placements on average than children of all other races/ethnicities.”

Interesting that the cohabitation rate seems pretty constant across races except for Asians
From the Washington Post: The White-Black Income Gap hasn’t Budged in Years

 

ChildStats.gov states, “Seventy-four percent of White, non-Hispanic, 59 percent of Hispanic, and 33 percent of Black children lived with two married parents in 2012.” That leaves 77% of black kids living with one parent or no parents; 77-55= 22% of black kids living with no parents. A large% of those kids live with grandparents, aunts, or other relatives, but a lot are in foster care.

Black marriage rates:

The disparity in male and female marriage rates is partially explained by black men marrying white women at a higher rate than black women marry white men.
From BlackDemographics.com

Conservatives like to claim that if black people would just form two-parent families and raise their kids together, black poverty, incarceration, drug use, low SAT scores, etc., would all disappear.

While a bit of stability might help, (or might not, since males commit the vast majority of violence, so you might just trade neglect for physical abuse,) conservatives are probably on the wrong general track.

The quotes at the top of the post, about the Yoruba, are the sort of thing you might read in your anthropology class and come away with the idea that before evil white people showed up, the rest of the world was full of wonderful gender egalitarians who had lovely, enlightened views about childrearing. Even the title of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child,” is supposed to come from an African proverb on child rearing. There’s some controversy over whether or not it is an actual proverb, or just loosely based on one of the many very similar African proverbs, eg, “A child does not grow up only in a single home,” and, “A child belongs not to one parent or home.” (from the Wikipedia page on the book.)

Various conservatives have responded, “No, it takes a family to raise a child,” just showing that no one involved understands tribal family structure, because a “village” in tribal society is an extended family.

But a village isn’t an extended family in the US, which makes the notion of trying to transfer the model to a population where outbreeding has been the norm for over a thousand years, tribalism is almost non-existent, and most people don’t live anywhere near their extended kin (and they are less closely related to their extended kin than people in a tribal society who’ve been marrying their first and second cousins for generations,) sound rather fraught with difficulties.

 

The rest of the post is meant to caution against seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. Here we have descendants of that same population (plus others) with very similar marriage and child-rearing norms, but the general reaction is completely opposite. What is a sign of the wonderfulness of tribal Africans is considered a sign of degeneracy and/or dysfunction here at home. (It is, of course, a total mystery how the same group of people could come up with the same childrearing and marriage norms while living in totally different times, places, and dominant cultures. /sarcasm)

Here in the US, we can see for ourselves rates of child abuse, malnutrition and neglect (and we think of this as a problem.) Until someone invents a time machine, we’ll have a much more difficult time getting a first-hand view of the pre-colonial Yoruba. (Heck, the vast majority of us don’t even have a first-hand view of the current Yoruba.) I’m sure some colonialists wrote accounts of what they saw when they arrived in the area–but any colonialist account that paints pre-colonialized people in a negative light is generally assumed to be biased and tainted by racism, which makes such accounts not-so-useful for supporting arguments in polite discussion. We’d need some kind of data, and data is often hard to come by.

Here are my own suspicions, though:

The tribal/village structure of these west African communities probably provided enough kin support that families could move children around like this and still have many of them reach adulthood. The system may, in fact, have been superior to just having the kids home with mom. Similar to modern day care, the extended kin network could look after the kids while mom worked in the fields or traveled to other cities to trade or do other work.

This system has low incentives for marital fidelity or monogamy, leading to an excess of males, which helped catapult the slave trade in the first place, though that is beyond the scope of this post.

The tendency toward monogamy or non-monogamy is probably basically genetic, reflecting the environmental/cultural structure one’s ancestors lived in. Your particular moral norms on the subject most likely just reflect whatever was evolutionarily advantageous for your ancestors–anyone who did what wasn’t evolutionarily advantageous didn’t tend to become your ancestor.

However, rates of child abuse/neglect/abandonment/starvation/malnutrition were probably pretty high, just as they are in various communities today. These sorts of unpleasant details just don’t tend to show up in accounts that are trying to cast their subjects in a positive light, and frankly, horrible rates of infant mortality were so common in the past as to be unremarkable to many observers.

