Sunday, October 7, 2012

Moral, naturally.

Many believers claim that morality can only arise from a deity. They claim that an 'objective standard' can not arise from a naturalistic standpoint, thus making it subjective. I contend that there is no objective morality in either framework. This is because objective morality is an illusion... it doesn't exist. By definition, objective morality is never changing. What's good is always good, and what's bad is always bad. We see this in our regular lives. Most anyone will tell you that killing another is wrong. Yet there are cases like war and self defense where this otherwise taboo act is deemed permissible. The same is true for the Bible. We are told not to kill, yet elsewhere killing is sanctioned with approval or ordered. The very fact that the god of the Bible can change what is good and what is bad to fit his needs actually shows that even that is a subjective morality.

But the issue at hand isn't if there is objective morality, and rather how morality can exist without the need for a lawgiver. There are a few issues that we can take into consideration.

Empathy: The ability to feel empathetic towards others plays a huge role. For example, I wouldn't
want to be killed, so he probably wouldn't either. I wouldn't like it if someone stole from me, so she probably wouldn't like it either. It hurts if someone hits me and I don't like it, so hitting someone else will likely cause them pain and ill feeling as well. Now, people don't typically ask themselves these questions, but are rather processed subconsciously. This ability to put ourselves in another's shoes, and consideration of their thoughts and feelings can easily drive what we now consider moral decision-making.

Group/social benefit: We are social creatures, and we live in groups. Because of this fact, we can bring about moral norms in order to improve and sustain the well being of the group, society, country, species... Generally, killing one another is bad for the safety and success of the group. Thus, it is deemed as something bad for the group... immoral. Stealing from other group members can also lead to conflict or the survival of those individuals (if we're talking about food theft from early ancestors). Lying about a threat can waste valuable energy and resources, cause a panic where others may get hurt, etc. All things that hurt the well being and success potential of the collective. Since things that hurt that potential are to be avoided and doing so becomes the social norm, you have another pathway to morality.

Tit-for-Tat: This one is the selfish one. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Basically, do helpful things for others in hopes that they will return the favor. Share a scrap of food here, in expectancy that it will be reciprocated when they have extra, or you are in need. While the initial act may be helpful to the recipient, even if the drive isn't selfless. In this way, it can lead to acts that would be considered moral, but not really the formation of morality itself.

NOPE! Not even close!
Those are a few considerations one has to make when one is interested in seeing how morality arises without a deity deciding the rules. As I hope you can see, natural morality is very possible an is quite likely.

That said, I don't care what a person assigns as the source of their morality so long as they are practicing acceptable social morality. It is also nice when people realize that there no moral absolutes, just the limits that we as individuals and a group deem acceptable.

In fact, natural morality can be better than a supposedly unchanging objective morality when it claims certain things are moral, even in the face of our modern morality. Death for apostasy, stoning disobedient children, gays are abhorrent, marry your rapist, etc, etc. If that is supposed to be a divine moral standard, I'll take our carefully considered morals any day.

-Brain Hulk

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