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.

20 comments:

  1. I think it's all pretty subjective and if, at the end of the day, you are comfortable with the decisions you've made about how to live your life, then that's the important thing (to me, anyway!)

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  2. reza says...

    In the US we now have a situation where pharmacists can refuse to dispense the morning after pill. Some of these prescriptions are written for rape victims, who need reassurance that they won't be re-victimized and get pregnant.

    No one should control a woman's body but a woman.

    reza santorini

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  3. I disagree, because there are some people who are comfortable with pedophilia, for example.

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  4. While I hate to drag out a theistic morality - the neo-pagans put it best : "If it harms none, do what you will."

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  5. Reza, the abortion issue is a touchy one. But if the mother rejects a fetus that can't sustain life on it's own (taking modern technology into account), it is the woman's right, and no one should stand in the way.

    Lya, when you put it that way, abortion comes to mind, because a fetus does have his/her life taken. But I don't deem the fetus to be considered a legal human being until it has grown enough to survive without a mother. Up until then, it part of the mother as Francis says "like the appendix."

    And Lya, I believe all immoral acts need to be punished, even if the punishment would be considered immoral if done first.

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  6. BEAJ,

    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. … Man doesn't randomly murder, rape or steal because we have developed the idea that this is wrong.

    A question because I’m a stinker: why can’t rape be considered moral?

    I ask the question because rape is a product of evolution. You’re right – man does not randomly rape. Were it a tactic that didn’t confer some form of benefit (be it reproductive or otherwise) on the rapist, then evolution most certainly would have selected it out. (You could argue that the human species is still young and the possibility exists that the drive to rape may be selected out in the far, far future, but that doesn’t have any bearing on today—and to argue otherwise would be a expression of faith.)

    You also say evolution has no goal, but the obvious purpose of evolution is to evolve—and not to evolve at random or to burden a species chances for survival with inconvenient appendages, etc., but to bestow useful tools on those species in their struggle for survival. Whether those tools end up being useful or not is a different story. Evolution can make “mistakes.” (Actually, evolution can’t make mistakes, I’m just being judgmental. An evolutionary “mistake” may hinder a species chances for survival, but only to the benefit of a rival species.) If we have a naturally evolved sense of morality, it cannot work but in concert with our naturally evolved selves.

    So, absent a transcendent morality, anything that a species develops as a means of survival cannot be truly considered immoral—even with a majority opinion presiding and claiming otherwise. Such an authority is still arbitrary (consensus is merely consensus and the authority derived from it can make no claims to being “right” or “just”; you may use that consensus to crush me, but you do not do so with any real transcendent authority. Your pile of shit may be bigger than mine, but it’s still a pile of shit.)

    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.

    One species, many individuals—with a distinct drive to procreate their genes (and always at the expense of someone else’s.) The human species isn’t exactly one big happy family. And that’s merely genetics. What about memetics? We talk about the differences between man and animals and one of those is that the transmission of information (which is what genetics is) isn’t merely genetic anymore – it’s also memetic. Procreation isn’t necessarily—always—about babies, it’s about ideas now too. And if I have to kill lots of you to bring prominence to my ideology (the legacy of my genetics) then so be it. Evolution has also made people (and men in particular) incredibly expendable. War has always involved the killing of lots of men (women and children out of the way!) and the species isn’t that much worse off for it because one man alone can still impregnate millions of women—if he had the time. Thank you evolution!

    The simple act of paying taxes for schools is similar to worker ants helping their species live to see another generation.

    But why should you care what happens after you die, BEAJ? Nothing happens after you die. How can you take pride in the propagation of species – we’re just a fancy a group of amoral replicators after all is said and done. You’re helping a species live to see another day, a day that one day will spell the end of that species (either naturally, e.g. the sun burning itself out and wiping out Earth, or unnaturally-but-not really, e.g. Muslims blowing the snot out of the place.) And once we’re gone, the universe will really be no less or more than it is. Who cares? :)

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  7. DT, I'll try to tackle your comments in reverse order.

