I believe that morality is derived from a combination of factors and sources.

Family, culture and religion definitely influence morality. Those "seekers" out there who actually read scripture, philosophy and literary classics for their insights into the human condition are also influenced by their quest. Finally, there's abundant evidence that evolution contributes a hereditary component to morality. Empathy and altruism have obvious survival value for social animals such as us humans and other primates.

But none of these factors are necessarily dominant, nor are they the same for everybody. For instance, scriptural influence can be undone by a personal quest.

The factor I find most intriguing is the evolution of empathy. In our tribal days, before religion existed, experience informed us of what hurt or angered us, and empathy told us that the same things probably hurt and angered others as well. This combination of experience and empathy is enough to instill a generalized "sense" of the Golden Rule between tribe members -- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . because we need each other to survive. The Golden Rule, in practice, can be further distilled to: "Do no unnecessary harm."

Nobody is born with a moral code, of course, but empathy and experience are commonly shared by virtually all of us (except aberrant cases): it's part of the human condition. We start developing empathy as toddlers, maybe earlier. As we mature, this "moral intuition" matures: often without our realizing it. This moral intuition is the crux of the Hippocratic Oath and should be the essential principle of our laws. I believe it constitutes a moral substrate that is often more powerful, in some of us, than the morality we learn from other factors. I think this is because it's what we learn first-hand, through observation and experience. All the other sources I can think of are second-hand, from: other people, scripture, literature and authorities.

We actually see the power of moral intuition (and/or other non-religious sources of morality) at work when we consider religious reforms. We no longer tolerate slavery, the subjugation of women, battlefield excesses, child brides, or criminal punishments disproportionate to the crimes committed. These are all values upheld by the Bible, yet we've long since rejected them. In effect, our non-religious morality has overruled and usurped religious morality. Our non-religious morality actually decides what IS religiously moral.

If our own morality actually decides what is religiously moral -- why have religious morality in the first place?

Tags: evolutions, heredity, moral intuition, morality, religious, values

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We start developing empathy as toddlers, maybe earlier.

We do? I have always read about the extreme egocentric nature of toddlers. I also have witnessed it.

The Golden Rule, in practice, can be further distilled to: "Do no unnecessary harm."

I don't believe that altruism, from an evolutionary derivative, can be distilled down to "do no harm". From an evolutionary stand point, we can tolerate slavery, which we know does great harm. However, something else is driving an aversion against slavery (which is alive and thriving even today).

This moral intuition is the crux of the Hippocratic Oath and should be the essential principle of our laws.


And if the Hippocratic Oath drives our "morality" or our laws, who then will determine what is "harm"? Is euthanasia more harmful than a prolonged and painful death? Depending on who you ask, you'll get different answers.
Are you saying that toddlers ONLY have egocentric natures and CAN'T empathize? Commit to an assertion, if you have one. Tentative and vague sentences offer little to respond to.

You quote me, thereby repeating that it is the Golden Rule that can be distilled down to "do no unnecessary harm" . . . but then turn right around and write that you "don't believe that altruism, from an evolutionary derivative, can be distilled down to 'do no harm'". Hello? Anybody home? YOU are the one that quoted "Golden Rule", then switched it to altruism. That's a strawman argument. You changed my meaning by substituting altruism for Golden Rule, then argued against it as if you're arguing against me. I DIDN'T SAY IT . . . YOU DID! You are arguing against yourself. LoL. You always win but yourself always loses.

And for Christ's sake . . . how did you get the Hippocratic Oath and morality turned around? "Do no unnecessary harm" is the crux of the Hippocratic Oath. By saying this moral intuition should be an essential principle of our laws, I'm NOT saying that it is, or should be, the ONLY principle. That goes without saying (to any reasonable person).

You've obviously missed the entire point of my post. It would have been nice to address genuine responses instead of strawman fallacies.

It's aggravating to waste time on nonproductive replies. If you want to argue with yourself, get a sock puppet and have fun.
I seem to always miss the point of your posts. This last one seems to be an excuse for you to be a jackass. Sorry I even tried to engage you in conversation. I won't make that mistake again.
Is it asinine to express frustration with dishonest replies . . . or is it asinine to reply dishonestly?
I just think you are full of shit and I don't care to smell it anymore. No offense intended; only honesty.
Thanks Reggie.

I appreciate the truth.
Well, see, now you make me like you again. Quit toying with my emotions.
Reggie,

I've run across a spate of strawman arguments, here and elsewhere. I'm worn down. What to do when my words are misrepresented? Ignore it? Debunk it? Humor it?

