Where do morals come from? How do we decide what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” or what’s “good” and what’s “bad”
The first question I don’t think is really that hard to answer. Personally, it seems rather plain to me that we get our morals from our continued evolution, both physical and societal. What was once considered perfectly normal 200 years ago (slavery), is absolutely abhorrent today. At least in most parts of the civilized world. There are many such views and practices that I could say the same of. Things that were once considered ok, are now viewed with disgust and/or contempt. Although I haven’t read it yet, The Moral Arc by Michael Shermer, is according to the reviews I have read, a much more detailed explanation of my assertion. It’s on my list of things to read. Hopefully I will get to it very soon.
The second question is much trickier. I’ve read The Moral Landscape and while I may not agree with everything Sam Harris said, I think science, or perhaps the scientific method, can be a great help in determining how we should interact with one another. I still think that philosophy is very important to this process as well. I’m not entirely certain that you can use the one without the other.
My assertions of course are in great contrast to those who proclaim to know (or at least believe) that God gives us morals and defines for us what is right and wrong or what is good and bad. Unfortunately I find this both an illogical and extremely unsatisfying argument. I am speaking of my experience with Christians because that is the religion I am most familiar with. As I mentioned I my previous post, I frequent religious blogs and read many a post about the apparent benevolence of Almighty God and how, without him, we wouldn’t know how to behave or wouldn’t be able to distinguish right from wrong or wouldn’t even be able to define good or bad without reference to some divine standard. I must say that apart from finding this incredibly insulting, I also find it illogical and indefensible. I have some measure of pride at least in myself in being able to distinguish good from bad or right from wrong and I consider it rather insulting to be told that I need to believe in something for which there is no evidence in order to act like a decent human being. It’s illogical and indefensible because the “holy” book(s) that are the supposed word God are utterly filled to the brim with the most hateful, cruel and utterly malevolent writings it’s possible to imagine. I have noticed that whenever I ask questions of the religious believers, they either tend to be ignored or are answered in some kind of code that I am unable to decipher. There is something that makes me suspect, even in the most devoutly religious who have perfected the art of cognitive dissonance, that the reason they can’t answer my questions is because some part of them recognizes what I recognize. These “holy” books are man-made and it very clearly shows. They aren’t worth the paper they are written on and don’t deserve the attention of thoughtful or considerate people.