Re: poly: Re: Evolution of morality

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Thu Feb 12 1998 - 09:19:00 PST

Steve Witham writes:
>I think if you look at tyrants over large societies, the harem effect
>vanishes, while if you look at small groups, the benefit of raw
>criticism-suppression, even to the destruction of the group, vanishes.
>I'm not sure there's a middle ground where both happen, especially
>not if you want it to have been around long enough for an evolutionary
>effect. There could be older primate pecking-order stuff that
>*results in* criticism-suppression when smart humans act it out, but
>a direct connection between criticism-suppression and evolutionary
>benefit seems tenuous to me.
>There are other evolutionary reasons for criticism-suppression. Preserving
>culture against memetic drift over generations, for instance.

An interesting position. It seems to me that we are all familiar with many
sorts of "criticism suppression" mechanisms in the small social groups we
are members of, such as corporations and families and clubs. It is true
that any sort of weak group selection would prevent this from regularly
leading to the total destruction of all group members, but there may be room
for lots of weaker phenomena. I think we need to better understand the
fitness functions of criticism suppression in small groups before we can
really understand it in the larger political context.

However, most of us are familiar with many

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Thu Feb 12 17:22:10 1998

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