    We care because it is innate for us to care. We evolved the need to have our species carry on.

    I'm talking strictly morality based on evolution with this post. Not interpretations, so your point about war is not relevant in this except for the fact that usually wars are started because of immoral actions or possible immoral threats.

    Rape is immoral because it violates another human being causing that person to seek revenge, and the majority of society to seek revenge. If rape was not considered immoral, there would be no emotional or more importantly revenge seeking repurcussions. Any act that is physical and invokes the need in us to seek revenge, is an immoral act by my definition.

    Rape in other species is acceptable, but not in ours, and you can thank our bigger brains for that.

    From an emotional standpoint, rape would either lead to abortion (which is a guilt dilemma in itself) or the birth of a rapist and rape victim's child, which could lead to a child that has tendencies towards being immoral down the road (genetically) and/or have been nurtured as if he/she was the child of a rape.

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  8. BEAJ,

    We care because it is innate for us to care. We evolved the need to have our species carry on.

    What does that have to do with whether or not there’s a point to it? If there is no goal, then how can one justify the pursuit—of the goal that doesn’t exist?

    I'm talking strictly morality based on evolution with this post.

    But evolution is responsible for things which you might deem immoral.

    Not interpretations, so your point about war is not relevant in this except for the fact that usually wars are started because of immoral actions or possible immoral threats.

    It’s relevant because it’s an expression of evolution (and morality) and that’s what this post was about. I think you have to include such factors else your points are really insufficient; they don’t exist in a vacuum.

    Rape is immoral because it violates another human being causing that person to seek revenge, and the majority of society to seek revenge.

    That’s very judgmental of you! :) But rape is a natural evolutionary trait, so how can it be immoral? If it didn’t play a part in the amoral process of evolution, it would have been selected out. Yet there it is.

    If rape was not considered immoral, there would be no emotional or more importantly revenge seeking repurcussions.

    For the person being raped, but not the rapist. He’s fulfilling some crypto-genetic obligation but that doesn’t make him (or her, let’s be fair!) safe from the repercussions you speak of. Life is a crazy stew, BEAJ.

    Any act that is physical and invokes the need in us to seek revenge, is an immoral act by my definition.

    Only if morals exist. And only if revenge is immoral. And only if I agree with *your* idea of what constitutes morality—and don’t fault me if I don’t. Because you can’t. Neener.

    Rape in other species is acceptable, but not in ours, and you can thank our bigger brains for that.

    Perhaps our bigger brains are more of a hindrance than we so think? You’re right, again--those other species get along just fine with that (even certain insects have “rape” appendages) but who is to say that our “bigger brains” and the differences manifest in humans are “better”? No one. Unless you’re some kind of Fundy. Atheologist was right! ;)

    From an emotional standpoint, rape would either lead to abortion (which is a guilt dilemma in itself) or the birth of a rapist and rape victim's child, which could lead to a child that has tendencies towards being immoral down the road (genetically) and/or have been nurtured as if he/she was the child of a rape.

    All true. But that says nothing about the benefits conferred on the rapist—whatever they may be, I don’t know. All I know is that if we’re going to assume genetics and assume evolution, we can’t be selective with where we point our microscopes simply because it fits in with our preconceived notions of "right" and "wrong." Everything then has its purpose—and that purpose is devoid of human, moral abstractions.

    Humans are designed to fulfill their self-interests. That those interests collide is fact, but no less of a fact because of the perceived hurts they may engender.

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  9. If rape was deemed socially acceptable we wouldn't have evolved into the beings we are today or we may have gone extinct.

    We would not have the family bonds we have now. Many children wouldn't make it to two because there would be little male provision if any. The woman would be on their own and man would be hogging all the food while looking for other women to rape. Unless rape victims paired up with rapists....but isn't that how marriage evolved anyways.

    As far as self interest goes. We evolved a need to include our families into the realm of self interest.

    Rape had to be weeded out as immoral for man to have evolved to where we are today.

