The Evolution of Ethics
A goal implicit in human evolution is survival; thus, humanity directs some of
its energy toward creating a state of peace to achieve the necessary efficiency
and conservation of energy to survive in a hostile and sometimes unpredictable
The foundation of the emergence of rule systems in the world is built upon
centuries of reasoned insight and personal experiences that reveal which actions
are better than others, which are productive, and which are disruptive and
should be avoided. As efficient actions reveal themselves to an evolving
society, its people develop the means to make productive choices between one
type of action and another. Some choices are decidedly better than others. This
prioritizing of human actions into efficient hierarchies establishes the
foundations of rule systems which later refine themselves into more
sophisticated systems of morals, manners and statutory laws. All these systems
have a tendency to address the fundamental need of the human species to survive
and avoid the common fate of extinction by conserving energy and directing
social attention towards more productive kinds of behavior. It could be said
that as civilization approaches the ideal of efficiency, the harmony that
follows from efficient and thoughtful actions inspires a state of peace that
exponentially increases the chances of human civilization surviving over long
periods of time.
Social change has more or less followed the more reasoned logic and experiences
of people. Change is not always perfect. However, as people experience more and
learn more about their world through formal education, they have more resources
by which they can make judgments about the behavior of their fellow humans.
Knowledge of the past lends to enlightened minds a knowledge of the future.
Common education and experiences inspire the emergence of informal belief
systems, clarifying what appears to be acceptable behavior and what is not.
Observations that endure centuries of reasoned scrutiny integrate ultimately
into the cultural ethic. As a rule of thumb, an action that contributes to the
disorganization of society is often considered "wrong" and that which
contributes to the organization of society "right." Behaviors that corrupt the
peace, prosperity, and productivity of a society are generally discouraged as
"wrong," in favor of behaviors which contribute to the well-being of the society
and are generally considered "right." In any event, the evolution of rules in
complex societies addresses the fundamental impulse of the human species to
survive in a world of competing biological systems.
Ethical systems and formal laws together serve to bring order to a world that
tends to become disorganized and sometimes violent if ethical views and rules of
conduct are not established. Ethical systems that emerge for any given period of
historical development may not represent the finest of rules ever conceived, but
they are sufficient to hold the...