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At Big Think: What sort of ethics would aliens practice?

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If aliens are driven mostly by biological imperatives, humanity could be in big trouble if we ever meet technologically advanced beings.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch writes:


  • Ethics derived from biological evolution can be harsh — parasitism, invasiveness, and survival at all costs. 
  • Ethics derived from human culture is far more benevolent.  
  • Would alien ethics be based more on biology or culture? Let’s hope the latter.

In this season of religious holidays, when we cherish peace and goodwill, those of us who think about our place in the Universe might wonder what ethical standards aliens — particularly technologically advanced aliens — might follow if we someday encounter them. Would they be similar to the ethical standards of humans?

Credit: Henrique Alvim Corrêa

Before you scream “I HOPE NOT!” consider that society’s values have changed quite a bit over the last 10,000 years or so of human history. Even today, ethical standards vary a lot from culture to culture. But let’s use as a modern reference point the values enshrined in the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 1 of the Declaration states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” while Article 2 adds that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.”

Evolutionary ethics

Thinking beyond just our current civilization on Earth, we can distinguish between ethical standards derived from biological evolution and those derived from cultural evolution. Let’s start with biology. Nature prioritizes survival and reproduction above all, and in the high-stakes game of evolutionary competition, everything is allowed. Parasites even use other life forms to get the resources they need, with little regard for whether the host organism dies as a result. One particularly cruel example (from a human perspective) is parasitoid wasps, which lay their eggs inside their victims, after which the offspring devour their way out. Parasitic life forms are common on our planet; by some estimates they outnumber the non-parasites.

On the other hand, nature offers plenty of examples of cooperation. In extreme cases, one species literally cannot live without the other. Lichens, in fact, are a symbiotic partnership, a long-term biological relationship of cyanobacteria or algae with fungal species.

When it comes to survival, the species is more important than the individual organism. Mutations are nearly always bad news for individuals, but for a species they’re advantageous, because they are a key means by which the species adapts to changing environmental conditions. Seen from a species survival perspective, the individual has no real purpose after it procreates. Aging reduces its fitness to such a large degree that the organism generally dies quickly after reproducing.

Seen from a cultural context, however, older individuals still have a purpose, as they pass on expertise from one generation to the next, and can help care for their offspring’s offspring — the so-called grandmother effect. This has proven evolutionarily beneficial for humans. In this case biology and culture move in the same direction: to enhance the survival of the human species.

Cultural ethics

At other times, biological and cultural evolution point in different directions. A prime example is colonization. From a biological viewpoint, it’s completely normal. Every species practices some kind of colonization as it seeks out new habitats and resources. Those species that don’t go extinct. Of course, biological colonization often means that whatever indigenous species was there first is replaced by invaders. From a biological viewpoint, there’s nothing wrong with that. Whichever species is better suited to the environment will survive, and if both species are equally well-adapted, they both may thrive, but at lower numbers.

And yet, from a human cultural perspective, colonization has gotten a bad rap, particularly in the last centuries, when European nations’ aggressiveness often resulted in the suppression and sometimes even eradication of indigenous human populations.

In our latest meeting of the Einstein Forum, hosted at the Technical University Berlin, we considered some of these questions in discussing the possible colonization of the Moon and Mars. It became clear that our group’s eagerness to colonize the Red Planet with humans depends on whether we find indigenous life there or not. Cultural evolution has brought us to believe that indigenous life on a planet should be protected. This might not categorically rule out a human Mars colony but would strongly affect how it’s done. Think of the Prime Directive in Star Trek, which prohibits interference in another society’s evolution.

Alien ethics

Would an alien civilization have such qualms? If they’re highly evolved, they would probably realize that remaining stuck forever on their home planet poses a high risk of eventual extinction, a risk that can be mitigated by colonizing other habitable planets and moons. Would they be ruthless in pursuing their biological imperative, like the aliens in the movie Independence Day? Or would they follow a more culturally advanced strategy, respecting indigenous life, especially if that life is complex and possibly intelligent? If the latter, they might choose to colonize only planets and moons that are habitable but uninhabited. But if the aliens badly needed another planet’s resources, they might abandon these lofty principles and pivot back to biology to prioritize their own survival. 