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  10. BEAJ- I agree with you, particularly on your reasoning on why rape is immoral. I personally think the drive to violate others via cold-blooded murder and rape is definitely immoral. We can consider it a cancer of the psyche that evolution never bothered to weed out. It is inherently immoral. Morality, in my view, is independent of religion as advanced species prefer to engage in behavior that preserves one's own well-being.

    To kill (food, anyone?) and to have sex are necessary behaviors to ensure survival of the species, but to kill for no reason or to sexually violate another person (rapists do it to assert themselves as powerful individuals, not to perpetuate the species) only serve to bring about pain and suffering to victims as well as the perpetrator (whether they realize it or not). If it didn't, then those things wouldn't be as rare (relatively speaking) as they are.

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  11. i have a question about ur ID.

    who says that a jew is someone who is born jewish or one who has gone through the formal process of conversion? who decided that?

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  12. It was most likely decided sometimes in early Jewish history. And the world caught on to the idea. Hitler bought into it too, and almost every Jew hater on this planet doesn't care if a Jew believes or not...it is the ethnicity that counts.

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  13. Morality is meaningless - it isn't real. Bringing right and wrong ("good" and "evil") into it is ridiculous. Evolved behaviours within social organisms may be mutually beneficial, singularly beneficial, nuetral or mutual destructive or any varied mix of these qualities and even these qualities rely on a context that may or may not inlcude the next or any subsequent generations. Moral behaviour is an extension of simple symbiosis. Judging something as moral or immoral is entirely subjective and such judegments have varied and continue to vary widely throughout time, geography and individual life span.

    I do not rape. I do not approve of others raping and ordinarily I would describe rape as immoral, but ordinarily we talk about things with a thin glaze of language that allows us to be essentially understood without being definitive in our communication. But rape certainly provided out ancestors and even some today with an effective means of reproduction. This effective means of reproduction had competition from an other strategy of long term bonding. Both have survived, both are therefore viable as a means of spawning a new generation. As far as evolution goes, neither is right or wrong, good or bad, good or evil. They are just different strategies.

    You cannot place competing strategies on a moral landscape and think you've got a map. We are a product of the morality of our parents and our own thinking. We then produce a new moral landscape and for every one of us this landscape will have different hills and valleys. But it is all absolutely subjective. A behaviour may provide survival benefits for a species, reduce the probability of survival or a mix of both in exactly the same way that a physical attribute may. Right and wrong are meaningless - it all comes down to what prospers and this is exactly where memetics come in as DT said. Religion anybody? It may have once provided a survival benefit or it may not. It certainly crushed alternitive ideologies with immense force and so as an idea it dominated the world of men. But like the dinosaurs had their time, so will religion and with it so will morality, although I am not suggesting that the two are related. Morality is essentially our over complication of the simple idea of competition for limited resources and cooperation to face challenge. There are many strategies that covcer a full spectrum from "we're all in it together" to "fuck you bud, I'm alright" and all are valid strategies from an evolutionary point of view although some will have more success than others.

    Rape is nothing special. It works for some, doesn't work for others and that's why it's still around, rather like monogamy or lack thereof which research strongly suggests is a genetic trait. Humans are only unusual in that we protect members of our species from elimination that would otherwise not survive, such as the dissabled, although there are even monkeys in Japan that also do this. To me this would be an attempt to leave the pressures of an evolutionary morality behind and instead adopt a morality based on something else. But what? If it's not for our survival then what is it for the sirvival of? An idea maybe or perhaps some other complex systemsuch as an economy. So what is evolving now if it is not necessarily us to which the pressures of survival apply? That's where you will find evolutions morality and it doesn't give a fuck about what's good for us or bad for us or nice or nasty because we as individuals have been superceded by that which we have created. Society.

