June 13, 2006
Thinking Out Loud About Morality
Thanks to Hellbound Alleee's war against moral relativism I've been thinking about the term "morality" a lot lately. Of course, the first thing I needed to do is define "morality." Many religious folk define it as a good and bad according to what God says or thinks. But since religions can't even agree on what God says or thinks, this idea is ridiculous. For example, take abortion, 50% of people are against it, and 50% believe it is the woman's right to choose. 90% of Americans believe in God, and I even know a few Atheists who are against abortion, therefore, many people think abortion is moral, and many believe it is immoral.
I'll stick with the secular definition of morality: "right or good conduct is moral, wrong or bad conduct is immoral." This leaves a bit of dilemma, because it brings up the question of in who's eyes should an act be judged moral or immoral? Of course, I don't believe God exists, so he doesn't enter into the equation, and morality definitely existed prior to biblical times. I look no further than nature being the judge of moral and immoral behaviour. In other words, all species on the planet evolved their own moral code.. Evolution has no goal, but in order for a species to survive brains must have evolved the concept of morality to allow this to happen.
Morals are the rules that allow a species to survive. Man doesn't randomly murder, rape or steal because we have developed the idea that this is wrong. If it was deemed right, we would not be here today. The same is true of every animal species on this planet. Of course, I'm talking about within the same species. Each species has evolved it's own subjective morality. So as far as relative morality goes, each species has little tweaks that make their morality slightly different than ours.. This is due to the amount of offspring a species has, the species need for an exact territory, food required to survive, and predators. But morality is all about keeping the species going.
Lets look at ants. Ants don't believe in God, in fact, other than humans, no other species on this planet, other than pets or zoo animals, are even given any guidlelines on what is right or wrong, and our ancient ancestors had no guidelines either. Ants main thing is keeping their species going. This is what drives them. They find a suitable habitat that is away from predators, protect and feed their Queen (the one responsible for procreation and giving the next generation life). All other species on the planet do not matter in this equation. All other species are either predators or food. They appear to act morally within the species, so unless you want to argue that morality doesn't exist, morals must have evolved. The thing is that since they don't have given rules, they are incapable of immorality, unless it is found that ants can actually lose it and go crazy. By crazy, it would have to commit an act that would be detrimental to the majority of the Queen's offspring's survival, causing an end of the line of that colony.
Of the higher animals, guilt has evolved as a way to remind us of repurcussions of our actions. Humans are capable of nasty things, and destruction just for the heck of it and many other immoral things. If we do something immoral, or wrong, the sane person is reminded of it. The ability to think ahead, actually allows us to stop ourselves from performing most immoral acts. Guilt is a factor in what is moral or immoral amongst humans and most likely all great apes. Guilt can be subjective but morality isn't.
Now lets go back to abortion and morality. I've already implied that humans have their own objective morality. Morality for humans is based on keeping the species going. An average woman could physically have 15 to 20 children in their lifetime. So generally speaking, an abortion will not doom the mother's line or mankinds line. If the woman can get around the guilt issue (living with the decision), abortion is her choice. Taking an unwanted life out in it's fetal stages will not cause anyone to cause physical harm on the mother as women aren't punished physically for having abortions by other people. Abortion is therefore neither moral or immoral. An act that would cause someone to seek physical revenge would be anti-evolutionary because it has the capablities of taking out one or more people who are potential procreators or someone who helps allow for the species to carry on, and perhaps even a perpetual cycle of violence.
This leads to the morality of war. Thanks to false differing religious beliefs and differing ideologies (many due to religioous beliefs), man has basically made a red ant-black ant-green ant-etc situation within our own species. Some of these ideologies and beliefs have to do with eliminating and/or changing others with different beliefs.
When it comes down to someone who wants to murder or inflict harm on you, or a group of people, because you don't think like them, then defense is completely moral and justified. Doing something physical that will invoke the need for the person attacked (or others related to the person attacked) to attack back, will cause our defense mechanisms to spring into action. Stealing is the act of physically taken something owned by someone else. This too falls in the category or immoral provocation, it is anti-evolutionary when something is done that could lead to death. Most societies have laws against rape, murder, and stealing which prevents most affected from taking revenge in their own hands.
Humans don't have to procreate to act morally either. The simple act of paying taxes for schools is similar to worker ants helping their species live to see another generation. Hey, I'm a worker ant.