The tension between biological and cultural imperatives may become more pronounced if conflict arises between a planet’s indigenous species and the new arrivals. On Earth, conflicts between different individuals of the same species or different species don’t necessarily result in violence or even death. But in predator-prey relationships, it’s typically “eat or be eaten.” Modern human society claims to favor non-violent conflict resolution, whether prompted by the UN Charter or the teachings of Jesus. The Russia-Ukraine war, though, reminds us that violence is too often still used to resolve a conflict.  

Would technologically advanced aliens, even “hungry” aliens, see us as a fellow intelligent species that deserves respect? That might lead them to settle disputes between us in a non-violent way. Or would they follow the cruel mandates of biology and take what they need — or, worse, see us a food source, or even pets?

The ethical standards of aliens could therefore vary tremendously, depending on whether culture or biology rules. We have a better chance of settling things peaceably if it’s the former. This is not to vilify the biological imperative, however. That’s what helped shape us into the species we are today.

Big Think

“Modern human society claims to favor non-violent conflict resolution, whether prompted by the UN Charter or the teachings of Jesus.” Most people agree on fundamental standards of morality, even if individually or corporately we fail to always live up to them. The biblical story says that we possess a conscience as part of how God made us. We also have a sin nature that can cause do what we know is wrong and even what we don’t want to do. The teachings of Jesus call us to “love our neighbor as our self.” Thank God for this counterpull to the evolutionary ethics of survival of the fittest.

