Very short version of what could be a very long discussion.
Hypothesize for a moment that the purpose of a human is to create more humans and thus spread their genetic material. Hypothesize further that we are a "pack" animal, and thus the survival of the DNA of the group is more important than the DNA of the individual. Both of these hypotheses seem to match the generally accepted thrust of behavioralism.
This allows us to explain those attributes of humans which large numbers of us seem to regard as valuable and noble, including the contradictory concepts of "self-sacrifice", "women and children first", "patriotism" and "service" of one sort or another as well as the fairly universally accepted idea of the "golden rule".
It also explains those things we generally regard with distaste, genocide, the slaughter of children - things which when men have performed them, they have historically ascribed them to "gods" as the horror of it is otherwise too great to be borne, even when the identification is largely with the tribe rather than the species. It also explains things for which the answers are even more difficult, like the killing of children when the pack is threatened (i.e. the children would not survive without the adults), and group suicide (perhaps this will change the attitude of the people causing it).
So, granting my hypotheses, any action which tends to lead to the propagation of your group, and ultimately your species is de facto an ethical action. This can include actions which would otherwise be very difficult to reconcile with ethical behavior. For example, the execution of competing groups in situations where resources are limited, or where the similarities are such that it is likely that genetic confusion could occur.
For myself I have formulated it as "Do no unnecessary harm to any other member of your species, and minimize any harm which is necessary to your species or others." This seems to match both the "golden rule" and evolutionary necessity.
Now let us remove the hypothesis.
Is there some other explanation for the behavior which I described above? Programming? I doubt it. The behavior we see in humans (including rape, murder, promiscuity and acts of "insane courage") are visible in other primates and indeed in other species. What other "simple" explanations are possible for these ranges of behavior from the sublime to the obscene (defined as acting in contradiction to genetic necessity)?
I couldn't see any, obvious alternates, and have assumed the position that these hypotheses are valid and basic. Obviously, formulating a modern system of ethics is a greatly more complex process than that which I describe here, yet with the "golden rule" entrenched on a solid foundation as the basis for an ethical system, I suspect that any extentions (including mine - which essentially boil down to attempting not to deny reality as I perceive it, to act as consistently and helpfully to my friends as possible, to identify and act in my own interests and for my own enjoyment where it does not contravene more fundamental rules, to treat all people as being friendly and sensible until proven otherwise, to propagate rational thought, to identify the ethical grounds for my actions and maintain them consistently - in more or less that order) would meet most peoples' definition of ethical behaviour. Surprisingly, it quite often allows me to meet most modern peoples' ideas of moral behaviour (most probably largely because of shared cultural values) but frequently leads me to butt heads quite hard with religious people. Simply because I refuse to accept their rules as binding.
If I had so little self esteem that I felt like fucking an animal, and did not consider that I would harm it (or more to the point, that the virii and bacteria carried by most animals would not harm me), I would do so and not feel an instant's remorse. As it is, I feel it to be both a dangerous and highly demeaning activity - so in this instance, my actions (which I have always considered to be at least as important as my words) would conform to more generally held standards of behaviour - although my words most certainly would not. For now, your cow is safe, at least from me :-)
Alternatives, as always, welcomed.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> [mailto:email@example.com]On Behalf
> Of psypher
> Sent: Monday, May 24, 1999 8:46 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: virus: Cow
> > Ethics is to my mind the best word (and system) to use.
> > I point out to people that the best kind of person to deal with is
> > the person who maintains high standards of ethics and shares your
> > values
> > regards Hermit
> ...you mentioned in an earlier post the idea of genetics as a ground
> for ethics. Care to explain?
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