The evolution of human morality
Human morality developed in small face-to-face groups in which humans lived for the last hundreds of thousands of years. In these environments those who succeeded protected themselves against hostile out-groups, butchered animals, prioritized the welfare of themselves and their kin and managed to maintain a moral reputation while finding available opportunities for cheating.
Human moral limitation are plain in a world that is so different compared to the environment in which we evolved. Now we are aware of the suffering of billions of strangers and trillions of animals, our moral inconsistencies are magnified by surveillance, and we must prevent artificial agents developing a morality completely antithetical to our survival.
How does our evolved morality cope with this novel ethical landscape and will we allow ourselves moral enhancement?
Diana Fleischman grew up in in the Southern United States in a religious and conservative area where evolution was not taught in school. At 12 Diana earned the moniker “monkey girl” for fervently endorsing evolution to teachers and peers. Attending both Catholic church and synagogue further formed the foundation of a sceptical perspective on religion. During a formative year at the LSE shortly after the September 11th attacks, Diana read Dawkins and other evolutionists extensively, kindling an obsession with atheism and evolutionary psychology.
As an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, Diana teaches and researches many different topics including disgust, human sexuality and biological bases of behaviour. Involvement with effective altruism, a movement that aims to use evidence to accomplish the most good in terms of human and non-human wellbeing, prompted Diana to more deeply consider human morality its evolution and shortcomings, the topic of this Darwin Day talk.
Diana is a sentientist, someone who prioritizes the capacity to suffer as the basis for moral consideration.
Find her on Twitter @Sentientist.