EvilSnack/31 Harsh! But likely true.... chuckdarwin
The ability to project any effective military force across even interplanetary distances, let alone interstellar distances, requires a technological state that makes every practical motive for war (i.e., resources) moot. They will fly past more natural resources on their way to earth than they will ever get by conquering earth, and these resources will reside in much shallower gravity wells, to boot. They will be able to manufacturer goods with much greater quality and in much greater quantity than an equivalent effort could garner from enslaving humans. They won't want our planet to live on, because they can simply build space-based habitations to order. There remains one motive for any belligerence towards us: Ideology. If they want to conquer us, it will be from the will to power; if they want to make an end of us, it will be from an irrational hatred. There may possibly be a fig-leaf motive, but subjugation or extermination will be the end, and not the means to an end. EvilSnack
Sandy @29, It seems that PyrrhoManiac1 @28 posted a troll comment. To your point, anyone can claim to be a Christian, but relatively few actually follow and obey Christ's teachings as you're pointing out. For example, in Matthew 7, we read
18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven . . . 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
So, yes. I expect that there will be priests and popes, televangelists and theologians, and politicians and preachers who will richly deserve to find themselves being destroyed in hell, while repentant and forgiven prostitutes and pedophiles, burglars and beggars, and servants and slaves will be welcomed into the kingdom of God forever! Humanity is being filtered in this temporary world! -Q Querius
:) I didn't know that Christ said to enslave and kill people . I remember something about "love your enemy". But what do I know? Sandy
@24 I don't know why you seem to think that Douthat's criticism of Coyne has anything to do with what I've said. @25
As long as you tow the Christian line. But the crusades, the inquisition and hundreds of other religious wars suggest that this sense of neighbour does not apply to non-Christian’s or different Christian sects.
For sure, there's a long history of Christians enslaving, torturing, and massacring various non-Christian groups -- though in most of those cases, I think, the religious differences are just used to legitimize or rationalize the desire for trade routes, territory, or wealth. That's why a truly universal or cosmopolitan ethics, like we see articulated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, would need to not only be secular by going beyond Christian ethics but also acknowledging its conceptual and historical debt to Christian ethics (as well as to Stoic ethics, Confucian ethics, and other philosophies). PyrrhoManiac1
PM1/21 Bertrand Russell once quipped that most people would rather die than think…… chuckdarwin
SG at 25, Your quick, 5 second version of history isn't history. The atheist body count is tremendous. relatd
PM1: One of the things I like about Christianity is the idea that we are all neighbors.
As long as you tow the Christian line. But the crusades, the inquisition and hundreds of other religious wars suggest that this sense of neighbour does not apply to non-Christian’s or different Christian sects. Sir Giles
LOL at 20, Said with the full conviction that he is in control of what he is thinking and saying. :) Not to mention the fact that, under atheistic materialism, he is merely a neuronal illusion, i.e. an illusion who is under the illusion that he is control of what he is thinking and saying. :) An illusion having an illusion of control! :)
The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – Ross Douthat – January 6, 2014 Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession (by Coyne) that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary. https://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/the-confidence-of-jerry-coyne/?mcubz=3 Sam Harris: “The self is an illusion.” – Michael Egnor Demolishes the Myth of Materialism (Science Uprising EP1) https://youtu.be/Fv3c7DWuqpM?t=267
Romans 1:21-23 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
PM1 at 21, Too dismissive. People can be educated. relatd
the full conviction that he is in control of what he is saying.
Indeed, I am -- especially when writing. I'm not in fully control of everything that I think, which is different. I would hope you understanding that thinking, speaking, and writing are quite different activities. If you fail to grasp something that basic, I don't know what to say. To be more precise: speaking and writing are actions, but thinking, while an activity, is not an action: it is something that happens. I can set myself to thinking deliberately, but very often, the opposite takes place: it is while going for an aimless drive or walk that thoughts simply occur to me. I feel sad if you've never had the experience of having a new idea come to you, seemingly out of nowhere. It's one of life's great simple pleasures. PyrrhoManiac1
Do you know that average people don’t see a distinction between Marx and Stalin?
Yeah, most people are stupid and ignorant. Tell me something I don't know. PyrrhoManiac1
(1) rationality implies a thinker in control of thoughts.
So you insist. I simply disagree. And I've explained why several times. You have not responded to a single one of my arguments as to why I reject this premise. It is you who are acting contrary to reason, not I. PyrrhoManiac1
Let me repeat
Ethics/morality without a religious basis has been covered in detail in previous threads.
