Editor’ note: Look, we all knew this was coming.  Just settle in with a cold drink and let’s enjoy this digestible bit of crazy together.

Each man must grant himself the emotions that he needs and the morality that suits him.
Remy de Gourmont

First, let’s discuss what we mean when we say “morals”.  There are personal morals, what you or your culture believes to be right or wrong, and there are standard morals. What is generally thought to be what most people believe a “moral” person would do in this situation. Our “standard”(fun exercise. make air quotes whenever I use written quotes) of morality.

So what makes up our “moral code”?(are you playing along at home?) Are morals subjective or are there absolute truths that apply to the human species? Is anything really either right or wrong? We’ll get into these topics as well as abstract concepts like moral nihilism and moral relativism. But, let’s begin at the beginning.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth….. Hold on.  Sorry folks. Wrong book.  Moving on, a moral is a lesson that can be learned from a story or event. A moral code is a codification of various moral concepts that eventually from our sense of morality. The perceptions of right and wrong.  One of the oldest and most well  known moral codes is the “Code of Hammurabi”.  Not just a set of laws but a standard of morality for his people. It was fucking crazy.

Examples:

If anyone ensnares another, putting a ban upon him, but he cannot prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.

If anyone brings an accusation against a man, and the accused goes to the river and leaps into the river, if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser. (what? Isn’t that how we determined “witch/not a witch”?)

If anyone brings an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if a capital offense is charged, be put to death.

If a son strikes his father, his hands shall be hewn off.

If a man puts out the eye of an equal, his eye shall be put out.(I actually like this one)

And you see where this is going. Even in 2250 B.C. it was super o.k. to kill people as long as the crazy man in charge said it was cool.  And no one cared.  Few questioned it.  It’s not like it’s wrong to kill people…….  Hammurabi loved his own press though. Sure, it’s one of the earliest examples of “presumptive innocence” but it’s still all the crazy whims of a tyrant.  It’s not that it’s wrong to kill people, you are just persuaded to have a decent excuse before they do. Something. Anything. Say he built your house shitty and it fell on your dad.  Seriously.  He’ll totally kill him for that shit and give you his house.  And this was pretty much the norm around the world in historical record. Early human society was rough. Morals only mattered moment to moment. You just had to survive.

Beg me not to kill you. I'm still gonna kill you. Just beg.

And this went on for centuries as people turned to teachers like Plato and Socrates for a sense of moral certitude or maybe an enlightened release from the burden of it. And while they tried, some could really only offer subjective views.  Many of which seem almost hypocritical when viewed in the larger historical context.   Almost as though they had morals that applied to them, and morals that applied to everyone else…….  The teachings of Confucius told people that they should disregard “established morals” (I haven’t forgot about ya!) when judging a person  if their actions brought about a positive outcome. A type of “virtue morality”, which we will get into later. He preached keeping with “proper society” but also that the ends justify the means and when you have to act,you act. He believed a society was best ruled when it was left to the morality of the people. Not the countless arbitrary rules of it’s leaders.

Always look for the peaceful way. But sometimes throats gotta get cut!

In the Middle East, the dawn of Judaism brought the moral code that would spread across the world more than any other. The Ten Commandments(there’s actually over 400) are credited with shaping the law and moral code of the modern Western world. Combined with the later teachings of Jesus, the Holy Bible has changed more cultures than any book ever printed. O.K. let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way. Thou shalt not kill/murder. Which one is it? Well, like most things in this crazy religion, it all depends on the translation. לא תרצח This is the word in the original Hebrew. Originally translated “murder” and adopted by Jewish sects and, later, New protestants. The Catholic Church translated it as thou shalt not kill. Which makes sense. Jesus was not into killing. Period.   More than a few scholars believe it is neither. Kill is too broad and murder is too narrow a definition.  People just pick and choose to suit a certain ideological argument……..

The Crusades: A Certain Ideological Argument

But, most morals are relative. Especially in religion. Thou shalt not steal? Well, what about a hungry man stealing bread? There are actually those who dispute the translation and feel it means you shouldn’t “steal people”. Again, based on the original  Hebrew. Idolatry. I love this one. “Thou shalt make no images of what is of Heaven and of the Earth.” But the Catholic Church,again,goes back to the translation and adds “and bow down to them”. So they fill their cathedrals full of these images and say it’s o.k. because no one worships them. Except the people who also worship images in grilled cheese sandwiches.

It's cool, bros. The Dude totally abiodes.

Now lets move into the more philosophical and scientific concepts of morality, beginning with an explanation of  Realism and Anti-Realism.

From Wikipedia(yes I actually researched this article)

Moral realism is the class of such theories which hold that there are true moral statements that report objective moral facts. For example, while they might concede that forces of social conformity significantly shape individuals’ “moral” decisions, they deny that those cultural norms and customs define morally right behavior.

Basically, an act is morally wrong or right on it’s own. The arbitrary opinions of a particular culture are meaningless, even if they may be factually correct. Morality is objective.

