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In my discipline of philosophy, we have several hundred years of really good, deep, wonderful work in ethics that is completely secular. And it is understood, if not articulated very often, that of course if you want to argue in favor of legislation or a change in attitude about morality, you don't argue it on the basis of what it says in the Bible or the Koran or any old text. You argue on a secular basis. The secular tradition of political affairs and ethics has been growing for several thousand years.
Reason: Albeit at a very slow rate relative to a single human life. The fact of the matter is that people do still argue what the Koran or the Bible says.
Dennett: But it hasn't gone backwards ever. There are setbacks, but the march of secular reason has been doing very well for several thousand years.
Reason: You part company with the left on the question of human nature. The left has traditionally claimed that human nature is completely malleable, a blank slate, on which you can inscribe whatever cultural or political aspirations you want.
Dennett: The blank slate is a preposterous myth, and it's interesting to see how it has been fostered by some on the left as well as some on the right. But the idea that human nature is unadjustable, unexploitable, unbuildable is also baloney.
Reason: So to summarize: Morality evolved to get us past our tendency to short-run selfishness. It's a way of helping us make better decisions in the long run. Is that fair?
Dennett: Yes, that's right. Morality is the cultural artifact for improving the circumstances under which we have to act.
Reason: So human beings are still selfish, but we have developed enlightened selfishness. We can understand the consequences of our actions and control them.
Dennett: There's a Robert Frank quip in the book: It turns out that the way to seem moral is to be moral.
Reason: So morality evolves largely because people get more benefits than not out of it.
Dennett: Yes. Civilization is a good deal.