    And in the very near future, society will no need us anymore. In fact we will be a hidrance if we do not allow society to change us. The same morality that applies to us is the same morality that applies to cells in a mutlicelled organism. If the cell functions in harmony with the body then it gets resources and it lives. If it is harmful to the body then the pressure of survival by which the organism (it's species) evolves develops methods to deal with that cell.

    So from an indivudal point of view rape is evolutionarily quite meaningless. It is a successful, not the most successful but successful none the less, strategy for reproduction - thus it is not the most desirable form of reproduction, especially for the female. From a societal point of view reproductive rape means more cells diverted from their task to then deal with the raped cell (not working, not productive, not economically viable) and the rapist cell (making other cells unproductive) and so the morality of society is that rape is wrong.

    This is seen in most cultures. This is also why womens sufferage will be seen in every culture and why inevitably all of our societies will either select strategies of competing efficiency or be replaced by one and other. This will continue until humans need to be modified or replaced to remain competative and this will occur, likely within a century.The morality will always adapt as fast as our little minds can manage it to suit the survival of society and it will be the interests of society that temporarliy decide right from wrong until societies of societies then take over the lead role. The point being that morality is neither real nor important. It is now as it has always been soley a question of competative survival on every level, but the lower levels are subject to the immune responses of the larger organism just as the larger organism is subject to lower levels getting out of control.

    I'm sure even ants go wrong.

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  14. CD, again the biggest part of the morality debate is what definition to use. The religious use a definition the requires God. Another definition used by some Atheists I know say that it only pertains to humans, or at least only pertains to conscious choices.
    In order to prove what is moral, one has to define morality first.

    Kind of like disproving God or intelligent design, a hypothesis and/or characteristics is needed first, and not a vague one.

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  15. BEAJ, absolutely agreed. I'm just suggesting that morality is essentially undefinable in any fixed state and even within any defined context there is no fixed morality, consciousnous doesn't change that. It might seem imoral to someto abort a single foetus, but to threee children that are later born by the same mother their existence is entirely dependent on every event that came before. Morality cannot therefore realistically have anything to do with some sort of score card on what is better or worse even if we are able to define better or worse or add reasons to them.

    There are drivers for cooperative behaviour through survival benefit. But some uncooperative behaviours also provide survival benefit. They are just competing strategies and their benefits play out on a very limited number of generations, there is no overall force towards survival of the species, that is a consequential benefit.

    I think that it what we are really discussing is preference. Preference combined with intelligence and the ability to think ahead does result in the ability to consider the so called "greater good". But we have no real understanding that what we think is in anyway better, it's just a judgement and so our differing ideologies that tend to encompass our "morals" are really nothing more than competing memes. An individuals thoughts really make no difference unless they are adopted by multiple individuals. So it is society that decides whether a particular individual morality/behaviour is "good" or "bad" and then deals with the individual appropriately (protect or let the immune system go to work). The system is complex, adaptable (evolving), self repairing. I'd argue that any definition of individual morality is simply not suited to the reality of societies with alternate strategies competing. Morality at that level will be brutal to the individual cell according to the needs of the larger organism. Is this not what we see as the major ideologies compete?

    I think it is. Society is the driver of morality, not the other way around. Complex systems become more complex, their component parts more specialised. Some component parts evolve, some are removed. rapists and murderers will be removed, but we'll still be killin each other (and we will see it as necessary, not immoral) because that is part of what competing societies/ideologies must do to compete. Morality can go out the window. In the end it's still dog eat dog and the most efficient, adaptable dog wins. Why else has western society evolved and our individual morality has changed so much in the past 100 years?

    My point is morality is meaningless. It is just a competative behaviour of a larger organism made of smaller organisms. We just like to classify things in terms of "good" and "bad" and that is just a throw back to the unrealistic theistic view of reward and punishment. Really it's just the ability to eat the other dogs first that counts and that is more obvious the more complex and organised our societies become.

    Apologies for long posts. It's force of habit and an interesting topic to be opened up.