Here in the US, the system is less functional because, for starters, there are few African American men with large farms for their wives to raise crops on. People who would have been on the top of the social pile in Yorubaland, people who had all of the traits necessary to be a successful, thriving, happy member of Yoruba society may not have the traits necessary to out-compete, say, Taiwanese immigrants with their nose-to-the grindstone approach to getting their kids into medical school. Living in modern America is also much more expensive than living in a tribal village–the cost of housing, transportation (car), health care, etc., in the US will set you back many a small third world farm. Not to mention different policing standards.

Per capita GDP in modern Nigeria is $3,005.51. This is after tremendous growth; in 2000, it was only $377.50–I’m guessing oil is mostly responsible for the difference, because I recall hearing about a joint venture between the Russian gas company Gazprom and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, so I’d caution against assuming that a ton of that money went to ordinary citizens. Looking backwards, pre-colonial per capita GDP was probably also pretty darn low, with most people engaged in subsistence agriculture.

Our perceptions of “wealth” are entirely dependent on how the other citizens of a society lives–a guy with a fifty acre farm can be “wealthy” in a third-world agricultural society, while “desperately poor” by first world standards. How he sees himself probably has a lot to do with how he sees his neighbors–is he on top of his society, or at the bottom?

Perception matters.

The Decline of Religion part 4

Upon further reflection, I’ve decided that all of that other stuff (parts 1, 2, and 3) is probably small potatoes and the biggest, most important thing driving the surge in atheism is information technology/mass media bringing people into contact with millions of other people.

Since religious belief is probably driven by some kind of neural feedback loop that basically results in people doing whatever the majority of people around them are doing, if you live in a world where everyone you talk to is Catholic, you’ll probably be Catholic, but if you suddenly switch to a world where you are watching TV and movies and talking to people on FB and Twitter and whatnot and some of them are Catholic and some are Protestant and you can even follow the Dalai Lama’s FB feed, suddenly you aren’t surrounded by Catholics anymore. Now your feedback loops cannot pick out any dominant religion for you to follow, and without the belief-experience feedback loops going on, you start to feel nothing at all.

In other words, all of those crazy Christians who homeschool their kids and refuse to let them watch TV because they don’t want them exposed to the sinful, fallen world are actually correct. Being around godless atheists all day will turn their kids into godless atheists. Except their kids grow up and join the world anyway, so it’s not really a great strategy.

Anyway, back on track: Once upon a time (about 70 years ago,) most people (at home and abroad!) got the vast majority of their functional information about the world from their parents and other members of their immediate community. We call this vertical transmission. With most of the people in a community adhering to a single religion, people were religious.

Since then, the rise of mass media communication has massively increased the amount of information people get horizontally (or laterally.) This brings people into massive numbers of people not from their own communities–thus all meme-plexes that were passed vertically through communities are under intense, novel competition from horizontally passed meme-plexes.

So Ireland, once an overwhelmingly Catholic country that rejected divorce back in 1987, just legalized gay marriage. Why? Because atheism has suddenly completely triumphed in the past 30 years–probably because the Irish started interacting with a bunch of people who weren’t Catholic via the internet.

(Hilariously, though, “Closer to Dublin, British-ruled Northern Ireland has refused to join the rest of the United Kingdom in recognizing same-sex marriage. …the majority right-wing Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, to which he still belongs, voted down same-sex marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the fourth time in three years.

Much of the opposition there is rooted in religious convictions, based in evangelical Protestantism. The Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein party supports gay marriage in Northern Ireland, but has not been able to overcome the opposition.”–from the NY Times.)

Note that this does not mean that the modern meme-plexes (ie, Progressivism,) that are succeeding at horizontal transmission are “better”, more moral, or in humanity’s or your personal self-interest. It means that this particular environment (mass media/information) favors meme-plexes that are optimized for horizontal transmission over meme-plexes that are optimized for vertical transmission, and religion happens to be (in most cases) optimized for vertical transmission.