Moral anti-realism, on the other hand, holds that moral statements either fail or do not even attempt to report objective moral facts. Instead, they hold that morality is derived either from an unsupported belief that there are objective moral facts, the speaker’s sentiments, or any of the norms or customs of that particular area.

Basically, there is no “true” definition of right or wrong behavior. Morality is subjective.  Left to the decisions of a particular culture.

There is  a branch of moral anti-realism called moral nihilism which holds that no action is right or wrong at all, no matter the judgment system used to gauge it.  For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for whatever reason, is neither inherently right nor inherently wrong. Morality may simply be a kind of make-believe, a complex set of rules and recommendations that represents nothing real and is seen as a human creation.

It is built on something called error theory which dictates thusly:

  1. There are no moral features in this world, nothing is right or wrong.
  2. No moral judgments are true (This is believed because of the first rule; since nothing is moral then there is no way to judge things as it being right or wrong).
  3. Our sincere moral judgments try, and always fail, to describe the moral features of things.
  4. There is no moral knowledge. Knowledge requires truth. If there is no moral truth, there can be no moral knowledge. Thus moral values are make-believe

The very fact that subjective morals exist means that morals are inherently a lie.

Some contend that morals developed on a small level. Person to person.Village to village. Almost purely as a means of survival or “getting pussy”(not surprising). This led to people forming “pre-social” emotions like guilt and empathy in response to these various moral behaviors.  Meaning morality is not absolute and merely a tool to promote human cooperation based on ideological similarities. We curbed our selfishness and “human nature” to survive and grow as a group. A constantly flowing and changing set of ethical values that evolve to fit the times.

So, guys. We gotta talk about Uk-tyuk. He's killing way too many interlopers. I'm pretty sure one of them was my cousin.

Some scientists argue that morality is, in some ways, natural. A social understanding developed among many species of mammals. For example, some vampire bats fail to feed on prey some nights while others manage to consume a surplus. Bats that did eat will then regurgitate part of their blood meal to save a conspecific from starvation. Since these animals live in close-knit groups over many years, an individual can count on other group members to return the favor on nights when it goes hungry.(goddamn socialists)

Recent tests done involving “stimulating” certain parts of the brain with magnetic electricity have been shown to alter people’s views on morality. An act they may have found morally reprehensible suddenly becomes only kinda bad. A fascinating discovery still  being tested. During our evolution, especially since the development of empathy,  certain “moral principles” seem to have been hardwired into our brains. Empathy is what makes  us moral and makes us care. And as proof they point to the fact that loss of empathy is the defining characteristic of psychopathy. From the psychological perspective, it is believed that we make our own morals through our development and pursuit of “self identification”; who I am and what I stand for.  We each go through different stages with different sets of moral values until we decide for ourselves what path to follow.

I'm not a psychopath! I'm just trying to find myself. Hey, where are you going?.... Come back!

Well, we’ve come to the end of this fascinating…. whatever it was. I don’t think I ever really had a point. I’m thinking of  a follow up since there are SO MANY things I left out that make for great discussion. I didn’t even get back into “virtue morality” or intentions vs. actions.   But I feel this will suffice for now.  Hope you had as much fun as I did.  If you’re keeping score at home, you should have 17 air quotes.

Is he gone?..... Good! Let's kill this fucking rabbit!

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whatsthatsound
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An excerpt from Wikipedia’s entry on B.F. Skinner’s “Walden Two” “In the novel, the author describes an experimental community named Walden Two. The community is located in a rural area and “has nearly a thousand members.” The members are portrayed as happy, productive, and creative. The community encourages its members “to view every habit and custom with an eye to possible improvement” and to have “a constantly experimental attitude toward everything”. When the members find a problem in their community they may design and experimentally test a possible solution, carefully documenting the results of their experiment in accordance with the… Read more »

choicelady
Member

It was B.F. Skinner’s experiment at its finest. Gave me the creeps.

whatsthatsound
Member

Not me. I think it had some really good ideas in it. And I think the idea that we can do better with society as a conscious attempt, rather than just letting the most ruthless rise unfettered to the top of every hierarchy from government to religion to, of course, organized crime, to even the entertainment industry, is one that has merit. I like Plato’s Republic for the same reason. I’m not sure either would actually work, but then again, do you call THIS working?

KillgoreTrout
Member

I think morality cannot exist without the presence of spirituality. I don’t mean orthodox religion, although religion can be a source for leading one to think of spirituality, as is philosophy. I think a basic spirituality is innate among human beings, and we learn to be immoral. Morality is spiritual in the sense that recognizing the fact that we are all parts of a greater whole, leads to moral behavior. That which protects, or enriches the greater whole is moral. And that which harms, or takes away from the greater whole is immoral. Science contributes to morality by giving us… Read more »

cyrano1
Member
cyrano1

KT: I only have my memories as a guide. As a very small child I had a caged hamster which I almost starved to death due to my negligence. I finally “remembered” I had a hamster and rushed to the cage where I found the pet immobile and cold to the touch, I was horrified with remorse, and I put it under a strong light to provide heat. Much to my relief it revived enough to begin eating and drinking again and was soon exercising on its wheel as if nothing had happened. My overwhelming sense of guilt and the… Read more »

ghsts
Member

Wonderful assessment and I have to agree, I put down my guns for good along those same lines, “killing” is not immoral by definition but by choice.