No need to have religion in order to have an ethics/morality. Religion definitely adds some very positive dimensions to ethics/morality. The Good Samaritan is one of the most powerful stories in history. jerry
PM1 at 17, Do you know that average people don't see a distinction between Marx and Stalin? Since the Russian Revolution and the takeover of the country by the Reds (Bolsheviks), the Russians attacked anyone they could. Poland, Finland, whoever. Where they were hindered by geography, they would get involved in the Spanish Civil War by sending equipment and aircraft. The 'Workers' Paradise' was a pure dictatorship. Atheism was the official State religion. Got that? When Polish General Anders was being led off to Lubyanka Prison (a former luxury hotel), his Blessed Virgin Mary pin fell to the ground. One of the guards said, "Do you think that *itch is going to help you in here?" Churches were being used to store ammunition. relatd
Get a clue. Stalin killed anyone he suspected. It didn’t matter what anybody else said. The truth is never lost. When Stalin killed off party members that appeared in photos, they were removed by airbrushing. Later photos were published, those killed were missing, and everyone knew not to question Stalin about it.
OK, but that doesn't substantially alter my main point: that Stalinism is an utter and complete perversion of everything Marx stood for, said, and did. Anyway, I only mentioned Marx because some people here seem to think we can make some robust weird counterfactual, like "if Stalin hadn't lost his faith by reading Darwin, he wouldn't have committed genocide against the kulaks" or something. Never mind that lots of people read Darwin and don't lose their faith, lots of devout Christians have committed genocide, and lots of Marxists recognize that Stalin's crimes were a complete betrayal of Marxism. But, in this age of misinformation and post-truth, I don't expect that anyone cares about such minor nuance. PyrrhoManiac1
All of PM1's philosophical posturing is for nought ever since he committed intellectual suicide,,,
Origenes: "Does rationality require a person who is in control of his thoughts?" PyrrhoManiac1: "No, I don’t think so." https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/mind/the-thought-that-stops-thought/#comment-771052 Game over. (1) rationality implies a thinker in control of thoughts. (2) under materialism a thinker is an effect caused by processes in the brain (determinism). (3) in order for materialism to ground rationality a thinker (an effect) must control processes in the brain (a cause). (1)&(2) (4) no effect can control its cause. Therefore materialism cannot ground rationality. per Box UD
There is nothing magic about ethics. They are simply a set of behaviours that a critical mass of individuals must agree to and follow if they want a functioning society.
Right, but that at most gives us a tribalistic ethics: each social group has its own norms that regulate social interaction for members of that group. Tribal groups are very good at waging war against their neighbors, with little restraint on acceptable conduct. One is permitted to do to strangers what would be punishable if done to one's neighbors. One of the things I like about Christianity is the idea that we are all neighbors. Similarity of social identity is not a limit to ethical community. PyrrhoManiac1
PM1 at 11, Get a clue. Stalin killed anyone he suspected. It didn't matter what anybody else said. The truth is never lost. When Stalin killed off party members that appeared in photos, they were removed by airbrushing. Later photos were published, those killed were missing, and everyone knew not to question Stalin about it. relatd
Seversky at 10, God could have made humans to be His robots. 100% obedient all the time. He didn't. He gave us free will. An enemy appeared, and the first man and woman blew it. So, here we are. relatd
There is nothing magic about ethics. They are simply a set of behaviours that a critical mass of individuals must agree to and follow if they want a functioning society. Sir Giles
@7 Peter Kropotkin in Mutual Aid (1902) and John Dewey in Human Nature and Conduct (1922) both demonstrate in great detail how a Darwinian view of evolution is compatible with (and explains) altruistic, cooperative behavior. Provine and Dawkins, of course, know nothing of this, because they are as ignorant of philosophy and history as most narrow-minded specialists in the sciences, and so when they venture to make philosophical claims, they make laughable mistakes. And while Marx and Engels were influenced by Darwin, people who have taken the time to actually read Marx and Engels understand what it is that they really appreciated in Darwin. Just in case anyone here is interested: what Marx appreciated about Darwin was Darwin's anti-teleological view of natural history: the evolution of life on Earth has no predetermined goal or destination. That is what he saw as "the basis in natural history for our view", by which he meant that human history had no predetermined goal or direction. The absolutely central thing about Marx is his deep, abiding faith in human potential. It was up to us to decide what kinds of societies we wanted to have, to change things as we thought best, and to pass along to our descendants a better world than the one we were given. (Whether that humanistic commitment requires abolishing capitalism, and if so, does that include 'by any means necessary', are separate questions.) Now, one might think, "gee, it seems like the idea that history is up to us to decide what we want to do with the world is the exact opposite of the idea that there is a predetermined goal to history and that nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of that goal." And that is indeed correct: Stalinism is the opposite of Marxism. And that is why Stalin killed all the great Soviet Marxists, like David Riazanov and Nikolai Bukharin, who dared say that what he was doing in the name of Marx was the opposite of what Marx and Engels actually said. Eventually the only people not killed were those craven and cowardly enough to say that Marxism was just whatever Stalin said it was. It is widely recognized that Orwell's Animal Farm is a satire of what Communism became in the Soviet Union, with the pigs Snowball and Napoleon representing Trotsky and Stalin. It is not widely recognized that the story begins with the dream of "Old Major", who is almost entirely based on Orwell's deep admiration for the British socialist William Morris. I mention this because Orwell understood with complete discernment that what Soviet Communism became under Stalin was an utter perversion of what Marx said and did. Unfortunately that understanding has been lost to the sands of time. PyrrhoManiac1
The biblical story says that we possess a conscience as part of how God made us. We also have a sin nature that can cause do what we know is wrong and even what we don’t want to do.
If God fitted us with a conscience then He must also have built in the capacity for sin. What would be the point given that, as an omniscient being, He would already know how we were going to behave? Seversky
Doubter at 8, You've read too much science fiction. Based on evolution, "aliens" could be Soviet-era warriors who kill anyone who gets in their way. They take what they want. Hopefully, they've already conquered hundreds of worlds and have all the planets and resources they know what to do with. So when we find them, all we'll get is a warning to stay away and that's that. relatd
The bottom line is that we are most concerned about this issue for reasons of the natural fear of possible aliens with the ability to harm or conquer us or wipe us out. To be of practical concern conflict and security-wise, aliens would have to have developed high technology. This would require the aliens to be intelligent of course, and they would also have to live in large groups and have cooperation a major feature of their necessarily highly organized and well functioning social structure, in order to be able to develop and live in the large population societies necessary for high technology infrastructure, specialization, etc. Aliens living in the water would be of no concern since technology itself starts with the harnessing of fire, which would be impossible for water living beings something like our octopuses. Anyway, since cooperation would necessarily be a major feature of these technology-developing societies, it is reasonable to infer that social rules of conduct would have to exist which enable this cooperation, perhaps based on something analogous to the Golden Rule. What would be most uncertain would be the specific alien social rules governing behavior in contact with inferior societies of "others", namely our own. The aliens could well likely have total disregard of the welfare of "others" especially alien others, in favor of exploitation or wiping them out for profit in land and resources (like the aliens in the movie "Independence Day"). The behavior of the Spanish conquistadors and American colonists is a perfect example, especially since these groups' genocidal behavior was despite religious principles and the Golden Rule. In interactions with "others", survival, aggrandizement and accumulation of wealth and power appear to always trump the Golden Rule in the only example we have of highly technological societies, namely our own. Intelligent tool using and high technology-developing aliens therefore (if human society is any example at all) will be a major threat to humankind if these aliens are significantly superior technologically. Be very very careful in contacting such beings, or perhaps the rule should be stay away at all costs. doubter
Nice to see Darwinists waxing poetic about morality. I just wish that they were also honest enough in their morality to stop pretending altruistic Christian morality can somehow find a basis in the survival of the fittest 'anti-morality' of Darwinian evolution,,, As the late William Provine honestly admitted, there simply is no foundation for ethics to be found in Darwinian evolution.
William Provine, RIP: Noble in His Honesty - September 3, 2015 Excerpt: "When you die, you’re not going to be surprised, because you’re going to be completely dead. Now if I find myself aware after I’m dead, I’m going to be really surprised! But at least I’m going to go to hell, where I won’t have all of those grinning preachers from Sunday morning listening. Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. What an unintelligible idea. https://evolutionnews.org/2015/09/william_provine/
If you don't like William Provine's honest admission, Richard Dawkins also honestly admitted that, in Darwinian atheism, morality simply does not exist , i.e. "no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
"In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” - Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life
In fact, not only can Darwinism not provide a foundation for morality, Darwinian 'survival of the fittest' morality, when it is allowed to play out unchecked in a society, and as the cruel inhumanity of atheistic tyrants in the 20th century testifies, is actually at war with altruistic Christian morality of the strong looking after the weak,, A few notes to that effect.
