Ron Garret presents: The Evolution of Morality

Our very own Ron Garret is going to talk about where our morality comes from (hint: it wasn't magic)

It is often alleged that atheists have no moral compass, that without God there can be no way to escape moral relativism, no basis for judging right from wrong. Empirically this is obviously not true, as there is an inverse correlation between religiosity and violent crime. But *why*? 

Where does secular moral intuition come from if not from God? Intuitively it seems that Darwinian evolution cannot produce a sense of morality, and in particular cannot produce a drive towards altruism and self-sacrifice, because these traits cannot possibly advance an individual's reproductive fitness. But this intuition is wrong. Exactly how moral intuition in general, and altruism in particular, can evolve was discovered only recently, in the 1980s, by a man named Robert Axelrod, the most important scientist no one has ever heard of.

After Ron's presentation, we can open it up for discussion. This is one of my favorite topics, hope to see you there!

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  • Brian B.

    September 13, 2013

  • Farah

    that was nice presentation.Thank you Ron.

    3 · August 14, 2013

    • Farah

      Thank you Rick.

      August 16, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Had a great time!
    Sorry for talking over people. There was some interesting meta-discussion afterward of the drawbacks of both hand-raising and freeform debate.

    1 · August 15, 2013

    • Jason G.

      You were on fire!

      August 15, 2013

    • Invisible Pink U.

      Very interesting meta-discussion. When THINK got too big, the same problem was observed. I'm all for a hand-raising method, as the "freeform" method favors those who are less willing to yield right of way.

      1 · August 15, 2013

  • Jason G.

    The discussion got me thinking about another theory that may apply, the Nash Equilibrium. Wikipedia has a nice page on it http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nash_equilibrium What do people think?

    August 15, 2013

  • Dana N.

    I'm sorry I had to miss it! Did Brian video it?

    August 15, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Yes, there was definitely a camera set up in the back for filming the talk.

      1 · August 15, 2013

    • Dana N.

      Great, Mary, I don't think we've met yet. Looking forward to seeing you at the next meeting!

      August 15, 2013

  • Larry G.

    I enjoyed Ron's presentation, and the meeting itself was the best yet.

    1 · August 15, 2013

  • Tim

    Ron did it again. He knows his material and was very effective at presenting it albeit in a very condensed form from the original due to time constrains. I continue to be amazed at the level of intellectualism present in this group. I feel very modest these days...

    3 · August 15, 2013

  • Rich D.

    Interesting take on the subject

    August 15, 2013

  • Louise

    Excellent meeting, especially with participation in the discussion by many new and nearly-new members. Great presentation by Ron Garret which segued into a spirited discussion on morality. Several folks asked about the books I mentioned. Here are two.

    Patricia Churchland is professor emerita at UCSD, noted for her contributions to neurophilosophy and the philosophy of mind, so she bridges that science-philosophy canyon. She spoke several times at Beyond Belief.

    "She is associated with a school of thought called eliminative materialism, which argues that commonsense, immediately intuitive, or 'folk psychological' concepts such as thought, free will, and consciousness* will likely need to be revised in a physically reductionistic way as neuroscientists discover more about the nature of brain function." (Wikipedia) * also belief, feeling, desire

    Her two recent books are:

    Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality. (2011) Touching A Nerve: The Self As Brain. (2013)

    3 · August 15, 2013

    • Invisible Pink U.

      Here's the best part - the final 1:40 of Shane's call. http://www.youtube.co...­

      August 15, 2013

    • Invisible Pink U.

      Tracie Harris again at her best doing the Transcendent Supernatural Dice experiment http://www.youtube.co...­

      August 15, 2013

  • Rick

    Hey everyone! Great discussion tonight. Some of you were interested in knowing more about the Sunday Assembly. Here's their web site with a video introducing their 40 Dates and 40 Nights roadshow. http://sundayassembly.com/
    10 of the 40 events will be held in the U.S. They will be hosting Sunday Assemblies in the locations that show the most interest. You can help us bring Sunday Assembly to Silicon Valley by registering at Eventbrite: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/7337569869. The Eventbrite site lists a placeholder date of Nov. 3rd, but the actual date (and location) of the event will be announced by mid-September. The more registrations we have, the more likely that Pippa and Sanderson will bring their fun and joyful roadshow to share with all of us!

    2 · August 14, 2013

  • Susan M.

    Excellent and thought-provoking. I'd love to see the expanded version of this presentation.

    3 · August 14, 2013

  • Invisible Pink U.

    Excellent meeting with an excellent group of folks!!!
    For those of you who haven't visited yet, you're invited to my Facebook feed at https://www.facebook.com/ipuofacsj (please 'like' or 'follow')
    Atheist videos, humor, debates, news stories and some personal experiences. Thanks!

    1 · August 14, 2013

  • Thomas P. H.

    Ron Garret explained this topic very well. Thank you, Ron!

    3 · August 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    That was fun! Thanks everyone for the warm welcome!

    3 · August 14, 2013

  • Jeetha

    Traffic, running late sorry

    1 · August 14, 2013

  • Dana N.

    So sorry, but I'm going to miss tonight. I still have some work to hand off before I start my vacation tomorrow. Also had to go into the office today, so the little pooches were crated all day.

    August 14, 2013

  • Invisible Pink U.

    'Unbelieving' WLC - William Lane Craig exposed by Lawrence Krauss
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgxUTJmcWsM

    August 14, 2013

  • Invisible Pink U.

    Theoretical BS responds to "Atheists...What if you're wrong?"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqz0plz6DEs

    2 · August 14, 2013

  • Dana N.

    I really enjoy this trend of members sharing talks in their area of interest/knowledge. What's' great too is we aren't left with only scattered conversations, and it's great to listen to other members. Brain, I think getting these on video would be great content for the website. Most meetups are sad little affairs with only a few people and know one to give talks. This is great. We should also not video those who are giving talks and don't want it to be on the website. So, definitely keep it option but a big perk when we can!

    2 · August 13, 2013

  • Tim

    You go Ron! This is looking like record breaking attendance if every RSVP shows. We need a bigger venue.

    3 · August 13, 2013

    • Brian B.

      We will talk more about this fact tomorrow

      August 13, 2013

  • Jeetha

    I'm 100% confirmed :-)

    2 · August 13, 2013

  • Jeetha

    I'm going to really try and make it, I enjoyed meeting all of you and would love to participate in meetups.

    2 · August 12, 2013

  • Steve

    sounds like a fascinating topic. I might have a team dinner for my day job so if I can't make it save the presentation for me.

    1 · August 3, 2013

    • Brian B.

      I plan to videotape this presentation and put it on our YouTube channel. Hoping to videotape more presentations in the future for those who miss a meeting.

      3 · August 3, 2013

    • Larry G.

      That's a great idea, even if we attend the meeting. Thanks!

      August 3, 2013

  • Larry G.

    Looking forward to it. Consider that the word moral comes from a Latin root meaning "custom." Ethics comes from the Greek root "ethos" meaning the same thing.

    1 · August 3, 2013

  • Sean W.

    Of Course I'll be there!

    1 · August 3, 2013

  • Susan M.

    Fantastic!! Love this!

    August 3, 2013

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