As described in the section “It is intrinsic to physical reality and universal”, Evolutionary Morality is evolution’s solution to a problem shared by all intelligent independent agents. Both the problem and the common core of its two main solutions (one biological and one cultural) are innate to our physical reality.
Morality overcomes the problem of getting people to altruistically forgo their short term self interest in order to sustainably obtain the synergistic benefits of cooperation in groups. This problem can be solved by a) beings being motivated to accept the short term cost of not exploiting other cooperators, and thereby benefiting other cooperators and b) punishment of beings who exploit other’s altruism.
Biological evolution implements this solution by evolving emotions such as empathy, loyalty, guilt and shame that motivate altruism, evolving the emotional experience of durable well-being that rewards altruistic cooperation in groups, and evolving the emotion indignation that motivates punishment of people who exploit altruism. All this biology is selected for by the reproductive fitness benefits of increased cooperation in groups.
As a parallel process, cultural evolution exploits this solution by selecting enforced cultural norms (enforced moral standards) that advocate altruism and punishing people who exploit altruism. These enforced moral standards are selected for by whatever benefits of cooperation in groups people find attractive; reproductive fitness benefits may not be present.
For reasons described in the Glossary, altruism is here defined as “Acting without consideration of future net benefits, at a cost to one’s self, and benefiting other people”.
Since the problem is species independent and a description of phenomena based in physics, Evolutionary Morality is intrinsic to reality and universal.
Evolutionary Morality’s underlying moral principle:
“Altruistic acts that also increase the benefits of cooperation in groups are moral.”
Regardless of how random past and present enforced moral standards appear, this is what the underlying principle of virtually all of them is, and always has been. This moral principle is universal because it is defined by “The universal primary reason that enforced social norms exist is they increase the benefits of altruistic cooperation in groups”. This universal function also implies “Acts that decrease the benefits of cooperation in groups are immoral” which is usually left unstated.
There is also an important corollary (a not necessarily obvious logical consequence) of the universal principle. It is a corollary because any two groups together form a larger group with, almost always, available synergistic benefits of cooperation within the combined group. As a matter of logic, the universal principle applies to the combined group just as it does within a group.
That corollary moral principle is:
“Altruistic acts that also increase the benefits of cooperation between groups are moral.”
This corollary implies “Acts that decrease the benefits of cooperation between groups are immoral”, which is also usually left unstated.
While a logical consequence of the universal moral principle, this corollary moral principle is not culturally universal itself. It has been commonly violated by past and present enforced cultural norms.
Cultures often ignored this secondary moral principle and cooperated together in in-groups (such as slave owners or men) to exploit out-groups (such as slaves or women). These in-groups were guilty of implementing norms consistent with what I call the Dark Side of the universal moral principle, groups increasing their benefits by exploiting or ignoring other groups and thus reducing the potential benefits of cooperation between groups.
In these group’s defense, in hostile environments with lots of people ready to exploit any altruism (which is not the case in the above examples of the exploitation of slaves and women), preferentially altruistically cooperating in subgroups and exploiting out-groups may sometimes be the only strategy likely to get over the “selfishness barrier” and thus be able to exploit the benefits of altruistic cooperation. In some environments, banding together into more cooperative subgroups, such as families or religions, that discriminate against people in out-groups may be the best, or even only, way to limit exploitation of altruism and thus maintain altruistic cooperation. However, once groups have established enforced cultural norms (moral standards) and are enjoying their benefits, the potential benefits of cooperation between groups should enable selection of enforced norms advocating altruism not just within groups, but between groups.
Evolutionary Morality is the basis of biological evolutionary adaptations (moral emotions) that, when triggered, motivate altruism
Prior to the emergence of culture, biological evolution exploited altruistic cooperation strategies for increasing the reproductive fitness benefits of cooperation in groups. Selection for our moral emotions such as empathy, loyalty, indignation, and pleasure in the cooperative company of friends and family predated culture and form much of our inner workings that make us social animals. When triggered, this biology motivates altruistic acts that, on average, increased the reproductive fitness benefits of cooperation in groups for our ancestors.
Evolutionary Morality is the basis of cultural evolutionary adaptations (enforced cultural norms) that advocate altruism
Evolutionary Morality can be understood as the set of cultural evolutionary adaptations, some more effective than others, composed of virtually all past and present enforced cultural norms (enforced moral standards), all of which advocate altruism. See Explanatory power for myriad facts.
Further, our common and persistent ideas and intuitions about what is ‘just’ are similarly fallible heuristics, actually enforced cultural norms or just biology based moral intuitions, which are common and persistent due to their ability to increase the benefits of cooperation in groups.
The picture can be interpreted as Lady Justice symbolically administering Evolutionary Morality.
I like the symbolism of the sword, whose importance has been long recognized regarding justice and rule of law, but whose importance relative to morality was not evident, at least to me, till revealed by game theory. Of course, regarding enforced cultural norms, the sword may only represent social disapproval, but, as game theory shows, even that comparatively dull and light a sword remains critical for maintaining a civil society.