The Incompatibility of Christian Morality and Evolutionary Morality

Christianity pretty explicitly states that moral acts should be done for no reason other than that being moral is good/god says, “go be moral.”

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:2-4

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” ” Luke 21:1-4

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17

“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” Luke 12:33

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” Acts 4:32-35

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Matthew 5:43-48

“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

The result, of course, is that Christian morality is very communist, and anyone who says otherwise is lying or ignorant. Self-interest is occasionally referenced so far as to say, “don’t worry about giving everything you have away, because god will make sure you don’t starve as a result,” but the general thrust of “don’t store up money, don’t do things for material rewards, take care of each other without regard to whether or not you can pay each other back, don’t make a big public deal out of your piety and generosity, etc.,” is pretty consistent.

Christianity is not necessarily quite on board with “treat everyone on earth equally,” since it is coming out of an explicitly ethno-nationalist religious tradition, but it is clearly moving in that direction.

In western society, this leads to a generalized notion that good deeds should be done for their own sakes, that seeing “gifts” as social exchange is bad and that all gifts should be given without strings attached, etc. Since this contradicts reality, people end up fighting over the implications of, say, buying someone dinner.

In reality, while some true charity and kindness exists (and I encourage it to,) most morality exists because we are descended from people who acted that way. We don’t actually take care of our children because of some divine command to do so, but because people who take care of their children historically had more surviving children than people who didn’t, and thus we are descended from people with child-rearing instincts.

The notion that morality is actually a self-interested attempt by our genes at continued propagation conflicts directly with our cultural, Christian norms of morality.

In general, Christian morality is probably a decent kludge, but forgetting reality is not good. If a moral system leads to its followers actually reproducing less than others (say, Shakerism,) then of course the result is that the followers of that morality die out.

Has Australia gone Totally Nuts?

Is having a loving family an unfair advantage? from ABC Radio National–the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Or is it just philosophers?

Western moral philosophy is completely broken because “academics” do not understand the basics of how morality works.

Normal people understand morality. People who were dropped on their heads as infants generally understand morality. Philosopher Adam Smith, however, thinks,

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

The test they devised was based on what they term ‘familial relationship goods’; those unique and identifiable things that arise within the family unit and contribute to the flourishing of family members.

For Swift, there’s one particular choice that fails the test.

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’

“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,”

Jesus effin’ Christ, this guy is an idiot.

Of course, anyone who studies inequality and sets themselves up as an expert on the issue and says things like, “I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families,” is an idiot. We have studies on these nifty people called “identical twins” and what happens when they are adopted by two different families and raised in different environments.

What happens is not very much. Within the normal range of parenting (like, not beating your children and locking them in the closet,) measurable life outcomes like criminality, IQ, income, etc., have more to do with the kids’ genes than with their adoptive parents’ parenting.

(Where parenting probably does matter is how much your kids like you. If you’re a jerk to them, they probably won’t call you very often.)

So, no, inequality is not caused by people reading bedtime books to their kids. It’s not caused by sending them to private school, and parents sure as hell don’t need philosophers to come up with complicated theories to justify being nice to their kids, because normal people don’t suffer these delusions.

“According to Swift, from a purely instrumental position the answer is straightforward.

‘One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.’”

Riiiight. Remember, you pay actual money to send your kids to university so they can be taught by these people.

“‘When we talk about parents’ rights, we’re talking about the person who is parenting the child. How you got to be parenting the child is another issue. One implication of our theory is that it’s not one’s biological relation that does much work in justifying your rights with respect to how the child is parented.’

For Swift and Brighouse, our society is curiously stuck in a time warp of proprietorial rights: if you biologically produce a child you own it.”

This is because most humans would knife you before letting you take their children away from them, because the instinct to take care of our children is a basic biological drive honed by thousands of years of evolution. Morality is an evolved instinct for taking care of our children. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand morality, though you might get by simply by listening to the collective wisdom of thousands of generations of your ancestors who managed to successfully raise children.

“Then, does the child have a right to be parented by her biological parents? Swift has a ready answer.