KillgoreTrout
Member

cyrano, thank you for responding. “Isn’t this a case of innate morality finally moving into the level of consciousness?” Yes, I believe it is. And a good example of what I was talking about. The act of killing animals can be moral and can also be immoral. I think killing for trophies and leaving the meat of the animal to go to waste is immoral. But killing for food is a moral act. (if one is not a vegan) Nature perpetuates itself by killing. All life depends upon it. It is a cycle of living and killing. Even plants rely… Read more »

whatsthatsound
Member

I think it is possible that science could teach morality. In B.F. Skinner’s “Walden 2”, he tried to introduce such a system. The reason it won’t, I feel, is that science is being used to maintain the status quo. For example, in the Vietnam War, engineering students from some of the top universities, having received the best scientific training available on the planet, went to work for Dow Chemical to produce napalm, fully aware, or perhaps willfully unaware, that it was being used as a weapon of torture, plain and simple. Nothing in their training prevented this. Wouldn’t do to… Read more »

KillgoreTrout
Member

Thanks for your reply wts. I have mixed feeling about technology. As I said, it is very much a double edged sword. The splitting of the atom is a very good example.
Ultimately, I do not think technology, by it’s self is going to save us. There absolutely has to be some element of human spirituality and morality attached to it.

whatsthatsound
Member

Oh, I am totally with you on that, KT. I give technology precisely zero percent chance of saving us from ourselves. I mean, look at the track record. But I was referring to science in the same way that Skinner vouched for it in Walden Two, as a “social engineering” program that could perhaps work in making us better human beings. But it would have to involve mankind’s spiritual side, absolutely. It would have to be a humbler science, not one that refuses to acknowledge concepts like “soul”, “intuition”, etc.

KillgoreTrout
Member

wts, that’s why I put great stock in The Tao Te Ching.
In the western world, there is so much emphasis on objectivism. Things that can be measured and quantified and those things that can’t are disgarded. Taoism recognizes intuition and the harmony inherent in Nature.
While Eastern thought is rather stagnant in regards to objectivism, the combination of objectivism and subjectivism would be the way to go. To rid ourselves of the total subject/object split and find a balance between the two.

whatsthatsound
Member

Absotively! Complete agreement. It would be like balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Our current culture goes way too far in emphasizing the left (analytical, verbal) over the right (intuitive, holistic).

ghsts
Member

Douglas Adams would be right there with ya KT. The answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything is 42. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 42 The Tao begot one. One begot two. Two begot three. And three begot the ten thousand things. The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by combining these forces. Men hate to be “orphaned,” “widowed,” or “worthless,” But this is how kings and lords describe themselves. For one gains by losing And loses by gaining. What others teach, I also teach; that is: “A… Read more »

KillgoreTrout
Member

Excellent ghsts.

cyrano1
Member
cyrano1

Neuroscience, free will and determinism: ‘I’m just a machine’ A fascinating article by Tom Chivers: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/8058541/Neuroscience-free-will-and-determinism-Im-just-a-machine.html excerpt: “What happens if someone commits a crime, and it turns out that there’s a lesion in that brain area? Is that person responsible? Is the damage to the machine sufficient for us to exempt them from that very basic human idea that we are responsible for our actions? I don’t know.” He refers to a major project in America, where “lawyers, neuroscientists, philosophers and psychiatrists are all trying to work out what impact brain science has on our socio-legal sense of responsibility”. The… Read more »

Beachchick
Guest
Beachchick

Hello Gang! I am just going to close my eyes and take the posting plunge. This is an interesting topic. I do think morality has evolved with our evolved ability to reason. Morality is cognitive and a result of the relationship between our ability to reason and society’s rules, or the relationship between reason and socialization. In other words, I think we are taught to use independent moral reasoning or taught to obey without reason. The United States was founded on ideas that marked a radical shift in moral thought. “A rational being belongs to the kingdom of ends as… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

Beach Chick,

I’m not entirely sure that morality is perfectly locked to the ability to reason. Morality depends in no small part on empathy, and I believe that empathy is innate in humans; after all, many species of other animals are empathetic, and I don’t know that you can say that they are capable of reason.

If you want to say that reason is necessary for complex morality, like understanding the difference between murder, manslaughter, self-defense and warfare, then I will certainly grant you that point.

Beachchick
Guest
Beachchick

Hello, Kevin.

I agree that moral principles are linked to strong feelings of empathy, but I would argue that empathy is learned, not innate.

KQµårk 死神
Member

Welcome beachchick. I always thought we could explain the universe with pure reason, meaning that we live in a logical universe. But I don’t think of morality as pure reason. That does not mean there is not a strong corollary relationship between reason and morality. Again because a person who consciously seeks to be reasonable analyzes their personal morality and motives much more than people who live off of impulse. Of course that opens another part of the argument to examine if a person needs to think morally in their mind and exhibit moral behavior or just exhibit moral behavior.… Read more »

Beachchick
Guest
Beachchick

Hello, KQ

Thanks for the welcome.

