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Beyond Morality

Discussions on the nature of morality.

Members: 29
Latest Activity: Oct 14, 2012


If you want to understand a species, observe the behaviors of it's members over time. Bears have specific behaviors that have been exhibited throughout bear history. Bears forage, hibernate, are omnivorous, and so on. While the reactions of one bear in a particular situation may be unpredictable, the general behaviors of the species are extremely predictable.

Likewise, observation of the human species yields similar understanding. Throughout history humans have always organized into groups, aspired towards moving up in social pecking orders, developed religious systems, fought with groups having opposing views and with groups having desired resources, and so on.

It is possible to train a bear to dance and do tricks. A bear can learn to rise above its nature to do things beyond the scope of the average bear. However, training a bear to dance does not change the behavior of the bear species. The dancing bear is an anomaly and will likely be rejected by other bears in nature.

Individual humans can also rise above their base nature and, using the highly complex human mind, learn to live as enlightened, rational animals. But, an enlightened individual does not change the overall patterns of the human species. Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Gandhi, Einstein, the Buddha all demonstrated varying levels of enlightened understanding... but they were anomalies and were ultimately rejected by their species.

The species did not become enlightened by the efforts of enlightened individuals. Instead, the human species simply incorporated concrete aberrations of abstract, enlightened messages into the same human systems that perform the same human functions and behaviors that have always existed in humans (i.e. forming groups, moving up in social pecking orders, fighting with groups that have opposing view points, etc.).

I postulate that enlightened beings are no more than dancing bears. They are an interesting anomaly having little impact on the species at large. Bears behave like bears. Let them be bears. Humans behave like humans. Let them be humans.

Discussion Forum

Attempting the Impossible

Started by Edward Teach. Last reply by Write4U Jun 23, 2012. 10 Replies

As a moral relativist, I have spent a lot of time on A/N shooting down the attempts of others to create a universal moral code. I think it's sort of a fool's errand, but here I go:All organisms…Continue

Humanism and Morality

Started by Steph S.. Last reply by Jedi Wanderer Mar 19, 2012. 5 Replies

I loved this paper regarding ethics and morals for the non-religious. http://home.alphalink.com.au/~jperkins/humoral.htmDefining…Continue

The Atheist's Moral Code

Started by Steph S.. Last reply by Steph S. Mar 15, 2012. 1 Reply

I was just wondering what moral and ethical code you follow as an Atheist Humanist.A good article addressing this topic is below.…Continue

Wal-Mart Pulls Children's CD For Containing Profanity

Started by John Jubinsky Jan 2, 2011. 0 Replies

Because a musical CD contained profanity while labeled by both pictures and words as being for children Wal-Mart has refused to continue to sell it. Thank goodness.Per the article:"The CD cover shows…Continue

Tags: Wal-Mart, Profanity, Children, Jubinsky

Comment Wall

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Comment by Steph S. on March 16, 2012 at 12:03am

A basic set of eight such principles, together with brief annotations, has been suggested by Resnik:

Non-malificence: Do not harm yourself or other people.
Beneficence: Help yourself and other people.
Autonomy: Allow rational individuals to make free and informed choices.
Justice: Treat people fairly: treat equals equally, unequals unequally.
Utility: Maximize the ratio of benefits to harms for all people.
Fidelity: Keep your promises and agreements
Honesty: Do not lie, defraud, deceive or mislead.
Privacy: Respect personal privacy and confidentiality.

http://home.alphalink.com.au/~jperkins/humoral.htm

Comment by Edward Teach on September 29, 2010 at 8:37am
Haven't checked it out, Sarah. I like Glenn's take on it though. Morality as an adaptive trait is pretty interesting.
Comment by Sarah Walton on September 24, 2010 at 6:18pm
Has anyone participated in The Brights' Reality About Human Morality project?
Comment by a angel on November 7, 2009 at 1:46pm
Hi all. I'm glad to be here.

