Ruse’s Evolutionary Ethics
In the essay The Significance of Evolution, Michael Ruses argues that Biology, more specifically the evolution theory, is directly related to human morality and ethics. He gives examples and discusses themes like Social Darwinism, the Naturalistic Fallacy, the biological contract, and free will. In this essay I will try to examine and criticize his posture in theevolutionary ethics by first explaining what his posture is, giving examples and quotes of his essay, then judge his work and give my view in the subject, and finally give my conclusion about why I agree with Ruse’s explanation of ethics.
Social Darwinism is the first theme Ruse talks about in his essay. It was a movement that tried to convert biological ideas into a fully fledgedsocio-political-economical programme (500). This means that people like Herbert Spencer, Carnegie, and Rockefeller tried to use the evolution theory to explain some social problems. Carnegie and Rockefeller said that the Government should never interfere with the economy. They compared the economy with evolution saying the big companies are the fittest. They said that if the government interacted with thecompanies it would mess up the evolution process and have an effect in the gene pool. They said that the best companies should survive and destroy the smaller ones just like nature does with the different organisms. Ruse argues that this explanation is wrong. Not only because they were using science to have more credibility, but they were only doing rationalization for their economical self interest; theydidn’t wanted to lose money because of the government’s actions. Another example of Social Darwinism is that of the Russian Anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin. “He argued that the struggle takes place only between species. Within a group, such as the human race, biology promotes harmony and friendship and therefore it is our moral duty to go with this,” (501). He is also using science to make anargument sound valid, but he doesn’t have scientific proof. Ruse thinks they are doing everything wrong and that they should not use the evolution theory for this. But Michael Ruse has an even more radical thought about social Darwinism. He suggests that even Darwin himself was wrong when he said his theories were only scientific theories and that they didn’t apply to society when in fact they do.They should not be used for self interest like some economist used the naturalistic fallacy.
The naturalistic fallacies are invalid arguments about nature. The first to write about them was David Hume. He argued that it was a mistake to say that someone should do a moral or political claim based on science, because they are different realities. Science gives a description of what “is” the case.It is completely objective while morality and politics are normative. They give a prescription of what “should” the case be. Another believer of the naturalistic fallacy was Einstein. He claimed that you will never find a “should” line in science; it gives you only facts. Ruse thinks that science is needed to talk about moral and ethics. He rejects the idea of the naturalistic fallacies andconcludes that Hume and Einstein are wrong because you need to go from science to moral to be able to make a valid claim.
Another theme Ruse discusses in his essay is altruism or the desire to help others without regard for self-gain. He says that altruism is a human adaptation (504) and the theory and evidence that altruism is wide spread and promoted by natural selection is well documented (502),but the important part of altruism is the reason why organisms practice it even though the natural selection makes winning the most important thing for everyone. Why sometimes is it better to work together to get some mutual benefit than to try to win alone and have a very good chance of losing everything and fail? Why did we stop being egoists and act out of self-interest? Ruse gives the...
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