Sociobiology and Moral Discourse

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Abstract:

In the intellectual lineage of sociobiology (understood as evolutionary social science), this article considers the place of moral discourse in the evolution of emergent systems for mediating behavior. Given that humans share molecular systems, reflex systems, drive systems, emotional systems, and cognitive systems with chimpanzees, why is it that human behavior is so radically different from chimpanzee behavior? The answer is that, unlike chimps, humans possess symbolic systems, empowering them to override chimplike default morality in favor of symbolically mediated moral codes. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the power of religious symbols to influence moral behavior by reprogramming emotional systems.

Keywords: Carl Linnaeus; behavior mediation systems; default morality; genetic determinism; moral discourse; override morality; social determinism; sociobiology

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0591-2385.00171

Affiliations: Luther College, Decorah, IA

Publication date: December 1, 1998

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