I look forward to some interesting discussions. I can see a small difference of opinion has started already. I think debate should be encouraged on this issue. It's the only way we can share opinions and open one another's eyes to the different aspects of morality. I move that: this discussion be moved to a discussion thread.
Comment by Glenn Sogge on October 30, 2009 at 11:31am
[Since Rusty added the Dancing Bears here from his blog post, I'm copying over my initial response also to keep the thread somewhat related. It was also the beginning of my evolution informed discussions. ]

It may not be singing and dancing, but consider the evolution of the dog. A theory that seems pretty coherent is that something selected for a slightly tamer, more human friendly member of the species. If that selection happens enough, you get a strain (breed?) of wolves that can become part of the local fauna that is not immediately life-threatening. Eventually, you might get the precursors of what we now call pets. Soon, there is a breed of wolf that is co-dependent with humans in their environment. Maybe they're good hunters or trackers or pointers. So they get some of the spoils. Eventually, you end up with the first dogs. And since then, we (the 'smart critters') have figured out how to control breeding for selective traits. Now you have hounds and pointers and retrievers who are dancing in our ways to the incomprehension of their cousins.

Likewise, we can have extreme behavior that just may become socially acceptable and possibly even genetically supported given enough time. I don't think of the enlightened individuals as dancing bears (in your sense) but as outliers on the curve of human variation. We have the ability to not be completely trapped by the curve but can do things to change it.

I think if we could come back in a couple of thousand years, we would be surprised (or gratified) at what is then considered normal -- even those things we currently ascribe to "hard-wiring". We can make choices that can alter the future of the wiring.
Comment by Glenn Sogge on October 30, 2009 at 11:27am
I don't think I said "evolution is good"; I did say it might increase the fitness of an organism in its environment. I think it's possible to scientifically discuss fitness without bringing in any goal-directed behavior or valuations.

Saying "Gravity is good" would be neither right nor wrong. It is a category mistake. It's like saying "Justice is blue." Now, I think there are some great uses for category mistakes -- art, jokes, fiction -- but they aren't terribly useful in philosophy. In fact, one could write the History of Philosophy as the accounts of philosophers correcting the category mistakes of their predecessors.
Comment by Edward Teach on October 30, 2009 at 11:12am
The judgement "evolution is good," does not really make sense. "Gravity is good." These are natural phenomenon and they just "are." For me, 'good' doesn't fit. Things are what they are. People do what they do. I have preferences as how I would like for people to behave... but that is really only meaningful to me and does not exist as an external truth.

There is evidence that gravity exists. There is no evidence that gravity is "good."
Comment by Glenn Sogge on October 30, 2009 at 11:08am
I don't think events are essentially neutral. They may further the fitness of an organism within its environment, or they may not, or they may degrade the fitness. Over time, some things will be more fit and survive; others will not. Such things as altruism, family and social cohesion, etc., can be the result of evolutionary changes. If we value those things, than there is more than opinion supporting us. In fact, even if we don't value those things the evidence is still there.

I think retreating to "it's only my opinion" is too convenient. Moral codes are societal constructions of codes of conduct. That is much more than any one person's opinion. Maybe we personally didn't create it but we can subscribe to it and, for that, we are as responsible as anybody else. We should be able to support our reasons for subscribing to any code of conduct. And "godsedit" ain't a good reason.

I blame Plato/Socrates for much of the problems resulting from the reification of good and evil. If we have a name for it, it must exist. Tain't so. The fact there are things that are good does not mean there is anything such as The Good. Or The Beautiful. Or The True.

BTW -- I think everybody should read Plato because of the brilliance at showing how philosophy can be effectively done. That fact that I disagree with many of his premises, and therefore his conclusions, is a different matter.
Comment by Edward Teach on October 30, 2009 at 10:41am
Thank you Glenn. I think my point here is not to speak against morality. I have a moral code that is consistent with the secular humanists. However, I don't want to delude myself into believing that my moral code is anything more than opinion. From a scientific stand point, events are essentially neutral. We individually and collectively apply the terms "good and evil." The idea of a universal good, seems short sighted, as the ultimate outcomes if events are fairly unprdeictable.

For instance, a man throws himself in front of a car and saves the life of a child. The man is a hero. We call him "good." We later find that the child he saved was Adolf Hitler. The man's "good" actions have lead to pain and suffering for millions. Suppose the man had beat the child to death. He is "evil" but has prevented the suffering of millions.
Comment by Glenn Sogge on October 30, 2009 at 10:27am
But anything invented by humans is still a part of nature. And I'm not sure "morality does not exist in nature" -- particularly if you take morality as essentially a code of conduct. I think the behavior of some of the other higher primates are very good examples of morality within their culture.

In response to Greta Christina's Facebook Atheist Meme of the Day project, I tried to come up with one of my own before she did. The results are over at A-Theist Does Not Mean A-Moral

I agree completely with your second sentence of the Information -- it's just the group name and first sentence I have a quibble or three with.

I look forward to further discussion.
 

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