I'm beginning to think that, sometimes, we don't recognize when we're constructing strawman arguments. The pattern suggests that, maybe, people are responding to so many posts, they rush through them and just try to say SOMETHING. In their hurry, they form impressions instead of opinions and reply more by feel than by thought.

The alternative, it seems to me, is to believe their misrepresentations are intentional. I don't know if there's a full moon, or what. But yours is the 3rd strawman I've had to deal with in the last day. I don't normally point out logical fallacies but my frustration level -- and patience -- is red-lined today.

I could have been more tactful with you and I should have been. But you WERE using the strawman argument and I REALLY don't appreciate it.
I'm worn down. What to do when my words are misrepresented?

Good of you to cast that first stone. But maybe you shouldn't have.

Are you saying that toddlers ONLY have egocentric natures and CAN'T empathize?

Tentative and vague sentences offer little to respond to.

Then what the hell is your definition of "toddler"? Generally, I would see it as an age between 1 year and 3 years of age. Then my assertion is that toddlers DO NOT have empathy. Whether they begin to develop it in some rudimentary form or not may be another matter. But I would assert that toddlers do not have empathy. You seem to want me to say that toddlers can't have empathy. I simply said they do not. There is a difference that a pedant like you should be able to appreciate.

I could have been more tactful with you and I should have been. But you WERE using the strawman argument and I REALLY don't appreciate it.

I notice that it is a common theme with you where you get insulted by responses by people and then, in turn, you insult them. Perhaps your ability to attract so many arguments stems from your convoluted posts. Maybe you are right that people do not spend the time to fully dissect what you are saying. But many times, you do not clearly state what you even mean. You ramble on about many different topics and find it audacious if one were to confuse any aspect of your bloviating. Here is an example:

And for Christ's sake . . . how did you get the Hippocratic Oath and morality turned around? "Do no unnecessary harm" is the crux of the Hippocratic Oath

How? Read what you wrote:

The factor I find most intriguing is the evolution of empathy. In our tribal days, before religion existed, experience informed us of what hurt or angered us, and empathy told us that the same things probably hurt and angered others as well. This combination of experience and empathy is enough to instill a generalized "sense" of the Golden Rule between tribe members -- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . because we need each other to survive. The Golden Rule, in practice, can be further distilled to: "Do no unnecessary harm."

So maybe I shouldn't have specifically used altruism in my argument. I used altruism to cover the gamut of words you were stringing along together in a confused mess (Golden rule, Hippocratic Oath, Empathy). But you are being a pedant and a jackass that seems to get off on confusing issues and then berating people for being obtuse instead of addressing the more salient point they are trying to make.


I'm NOT saying that it is, or should be, the ONLY principle.

Okay, but where did I ever say that you did say that? You said:

This moral intuition is the crux of the Hippocratic Oath and should be the essential principle of our laws.

And I said: And if the Hippocratic Oath drives our "morality" or our laws, who then will determine what is "harm"? So what I said didn't accurately reflect what you were saying, but it was much closer than your misrepresentation of what I said. A driving factor does not exclude other factors, you know. You know that, right?


The alternative, it seems to me, is to believe their misrepresentations are intentional.

I still think you are full of shit and rudely hypocritical. That I don't appreciate. If you want to presume my intentions when I try to engage you in conversation, then you are as guilty as me when I try to presume your positions and "misrepresent" your words.

I am just relieved to finally have put together why you were always a pain in the ass to try and have a conversation with. You are a pedant.
@Reggie,

Yes, maybe I shouldn't have. But I was correct in gauging your entire response as dishonest -- something I've resisted in a few prior replies of your -- so I don't feel too guilty.

You said, "I have always read about the extreme egocentric nature of toddlers. I also have witnessed it." This is NOT saying toddlers do or don't "start developing empathy". All it says is what it says: according to what you've read and witnessed, toddlers are extremely egocentric. I never said they weren't, so you are leaving, hanging in the air, the suggestion of disagreement without actually disagreeing, based on something I never mentioned. It's like a strawman argument that you chickened out of and left dangling. Dishonest tactic . . . and chicken-shit too.

Note the difference between saying toddlers HAVE empathy and START DEVELOPING empathy. Once again, you've changed my assertions and argued against yourself instead. The strawman fallacy again. If you were interested in an honest discussion you'd be trying to understand instead of trying to tear down. Anyway, so if you gave it some thought, what would you think "starting to develop" empathy means? Recognizing cause and effect would be a prerequisite, would it not? Recognizing what hurts or angers others is a requirement of empathy. But this is not news to you. You're an educated man. There's no question you know these things but have chosen to respond with sophistry.

