Now we've been having just the nicest discussion in the comments section of my post on the part in this series, and the defenders of the neoDarwinists have been having a hard time understanding the masked philosopher's arguments. Maybe this post will clarify things for them.
Or maybe not.
In any case, I notice Adum Gurri has jumped into the fray here with some salient points about what Vulgar Moralist actually said (as opposed to what his critics on this blog misinterpreted him as saying), and I wanted to point out his own very excellent blog, Sophistpundit, which I just discovered after Googling his name. I'll be putting it (along with a few other things) on my blogroll shortly.
And by the way, this discussion brings to mind the BBC debate between Catholic philosopher Frederick Copleston and atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell, a materialist from an earlier era. Here is a sampling of the discussion on morality:
Copleston: ...Yes, but what's your justification for distinguishing between good and bad or how do you view the distinction between them?Russell seems to be a little more honest than some of the neoDarwinists about the shifting sand upon which their moral position is built.
Russell: I don't have any justification any more than I have when I distinguish between blue and yellow. What is my justification for distinguishing between blue and yellow? I can see they are different.
C: Well, that is an excellent justification, I agree. You distinguish blue and yellow by seeing them, so you distinguish good and bad by what faculty?
R: By my feelings.
C: By your feelings. Well, that's what I was asking. You think that good and evil have reference simply to feeling?
R: Well, why does one type of object look yellow and another look blue? I can more or less give an answer to that thanks to the physicists, and as to why I think one sort of thing good and another evil, probably there is an answer of the same sort, but it hasn't been gone into in the same way and I couldn't give it [to] you.
C: Well, let's take the behavior of the Commandant of Belsen. That appears to you as undesirable and evil and to me too. To Adolf Hitler we suppose it appeared as something good and desirable, I suppose you'd have to admit that for Hitler it was good and for you it is evil.
R: No, I shouldn't quite go so far as that. I mean, I think people can make mistakes in that as they can in other things. if you have jaundice you see things yellow that are not yellow. You're making a mistake.
C: Yes, one can make mistakes, but can you make a mistake if it's simply a question of reference to a feeling or emotion? Surely Hitler would be the only possible judge of what appealed to his emotions.
R: It would be quite right to say that it appealed to his emotions, but you can say various things about that among others, that if that sort of thing makes that sort of appeal to Hitler's emotions, then Hitler makes quite a different appeal to my emotions.
C: Granted. But there's no objective criterion outside feeling then for condemning the conduct of the Commandant of Belsen, in your view?
R: No more than there is for the color-blind person who's in exactly the same state. Why do we intellectually condemn the color-blind man? Isn't it because he's in the minority? ...