Post-script on the implication of “Have outdated moral guidelines hijacked our evolution?”

First off you may read an introduction of contemporary environmental ethics here (not required but in case you are interested).

The notion that we ought to aim for a good relationship and maintain a good state of Mother Nature might of course trigger unease in some. The point is not to propose we need to give up everything for a better Mother Nature (as with the logic in hardcore consequentialism, as well as the “us vs. them” paradigm), rather, it is a proposition that bears “violence to nature is violence to humans” in essence, there is thus no implicit problem of using humans as a means to a better end of the state of ecosystems, because a respectful and good relationship with Mother Nature is the foundation to having truly respectable and respected humans. Secondly, there are also different levels of morality, I maintain that having the motivation to strive and improve/maintain harmony with Mother Nature constitutes the highest form of morality (which is hard to achieve in essence, hence giving morality its nobility). It doesn’t mean that merely failing to do so rendered you immoral, it just means that you likely receded to a lower form of morality1.

In the matters of social instincts and cultural habits, whenever they go in conflict with ecological reality, it basically means a series of natural selection will take place sooner or later to morph these tendencies i.e., the very definition of evolution is equivalent to the abandonment of certain old instincts in the face of change, and it must be accepted as a cold, hard truth. Therefore, it is arguably pointless to place too much importance to maintain, nor totally reject these “lower forms of morality” at any point in time as if they are some sacred, unchanging laws. As such, this approach of conceiving morality is merely to be brutally honest that humans are not perfect, and never will, in fact no beings are in the grand scheme of eternal change. Consequentialist ethics focus on the net balance of outcomes that are affected by how we act each and every time, but the particular facts of ecological reality put forward here are immutable and hence acting in accordance to these first principles in mind does not imply some sort of consequentialism or utilitarianism at its core. It is thus closer to virtue ethics (frugality, prudence, a respectful and grateful attitude towards nature, etc.), by recognizing and accepting the place and “telos” of ourselves bounded by the knowledge of ecological reality (first what should I be, second what should I do). Nonetheless, no matter which school of ethics one prefers, if one is honest enough, they should recognize the ultimate purpose, the “telos” of morality itself is to warrant human well-being through space and time (and now I argue the only plausible way to achieve this is by honoring ecological reality), not as an immediate calculable consequence to be judged every time we make a small decision, but as a general criterion which we can look back in history to reflect.

Could there be a danger by excessively forcing people out of their instincts and habits? Perhaps, but I would argue that excessive coercion that could cause psychological problems is not present when there is a deep awareness of ecological reality from the agent itself. Furthermore, any healthy rate of change of the biosphere should not require the radical abandonment of old instincts to begin with. Complemented with an external i.e., peer rewards mechanism (which we have done in many ways already), I don’t see it being a big problem.


1. A friendly reminder that morality is detached from legality, you will likely not get legal punishments anyway for merely being less moral. Being more moral should simply get you rewarded socially e.g., via receiving more respect. Morality is a social concept.