At the simplest level I would define a Moral Code as…
“A set of rules, relating to specific actions, which can be applied to prevent you from realising a desire to enact those actions, such that the rule itself is the primary effect not any fear of consequence.”
I am presuming that everyone has one.
I am presuming that most people’s moral code was laid down when their consciousness was either dormant (babyhood to early childhood) or immature (early childhood to adolescence).
In other words it is a fundamental part of their personality, one they had no conscious choice in formulating (although no doubt everyone has tinkered with it on the surface).
If we were creating a new code how would we go about it?
1. Define what we believe is the nature is the reality we live in.
2. Define what we want to achieve within the limits of the reality we have defined.
3. Create a set of rules that allows us to accomplish these achievements within the limits in the short, medium and long term. – Voila our Moral Code.
I presume many here inherited their code from an early family environment of religious belief and even those that didn’t grew up in a family environment where at the very least morality was used as a control mechanism to maintain their parents sanity.
Thus is it not time to cut away the shackles on your mind and formulate a new code from first principles?
So the Muslims are more correct about our state at birth, they believe we are basically born good. We all know the Christian view.
More probably this is just Game Theory (as mentioned below) being learnt by evolution, as you say animals that have a social aspect are more successful than those that don’t in highly competitive ecologies.
The interesting thing is that a child who is not taught moral restraint tends to become a monster, so is there a counter predisposition that starts to dominate, or is the sum of all genetic effects a evolutionary selfish predator that cooperates only when they absolutely have to?
The key question is would we like a society where we just behaved in a way that comes naturally, is this not what philosophers are trying to improve on?
If we were naturally good wouldn’t the world be a nicer place?
I've never really worried about morality and being an atheist. I have always been a basically "good" person. I have no desire to hurt or abuse others, and prefer to help if at all possible. I never chose to be this way, it's just the way I've always been. I've never doubted that I am a "moral" person and thus have never thought much about it.
My aunt and uncle had seven children, six of them are upstanding members of society: work contribute, help others, etc. The second child was a total sociopath, only interested in things that made her feel good, drugs, sex, etc. no thought about consequences. My aunt and uncle treated all their children the same way, so it's not how she was raised.
It would be interesting to ask her why she is like she is.
There could be many reasons that are not genetic; a second child has an unusual place in a large family, not quite the first born, but not one of the many, experiencing a change in the mother’s psychology. Was the first born male or female? There could have been seminal experiences within or outside the family only she had, at what age did she go bad? She could of course have some form of physiological or psychological abnormality.
We do have individuals that behave badly and despite many theories as to why there seems to be little action to isolate and stop the cause, we mostly only deal with the symptoms.
Moral codes imposed by external philosophies have been used to control the good and the slightly bad for centuries (assuming no one can help the very bad, psycho and sociopaths).
I don’t think we can state these don’t work and you’re either born good or bad, so assuming they do, and assuming many if not most are born, at least indifferent to morality, then should we not formulate a new code based on something other than religion?
For those who want to know why in detail, rather than just because I told you to, then basing the code on sensible foundations would seem wise.
I'm not sure what modeling has been done in regards to constructing a moral code from scratch, but the past "experiment" I referred to, a bit tongue in cheek I admit, was the one we are living out right now.
The parameters would not be so simple, I suppose, so I was wrong on that account. Especially when one must quantify them. But constructing a moral code from scratch is no easy task, especially if you want to make it successful.
So the first thing is to determine how to define "success". Then we would need to define attributes of our individuals that make up our species. Then the environment.
A social species with attributes comparable to Chimpanzees or Humans would rely more on cooperation and altruism than, say, a crocodile or black widow type creature.
So my question would be, if we are creating a moral code from scratch, then are we doing so with Humans in mind? If so, then we already have the attributes of environment and the population. Now we would need to define "success".
Admittedly, I am far from an expert on game theory, but I know enough about it and how simple and localized rules can create complex systems, that I would allow "nature" to run the experiment and then analyse the results.