Oh, I don’t think morality is pure reason, but I do think moral reasoning is cognitive. How we think is determined by the learning history our environment provides. The learning process within an environment determines how we regulate our feelings, actions, and thoughts to exercise control of our life.

Higher levels of moral reasoning are an important part of moral behavior, but I agree with you, morality isn’t defined by behavior. It is the thoughts behind the behavior – the motive that determines the morality of an act.

KQµårk 死神
Member

Oh yeah I knew you were referencing Kant. Just giving my opinion.

Very good way to put it “moral reasoning is cognitive.”

Haruko Haruhara
Member

Hi, Beachchick!

Smiley

Chernynkaya
Member

(Very sorry if this has already been mentioned!) Just some research to consider in this discussion: Are humans hard-wired for faith? http://edition.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/04/04/neurotheology/ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6823229.ece And hundreds more from neuroscientists. However, I know several people who want to believe and cannot. Some scholars argue that they’re social constructions, they’re inventions of culture, and that’s why they’re universal. Others argue they’re biological adaptations. They exist because of the selective advantage they gave to our ancestors. I have a view which is different from both of those. I think they’re accidents. I think they’re accidental byproducts of cognitive systems that we’ve evolved for different… Read more »

cyrano1
Member
cyrano1

In Tanzania, witch doctors create “powerful magic potions” from the body parts of Tanzanian Albinos. Are those who only “remove” body parts and leave their victims alive deliberately choosing the more “moral” option over those who choose to kill albinos and then take what they want from the remains? Is annihilation of the “other” driving the real motives behind the practice, made excusable through the guise of religion or superstition? I never did take classes in cultural anthropology so am relatively clueless. Morality as practiced in social groups, it seems to me, is a construct full of qualifiers created by… Read more »

PocketWatch
Member

OK…. correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m sure someone will), but it seems to me that the only really common denominator in morality is the Golden Rule (and it’s NOT ‘Do unto others, then run like hell!’ ADONAI…). Every religion and ethics system I can think of or have heard of has this principle at it’s core. Everything else stems from that. It is the very definition and codification of empathy. What that says to me is that it has been always recognized that there are people among us that need to have this principle explained to them and… Read more »

Khirad
Member

Christianity All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. — Matthew 7:1 Confucianism Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. — Analects 12:2 Buddhism Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. — Udana-Varga 5,1 Hinduism This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. — Mahabharata 5,1517 Jainism Just as… Read more »

Gransview
Member
Gransview

Thank you for posting those quotes. This is my favorite because is suggests a more inclusive consciousness :

The Great Law Of Peace: “All Things Are Our Relatives; What We Do To Everything, We Do To Ourselves. All Is Really One.”

Black Elk

Khirad
Member

No, thank you, I was looking for a Native American one.

choicelady
Member

Beautiful. Confirms my belief that my denominations set out as missionaries NOT because we feared First Nations people (or any non-christian) were wrong but because we were terrified they were RIGHT. Their connection to spirit and universe gave such lie to our cathedrals, rules, books, rituals that were never as connected and deeply spiritual as simple, daily practices of the people we needed to convert. BTW – our missionaries today don’t do that anymore. They come FROM their faith to serve others regardless of faith. We learned. We grew up. Now we quote from all these other sources because they… Read more »

choicelady
Member

Nailed it as usual, Khirad. Thank you.

ghsts
Member

PW- No correction needed, imo Khirad laid it out in the text, written in response to just your question and that doesn’t explain tattoos. We each are split right down the middle metaphorically and literally, social Darwinism has always been a fallacy.

PocketWatch
Member

ghsts – I’m talkin’ actual genetic differences… There’s gotta be something different about people that have no empathy whatsoever.

cyrano1
Member
cyrano1

PW: Gotta agree with that! One of the characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome (a high form of autism) is a lack of empathy. Suspect this is just the tip of a very large iceberg of brain wiring mysteries.

ghsts
Member

In healthy humans I don’t think there are any(but will entertain the aliens breeding with monkey theories). Seriously, I wouldn’t be shocked if they discover genetic damage from environmental toxins both physical and psychological. I am skeptical of any anthropological evidence that would try to show that homo sapiens have changed one bit in the past 150,000 years.

