reply to post by Spiramirabilis
Where is that imagination of yours Astyanax?
It's billing by the hour these days.
How do we compare and rate intelligence?
The way I thought about this while considering your argument was to try to think of questions a more-than-human intelligence might be able to answer,
but which humans never could. The only ones I could think of, really, are the questions of what consciousness is and what the fundamental substance
is, if such a thing exists at all. In other words, the age-old questions. But it seems to me the answers to those questions might change shape
depending on the type of entity asking the question, and also that nature would interpose similar obstacles between any thinking entity and the
ultimate ground of being—assuming (as I do) that such a thing exists.
If necessity is what drives us and also forms us, imagine an environment that required a special kind of intelligence to survive it.
I'd have to imagine a special kind of intelligence first. Can you help me there?
More is different, as the title of a famous scientific paper has it. Are we talking about qualitative or quantitative differences? I understand that
the latter may imply the former, but surely not the other way round? Being adept at solving crossword puzzles isn't much good if you're training to be
world sudoku champ.
better educated and experienced would (almost) amount to [smarter]
I beg to differ. The world is full of people educated beyond their intelligence.
How is it we're here discussing morals at all then? :-)
The smartest thing the Buddha did was to reduce moral imperatives to a practical calculus of action and reaction.
I'll go this far. Long experience in diplomacy and foreign relations may teach the lesson that it is better to leave other intelligent races alone if
at all possible, and to treat them well when it is not, simply because there's less trouble and distraction all round if you do that. This is not
morality as such, merely practical politics.
Benevolence is a figment of our imagination?
Yes, in a very real sense, because we can never foresee the true outcome of our actions, and if we are to judge merely by intentions we shall soon be
proclaiming that means justify ends.
Altruism towards conspecifics has selective value, which increases with degree of relatedness. Enlightened self-interest may suggest good reasons for
being kind to other species as well as our own. But I do not see why how or why truly disinterested altruism could exist—except at the misdirected
prompting of instinct. Which is praiseworthy, I agree, but I don't see how you could call it intelligent.
So - the humans are freaks. We are weird. We have needs and desires that feel real, that we value, that we treat as valuable. We name these
things, examine and work to maintain them - but nature has no need for them. We do - but nature doesn't.
This is a misreading of the case. See my previous paragraph. The needs and desires we treat as valuable (I take it you are speaking of moral feelings
and impulses) are entirely natural. They are necessary in some form to every intelligent social species, so they evolve. However, their proper
application is within the species, and even then only to certain selected individuals within the species—how many and how closely related depends on
how advanced and elaborate the society. This has nothing to do with intelligence, though; an intelligent alien species may see a moral advantage (that
is, an advantage to its own species or even to a larger confederation of species to which it belongs) in wiping out other species rather than being
nice to them. Again, human history can provide us with any number of examples to illustrate this.
How is cultural evolution separate from biological evolution?
That's a good, fair question. The second refers merely to the evolution of the physical phenotype, the first to what Richard Dawkins has called the
'extended phenotype'—the physical effects of the species on the world around it. At least, cultural evolution is what we call that in relation to
our own species.
The course of evolution is always determined by the environment, even when the organism itself is an important factor in shaping that environment.
What I meant by cultural evolution is that certain 'truths' could come to be held as self-evident even though they are false, and these might then
become the basis of a morality or ethics that is disinterestedly and universally altruistic. I doubt, though, that such conditions could prevail for
very long; idealism is always a snowball in the Sahara.
edit on 22/4/13 by Astyanax because: of an important point I left out.