Tag Archive: Morals

On morals, actions and humanity.

Consider the following. For the sake of argument, assume you had to choose between these two options:

  1. The ability to take action and the taking of action to prevent one man – Sam Adams – from murdering another man – John Smith.
  2. The ability to, and taking action to punish a man – Sam Adams – for murdering another man – John Smith – by whichever means you’d like.

I suspect the skew toward the first option will be dramatic across every demographic. Why is that? Because no amount of punishment will bring Mr. Smith back to life? Probably – that’s my opinion at least. So as far as I can tell, the near universal moral choice would be to not have the murder take place instead of punishment after the fact.

Consider this example – choose between these two options:

  1. Having the ability and taking action to save a child – Mary Smith – from being gang raped to death over several hours.
  2. Having the ability and taking action to punish a gang of child rapists after the rape and murder of Mary Smith by whichever means you’d like.

Again I suspect the skew towards option 1 would be common across every demographic. Why? Because no amount of punishment will undo the suffering and death of Mary Smith? There is nothing one could do to a gang of child rapists that would undo the damage they did. Not having the damage done in the first place is clearly a better option.

Preventing the atrocity is the universal moral option.

Consider these articles:

There is a quote that says:

“If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your god.”

Human morality is clearly superior to that pushed by, at the very least, the religions of the Abrahamic tradition.

The irony of the statement “Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior” is not lost on me.  Every religion tries to claim morality for themselves. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard or read “how can you be moral without god”…

So here it is. Read the paper by Christine Ma-Kellams and Jim Blascovich here:

Does “Science” Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior published in the Plos One journal.

Abstract: Background

Previous work has noted that science stands as an ideological force insofar as the answers it offers to a variety of fundamental questions and concerns; as such, those who pursue scientific inquiry have been shown to be concerned with the moral and social ramifications of their scientific endeavors. No studies to date have directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors.

Abstract: Conclusions/Significance

These studies demonstrated the morally normative effects of lay notions of science. Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality. The present findings speak to this question and elucidate the value-laden outcomes of the notion of science

Scientific American wrote an article about the study here:

Just Thinking about Science Triggers Moral Behavior

Public opinion towards science has made headlines over the past several years for a variety of reasons — mostly negative. High profile cases of academic dishonesty and disputes over funding have left many questioning the integrity and societal value of basic science, while accusations of politically motivated research fly from left and right. There is little doubt that science is value-laden. Allegiances to theories and ideologies can skew the kinds of hypotheses tested and the methods used to test them. These, however, are errors in the application of the method, not the method itself. In other words, it’s possible that public opinion towards science more generally might be relatively unaffected by the misdeeds and biases of individual scientists. In fact, given the undeniable benefits scientific progress yielded, associations with the process of scientific inquiry may be quite positive.

Science bitches! Not only does it work, it makes you want to be a better person too.

An often used argument in favour of Christianity is that without God one isn’t able to be moral, that morals come from God. A great many religious people have made that argument or have asked the question (how can you be moral without God) and insist that the basis of morality is religion or at least the deity of that religion. Of course, Christians insist their God is the basis of morality. Muslims insist it’s their God. Jews insist it’s theirs.

The Bible is filled with many do’s and don’ts but probably the most famous list is the ten commandments. The second list of ten things the almighty creator of the universe wants you to do (or not do) since the first list got broken by Moses during a tanty he threw upon seeing his people worshipping a golden effigy of the offspring of a cow. What most people – most Christians even – don’t know is that there are actually 613 commandments in the Bible. Hasidic Jews follow all of these laws strictly, Christians follow none of these laws unless it suits them. The law condemning homosexuality for example, is hauled out by tattooed bigots when it’s handy while completely disregarding the law right next to it against tattoos.

What’s quite obvious when you read these ‘laws’ is that they are wholly inadequate for any kind of decent moral system. Especially a modern one. There are no laws against slavery; in fact, there are laws on how to properly operate as a slaver. There are no laws against child abuse. The laws around rape include instructions on how much a rapist should pay the father of the victim.

Clearly these ‘laws’ are a terrible basis for any kind of civilised community.

For an example of a set of statements that do constitute a code for decency and civility one does not have to look far to find something created by humanity that is vastly superior to anything any religion has ever come up with.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a document that is the very embodiment of everything that is right and moral. It says all of the things that religious codes would have said if the deity of that religion actually existed and wasn’t a psychotic mass-murdering tyrant. It is quite telling that the greatest objection to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights come from Islamic countries who insist they are governed by a ‘religion of peace’ while subjugating women and partaking in some ludicrously barbaric traditions and application of law.

If a loving actually God existed, The Declaration of Human Rights would have been it’s code of conduct. That the Declaration of Human Rights exists and was created by human cooperation is proof that no such God has ever existed.

A couple of stand-out passages from the declaration:

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 16.
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

In only a few short sentences humanity proves its self superior to any deity ever previously imagined.

Read the full declaration here: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ and the Wikipedia page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights

Empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity — caring about the well-being of others seems like a very human trait. But Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioral tests, on primates and other mammals, that show how many of these moral traits all of us share.

The Chinese have them. Muslims have them. Russians have them. Africans have them. Pacific islanders have them. Hindus have them. The Inuit have them. The Greeks have them. The Romans had them. The Vikings had them. Egyptians have them. And primates have them. And other mammals have them.

But morals come from the Christian God? Really?

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