Economist Tyler Cowen links to a couple of posts including Cads vs. Dads II which is based on a comment from a reader:
Why is a Cad a Cad? I think it is because: He can be. His genes are so good, so much in demand, that women are willing to mate with him knowing that he might not stick around. Same reason why a Dad is a Dad. He knows if based solely on looks (proxy for gene competition), he will lose to the Cad every time. So, he must compensate for his lower quality genes by investing more resources in the female and offspring.Now obviously there are some "Dads" who are attractive enough (or rich or powerful enough) that they could get away with being Cads if they wanted to. But consider an unattractive person. Being a "Dad" might be the only attractive thing about him, so being a "nice" guy instead of a jerk is simply his best bet at maximizing his chances at landing a woman. Or friends, or even maybe a job. Tabarrok goes on to identify a scientific study of birds which indicates that this hypothesis is indeed true... at least for birds.
So combining the Cad vs. Dad hypothesis with my readings and discussions about morality, I got to wondering: are people moral simply because they can't get away with being immoral? If so, morality is a strategy as selfish as any Machiavellian tyrant's.
So what of those who hold forms of morality against their own self-interest? Are they merely tools of a successful meme-complex? Is a powerful person who devotes his life to helping the less fortunate just a sucker? What of powerless people who believe the powerful are powerful because they are worthy?
(See also Nietzsche's idea of slave vs. master morality.)
Were Jewish and Christian* (and Communist**, etc.) morality simply a defense against the powerful, as Nietzsche believed? And am I, ironically, a slave to an arbitrary and predominantly religious morality? Should I adopt the morality of the powerful instead and use my talents merely to maximize my own power and prestige at the expense of others?
(Note: I'm being mostly facetious. I actually believe my sense of morality is based on empathy.)
* Today, of course, Christianity is most often used in the service of the powerful, at least in America. Because Christianity has been the religion of the powerful for so long, its God has changed from the Jesus of the Beatitudes to, e.g., Supply Side Jesus.) Jews, on the other hand, have been quite powerless until very recently.
** Is that why so many Jews were Communists?