    Cheers,
    CD

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  16. choosedoubt, long posts leave lazy fuckers like myself little room to debate, especially if you're making many different points. But I'd like to focus on one point if you don't mind:

    "Morality can go out the window. In the end it's still dog eat dog and the most efficient, adaptable dog wins. Why else has western society evolved and our individual morality has changed so much in the past 100 years?"

    I'll take a guess and say that you're a scientist, not a philosopher, and that you're trying to reconcile your knowledge of science with your ideas on morality. That's commendable, but nothing studied in biology can compare to the reflexivity and level of conscious rationality that humans have. I'm pretty sure Dawkins offers the same advice in The Selfish Gene, but correct me if I'm wrong (I've only read it once). Trying to explain everything in evolutionary terms is just not possible. Look at taste for an example: is there any evolutionary reason why chocolate ice-cream is more popular than vanilla? Taste is certainly a human notion. We are beyond evolution and hence beyond evolutionary metaphors.

    You do seem to be arguing that there is no morality, that it's all an egoistic grab for power.. but I'm sure Bacon and many on this blog wouldn't agree with this view. This view implies that if a Muslim terrorist is feeling like nuking a capital city, he's quite welcome to. He is in fact just as justified as you are when you choose not to rape someone else. If his society has grown to think that suicide bombers are acceptable, then why should he not be able to just go and kill people? His dog eats our dog, his dog becomes the most efficient and adaptable. And his dog can go ahead. Now why would anyone want to disagree with this? Dostoevsky saw the rise of secularism as promoting this egoism or moral relativism and wrote crappy stories about it. If there is no standard to hold ourselves or other cultures up to, then we fall into Dostoevsky's 'everything is permitted' model.

    You seem to be confusing the notion of an 'absolute' morality with an 'objective' morality. An absolute morality is the such that religious creeds hand out; dogmatic, unchangeable and as stupid as other religious beliefs. The bible will still say that it's okay to stone your kids in another 200 years time, even if theologians ignore this. An absolutist will have 'moral laws', like 'thou shalt not kill', even if it would stop a rampaging murderer. Objective morality on the other hand is merely saying that we can apply the notions of right or wrong in true propositions. If I kicked you in the balls, we could then say that this is immoral. It would also seem acceptable to kill the murder to save the lives of others (if we're working in a utilitarian scheme of things ;) ). If parricide was the right choice in a small Eskimo community it does not follow that we should kill our parents in a western society because the parameters of the propositional statement are completely different. We can also say argue it is not justifiable to kill people of a different religion because the religion could be wrong.

    Another point I should make is that theistic morality isn't a reward/punishment model.. if Protestant kills a few hundred people, accepts jesus and repents he's quite welcome to reward. They don't consider it a moral thing but a 'duty to god' thing.

    Sorry if my post was too long in the end as well. But it is an interesting topic.

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  17. Look at taste for an example: is there any evolutionary reason why chocolate ice-cream is more popular than vanilla? Taste is certainly a human notion. We are beyond evolution and hence beyond evolutionary metaphors.
    **************************
    Actually vanilla is the most popular ice cream I believe. But taste is definitely evolutionary. Taste buds and how our brain reacts to tastes and smells is a result of evolution.

    Again, as far as morality goes. We should make a rule that whoever talks about morality has to define it first.

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  18. Hi Bucket,

    I agree with pretty much everything you've said which means that despite my long post I wasn't very clear. What I'm trying to get at is that morality, including individual morality, is highly adaptive and the driver of that adaptation can be seen to be the adaptive interests of the society or more accurately the ideology rather than a solid individual sense of right or wrong. If our own evolution was solely responsible for our individual morality then our moraltiy wouldn't have changed much in many thousands of year. So this can be seen to be untrue. However the complex systems that were created by our cooperative and conflicting behaviours as an ever more numerous species would apper to me to be not completely but majoritively the definers of societal and therefore individual behavoiurs and this is certainly for the interest of the society. An increasingly key factor in this would appear to be economics. But where as in the past our behaviour may have been adapted to the survival of individuals and small groups I believe it is now observable that a more powerful influence on our individual morality would be the survival of the systems our previous behaviours created. Basically I'm trying to say that just as our bodies aremade up of many specialised cells that societies are organisms made up of us and that there are now a sufficient number of cells with sufficient specialization and sufficient complexity in the dependencies and interactions that we could consider them to truly be organism of which we are a part.

