University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

History of Science and Technology/Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Friday, February 20th 2009
Speaker: Peter Richerson, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis
Subject: Darwinian Evolutionary Ethics: Between Patriotism and Sympathy
Refreshments served in Room 216 Physics at 3:15 p.m.

Darwin believed that his theory of evolution would stand or fall on its ability to account for human behavior. No species could be an exception to his theory without imperiling the whole edifice. One of the most striking features of human behavior is our very elaborate social life involving cooperation with large numbers of other people. The evolution of the ethical sensibilities and institutions of humans was thus one of his central concerns. Darwin made four main arguments regarding human morality: (1) that it is a product of group selection; (2) that an immense difference existed between human moral systems and those of other animals; (3) that the human social instincts were "primeval" and essentially the same in all modern humans; and (4) that moral progress was possible based on using the instinct of sympathy as the basis for inventing and favoring the spread of improved social institutions. Modern studies of cultural evolution suggest that Darwin's arguments about the evolution of morality are largely correct in their essentials.

Sponsored by the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science.

The weekly calendar is also available via subscription to the physics-announce mailing list, and by RSS feed.