Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yet Another Actor For The Morality Play


You might remember a War on Moral Relativism that took place on certain atheist blogs recently? Well there's a new player in town, and this one's not a philosopher in any camp, rather it's a biological/anthropological argument.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin

While this represents a good argument against the Olympian view of morality, that some superbeing handed morals down on a platter from on high, it also points to that "sticking point" in Human Beings where morality gives way to survival. While this does not mean that morality is relative, it does mean that there is a point where what is ethical gives way to self-preservation. The only fallacy is the rationalization that takes place to make the action morally justified when no such justification is possible or necessary. Instead, the justification needs to focus on actual versus perceived threats to individual survival. The attempt to find moral justification for these actions is the very mechanism that created moral relativism in the first place. Social groups tend to apply one set of rules within the group and another toward other groups that are traditionally seen as a threat. Certain self-appointed keepers of moral standards use propaganda to exaggerate this threat in order to obtain group cohesion and organize warlike behavior. Need I say more?

12 Comments:

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Mookie said...

Yes, morality, culture, and tribalism all have similar roots. I much prefer the scientific arguments for morality instead of the "pretty words" approach to morality. We can judge the effects of our actions, and have some agreed-upon standards to do it, but all we can say is that one action is better on this arbitrary scale than another.

Don't expect religion to supply any meaningful morality. Sure, the pretty words could definitely satisfy us as useful (thou shalt not kill), but the source of this rule, god, can be used as a justification to kill people.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

There is no 'opoly' like a Monopoly..which is what certain people think that they have on Morality.

Some people believe that Morality was invented by Hammurabi..NO wait the Greeks..no the Hebrews..D'OH most of the 'intheknow' crowd agree that it was perfected about 2000 years ago.

btw
I was commenting today on the ratio of religion to homicides in countries and Chris Bradley from Deeply Blasphemous showed up and I know that he would enjoy your video on Stupid Design
and that You would enjoy his Banana video.

http://blog.chrisbradleywriter.com/index.html

 
At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it quite ironic that the creatures that are supposed to be superior in all ways to animals (that is, humans) are the most gullible and capable of being led by the nose into twisted and perverted versions of the biological imperative. An ape will drown attempting to save it's kin in the river, but humans will slaughter each other because they read from different books.
Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

ILD

 
At 7:59 AM, Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

Morality is not absolute - thats why holy books, like any book, become outdated and obsolete - like the bible. How can you justify following very badly written mythology book that has all its material based on a point in social evolution that long since past?

Evolution is not just tied to physiology, it extends to social and behavioral constructs - these change much faster in human societies to accomodate shifting state of civilisation and technology. Technology is an integral part of human evolution and is changing the face of human existence at an ever faster pace.

 
At 1:40 AM, Blogger The Editor said...

Yep, it's a dog eat dog world out there, woof, woof!

 
At 8:09 AM, Blogger Delta said...

I think morality is necessarily relative, or at least we haven't discovered what the objective morality should be yet (and I doubt that such a discovery could be made)."Right" and "wrong" just don't have much scientific significance. Once we subjectively determine how we want the world around us to be, then we can assign "right" and "wrong" to things depending on whether or not they help or hinder the advancement of that worldview, but I think it always has to start with a subjective step.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger Mookie said...

Moral center of the brain?:

http://www.newscientisttech.com/article.ns?id=dn10239&feedId=online-news_rss20

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

mookie:

Thanks for the link. Turning off parts of the brain with TMS is teaching us a lot. The self-interest suppression angle is very interesting in what it says about the Human Race.

The thing to consider about agreed-upon standards is, why are they agreed-upon? Some are coerced or socially demanded behavior, and this I call false morality. Other standards are agreed upon because they are universally acceptable and not arbitrary or favoring one party's self interest.

homo escapeons: Morality was invented by men and women in social interaction. There is still room for refinement and improvement. I checked out Chris Bradley's site, but did not see the Banana video. I'm guessing it has something to do with that emotional retard who thought bananas proved the existence of god? His name escapes me, no pun intended.

anonymous: We are a race of beings who lie, and who have weird hierarchies with different grades of rules and privileges. We have, as a society, come up with many rules that prevent instant retribution, and so many feel entitled not to "take their lumps" for their inappropriate actions. I could go on, but I think I make the point that there are a lot of "somethings" wrong that contribute to the situation you describe.

rev barking nonsequitor, and the editor, and delta

I think that there are moral absolutes, but I don't think morality, or moral issues are absolutely the only consideration to be given to any given circumstance. The belief in absolutes starts for me with the belief that something is either moral, or immoral, or amoral. In other words, something can't be a little moral or a little immoral any more than a female person can be a little pregnant. That said, some things that are accepted as immoral are not necessarily so. Premarital sex comes to mind. It can be immoral, but that judgment is dependent on the other facts and motives of the circumstances. The relative morality of the act is not dependent on public opinion, it is dependent on factors that make it "also", like "also rape", or "also an act of misogyny". I think the moral razor can be expressed simply as: "Did somebody get screwed?" Morality is a judgment on social interaction after all.
There are extenuating circumstances for committing an immoral act. Morality is not the only consideration. In this respect, it is not absolute. Having committed an immoral act, the trap is to rationalize the act as moral, rather than admitting the immoral nature and accepting the consequences.

 
At 6:32 AM, Blogger Shelley said...

Wow. Very interesting post. I struggle with those in society who immediately put the godless into the amoral category regardless of any action besides having common sense enough to question the patriarchial religion myths.
Ya, I'm amoral if they put it that way. ;)

 
At 1:36 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay said...

"I think morality is necessarily relative"

To quote a well-known movie, "I don't think it means what you think it means."

 
At 6:45 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Hi Franc. I hope you don't mind that I borrowed your phrase, "moral razor".

I'm beginning to think that moral relativism is a convincing illusion, like a good optical illusion. For example: it was once considered immoral to have premarital sex. Other factors at the time? No penicillin to fight venereal disease, no widely available contraception, questionable personal hygiene. In other words, there were factors that made the act more generally ill-advised than it is now, given proper precautions. The question becomes, is it (also) a responsible act, or an irresponsible act? The choices that can make it a responsible act were not (all of them) always available. The social pressure to be a cookie-cutter family unit that can be squired from cradle to grave predictably, does not enter into the equation.

The moral dilemmas, like the classic Army truck driver with a truck full of troops approaching an unmoving child playing on a one-lane bridge (do you stop?), is not a moral dilemma at all. You drive through, avoiding the probable ambush, and you commit an immoral act. Did somebody get screwed? Oh yeah.

 
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