    If that is the case individual morality cannot be fixed or isolated. It will change as the society evolves and according to the pressures on the body of society, not due to circumstance of an individual. So in trying to get an idea of morality we should look at who's morality we are really subject to - our own as individuals or the morality of a much larger beast. I suspect it is the latter and that is why we as individuals (all of our behaviour and morality) are rapidly changing to fulfil a greater need. Technological societies are transforming fastest an it is that ideology that must compete with less dynamic ideologies such as Islam. Christianity and Islam really aren't so different taken literally but in order to prosper technological, liberal society, in which individuals are more specialised and more productive. It just so happens that the technology mutation occured (Iknow there are reasons) in western society and it is going to make the alternative strategy obsolete.

    There is no morality to it. and even if there is it certainly isn't at the level of the individual. We have a sense of taste and so the whole body doesn't decide what we eat. Specialised cells and systems make the choice, and ever cell in the body gets chocolate ice cream and not vanilla. Specialised systems in society are making a similar choice and it isn't down to individuals. So to me it makes no difference what anyone thinks is right or wrong because that will undoubtedly change to serve the interests of society because those parts of society that follow those successful rules will rapidly overwhelm those parts that do not and so society evolves. It really comes down to what society lives on, which is economy. And since the western taste for economic behaviour is incredibly more adept than the legacy systems, such as islam, it is inevitable that all individuals will either be brought into that system or disposed of by it.

    I genuinely suspect that we are nearing the end of this sort of conflict and ideas such as religion and morality. Technology and economy are the two combined forces that will pull individuals into line just as surely as every cell in our own bodies is either working for the whole or something that the body has developed pretty good systems to eliminate. It's really just a very complex symbiotic system. As individuals we are either productive healthy cells or we are diseased but we are just components of a much more complex dynamically evolving system that is increasingly making the behavioural choices for us. Rape is not productive - laws and possible future genetic screening and risk management strategies will control and ultimately eliminate rape. Religious fundamentalism is a disease and it will either kill society or society will kill it (my money is on society). Society doens't need the individual to survive but thnsk to our numbers and our complex interdependencies the individual does need the society. We have witness for centuries and we will continue to witness the drive of society to bring the individual under control - regardless of what we currently consider to be right or wrong or wherever we were born or whatever fictional god we may look to. It's meaningless. Society as an organism subject to it's own drivers of change and requirements for growth and survival will select what works for it.

    Well, bugger, another long post saying essentially the same thing which basically bloils down to this - the ants may have individual function and individual behaviour according to that function but so does the ant hill and it is the needs of the ant hill that win. The individual ants behaviour is meaningless. It's part of a bigger system that eliminates it if it doesn't behave how the ant hill requires it to behave. So is it meaningful to talk about the morality of an individual ant? No more so than attempting to isolate and examine the morality of a liver cell as far as I can see and I don't see humans as being any different regardless of intelligence and distiniction becomes even harder to make with the forces of technological, economical, specialised hyper-dependent, socialised life.

    Really sorry for writing so much and I promise next post will be short ;)

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  19. BEAJ,

    You said "Again, as far as morality goes. We should make a rule that whoever talks about morality has to define it first."

    My point is that morality is false and so any definition of it is false. It's just behaviour and it may be the behaviour of an organism made up of us. On the individual scale the best we can come up with is preference and that is largely decided by society, not by the individual, unless for example we are going to start saying that people are genetically christian or genetically muslim, genetically fashionable, etc. There, nice and short.

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  20. Do we really need a God to maintain a sense of morality? As an atheist and a secularist, I say no because neither god belief nor the lack of it, is any guarantee of morality.

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