Each month in the magazine, philosopher AC Grayling answers a question sent in by a Prospect reader. This month Richard Wilkins, of Watford, asks: “Can ethics be derived from evolution by natural selection?”
Given that human beings have evolved by natural selection (with genetic drift and some other factors perhaps assisting), and are ethical creatures, it follows ab esse ad posse that ethics can be derived from evolution by natural selection.
That, though, might not be to answer the purport of the question, which asks: would natural selection be sufficient to produce creatures with a consciousness of ethical principles and a tendency to wish to observe them and see them observed?
The idea might be that whereas other social animals have evolved behaviours that subserve the interests of their socialityâ€”dominance orderings, co-operation in hunting and watching for predatorsâ€”this does not amount to ethics, the idea of which