‘It’s true that in the societies in which we live, biological origins do tend to form an important part of people’s identities, but that is largely a social and cultural construction. So you could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.’”

I am normally a peaceful person, but this guy actually inspires a deep, burning hatred, but that might just be my fear that this guy is going to try to kidnap my children speaking.

Rights are a social construct. Ethnicity is kind of a construct, and kind of a biological reality. Identifying with and getting along with one’s parents is based entirely in reality. It has to do with things like “are my parents jerks?” and “Do my parents understand me?”

So let me tell you a little secret of some relevance: I was adopted. My adoptive family was very loving and very kind. I am now, as an adult, in contact with my biological family, from whom I was, shall we say, unjustly removed. My biological family is also very loving and kind. No one here was jerkfaces; I am grateful to everyone.

I have a much, much stronger connection with the biological family I only met as an adult than I have with the adoptive family that actually raised me. I can’t help it. These people are like me in deep, fundamental ways. They have the same or similar hobbies as I do. They struggle with similar problems. They reason about the world in the same ways. We have instant shortcuts to understanding each other.

So, even though my adoptive family was super-loving and awesome and I love them and so on, the idea of trying to run a whole society like this, the idea of depriving everyone in society of that basic instinctual connection with the people around them that you non-adopted people don’t even realize you have, is kind of horrifying.

 

EvolutionistX Manifesto

1. Evolution is real. Incentives are real. Math is real. Their laws are as iron-clad as gravity’s and enforced with the furor of the Old Testament god. Disobey, and you will be eliminated.

2. Whatever you incentivize, you will get. Whatever you don’t incentivize, you will not get. Create systems that people can cheat, and you create cheaters. If criminals have more children than non-criminals, then the future will be full of criminals. Create systems that reward trust and competence, and you will end up with a high trust, competent system.

3. Society is created by people, through the constant interaction of the basic traits of the people in it and the incentives of its systems.

4. Morality is basically an evolved mental/social toolkit to compel you to act in your genetic self-interest. Morality does not always function properly in evolutionary novel situations, can be hijacked, and does not function similarly or properly in everyone, but people are generally capable of using morality to good ends when dealing with people in their trust networks.

Therefore:

5. Whatever you think is wrong with the world, articulate it clearly, attempt to falsify your beliefs, and then look for practical, real-world solutions. This is called science, and it is one of our greatest tools.

6. Create high-trust networks with trustworthy people. A high trust system is one where you can be nice to people without fear of them defecting. (Call your grandma. Help a friend going through a rough time. Don’t gossip.) High trust is one of the key ingredients necessary for everything you consider nice in this world.

7. Do not do/allow/tolerate things/people that destroy trust networks. Do not trust the untrustworthy nor act untrustworthy to the trusting.

8. Reward competency. Society is completely dependent on competent people doing boring work, like making sure water purification plants work and food gets to the grocery store.

9. Rewarding other traits in place of competency destroys competency.

10. If you think competent people are being unjustly excluded, find better ways to determine competency–don’t just try to reward people from the excluded pools, as there is no guarantee that this will lead to hiring competent people. If you select leaders for some other trait (say, religiosity,) you’ll end up with incompetent leaders.

11. Act in reality. The internet is great for research, but kinda sucks for hugs. Donating $5 to competent charities will do more good than anything you can hashtag on Twitter. When you need a friend, nothing beats someone who will come over to your house and have a cup of tea.

12. Respond to life with Aristotelian moderation: If a lightbulb breaks, don’t ignore it and don’t weep over it. Just change the lightbulb. If someone wrongs you, don’t tell yourself you deserved it and don’t escalate into a screaming demon. Just defend yourself and be ready to listen to the other person if they have an explanation.

Morality is what other people want you to do

This is morality from a game theory perspective.

Let’s say Person B and Person C are playing the Prisoner’s Dilemma. We ask B, “What is the moral thing for C to do?” A of course responds, “Cooperate! If C cooperates, we get highest net utility!”

Now we ask Ayn Rand, “What should C do?”
“Defect,” she answers. “Defection gets C more money than cooperation, and C doesn’t have any obligation to care about B.”

