Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 287–301 | Cite as

Does evolutionary biology contribute to ethics?

  • Patrick Bateson


Human propensities that are the products of Darwinian evolution may combine to generate a form of social behavior that is not itself a direct result of such pressure. This possibility may provide a satisfying explanation for the origin of socially transmitted rules such as the incest taboo. Similarly, the regulatory processes of development that generated adaptations to the environment in the circumstances in which they evolved can produce surprising and sometimes maladaptive consequences for the individual in modern conditions. These combinatorial aspects of social and developmental dynamics leave a subtle but not wholly uninteresting role for evolutionary biology in explaining the origins of human morality.


Evolution Incest Taboo Ethics Behavioral Development 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Bateson
    • 1
  1. 1.Sub-Department of Animal BehaviourUniversity of CambridgeMadingley CambridgeEngland

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