"What Ladsin? If morality doesn't come from religion, where could it possibly come from?"
Good question class, in this myTake I'll talk a little bit about the evolutionary/ biological sources for moral thinking, then I will talk about where we ought to get morals from and some frequent questions about the ought/is fallacy in regards to this topic, and lastly I will wrap it up with attempting to show how religious morality is in fact not moral.
Evo-Bio: Why do we care what is moral? To answer this I think it is important for us to understand that we are a social species, and we are not the only ones. When we look at other various social species we see that most social species have this innate sense of right and wrong, and that innate sense is modulated by the particular society that an animal finds itself in. One humorous example was a study conducted on Capuchin monkeys in which they were "paid unfairly." In this experiment one monkey was rewarded with a grape, and the other cucumber.
It's really funny to see the reaction, and I recommend watching it. The video is really short. I do not know if any of y'all have kids, but if you are parents or spend a lot of time around children I'm sure that one of the first things that you notice is how quickly children pick up on, "THAT'S NOT FAIR!" We notice this in childhood and all the way up through adulthood we are constantly plagued by this idea that life is not fair. This is not a miraculous, or spiritual thing, but rather the result of several brain structures working in tandem. "Most notably, anterior prefrontal cortex, the medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex, dorsolateral PFC and additional ventromedial sectors of the PFC, the anterior temporal lobes, the superior temporal sulcus region, subcortical.Certain structures such as the amygdala, ventromedial hypothalamus, septal area and nuclei, basal forebrain, the walls of the third ventricle, and rostral brain-stem tegmentum." Now, these regions don't just account for fairness, but with all moral thinking including empathy, sympathy, etc. I no longer have access to the paper as I have not started my graduate classes yet, but if you want to read the paper, and check their conclusions you're welcome to do so, The Neural Basis of Moral Cognition an article by Jorge Moll, Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza, and Roland Zahn. If I recall correctly it was a relatively short article that was less than 20 pages. I wrote a brief synopsis of it when I Was in undergrad a few years ago, and maybe will add that later if y'all want me to.
Where Ought We Get Morals?
I wasn't entirely sure how I wanted to label this section, because I wanted to cover a broad range of topics, but also didn't want to spend too much time on this myTake as it's distracting me from my reading! So, in order to clarify this in this section I intend to clarify what I'm talking about, and what it appears other people are talking about, when we discuss morality. I will also discuss how we can get an ought from an is, and we'll see if I go any further from there.
So, one of the frequent objections that I get when talking about morality is that, "if morality is just a part of evolution you have no justification to say that we should be moral, or even really define that as morality!" Well, I don't particularly agree, while yes it is impossible to get an ought from an is, it is not impossible to get an ought from two is's. For example:
"It is the case that I want my car to continue running."
"It is the case that getting my oil changed every 3-5k miles will help keep my car running."
Therefor, "I ought to get my oil changed every 3-5k miles."
In much the same way I believe that we can get a similar "ought" about moral actions. If it IS the case that we define morality as having to do with the well-being of sentient creatures, and it IS the case that X promotes the well-being of those creatures, (uh-oh third one) and it IS the case that we want to be moral, then we ought to do that particular action. The converse would also be true, if something harms the well-being... then we ought not do it. BUT ISN'T THAT RELATIVE? No, I don't think it is relative, because we set up an objective standard "well-being" and we can compare our actions in regards to that standard. Some people may respond that well-being isn't well defined, and I agree that it can be difficult to parse out where to draw this line, but just because it's difficult doesn't mean that we shouldn't do it. Physical health is also a pretty vacuous, or ill-defined term, yet we can still say pretty assuredly that the person walking around is in better physical health than the person laying down dead. Secular Moral systems admit that we will fail, we will not always have the right notion of well-being, or have the right methodology to fix it, but the good think about secular moral systems is that they have built into them the ability to get better. As we learn more about the world, about the human body, about how others feel pain, etc we can adjust what we believe to be moral as a result.
Religious "Moral" Systems Are Not Moral
"Ladsin, what can you possibly mean by this?" By this I mean that I do not find religious moral systems to accurately describe what we mean when we are talking about morality. When I hear someone say, "you're morally atrocious!" I do not think they are saying, "this person disobeyed god's law" I think that person did or said something that hurt an otherwise innocent person (or being), and more to the point that's what everyone appears to mean when they talk about it. Religious moral systems tend to have divine edicts, or laws handed down from god to man as rules that we are to live by. In the field of ethics this is known as "Divine Command Theory." I do not think that this actually counts as morality or a system for ethics, because it does not treat humans as a moral agent; rather it treats humans like a dog simply not getting on the couch because it's afraid to get beat. If god were to come out with a new revelation tomorrow and say, "whoops, I was wrong I didn't mean though shall not murder, I meant though shall murder!" We wouldn't (at least I hope) then think that murdering people is a-okay.
That will be all for this MyTake, that way I can get back to my reading, but if you have any questions or areas for clarification ask and I will be sure to try and better elucidate my thoughts on the matter. Also, if you have time I would also highly recommend you watch these videos, as many of my thoughts on the matter were shaped by these fellas.
-Science Bless XD