B then responds, looking a bit nervous, “I think C really should cooperate. Caring about others is moral.”

Rand: You’re just making a deontological argument with no backing. Morality, hah! You just want C to do what’s in your interest instead of his interest.

B: But obviously this kind of thinking leads to everyone defecting, and then utility is crap! Trustworthiness makes society function!

Ayn Rand: Look, what if C just lost his job? He has a dozen children to feed, and cooperating will not get him enough money to survive. If he doesn’t defect, he and all of his children will die.

B: Well… I guess then it’d be okay…

Ayn Rand: In that case, by your own reasoning, you ought to encourage his defection, because that saves lives!

B. Well… Um… But wait a minute! What if I also have 12 children to feed and no job? My first obligation is to my kids, not C’s kids. C should cooperate so that I can defect!

And, in fact, in extreme cases like famines, people sacrifice their own lives–go without food–to save the lives of others. And people have been known to literally kill and eat other people. It’s gruesome, but it is generally agreed that saving lives trumps most other concerns. (See previous post on morality for why.) People in wartime will also go to extremes, though this may be less justified.

But most of the time, we are not in a famine. B and C aren’t facing death if they cooperate–C’s life will just be marginally better if he defects, (and vice-versa).

B wants C to always cooperate–this is the best possible thing for B, even if B has secret plans to defect. So publicly, at least, B will always insist that the most moral thing is for C to cooperate–even if it harms C.

Some people actually care about the greatest possible good. Many just care about encouraging people not to defect on them. The net effect, of course, is a general message that the “Most moral thing possible” is to completely sacrifice oneself for others. People who, say, run into burning building to rescue people, or give up their lives for their children, or donate kidneys to strangers, or spend all of their time helping disabled orphans, are generally hailed as heroes, the epitome of morality.

We might shorthand this to “Morality = the greatest good to society.” (The cost to you be damned).

Obviously a society that manages to convince people to cooperate in no-famine situations will be better off than a society that fails to do so. In fact, this is the kind of society you want to live in–the alternative would be kind of awful.

The downside to this kind of morality is that people who take it too far tend to weed themselves out of the gene pool, leaving society less moral in their wakes. We might laud people who give up their fortunes to help the poor, but try announcing your plan to give all of your excess money to starving third worlders and begin sleeping in a cardboard box to your parents at [holiday of your choice] dinner, and see how it goes over.

We might even argue that there are two kinds of morality at play, one mitochondrial, the other viral. Mitochondrial cares about the survival of your genes, and people who don’t share your genes be damned. Viral morality cares about the well-being of society, and your particular genes be damned. The connections to liberals and conservatives should be obvious.

If a conservative says, “X is moral,” and it makes no sense to you, they likely mean, “X is in my genes’ interests.” If a liberal says, “X is moral,” and that makes no sense to you, they likely mean, “X is in society’s interests.”

The correlation is not absolute, though, as the vast majority of people employ both sets of morals, and not just hypocritically.

If you want to live in a nice society, you need both approaches. You need people to basically cooperate most of the time, so that you can do business with strangers or live remotely near them. You also need to exert a little interest in your own self-interest, so you don’t die.

Some people lean too far in the self-interested direction, and need to be reminded to cooperate.

This is one of religion’s good points–almost all religions generally try to encourage people to cooperate and make sacrifice for the common good, and religion tends to be effective at doing this because it can say, “Do it because GOD SAYS SO,” which has historically been pretty effective. So in a religious ceremony, we vow, “Until death do us part,”–promising, before god, not to defect on each other, which probably makes people actually less likely to break their marriage contracts than merely promising before a gov’t bureaucrat. Likewise, in many of the most destitute parts of the world, (like the DRC or your local homeless shelter,) the only people doing anything to help are mostly religious folks.

Even many of the world’s most successful “communist” ventures were religious, because “god says so” is an effective motivator to get people to share–but more about that later.

