Morality is the Source of Biology (Physics, too)

One of the first books I ever bought for fun with my own money was The Biological Origin of Human Values, by George Edgin Pugh. I still have it. I remember buying it because it was a big, expensive book for a penniless college student; I visited it in the bookstore four times before I finally decided it was worth the money.

Pugh’s was one of the first in a long line of books that by now constitute a publishing genre unto themselves, of books that show how morality, religion, consciousness, love, and so forth reflect the logic of our situation as animals living among animals. This logic is interesting to a number of disciplines: economics, evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, game theory, genetic algorithms, cybernetics, control systems theory, information theory, neurophysiology, cognitive science – and of course, philosophy of mind. I was really into all that stuff. Together with biology, chemistry and physics, it seemed to me that these disciplines bid fair to explain pretty much everything about human beings. It was a Grand Synthesis, in which every level of analysis supervened tidily upon the levels below, so that they translated neatly into each other, with physics at the bottom. Nothing of human life seemed to be left out, at least in principle. It was a beautiful and compelling vision.

There were just two problems.

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