Kant’s categorical imperative states that we must behave in such a way that our behaviour can be elevated to universal law or rule. We do good when we help an elder cross the street because we adopt a supposedly objective moral law (“it’s good to help destitute people”), which is glimpsed and embraced by our reason. Since this law is universal, it doesn’t matter whether the elder is a war criminal or he or she is attempting to stab a person across the street: our action would be good in any case. The ethics of Königsberg’s philosopher is absolute, whereby every human life is an end in itself (not animal one, which would not be moral for supposedly lacking rationality). So categorical imperative, by definition, cannot be relativized: without it, the basics of ethics would be completely subjective and arbitrary.
However, simple practical reason tells us that there is no commandment, not even the “thou shalt not kill”, that can be raised to absolute moral law: killing, stealing, or lying would not be bad per se, but depending on which moral purpose they are bound to. When someone kills in self-defense, or to defense innocent third parties, acts morally good. When someone kills a tyrant, does a favor to humanity (even St. Augustine agreed to this, and he has not been yet rectified by Catholic Church). When someone steals to feed his or her hungry child is performing a morally right act (as long as violence is not disproportionate). When someone kills an animal for food, because he or she has no other source of livelihood, you cannot oppose an animalist ethics to him or her. It is even untenable to affirm that eating human flesh is inherently bad: for the Uruguayan sportsmen lost in the Andes almost half a century ago, eating the flesh of their deceased friends was a good deed that saved their own lives. Of course, lying is the right thing to do when survival and well-being (for example, if a member of Islamic State asks you for your religion), the happiness of your loved ones, or any other moral asset is at stake. Continue reading “Why killing is not ‘per se’ evil? (much as Kant turns in his grave)”
Disorder is much more common than order. That’s why there are many more forms of noise than of music, that’s why texts lacking information -including random combinations of letters- are much more abundant than informational or consistent ones (applying Cantor method, the infinite number of the former would be higher than the infinite number of the latter). For the very same reason, messing up is easier than tidying up, destroying than building, damaging than curing, dirtying than cleaning, erring than hitting, making a botch than performing a good job, doing evil than doing good… Mediocrity is more likely than brilliance, ugliness than beauty, stupidity than intelligence, inert state than vital one.
Order, which is the result of physical laws (product of an eternal platonic reality?), is what allows life, individual consciousness, and intelligence to exist. There is neither will nor rationality without order, without a certain neural or brain organization either to caress or to torture (diabolical orders do exist, such as those of the extermination camp and the municipal slaughterhouse). Without order there is neither complexity nor evolution nor emergencies. Nor any possibility of interaction and communication. The world would be a huge unshaped hotchpotch in which you and I, dinosaurs and supercomputers, Villarrobledo and Vladivostok, large and small, up and down, in and out, before and after, would be all confused in an indescribable totumrevolutum.
Maybe that maremagnum is the state of the world between each tick of Planck, between every collapse of the wave function that governs the evolution of the Universe or Multiverse. Only through a biased and consistent filtering of every possible thing, through a destruction ab totoas represented by the collapse of the wave function, it would be possible to take individualized consciousness -necessarily partial- from a cosmic order where everything happens simultaneously and at once. Only in that way, Brahman can be Atman and the sea can be wave. Only in that way, it would make sense to learn and even live.
It is practically impossible for a complex phenomenon such as life or intelligence to arise without evolution and the consequent natural selection. The only way to dispense with evolution (by definition, a slow and gradual process) to obtain brains, cities, symphonies, or moral codes would be resorting to randomness, as Ludwig Boltzmann (the formula of entropy, S = k x log w, is written on his tombstone in a Vienna cemetery) hypothesised more than a century ago. According to the Austrian physicist, the universe will witness the spontaneous creation of brains, as a result of random fluctuations (after all, brains are only combinations of a large number of particles), if there is an infinite amount of time ahead of it: they are called Boltzmann’s brains, devoid of body but with all the information and memories of any human brain at some moment of its existence, that would be floating in the immensity of cosmos after his sudden and extremely improbable appearance out of the chaos.
To achieve life and intelligence without evolution would be much more improbable than to get Don Quixote written by entrusting an immortal monkey with the task of uninterruptedly touching at random the keys of a computer. Or by making correspond each letter of Cervantes’ novel, from the first to the last in a perfect order, to what is arranged by a gigantic roll of a non-biased 27 sided dice (one for each character). Since the Big Bang there has not been enough time in the universe for such things to happen… but they end up happening if time is not limited!
For evolution-selection to happen, time is also needed, though much less thanks to the self-organizing power of order (i.e., negative entropy or negentropy). I don’t remember who once said that time is what makes consciousness not instantly perceive – like sort of an omniscient mind- all the events of the universe. We would be God if we were omniscient, but our life as individuals would be devoid of any meaning or purpose: concepts that are not alien to anyone in a carnal suit like goodness, evil, beauty, art, love, learning, pleasure, suffering, hope, or happiness (all of them, of course, lodged in the brain) would completely vanish.
Everything that exists in the kingdom of living things has survived the sieve of natural selection, or it’s a maladjustment doomed to disappear in the short term. Good and evil, beautiful and ugly, adorable and hateful, compassionate and cruel, are all around us because they have been functional for the survival of their carriers (except in the case of maladjustments, ephemeral by their very nature, such as pointed before). That is, because they have made living organisms adapt to the evolution of the Universe, in turn determined by its initial state and laws. Emergent phenomena such as intelligence, consciousness, and morality are among the great works of a blind, unconscious and amoral natural selection that works simply by elimination: non-adaptive mutations are pruned without mercy. Continue reading “A journey toward perfection (maybe from nothing) thanks to natural selection”