I have wonderful Chilean friend, beautiful warm caring heart that survived torture and rape under Pinochet. I asked her perspective on equality, humanity, “is the ‘world’ any worse or better than it has ever been?” Her answer was “No.”

cyrano1
Member
cyrano1

ghsts: Thanks! You’ve nailed it! Too many of us in our short lives believe that humans in their accumulation of knowledge over thousands of years have “progressed” as a result of it. Rather than understand that each new human brought into existence has to do all of the homework all over again. William Golding’s novel, “Lord of the Flies” delivers that message brilliantly.

ghsts
Member

Cyrano, funny thing about that book is the bad kids were first indoctrinated by the Church of England.

cyrano1
Member
cyrano1

ghsts: Check and mate!! And were they all “bad” or immoral?? or just following the (“immoral”?) stronger leaders in reinventing “meaning” for their existence? Which was the cause for my Tanzania post above. It appears to many of us that culture defines (or ill defines) “morality”, possibly more than it’s an assumed innate trait we can all tap into. Many here define morality as living by the “do no harm” mantra – until it butts up against the wall of personal threat – in which case, survival justifies infringing on this “morality”. And “threat” seems to always be continually redefined… Read more »

Chernynkaya
Member

Science has proven that to be the case, PW.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is but one manifestation. Also, several studies of children unattended in Romanian orphanages change brain wiring. And then there’s this:

Is Bernie Madoff a Sociopath? We asked a psychiatrist

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2011/03/02/is_bernie_madoff_a_sociopath

Khirad
Member

The Māori use tats as genealogy.

I actually can understand that. What better way to record it?

A real living document!

ghsts
Member

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeSN00XwgZY

The world is out to get you, better learn to stand up to it.

Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru
This is the fierce, powerful man

Nāna i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā
Who caused the sun to shine again for me

A Upane! Ka Upane!
Up the ladder, Up the ladder

Upane Kaupane
Up to the top

Whiti te rā,!
The sun shines!

Hī!
Rise!

cyrano1
Member
cyrano1

PW: Great question!! Are we increasingly becoming more Darwinian due to our system of government – or is it our wiring? We’re seeing more push back lately in the Wisconsin/Indiana/Ohio collective bargaining arguments which seem to have provoked enough thought to trend us back towards the more “moral” position in supporting the majority rather than submit to the powerful – which seems to indicate some flexibility in our thinking. A sense of community versus a country full of Ayn Rands?

I will always continue to yield to type A drivers though. Fear of death or expensive car repairs I guess.

whatsthatsound
Member

I wouldn’t say that sociopathy is selected for in the Darwinian sense. Our current human system is ANTI-Darwinian. We are a species that has fallen out of tune with natural balance, and the entire biosphere is paying a price for that. But I feel that it is VERY possible that sociopathy IS being “selected” for in the dysfunctional world we are living in. Look at the level of violence in our so-called entertainment. Look at Rob Zombie movies and others of their ilk that present sadism almost as a virtue. I feel the existence of such movies is both causative… Read more »

KQµårk 死神
Member

Is it really anti-Darwinism or have the goals of natural selection process just changed?

I’m not so sure the same traits that make a billionaire never have enough money or power 100,000 years ago made Cro Magnon Man beat up his neighbor to take his wife so he could procreate.

whatsthatsound
Member

Well, arguing purely in terms of traits being passed on, perhaps I agree. But when Darwinism is meant to infer “fitness” and continuation of the species (or perhaps even the ecosystem, although Darwin never considered that) then we are CLEARLY behaving contrarily to the theory, as we will be erased from the planet in a few hundred years if we continue along our current path.

KQµårk 死神
Member

I agree with you and I really should have called it Social Darwinism with is quite different from natural selection. Of course the concept of Social Darwinism fits well with nihilism so the billionaire in my example does not care if the planet is here after they die.

whatsthatsound
Member

indeed, your hypothetical billionaire doesn’t even care about the suffering that his greed is causing in the present time.

ghsts
Member

wts- You make a sound argument. I have studied ancient cultures that have survived and merged with western and global culture, such as China and India. Large expanding populations hindered in growth only by food supplies. They both have systemic “sadism” and embrace devotion to it as virtue in significant proportion as do we. One could select at random infants from 2010 AD and BC and I would assert have an equal chance of getting Hitler or Buddha ie sick vs healthy. No long term shift in genetic predisposition to sociopathy, but like you I believe natural exposure to excessive… Read more »

whatsthatsound
Member

that’s an interesting idea – homosexuality as a corrective adaptation as an antidote to the pathological aspects of nuclear families. I’m not sure if it’s “good science”, but philosophically it makes a lot of sense.

ghsts
Member

You can’t get “good science” with out surrendering ethical and moral, which is my point and opinion.

If I write a thesis I’ll give you more, until then here’s google no 1.

http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/2008/PrenatalStress.htm

whatsthatsound
Member

I didn’t mean that. I mean that a scientific hypothesis about homosexuality as an adaptative reaction to the pathology of nuclear families would likely fail, because the nuclear family clearly doesn’t interfere with the continuation of the species, and it would be hard to come up with a falsification clause for something like that. So its more philosophy than science, imo.

whatsthatsound
Member

ghsts, thanks for the link. I read too much into what you were presenting above, I realize.

KillgoreTrout
Member

PW, as i believe, we LEARN to be immoral. But morality and immorality depends a great deal on human nature and our primal instincts. Just as we learn immorality, we also need to learn morality. I think we are born with some level of innate morality, but our primal, more animalistic instincts must be replaced by some sort of moral education and learning. I think this was the basic reason for religion, and philosophy and to some extent, science. We learn basic morality from our parents and siblings, if there are siblings. We learn not to be greedy, dishonest and… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

“I don’t think I ever really had a point.”

