• Social interactions may affect individual learning and biological fitness.

    Moral systems not only exhibit a degree of autonomy at the social level, but they also provide an environment in which individuals learn and natural selection acts. First, when an organism (with an open behavior program) ventures into trying new social behaviors, the environment of other group members will be part of reinforcing them, positively or negatively. Successful (or failed) reciprocities and punishment (or rewards), for example, will shape what is learned. Appropriate social contexts will tend to foster helpful or cooperative behavior. Further learning through observation and imitation will then tend to amplify socially successful behavior.

    Second, social interactions provide an environment for biological selection, as well. Innate dispositions such as extending sympathy beyond kin, an unschooled tendency to try helpful behavior, or readiness to punish (see FRAME 23) may enhance survival and reproduction in certain social environments. Social environments may also promote general traits that enhance social or moral behavioral abilities, such as improved language skills ("reading" emotions, interpreting signals, articulating needs, etc.), perceptual skills in differentiating group members, or memory. Indeed, anthropological evidence indicates that we have inherited many such tendencies and skills from our primate and early hominid ancestors (Boehm 1999; Richerson and Boyd 2005). Society and morality may ultimately be forces in evolution as much as they are products of it.

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