By contrast, some people lean too far in the societally-interested direction, and need to be reminded that it is okay for them to look after their own interests, too. Women who’ve become the primary caregivers for elderly relatives, for example, often end up sacrifice excessively, nearly killing themselves in the process. They may need to be reminded that it is okay to value their own lives, too.

Aristotle posits his virtues as the middle between two extremes–Bravery between Cowardliness and Rashness, for example. I suggest an optimum morality as taking the middle path between these two extremes of social and genetically-interested morality, so that you can have a nice society without all of the nice people dying out and being replaced by jerks.

Survival of the Moral-ist

Deontology is just your genetic instincts talking, and the only things your instincts care about are the strategies that caused your ancestors to successfully create you.

Deontology is usually defined as, “It’s moral because I say so!”

Before you laugh, try to explain why you don’t give your children up for adoption to a poor infertile couple that desperately wants children, and then send all of your now freed-up money to poor children in Africa.

“Because they are my children, you fucker,” I hear you thinking.

But wouldn’t net utility be higher, both for the couple (who would no doubt be very loving and kind to your children) and for the children in Africa?

Now you growl and reach for the nearest thing that could conceivably be used as a weapon. “MY CHILDREN.”

Consequentialism was a fairly solid stab at trying to figure out why people hold certain deontologic moral instincts, but being ignorant of genetics (until recently), sometimes turned up funny results that contradicted people’s instincts. Like the idea that you really should send as much money as possible to Africa.

Evolutionary theory provides a framework that makes people’s deontological claims make sense. “Morality” is just a sense we have evolved to help us distinguish between actions that will generally lead to your descendants existing and actions that generally won’t. People whose instincts led them to act contrary to their genetics’ interests just didn’t pass on their ideas about morality.

BIG NOTE: Different environments and tech levels will create different pressures on people that result in different moralities. When people from different cultures act differently, people are tempted to say, “those people are immoral,” but they may just have moral instincts that evolved to maximize survival under a different set of conditions.

For example, polygamy is viewed as morally acceptable in many warm or tropical parts of the world, while monogamy is strongly favored in colder parts. This may be a result of the environment favoring different crop-raising strategies–in the north, farmers had to employ intensive agricultural techniques to produce enough food to keep them alive over the long winters. One woman working alone had little hope of raising enough food to feed her children. By contrast, in places with little to no winter, a single woman could raise most of the food necessary to feed her children. With each woman more or less raising her children independently, one man could “afford” more wives–and so did, if he could. Taken far enough, men and women might not need to marry at all.

It’s a theory; someone could test it pretty easily.

By this conception, neither group is acting more morally–they just have different conditions.

If we apply this concept of morality–that when people say “moral,” they really mean, “in your genes’ interests,” a lot of things people say and do that sound nonsensical or hypocritical suddenly reveal an underlying logic. For example, if someone says, “drugs are immoral,” what they really mean is, “drugs have negative effects on your ability to raise children.” (People generally agree that drug use is fine if it enhances your ability to function, or at least does not impair it.) If someone says, “homosexuality is immoral,” what they really mean is, “gay sex doesn’t produce offspring.”

And you are not going to give up your children for adoption because historically, people who abandoned their children did not become your ancestors, because their children all died, and so you have a very strong instinct that kicks in and says DO NOT DO THIS NO MATTER WHAT.

As I noted earlier, liberals and conservatives (most likely) have a different pattern of genetic relatedness to others, leading to different approaches to morality. Conservative morality tends to benefit one’s immediate family, community, ethnos, nation, etc., in roughly concentric circles of obligation and commitment. Most conservatives have little moral concern for people outside their own group, but would die for the people they love. This is a result of the pressures of the environment conservatives are adapted to/were produced by.

Liberals have a different set of values, again, produced by the environment that produced them. Liberals tend to favor defining morality in terms of utilitarian calculi about the “greatest good,” which aids in the creation of large, economically complex societies where you can basically trust strangers not to fuck you over.

Of course, since liberals reproduce less than conservatives, there’s a good chance their morals will just be replaced by conservative morals–I don’t know how robust viral-meme liberalism will be as mitochondrial-meme liberalism collapses.