Yes, I was beginning to wonder myself. That said, I will express an opinion:

Religion is surplus to the concept of morality. In other words, Humans are by definition moral, and do not need religion to express that morality. It happens all the time.

AdLib
Admin

I would disagree, there is no evidence that has or could support your proposition that religion is always and wholly disconnected from every single person on Earth’s sense of morality. As I’ve proposed below, one accumulates principles through one’s life through exposure and education. One may have a basic sense of morality but have a variety of blindspots. After all, being moral doesn’t mean being omnipotent. Thus, some may acquire specific moral principles from religion, from history, from their parents, from personal experience, etc. I think it is necessarily lacking to propose that morality appears in people fully formed, unshaped… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

I did not say it was disconnected. I say it is an unnecessary structure created by man that could be supplanted easily by philosophy, and to the better.

Religion is not needed to achieve a well developed morality. Some consideration of one’s fellow man certainly is, but abasing one’s self before a non-existent god is an inefficient way to get it done.

AdLib
Admin

I would agree that no external input may be needed for particular individuals to practice morality, limited in its scope as it might be, but I don’t see that as an absolute. All people are not the same, some have a greater awareness and understanding of things than others. And none of us can know where our blind spots are. As far as one person expressing which sources of enlightenment are or aren’t needed for all, that is a bit of a tall order. One can know such things for oneself and declare that someting is unnecessary because it is… Read more »

Gransview
Member
Gransview

Great post.

I’m sure someone has said this, too, but I’ve always said “Truth is where you find it!”

AdLib
Admin

Thanks Grans, I agree with that one too!

choicelady
Member

Indeed!!!

KevenSeven
Member

And I would say that anyone who can develop morals (ie not a sociopath or psychopath) can do so without buying into any religious dogma.

Religion is utterly unnecessary to achieve morality. Morality is utterly achievable without religious dogma. By any person of normal capacity to achieve morality.

whatsthatsound
Member

K7 and I actually agree on something! That’s neat! 🙂

choicelady
Member

But Kevin – religion (or faith) is also no BAR to finding morality that would be exactly as comfortable as that found without faith. No – atheists and agnostic are often deeply moral people. Belief in God or Science is equally flawed as the “absolute” route to truth. But they are WAYS people get there. Remember 0 it was REV. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – his faith was his guide. It is for many of us, and we are perfectly comfortable with however ANYONE finds their way. Do we agree on justice? If so, then does it matter at… Read more »

Khirad
Member

I think it’s not so much superfluous as it is merely a different language.

Unnecessary it may be (I would agree), but it can also be beautiful.

I’m an nonbeliever, but even I can respect the elegance of the non-authoritarian type of religious narrative as metaphor and inspiration.

choicelady
Member

Wow – what a lovely observation! One may be moral but not omnipotent. HUGE in its sanity! Our inability to forgive other people for imperfections is a real problem. This is such a wonderful wake up call! I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone who’s perfect, and it’s sooo nice to re-think the fact no one CAN be. Thank you so much, AdLib!

choicelady
Member

Faith is not precisely the equivalent of religion, and it is, indeed, entirely possible to be moral and just without a shred of theological basis. Michael Harrington, a founder of DSoc was one of the MOSt moral people ever, and an atheist. I adored him because morality is indeed a ‘third way’ – neither religion nor science will carve that path for you. It’s something entirely different from them both. But don’t assume all faith traditions are walking around with blinders and stomping on justice – many faith traditions are the ones struggling and winning the issues of absolute inclusion,… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

“A moral code is a codification of various moral concepts that eventually from our sense of morality. ”

Form, not from?

AdLib
Admin

That is not a grammatically correct sentence, K7. You should have said, “Did you mean to say the word ‘form’ instead of the word ‘from’?”

Khirad
Member

Nice.

Khirad
Member

A fine Genealogy of Morals, as it were. 😉

I mostly just read the picture captions, though. [kidding]

Abbyrose86
Member

Dang A….I don’t have time this morning for a good discussion! So on that note, I must post a quick note and run! I took an ethics class a few semesters back and much of what you got into we discussed in class. It was very interesting how other people in the course defined “morals and ethics”. What I found particularly interesting was how many interpreted LAW to be the moral framework and if something was illegal or legal it defined morality to them. It’s an interesting topic and the answers can differ greatly from person to person. WE got… Read more »

choicelady
Member

Abby – that may lie at the heart of the right’s fury that the “law” they tried to pass on banning marriage equality has been deemed immoral and illegal? If it’s LAW then it’s MORAL. The fact that slavery and bans on inter-racial marriage once were the law just never seems to raise its head. So that’s kind of scary – people insisting that the law, as it is, is perfect and moral and ethical.

You’ve definitely opened a thoughtful line of further discussion. Thank you!

choicelady
Member

Oh fuck. I give up.

AdLib
Admin

Huh?

choicelady
Member

Not the Planet, just trying to discuss this.

KevenSeven
Member

Well, had he proposed one side or other of a debate, then perhaps you could find something to bite into and argue…..

AdLib
Admin

To each their own.

