The sound of rain
has come to overlay all
a house among voices of insects
In September I participated in the World Academic Conference of the Seoul Olympiad. One of the five three-day sessions was on Humanitys Encounter with Nature: Destruction and Reconstruction. In this session sixty Eastern and Western philosophers, theologians, and scientists discussed how in the twentieth century we could live in harmony with nature. No one questioned the idea that we should live in harmony with nature; on this point Eastern Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist traditions united with Western environmental and evolutionary science. All believed that the future of human life and civilization depended on reconstructing more harmonious relations with the natural world.
T. H. Huxley's essay and prolegomena of 1894 argued that the process and products of evolution are morally unacceptable and act in opposition to the ethical progress of humanity. Modern sociobiological insights and studies of organisms in natural settings support Huxley and justify an even more extreme condemnation of nature and an antithesis of the naturalistic fallacy: what is, in the biological world, normally ought not. Modern biology also provides suggestions on the origin of the human moral impulse and on tactics likely to be effective in the combat against nature urged by Huxley.
Darwinism • morality • natural selection • philosophy • selfishness
George C. Williams is professor of biology at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6. The author completed most of the work on the manuscript while a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, California, in 1982. A number of people were kind enough to read it and offer advice. Foremost among these are Paul W. Sherman, David Sloan Wilson, and Douglas J. Futuyma.
Comments on George Williamss Essay on Morality and Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
Although there is no questioning the heroism of those who "rebel against the selfish replicators" their task seems very nearly insurmountable. I question whether anyone can formulate a broadly acceptable moral system that will not in some respects be constrained by the legacy of generations spent as selfish and kin-selected replicators.
morality • nature • selfishness • sociobiology
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis, California 95616.
Response to Williams: Selfishness is not Enough by Michael Ruse
I agree with George Williams's most significant point: both questions and answers about our moral natures lie in our biological origins. He fails, however, to show that nature is morally evil and that therefore we should vigilantly resist it. The products of evolution are morally neutral, but the human moral sense is arguably a positive good. Morality is functional. It does not require ultimate justification in the sense of correspondence with or attack upon reality "out there." It is an adaptation "intended" to make us social, and sociality—with its sense of right and wrong—makes us fitter than otherwise.
adaptation • moral sense • naturalistic fallacy • selfishness • theodicy
Michael Ruse is professor of history and philosophy at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.
On Huxleys Evolution and Ethics in Sociobiological Perspective by George C. Williams by Ralph Wendell Burhoe
I concur with Williams that improving human ethics requires full consideration of the biogenetic facts; but I argue that the understanding of biogenetic facts, and of ethics also, can be improved by a fuller view of nature's mechanism for selecting what is fit, a view recently generated by physical scientists. For me ethics necessarily must fit the evolved genotype, but ethics does not emerge until the rise of cultural evolution, where nature selects a culturetype symbiotic with the genotype. I outline my integrated dynamics of the relation of culturetypes to genotypes and to the laws governing physical systems. The biologist's finding that a living organism is of transient significance compared with its lines of heritage and their consequences, I argue, is constructively important for ethical and theological understanding.
altruism • human evolution • morality • natural selection • selfishness • theology
Ralph Wendell Burhoe, 1524 E. 59th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, is the founding editor of Zygon; research professor emeritus in theology and the sciences, Meadville/Lombard Theological School; and founding associate of the Chicago Center for Religion and Science.
Contrary to George C. Williams, moral judgments of nature are not appropriate, whereas affirmation of the intrinsic value of creation is. The concern for offspring and kin identified by Williams as the principle force of evolution is not inherently evil in its operation in human society. Instead of juxtaposing it as enemy to justice and altruism, we should try to extend the scope of felt kinship to the whole human race.
creation • evolution • morality • nature • selfishness
John B. Cobb, Jr., is Ingraham professor of theology at the School of Theology at Claremont and Avery professor of religion at the Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California 91711.
Reply to Comments on Huxleys Evolution and Ethics in Sociobiological Perspective by George C. Williams
I agree with comments suggesting that humans must make an unremitting effort to expand a circle of sympathy for others. However, I disagree with the idea, expressed by everyone except Sarah Hrdy, that evolution is in some sense consistently good.
development • evolution • Thomas H. Huxley • morality • sociobiology
George C. Williams is professor of biology at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6.
Social Darwinism and Natural Theodicy by David Oates
Despite the harsh scientific basis of Social Darwinism, its followers strove to unify nature with humane feelings-for world views necessarily attempt such reconciliations. To answer the difficult "problem of evil" posed by natural selection and survival of the fittest, Social Darwinists such as Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Herbert Spencer resorted to three kinds of theodicy: sentimental denial of the problem, belief in progress, and belief in perfection. Spencer's writings particularly display at different times both a rigid individualism and a softer organicism. Eventually, however, T. H. Huxley would abandon the attempt, acknowledging in effect that no complete world view was possible.
individualism • organicism • problem of evil • progress • Social Darwinism • theodicy
David Oates is assistant professor of English at Northrop University, 5800 W. Arbor Vitae St., Los Angeles, California 90045. This article grew out of his examination of contemporary interactions of science and literature.
Darwinism: Still a Challenge to Philosophy by Franz M. Wuketits
Charles Darwin died in 1882—more than a hundred years ago. His doctrine, however, is still alive. Recently there has been particular interest in his ideas among philosophers. These ideas are indeed a challenge to (traditional) philosophy: To take Darwin seriously means to revise—or even to destroy—some positions in (traditional) philosophy. Among the philosophical disciplines which have been affected by Darwin's ideas are epistemology and moral philosophy (ethics). In the present paper I shall discuss the epistemological and ethical consequences of Darwin's doctrine from the point of view of contemporary philosophy of biology; I shall give a brief outline of evolutionary epistemology and evolutionary ethics which both have caused many controversies.
Darwinism • evolutionary epistemology • evolutionary ethics • theory of evolution
Franz M. Wuketits is professor of philosophy of science at the University of Vienna, Institute of Philosophy, A-1010 Vienna, Austria and lecturer of philosophy of biology at the University of Graz.
My conclusions are threefold: The subject of cosmic evolution is my religion. The process of change itself (especially developmental change) is my God. And global ethics and a planetary culture, which cosmic evolution mandates, are the key to the survival of technologically competent life forms, both here on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the Universe.
change • cosmos • ethics • evolution
Eric J. Chaisson is a senior scientist and division head at the Space Telescope Science Institute, a research center of NASA and the European Space Agency, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21218.
Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock by Langdon Gilkey, reviewed by Michael D. Guinan
This editorial statement describes the purpose of Zygon and the need for such a journal. It then sketches the history of the journal and of its financial affairs. Next it proposes some development projects to expand the impact of the journal around the world, to develop Zygon leadership, and to establish more firmly Zygon's financial base. The statement opens and closes with the news of Zygon's receiving a Gift Subscription Challenge Grant.
religion • Zygon
Karl E. Peters is editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.
Henry Alexander Murray, May 13, 1983-June 23, 1988