Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Basics of Evolutionism

I have proposed a new moral framework: evolutionism. The framework is founded on the Basic Imperative, act such as to maximize the survival chance of our distant descendants. The Basic Imperative is foundational, universal and self-evident for any conscious social being. Why do I say self-evident? Because without existence, there is nothing that can hold any other value. Life cannot have meaning without life itself. Living cannot be "good" without being alive. So though we can argue about our ultimate "purpose" we cannot argue about the necessity to exist as beings capable of deliberating about such "purpose" for such "purpose" to have meaning. This is where I think any moral framework must start, with the necessity for some kind of procedures that increase the likelihood of the continued existence of some form of conscious being.

The framework assumes certain basic evolutionary ideas but should not be confused with "genetic" evolution. I consider the theory of evolution to have 3 basic ideas:

  1. Cooperation: A combination of entities can form a whole through their given relationships.
  2. Variability: The possibility of changing the relationships between such entities.
  3. Selection: Persistence and increased occurrence of select variations against a specific background.

I also assume that any cooperation alters and forms a new background against which evolution then again takes place. That is, every cooperation can be treated as a new form of entity capable of forming relationships with the other cooperating entities. Such higher level cooperation is subject to the same variability and natural selection occurring inside the lower level entities. I call this encapsulation. Evolution is, so to say, layered. The success of lower encapsulations depends on the success of higher encapsulations and vice versa.

For example, if a human has a genetic condition that predisposes them to cancer, outside influences are more likely to cause that human's cells to form malignant tumors. But proactive behavior by the human due to knowledge about such genetic predisposition, such as choice of diet and frequent medical checkups, can cause the externals to have minimal impact. The genetic condition is therefore not a cause of increased occurrence to cancers. The cooperative efficiency of the cells suppress tendencies that would otherwise dictate their faith.

Once we abstract evolution to entities and relationships against a background, it seems obvious to me that evolution occurs at all levels of decomposition. Social organizations are as equally subjected to the process of selection as are biological organisms and genetic sequences. For an organization to survive (to continue to be alive), it must efficiently deal with the realities of the environment in which it exists. It must operate with success in the context of that which surrounds it. This aught not to be controversial. This to me seems self evident.

I see morality as a disposition to be in the service of something greater than oneself. Being a social organism implies the necessity for morality. Because in order to be social we must accept that we do not act by ourselves and for ourselves. And if we do not act independently, we must have procedures by which we operate in conjunction with one another. Without such procedures we would not be acting together but fully autonomously. We would not be social beings. Being social means requiring a protocol for our behavior. Such protocols is what we call a moral codex. This should not imply that a certain degree of autonomy is not required for effective cooperation. Effective cooperation depends on an individual unit's capacity to independently make decisions beneficial to the whole. I have already previously explored the required balance between local and central control. I will return to it in the context of evolutionism at some point.

The Basic Imperative does not tells us exactly what to do in any given situation. It simply informs us what our most basic intent should be with reference to the system of which we are a part. It applies to any situation but offers only the vaguest of advice. It would seem that a moral framework should offer more concrete suggestions, perhaps even commandments. However, if a moral codex dictates what should be done in any given situation, it would be tantamount to saying consciousness can be codified into very specific rules. I think that a moral codex can at best provide good guidelines for making the right decisions.

The framework also has to be flexible enough to change such guidelines depending on newly acquired knowledge about the realities of existence. We must, so to say, be capable of abrogating our "rules". Essentially, evolutionism itself must be evolutionary and take into account the three basics of evolution: cooperation, variability, selection. But in order to fulfill the Basic Imperative we cannot leave its evolution to blind chance. Consciousness, the ability to rationally deliberate and be aware of possibilities, is itself a consequence of a deeper (biological) evolution. In some sense, our consciousness has made evolution "sighted". We can, through an empirical process, improve evolutions "guesses". We can reduce the chance of our own extinction through improved heuristics with better "vision" into the future.

The basics of the framework do seem to imply certain fundamental necessities beyond the Basic Imperative. I will attempt to explore these requirements over time.

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