Khirad
Member

Not everyone frames everything as an argument. That’s all I’m saying.

And sometimes people just like a discussion and can see things aren’t always this or that, either/or, black and white.

That’s a Manichæan construct.

KevenSeven
Member

Oh, I despise the Manichaean outlook, but I think you confuse my point with the Socratic Method, which is where I start from.

The truth is found by competent debate. That is different between saying that there are absolutes.

Khirad
Member

Maybe next time around he’ll have a point.

Treat this as an intro.

AdLib
Admin

No worries, CL. I’d buy you a cup of soothing tea right now if I could.

KQµårk 死神
Member

Great addition AD. I’m somewhere between nihilist and moral certitude. I’m always amazed at how closely the idea of morality in the west is tied to intent, especially in our legal system. A split second of intent separates a murderer from someone who commits manslaughter. A mistake that kills hundreds of people is just a mistake or criminal negligence at most. Since you can’t measure a person’s intent to any absolute degree of certainty it leads me to believe morality is a very subjective determination. Just thinking out loud a bit. I guess that means my moral compass is still… Read more »

Kalima
Admin

Well the first Commandment of ‘You shall have no other gods before Me’ explains the second one to me at least. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’ He just probably meant that to worship carved images of shooting stars, clouds, the birds, the sun and the moon and the stars in heaven was a NG. With the earth you could probably have carved an image of just about anything, even a camel turd.… Read more »

whatsthatsound
Member

Kalima, I agree with you for the most part about morality (certainly that it is separate from religion), but wonder about a small child knowing what is right and wrong. I think that perhaps they don’t, and certainly not all do. It seems to me, the younger the child, the more the “taker mentality”. Little children exhibit most of the behavior that we consider immoral, and even criminal, in society. They have no trouble bullying smaller children. They torment animals. They cry and scream and throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. Only we adults call this “wrong”, when… Read more »

choicelady
Member

WTS – that is lovely and one of the best descriptions I’e ever read. Thank you.

whatsthatsound
Member

Thank you, c-lady! I am sincerely touched and honored.

Kalima
Admin

I was maybe speaking more on a personal level wts, I did know from a very early age what was right and wrong, but like all kids, would often try to see how far I could take it before I saw my grandfather’s smile turn into a frown.. From an early age I had wonderful teachers in my grandparents. They were good in sitting me down to explain things in a way I could understand, the teaching didn’t ever feel like teaching at all, they were that good. Every question was eventually answered, more by my grandmother who had just… Read more »

whatsthatsound
Member

That sounds like a truly wonderful experience. I love the idea of the question drawer. Wish I had used it with Mika! She drove me to distraction with all the “why”s!

Kalima
Admin

I grew up just fine, I’m sure that with you around, most if not all of her questions were answered, and there would have been no need of the “Question Drawer.”

At the time, I didn’t even notice the generation gap, I would ask her to come with me on every spinning carousel ride at the traveling fairgrounds, and wonder why she refused the 3rd ride.

As an adult I became fully aware of their sacrifices, and their unconditional love, it shaped who I became in the years that followed. I am eternally grateful.

whatsthatsound
Member

that’s very adorable, about the carousel! 🙂

AdLib
Admin

Hey WTS! Children naturally have a solipsistic view of life, it is only with maturity that they (most of the time) build an awareness that existence is not wholly contained in what they desire, fear or dislike. I would say that though some small children can obliviously exhibit cruelty, others eschew it. I have seen toddlers hug pets and people without exception, two year olds give compassionate attention to infants and their dolls and otherwise exhibit an inherent compassion and affection. Around two years old, my daughter took to calling ants, her “ant buddies” and was very delicate with them,… Read more »

whatsthatsound
Member

Certainly not all children act the same way, no more than adults. Some children are more naturally prone to behave kindly. Some would call them “old souls” and would assume from their behavior that they have spent a greater number of incarnations here. I wouldn’t argue with that. In fact, it makes good sense to me. We all love it when children, especially our own, behave like little angels. There is a combination of pride, and simply wanting what is best for them, in this. On the other hand, I think it is extremely important to direct their behavior without… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

Why would you NOT superimpose your standards (morals) on you kids?

whatsthatsound
Member

Certainly we will instruct and correct based on our own standards, but that is not the same as superimposing. i.e., according the same emotional/moral maturity to a child’s behavior as an adult’s. For example, if a parent sees a three year old child pushing a smaller child off a swing that he wants to use, or harassing a pet, the parent can make things worse by bringing in the freak-out factor. “Oh, my God, I’ve got a BAD kid!” This can lead to unnecessary shaming, as the child will be very attuned to the emotional state of the parent when… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

Wow. I cannot claim to have a very broad experience of children, as say a teacher with 30 year’s experience, but my observation of children, as a parent, has it that they are just about as moral as the adults that I know.

