Strict Limits

There was a really interesting question on the AskPhilosophy subreddit. Someone wanted to know why humans treat each other justly. It’s a great question – why do we (on the whole) treat each other ethically?

Why are we generally nice to each other, rather than killing and raping each other whenever we feel like it?

Some religious people might say that we’re good because God demands it of us. Think of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Humanists are likely to say that we can be good without God. This is more in line with my own thinking.

I replied to the question by saying I liked the answer given to us by evolutionary biology. Basically, humans are good to each other because it’s beneficial for the survival of our genes.

Most of the time, most people don’t kill or steal from each other, because doing so helps humans as a species to thrive.

It might seem a little cold to think that way, but out of all the possible explanations I’ve considered, this one seems to make the most sense to me.


My answer on the AskPhilosophy subreddit got removed by a moderator.

Apparently, if your answer comes from outside the philosophical literature, it isn’t valid.

This strikes me as pretty strange.

As far as I know, philosophers are interested in finding out the truth. Philosophy shouldn’t reject a reasonable answer to a question simply because it didn’t fit with what previous famous philosophers thought!

Surely, if philosophy is interested in finding out the truth, they would be happy to accept whatever answer seemed closest to the truth, no matter which scientific discipline it came from.

And then I remembered…

Modern Science Has a Serious Problem

These days, science is hyper-specialised. Many scientists are focussed on just a tiny niche, a minute fraction of the totality of human knowledge.

This is understandable… these days humanity knows such a vast amount of information that it would be almost impossible for a single chemist to know absolutely everything about chemistry… never mind knowing everything from all of science!

Unfortunately, this hyper-specialisation can be detrimental to the overall advancement of science.

If evolutionary biology gives us a better, more accurate explanation for why humans are generally ethical towards each other, then that’s the answer we should all accept.

It’s dumb for modern philosophers to reject an idea simply because an evolutionary biologist (and not a philosopher) proposed it.

After all, it was philosophy which gave birth to modern science! That’s where the title of PhD came from! It literally means Doctor of Philosophy!

Science as a whole is about understanding the true nature of reality. That’s its underlying mission.

If we’re looking for the truth about objective reality, it shouldn’t matter which scientific discipline the best answer comes from. We should put our egos and petty tribalism to one side. We need to have open minds.

Modern physics has been stuck in a rut since the 1970s. We haven’t had a major leap forward in our understanding of the Universe since then. Maybe it’s time we tried thinking differently…

The Return of the Polymath?

Rather than training scientists to be hyper-specialised in one tiny area of one scientific discipline (like philosophy, or physics), perhaps we need people with much broader knowledge across many disciplines.

What if our scientific researchers understood biology AND chemistry AND physics AND mathematics AND philosophy AND psychology? Then they’d be in a great position to link ideas in novel ways, generating solutions which might never occur to hyper-specialists.

I’m certainly not clever enough to be a polymath, but I wish I was. I’m just a layman who has a general interest in many different branches of science. I don’t have any advanced degrees and I’d struggle to understand the technicalities of most scientific papers.

It’s the advancement of science as a whole that’s important to me, not just one tiny corner of it. I wish more people felt the same, including Reddit moderators.

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