How Has Darwinism Negatively Impacted Society? – John G. West – January 11, 2022 Excerpt: Death as the Creator A third big idea fueled by Darwin’s theory is that the engine of progress in the history of life is mass death. Instead of believing that the remarkable features of humans and other living things reflect the intelligent design of a master artist, Darwin portrayed death and destruction as our ultimate creator. As he wrote at the end of his most famous work: “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”13 https://evolutionnews.org/2022/01/how-has-darwinism-negatively-impacted-society/ “One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.” – Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species “A stronger race will oust that which has grown weak; for the vital urge, in its ultimate form, will burst asunder all the absurd chains of this so-called humane consideration for the individual and will replace it with the humanity of Nature, which wipes out what is weak in order to give place to the strong.” – Adolf Hitler – Mein Kampf – pg 248 “for, as we have just seen, the ways of national evolution, both in the past and in the present, are cruel, brutal, ruthless, and without mercy.,,, Meantime let me say that the conclusion I have come to is this: the law of Christ is incompatible with the law of evolution as far as the law of evolution has worked hitherto. Nay, the two laws are at war with each other; the law of Christ can never prevail until the law of evolution is destroyed.” – Sir Arthur Keith, (1866 — 1955) Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons – Evolution and Ethics (1947) p.15 Darwin on Marx – by Richard William Nelson | Apr 18, 2010 Excerpt: Marx and Engels immediately recognized the significance of Darwin’s theory. Within weeks of the publication of The Origin of Species in November 1859, Engels wrote to Marx – “Darwin, by the way, whom I’m reading just now, is absolutely splendid. There was one aspect of teleology that had yet to be demolished, and that has now been done…. One does, of course, have to put up with the crude English method.” Marx wrote back to Engels on December 19, 1860 – “This is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our view.” The Origin of Species became the natural cause basis for Marx’s emerging class struggle movement. In a letter to comrade Ferdinand Lassalle, on January 16, 1861, Marx wrote – “Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.” Marx inscribed “sincere admirer” in Darwin’s copy of Marx’s first volume of Das Kapital in 1867. The importance of the theory of evolution for Communism was critical. In Das Kapital, Marx wrote – “Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature’s Technology, i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, of organs that are the material basis of all social organisation, deserve equal attention?” To acknowledge Darwin’s influence, Marx asked to dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin. https://www.darwinthenandnow.com/2010/04/darwin-on-marx/ “V.I. Lenin, creator of the Soviet totalitarian state, kept a little statue on his desk—an ape sitting on a pile of books including mine [The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life], gazing at a human skull. And Mao Zedong, butcher of the tens of millions of his own countrymen, who regarded the German ‘Darwinismus’ writings as the foundation of Chinese ‘scientific socialism.’ This disciple mandated my works as reading material for the indoctrination phase of his lethal Great Leap Forward.” – Nickell John Romjue, I, Charles Darwin, p. 45 Stalin’s Brutal Faith Excerpt: At a very early age, while still a pupil in the ecclesiastical school, Comrade Stalin developed a critical mind and revolutionary sentiments. He began to read Darwin and became an atheist. G. Glurdjidze, a boyhood friend of Stalin’s, relates: “I began to speak of God, Joseph heard me out, and after a moment’s silence, said: “‘You know, they are fooling us, there is no God. . . .’ “I was astonished at these words, I had never heard anything like it before. “‘How can you say such things, Soso?’ I exclaimed. “‘I’ll lend you a book to read; it will show you that the world and all living things are quite different from what you imagine, and all this talk about God is sheer nonsense,’ Joseph said. “‘What book is that?’ I enquired. “‘Darwin. You must read it,’ Joseph impressed on me” 1 1 E. Yaroslavsky, Landmarks in the Life of Stalin (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing house, 1940), pp. 8-12. ,,, http://www.icr.org/article/stalins-brutal-faith/ Darwin and Mao: The Influence of Evolutionary Thought on Modern China – 2/13/2013 Excerpt: Mao and his fellow Communists, “found in Marxism what seemed to them the fittest faith on Earth to help China to survive.” He concludes his article thus: “This was not, of course, all Darwin’s doing, but Darwin was involved in it all. To believe in Marxism, one had to believe in inexorable forces pushing mankind, or at least the elect, to inevitable progress, through set stages (which could, however, be skipped). One had to believe that history was a violent, hereditary class struggle (almost a ‘racial’ struggle); that the individual must be severely subordinated to the group; that an enlightened group must lead the people for their own good; that the people must not be humane to their enemies; that the forces of history assured victory to those who were right and who struggled.” Who taught Chinese these things? Marx? Mao? No. Darwin. https://nonnobis.weebly.com/blog/darwin-and-mao-the-influence-of-evolutionary-thought-on-modern-china Atheism’s Body Count * It is obvious that Atheism cannot be true; for if it were, it would produce a more humane world, since it values only this life and is not swayed by the