I do believe that morality is inherent in the human animal. And in many other animals. Do we sharpen it as we grow and mature? Sure. But it all starts with empathy, and children of almost any age are empathetic to the same degree as are adults.

whatsthatsound
Member

KevenSeven: It may all begin with empathy, as you feel, but it doesn’t end there. I definitely don’t agree that children are as “moral” as adults, any more than they are as cautious or foresighted as adults. As a parent, I imagine you watched in horror at least once as your child dashed off into the midst of an intersection, heedless as to whether a car was approaching. If not, you may be grateful for the gray hairs you were spared. So I would argue that AWARENESS, as opposed to cautiousness, is as natural to children as adults. Same with… Read more »

AdLib
Admin

Then again, I don’t equate morality with religion or the lack of it, it is two separate things.

Nailed it, Kalima!

There are moral people in all religions and moral people who don’t practice any religion. Ultimately, it always comes down to each of us as individuals and how we apply our compassion, reason and principles in our own lives.

choicelady
Member

Sam Harris, to rebut people who said for them faith was a direction toward morality, wrote a whole book on how SCIENCE led you inexorably toward morality. Two words: Hydrogen Bomb Two more: Tuskeegee experiment. Neither religion nor science will take you inevitably toward becoming a moral person. It’s a third component of human thought and reflection. How one becomes a moral person begins, I think, with what WTS said – morality is an expression of the fullest form of love for others. Confronted with sheer evil as in the Holocaust and other attempts to exercise absolute control over others,… Read more »

AdLib
Admin

We are definitely on the same page. We can list examples of truly immoral people that defy their religious or educational/scientific grounding just as we can find people who are moral marbled through these categorizations. Using simple logic, if one’s religious or philosophical beliefs are not a dividing line between morality and immorality, then they are not the determinating factors. As we all concur, the root of morality is love and morality is an expression of that. Compassion, sympathy and empathy that transcend one’s concern only for oneself. For isn’t immorality the opposite? The childish, solipsistic view that concern for… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

The hydrogen bomb is not any sort of condemnation of science. A hydrogen bomb is just a weapon, as is an arrow or a machine gun or a knife. The morality is not in the fabrication of the weapon, but its usage. As a matter of fact, the American people were thrilled in 1945 that we bombed Japan. They were exhausted with five years of war, and saw the Japanese slaughtering 10 or 15 thousand Asian civilians per week during the last two years of the war. Americans wanted an explanation as to why the hydrogen bomb was not dropped… Read more »

AdLib
Admin

It was Oppenheimer whom the public lionized as the brains behind the bomb; who agonized about the devastation his brilliance had helped to unleash; who hoped that the very destructiveness of the new “gadget,” as the bombmakers called their invention, might make war obsolete; and whose sometime Communist fellow-traveling and opposition to the development of the hydrogen bomb—a weapon a thousand times more powerful than the bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki—brought about his political disgrace and downfall, which of course have marked him in the eyes of some as all the more heroic, a visionary persecuted by warmongering McCarthyite… Read more »

KevenSeven
Member

When I say “American people were thrilled” I do mean to say that the majority reaction to the bombing was positive. I did say that war has a nasty effect on people’s empathy, did I not? I used a modifier before “disease”, read it again. Obviously researchers can expose volunteers to the cold virus without acting immorally, but could not do the same with the AIDS virus. Yes, you feel differently about the atom bomb than you do a flight of 300 bombers dropping tens of thousands of tons of conventional explosives on a single target in a single day,… Read more »

KQµårk 死神
Member

Yes science does not equal hydrogen bomb. There’s also a difference in what is science and what is technology. E = mc2 is science, knowledge of the physical universe that’s it. A multi-million dollar project funded by a government that created the hydrogen bomb is technology. It’s nothing even like fallacy laden argument that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people”. It’s like saying the chemical equation for the explosive oxidation of gunpowder kills people. The difference is easy to identify. The chemical equation always existed as part of the physical universe and was discovered AFTER gunpowder was first used… Read more »

whatsthatsound
Member

KQ, I agree with you wholeheartedly that there is a difference between scientific theory and its applications, i.e., technology (including destructive technology). But I think that people like KevenSeven take a very interesting path of self justification when they leave science entirely off the hook for things like napalm and environmental degradation, and at the same time blame religion for every sin committed in its name. Think of it this way: Science = a human way of engaging with reality that in the abstract seeks the good, but when applied (for example, creating technologies that harm the biosphere) can lead… Read more »

KQµårk 死神
Member

It’s really a argument of semantics. But I view basic science much more empirically and dispassionately that you do. But then again a big part of my experience and training is knowing the difference between fundamental science and applied science/engineering. You should see some of the arguments scientists and engineers have. When I think about “real” science I think of the basic definition. Probably the most valid argument you could use to meld the two definitions is that the vast majority of scientists are involved in research that does not have some anticipation of future applications.

KQµårk 死神
Member

True science is purely objective and just a tool. It makes no social value judgments whatsoever. That’s why people can have their religious beliefs and use the scientific method at the same time and have no conflicts. If there is a corollary relationship between people using the scientific method and critical thought to people who are moral it still does not prove there is a cause and effect relationship. I think it’s more probable that scientist just examine the world around them more than many people because that scientific curiosity is one of the personal qualities most scientists posses in… Read more »