incline creatures like ourselves to make sacrifices

NewAmerica

Senior Member
Mandarin
Does "incline creatures like ourselves to make sacrifices" mean "make creatures like ourselves incline to sacrifices"?

Thanks in advance

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Many people imagine that the theory of evolution entails selfishness as a biological imperative. This popular misconception has been very harmful to the reputation of science. In truth, human cooperation and its attendant moral emotions are fully compatible with biological evolution. Selection pressure at the level of “selfish” genes would surely incline creatures like ourselves to make sacrifices for our relatives, for the simple reason that one’s relatives can be counted on to share one’s genes: while this truth might not be obvious through introspection, your brother’s or sister’s reproductive success is, in part, your own.

-Sam Harris (The Moral Landscape Page 41)
 
  • kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Does "incline creatures like ourselves to make sacrifices" mean "make creatures like ourselves incline to sacrifices"?
    I'm not sure exactly what you're asking but I think my answer is no.

    "Incline" means to "tend to cause". It makes that behavior more likely but does not guarantee it.

    "Make" here means to do. Make a sacrifice means to take an action that takes something away from you.

    So the original sentence means that the selection pressure increases the likelihood of you doing something to take something away from yourself if, and only if, it helps your relatives.

    In your sentence, "make" has a different meaning - it means "force to". Selection pressure forces certain behavior. I think that's wrong. It just increases the likelihood of it. Natural selection is all about percentages and odds and tendencies, not absolutes.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    In your sentence, "make" has a different meaning - it means "force to". Selection pressure forces certain behavior.
    The OP's reworded statement was ""make creatures like ourselves incline to sacrifices", not "make creatures like ourselves do sacrifices".:)
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I know what you're saying and I thought about it hard. But I still don't think selection pressures make you do anything. I think it's the wrong word there.
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    I'm not sure exactly what you're asking but I think my answer is no.

    "Incline" means to "tend to cause". It makes that behavior more likely but does not guarantee it.

    "Make" here means to do. Make a sacrifice means to take an action that takes something away from you.

    So the original sentence means that the selection pressure increases the likelihood of you doing something to take something away from yourself if, and only if, it helps your relatives.

    In your sentence, "make" has a different meaning - it means "force to". Selection pressure forces certain behavior. I think that's wrong. It just increases the likelihood of it. Natural selection is all about percentages and odds and tendencies, not absolutes.
    :thumbsup::) The explanation has captured the essence of evolution.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The explanation has captured the essence of evolution
    However, the question here is not really what evolutionary theory says, but what Sam Harris says in the quotation and what he means by it.
    Selection pressure at the level of “selfish” genes would surely incline creatures like ourselves to make sacrifices for our relatives
    This is a regular transitive use of the verb 'incline'.
    If A inclines B to do C, we can draw two conclusions: (1) the result is that B is inclined to do C and (2) the cause of this is that A makes it happen.

    In other words, the statement 'selection pressure ... inclines creatures like ourselves to make sacrifices' means the same as: 'selection pressure ... makes creatures like ourselves inclined to make sacrifices'.
     
    Last edited:

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    However, the question here is not really what evolutionary theory says, but what Sam Harris says in the quotation and what he means by it.

    This is a regular transitive use of the verb 'incline'.
    If A inclines B to do C, we can draw two conclusions: (1) the result is that B is inclined to do C and (2) the cause of this is that A makes it happen.

    In other words, the statement 'selection pressure ... inclines creatures like ourselves to make sacrifices' means the same as: 'selection pressure ... makes creatures like ourselves inclined to make sacrifices'.
    Crystal clear! :idea:
     
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