Evolution and Value
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Evolution and Value

Abstract

Values are a universal attribute of humankind. All humans have moral values; that is, they accept standards according to which their conduct is judged right or wrong, good or evil. People have also other sorts of values: economic, aesthetic, gastronomic, and so on. Where do moral values come from? Some moral values are widespread and perhaps universal, like not to kill, not to steal, and to honor one’s parents. But the moral values by which people judge their behavior vary at present from culture to culture and have changed in important ways through historical times. Different ethnic groups, different nationalities, different tribes, and even different individuals exhibit different moral values and different norms by which they evaluate their actions. Think of the difference between a modern American and an Islamic fundamentalist with respect to the rights of women, or between most modern Americans and the official doctrine of the current Russian government concerning homosexuality.2 Darwin expressed horror at the burning of widows by Hindus and thought absurd the proscription of Muslim women to expose their faces.

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