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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Hi again, Jen,

Yes, I agreed with you in my very first sentence:

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

Conditions . . . factors . . . whatever.

When it comes to killing, I was careful to use the word "homicide", instead (in my reply to Frink). Yes, euthanasia, capital punishment, war, assassinations, etc., can move killing into morally gray areas. I don't deny that morality is complex and subjective . . . so you can quit trying to convince me.

Your mention of survival instinct is ripe with ramifications. What is moral when your life is on the line? Is it better to take the high road and die? Or is survival the highest moral value that renders the others moot in life-threatening situations?

I don't think survival is the highest moral value but I think it's good enough reason to excuse others for compromising their morals. Killing is excusable in self-defense. If somebody shoots you in the leg, then says he'll blow your brains out if you don't shoot the person next to you: I wouldn't blame you for any decision you make. If you're starving to death, I wouldn't blame you for cannibalism. I wouldn't respect you if you let your daughter die instead of yourself, but I wouldn't demand your arrest either.

Once again, these points are not covered by my discussion but if you want to pursue these tangents, I don't mind.
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."

Hey, AE. Why don't you explain this convoluted mess. It is, after all, the original objection I had to whatever it is you are trying to say that led to this argument. Instead of me trying to figure it out and you being a pedantic dick, let's give you a chance to clarify your cross-eyed musings.

So...Golden Rule....tribalism....do no harm. Go ahead. What are you trying to say?
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.

You are still stuck on the imaginary strawman? Really? It is imaginary, you know. If dishonesty needs to be put down, then are you at suicide risk? I explained my word switch already. You have continued to ignore the salient point I was making. Why? You have your fingers in your ears, screaming "strawman, strawman" over and over, never addressing the original point. You are much like a creationist in that manner.
Interesting research, doone,

My argument recognizes that some people are empathy handicapped. So this research suggest that many of them might one day be less empathy handicapped. Impact: future looks hopeful.
Yeah, doone,

Isn't change supposed to represent improvements? Why make a change that takes away information we need to navigate pages efficiently?
And given Ning's bizarre threading format, even with the numbers it's hard to tell if anything has been added anywhere but the last page.
I think EVERYBODY would give an amen to that! I've never understood that either.
Hi Coda Mars,

I agree with you. You identified several ways tribal living puts evolutionary pressure on social skills like empathy and altruism.
@AE - To give you an example of what my pet project might say is that society necessarily follows from morality. That is, we have not evolved morality, but found better ways of being moral. If morality precedes and necessitates society, better ways of understanding it lead to better outcomes for society.

Just to be clear, I don't mean it in some B.S. gnostic sense that knowledge is within us and we must reveal it, I'm thinking of it as a deterministic, meta-ethical progression.
@Frink,

Damn these threads are EVEN HARDER to follow now. We may need to petition the admin to revert to the prior format. Actually, other forums and BBSs, have more logical formats . . . can't understand clinging to this one!

Anyway . . .

. . . I can't distinguish a difference between evolving morality and finding better ways of being moral. The word, evolving, in this case is not used technically but we all know what you mean. So what's the difference?

I think this discussion will be more interesting if we explore your ideas instead of debate them. To that end, my prior post (if you can find the damn thing) has hitched its wagon to yours. Please respond to that one and let's move on.
I am curious if there is some way to link phpBB or a similar forum system into the Ning login. If so, it would provide a vastly improved threading system for the posts.
You know, Dave, I just don't get it. It's not as if there's a huge mystery involved here. How can ANYBODY (i.e. NING developers) think this format is anywhere near desirable?

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