And look at your convoluted blamestorming to try and justify your "altruism" strawman. LoL. Keep it up. I was right to be dismissive of you to begin with.

No. The piece is well-written and has generated lively discussions elsewhere. They understand it just fine. You just want to tear it down for some reason. You don't simply disagree . . . you WANT to disagree so much that you'll use dishonest tactics to tear it down.

So what's going on? Did I get the better of you in some prior discussion(s)? Are you harboring some grudge? Why stick with this ridiculous defense?

You got what you deserved to begin with. Your original reply, in its entirety, was dishonest and cowardly. Your defense doesn't show any change.

There was NOTHING wrong with my calling you out for it.
So what's going on? Did I get the better of you in some prior discussion(s)? Are you harboring some grudge? Why stick with this ridiculous defense?

You got what you deserved to begin with. Your original reply, in its entirety, was dishonest and cowardly. Your defense doesn't show any change.



Ah, the arrogance. I told you exactly the cause of my displeasure. But it couldn’t be that you are a jerk, could it? No. It must be the result of hard feelings from a previous pissing match. Well, AE, you should remove your head from your ass because I explained exactly what it was already. But your paranoia and arrogance leads you to a different conclusion that is miles away from the truth, just as it did when you concluded that I am being dishonest, only trying to tear you down, and am using logical fallacies to do so.

Perhaps your pedantic obsession with logical fallacies has blinded you from reason? After all, when you’re a hammer, all the world’s problems look like nails, right? You want to believe I intentionally used a strawman argument to tear you down simply because I innocently (or not so innocently!) switched out a word. Your blinders went up and you rang the battle cry, launching into yet another insulting post. You completely missed the salient point I was making regarding definitions of harm and never even bothered to address it. You were too busy waxing apoplectic over my switching of words, despite the fact that even if I had not switched the words, the salient point remained.

This is not the first time for you. You and Atheist Ninja used to have a lot of heated debates where you were just as dismissive and insulting. You had the same tone on your blog about Dystonia where you frantically took offense wherever you could. In your arrogance, you no doubt believe that everyone “deserves” your insulting tones.

Since you can think of no other reason for my words, then you decide that it must be borne of dishonesty and malice and logical fallacies are my tools of choice.

Your panties must be twisted something fierce to have such an unassailable position that you find offensive if questioned. I ask questions and I point out failings when I see them. Perhaps they are not the right questions and maybe I am mistaken about the failings, but I am never trying to be dishonest. Read the last part of that last sentence again, please.

So, I’ve watched you for awhile and said nothing about your rudeness to others. I figured that maybe it had something to do with you living in the Philippines. Maybe it was a cultural thing? Perhaps Filipinos treat each other this way as a matter of course? While you may be sparking wonderful discussions on other sites with your postings, it seems you often go out of your way to insult people here. I imagine you sitting at your computer, that snake wrapped around your head and irritating you, so much so that you can tolerate no misunderstandings or presumptions to your posts. And never DARE to change any of your words around for any purpose, even to try and understand what it is you are talking about by phrasing it differently (and no, that is not what I was doing, but what others have done only to get such “charming” replies from you). Perhaps we should simply copy your posts and paste it back at you?

I used to engage you in conversation because it seemed others would not. I was trying to be nice because I felt sorry for you. I even joined your "Origins" group simply because only one other person had after about a week of you starting it. But no good deed goes unpunished, now does it? You remind of the guy no one wants to get cornered by at a party. Now I know why. But you still manage to corner a few here and there, like with Atheist Ninja. But he seemed to be a glutton for punishment, coming back time and time again to spar with you before giving up. I don’t plan on wasting as much time on you as he did, however.

A coward? Spare us your empty rhetoric.
There's a HUGE difference between Atheist Ninja and you, Reggie. Ninja and I disagreed and kept trying to reason with each other; explaining why we thought the other wrong. But you, on the other hand, didn't disagree with me . . . you disagreed with yourself by using strawman tactics. The clincher that demonstrated your dishonest intent was that the entire reply was meant to tear down. I'll say it again: I wasn't born yesterday . . . when there's a thousand ways to say ANYTHING, intent is easy to discern.

My response was and is to point out the dishonesty and denigrate it for what it is. Then you'll either cut it out or avoid me in the future. Either one is better than your strawman tactics. Disagreement is fine. Dishonesty deserves to be put down.

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