foolish beliefs of primitive superstitions and religions. However, the opposite proves to be true. Rather than providing the utopia of idealism, it has produced a body count second to none. With recent documents uncovered for the Maoist and Stalinist regimes, it now seems the high end of estimates of 250 million dead (between 1900-1987) are closer to the mark. The Stalinist Purges produced 61 million dead and Mao’s Cultural Revolution produced 70 million casualties. These murders are all upon their own people! This number does not include the countless dead in their wars of outward aggression waged in the name of the purity of atheism’s world view. China invades its peaceful, but religious neighbor, Tibet; supports N. Korea in its war against its southern neighbor and in its merciless oppression of its own people; and Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge kill up to 6 million with Chinese support. All of these actions done “in the name of the people” to create a better world. https://www.scholarscorner.com/atheisms-body-count-ideology-and-human-suffering/
As should be needless to say, the ANTI-morality inherent in “Death as the Creator”, and in “let the strongest live and the weakest die”, is directly opposed to the primary Christian ethic of the strong looking after the weak. i.e. altruism
Matthew 25:34-40 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Of supplemental note:
Darwin’s (falsified) predictions – altruism – Cornelius Hunter Conclusions “Darwin’s theory of evolution led him to several expectations and predictions, regarding behavior in general, and altruism in particular. We now know those predictions to be false.,,,” https://sites.google.com/site/darwinspredictions/altruism
:) Ethics and morality don't derive from biology. Biology was created by God to make morality as leading actor and imposible to be avoided. I mean can be avoided by all of us , a thief, cheater, a criminal but we all know that we ignored the morality and that is in itself a (i)moral choice. Everybody thinks in moral terms. Funny if a thief steal a car and then go to a filling station and find out that the cashier want to cheat him with 2 $ he become angry because somebody wants to steal from him . I've seen many examples like that. :) Sandy
I think the ethics would depend on the alien social structure. The ethics of aliens that do not live in social groups will be different that those that live in small family groups, which will be different than those that live in large groups. Sir Giles
I posted my comment before reading what was posted from Schulze-Makuch. Damn, was that ever a piece of trash. Embarrassing. PyrrhoManiac1
Well, theological reflections are all well and good, but let's consider them in relation to a naturalistic reflection. The question "would aliens be ethical?" is a nice question, though I suspect that the more pressing question would be "would the ethical systems of humans and aliens be compatible?" I'll assume that by "aliens" we mean intelligent aliens, since no one cares whether the bacteria analogues from Europa or Alpha Centauri (or wherever) are ethical agents. One rather big question would be, what evolutionary pressures led to the emergence of intelligence that made intelligence an adaptive trait? In primates and most mammals, there's a loose correlation between absolute number of cortical neurons* and complexity of social dynamics. But there is a group of animals on this planet that evolved intelligence -- sophisticated hunting, tool-use, and problem-solving -- completely independently of all vertebrates. They are the closest we can come to experiencing aliens without escaping Earth's gravity well. I am referring, of course, to cephalopods. Octopuses and their kin are curious, sophisticated, excellent problem-solvers, devious hunters -- and for the most part, completely solitary. As largely solitary animals, they never evolved ethics. So the question "would aliens be ethical?" is in part a question of "were the evolutionary pressures that led to the emergence on that world more like those of primates or cephalopods?" The question, "would the ethics of aliens and humans be compatible?" depends on the possibility of communication. If we can communicate with them and we can understand each other, then there's the possibility of mutual understanding. If we can understand their assertions and they can understand ours, then there's the possibility of successful cooperation between beings that recognize each other as moral equals or (shall we say) as persons. So the really hard question would be, "if non-terrestrial intelligent beings recognized each other as persons, and if we humans recognize each other as persons, then under what conditions (if any) would we and they be able to bridge the biological, cultural, and linguistic gulfs and recognize each other as persons, despite originating from completely different biospheres separated by light-years of vacuum?" * Not brain volume, but the number of neurons and hence interconnections. Primates have smaller neurons that other mammals, so we can pack more computational power into equivalent volume. PyrrhoManiac1
Ethics/morality without a religious basis has been covered in detail in previous threads. That the aliens exist with an advanced civilization indicates survival as a goal. It also indicates cooperation as a strategy for thriving. Does survival of an advanced civilization indicate that power is not predominant? jerry
I would say that there are no evolutionary ethics given the problem of deriving "ought" from "is". Spencer's phrase "survival of the fittest" is a description not a recommendation. Seversky

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