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261. Evolution's Influence on Morality: Unraveling the Complex Nature of Human Existence


The quest to understand the meaning of human existence has persisted throughout history, with various theories and philosophies seeking to explain our purpose in the world. One such theory proposes that morality might be the reason behind our existence. This idea is explored by William Search in his books, which delve into the complex interplay of biology, psychology, and sociology in shaping our understanding of morality.

In this blog post, we will discuss the insights from Search's books, Why and Conversations with ChatGPT: Exploring the Theory of Morality and Existence, as we attempt to examine the relationship between morality and the human condition. We will delve into various aspects of morality, including kin selection, reciprocity, and moral motivation, examining the role these concepts play in the lives of both humans and non-human organisms. In doing so, we hope to shed light on the diverse perspectives and dimensions of morality, as well as encourage further exploration and research on this complex subject.

While Search's ideas on morality and existence are not widely accepted, they offer an interesting lens through which to consider the origins and functions of morality. By engaging with these ideas, we hope to deepen our understanding of the potential connections between our moral instincts and the broader human experience.

So, join us on this thought-provoking journey as we delve into the intricate world of morality, guided by the insights from William Search's works, and strive to explore the possible link between morality and human existence.

Understanding Kin Selection and Its Role in Morality

Kin selection plays a crucial role in understanding the evolution of altruistic behavior and morality in various species, including humans. The concept hinges on the idea that organisms should be able to determine kin relatedness in order to act in ways that increase the chances of their shared genes being passed on to future generations. As discussed in Why by William Search, organisms often rely on indirect cues to perceive kinship, as they cannot directly assess each other's genetic makeup.

Examples of kin selection in action can be found across the animal kingdom. For instance, Belding's ground squirrels rely on locality as a proxy for kinship, as individuals from the same area are more likely to be related. Similarly, boobies on the Galápagos Islands recognize their offspring based on location within a ring of guano that marks their nest. In some cases, this system can be exploited by parasitic species like cuckoos and cowbirds, which lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, tricking the hosts into raising the parasitic chicks as if they were their own kin.

Costly Helping and Reciprocity

While kin selection provides a compelling explanation for altruistic behavior among related individuals, it cannot account for every instance of costly helping. In certain cases, reciprocity offers an alternative explanation for such behavior. As detailed in Search's Why, reciprocity refers to the exchange of mutually beneficial acts between organisms, often displaced in time. The recipient of a favor is expected to later reciprocate, essentially closing an unstated deal.

Numerous examples of reciprocal behavior exist in various species. For example, vampire bats engage in reciprocal blood sharing, with one bat regurgitating a small amount of blood for another that has failed to find a meal. Over time, the roles are often reversed, with the original recipient now providing sustenance to the donor. Reciprocity is also observed in grooming behavior among primates, with individuals frequently reciprocating grooming or other social "favors."

However, reciprocal arrangements can be fragile and susceptible to cheaters who may exploit the system without upholding their end of the "bargain." Repeated encounters between individuals are critical in fostering reciprocity, as they help to establish trust and cooperation over time.

Moral Motivation or Intent: A Look into Neurophysiology and Psychology

In addition to examining the evolutionary aspects of morality, it is crucial to consider the mental phenomena underlying moral sentiments. As highlighted in William Search's Why, understanding the motives or intentions behind moral behavior is essential in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of morality itself.

Studying mental phenomena poses unique challenges for scientists, as these phenomena are not directly observable. Researchers must rely on various methods, including introspection, observation of others, and recently developed neurological imaging technologies. In doing so, they must be cautious not to anthropomorphize animals or interpret their behavior in purely human terms.

In his seminal work, The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that the moral sense could be an inevitable outcome of four elements: social instinct, memory, language, and habit. While this early proposal has its limitations, it remains a valuable starting point for understanding the evolution of moral motivation and intent.

Empathy and Sympathetic Concern in Non-Human Organisms

The investigation of moral motives in non-human organisms offers valuable insights into the evolution of morality. Numerous examples of sympathetic concern have been observed in various species, both in captivity and in the wild. In one notable instance, a female gorilla at the Brookfield Zoo rescued a three-year-old child who had fallen into her enclosure. The gorilla, named Binti Jua, cradled the unconscious boy, protected him from other gorillas, and carried him to a door where zookeepers could retrieve him, all while her own daughter clung to her back. Another similar case occurred at England's Jersey Zoo with a male gorilla named Jambo.

While these incidents could be dismissed as anecdotal, primatologist Frans de Waal defends their significance in the context of more systematic observations of empathy and sympathy among primates, both in captivity and in the wild. De Waal's research has documented various instances of sympathetic concern in non-human primates, which shed light on the evolution of moral motives in humans.

The examination of empathy and sympathetic concern in non-human organisms not only broadens our understanding of the roots of morality but also challenges our perspective on what it means to be moral beings. By investigating the behavior of these other species, we gain a deeper appreciation for the complexity of moral motivation and intent, as well as the potential origins of our own moral sentiments.


In this blog post, we have delved into the captivating ideas presented by William Search in his books, Why and Conversations with chatGPT: Exploring the Theory of Morality and Existence. Search posits that the reason behind human existence is rooted in morality, an intriguing theory that encourages us to reevaluate our understanding of what it means to be human. By examining the key points from Search's work, we have gained a deeper appreciation of the complex nature of morality and its role in our lives.

We have explored the importance of kin selection in shaping morality, looking at how organisms use indirect cues to perceive kinship and how this influences their behavior. By considering the role of costly helping and reciprocity, we have recognized that moral actions can emerge from both kin and non-kin interactions, shedding light on the intricate dynamics that drive cooperation and altruism.

Furthermore, we have investigated the neurophysiological and psychological aspects of moral motivation and intent, acknowledging the challenges of studying mental phenomena and the pioneering work of Charles Darwin in this field. By examining empathy and sympathetic concern in non-human organisms, we have seen how these behaviors can offer valuable insights into the evolution of moral motives in humans.

The study of morality and existence from various perspectives, including biology, psychology, and sociology, is essential to develop a comprehensive understanding of the human experience. Each of these disciplines offers unique insights, revealing the intricate tapestry that forms the foundation of our moral lives. By synthesizing these diverse perspectives, we can begin to unravel the enigma of human existence and the role morality plays in shaping our behavior, choices, and relationships.

While we have only scratched the surface of this fascinating topic, the work of William Search serves as an excellent starting point for further exploration and research. As we continue to delve into the complex nature of morality and its role in human existence, we must remain open to new perspectives, discoveries, and interpretations that challenge our understanding and prompt us to reevaluate our assumptions.

In conclusion, the journey to comprehend the reasons behind our existence and the role of morality in our lives is a rich and rewarding endeavor. By engaging with the ideas presented by William Search in his books and beyond, we can foster a deeper appreciation of our own moral nature, as well as that of the world around us. As we move forward, let us continue to explore, question, and seek understanding, embracing the complexities and mysteries that define our shared human experience.

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