Who/what decides what is right or wrong?

Weston Bortner
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Who/what decides what is right or wrong?

You all know this argument.

If there is no God then who or what decides what is right? How do we know what is good and bad? If we are nothing but chemicals then what basis do we have for morality?

For all of the religious people who make this kind of argument, I'd like to counter with my own question: How do we know what is ingenious and what is stupid?

Right away you'll probably say that a person that is ingenious is the person who is very organized, very knowledgeable, is the kind of person who is creative and inventive.  An ingenious person has common sense and never accepts anything without double checking. A stupid person is the complete opposite. They're incapable of things that the ingenious man is, they have less common sense, and they're very sloppy. I'm kind of stereotyping but you get the idea.

You see, I think that it is ultimately US who decide what is moral or immoral, just as we decide what is smart or dumb. We are encouraged to be smart. We are encouraged to read and write. Can you imagine what society would be like if we didn't encourage education and more people didn't know how to read? We wouldn't be able to be as productive as we are now. We are encouraged to be moral. We know that if we didn't condemn killing, we'd be living in fear because someone would kill us for the sake of killing, or to steal our supplies, etc. If we didn't condemn stealing we wouldn't be able to maintain a business or have the necessary supplies. If we didn't condemn fraud, we wouldn't know who was who and what was what. There would be no structure.

So, to deal with these problems, we made rules against them. Don't steal, don't kill, don't lie. Then, eventually, they became common sense and romanticized by poets who taught us to love and cherish each other, which later became mixed in as common sense with don't lie, steal, and kill.

That's how I think morality came to be. That's how I think we ultimately decide what is right and wrong through discussion and practice.

Thoughts?

Our job on this Earth, is to take care of each other. Something that we have ultimately failed at doing, hence why we are so miserable.


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Hello, welcome the forum.I

Hello, welcome the forum.

I agree with you. In a sense, 'right' and 'wrong' are meaningless terms beyond describing people's preferences. We feel what we feel because it was beneficial at some point in our recent evolutionary history. These are such strong instincts that it was useful for us to conceptualize them this way.   

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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Agree

 

Right and wrong are anthropocentric, subjective terms. Killing and eating all the fish in the sea to keep poverty stricken humans from starving is great for humans but a massacre for finny kinds. Same applies to bacterial hand wash, a turkey dinner with the wife and kids and all the rest of it.

Humans have simply got their heads so far up their own arses they can't see moral behaviour reflects a set of in-group rules designed to keep us on the good side of those people in the best position to return the favour. When their were only 7 of us, no doubt this system worked a treat. No so straightforward now their are 7 billion of us...

 

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There are no moral

There are no moral absolutes, but there are common overlaps. Humans mistake political and religious ideology as moral absolutes.

However,  fuck with someone's kid in any country and most parents are going to react to that threat. Morals are not inventions of labels. They are a product of evolution. They provide a social structure that creates a safety in numbers.

Giving false credit to labels inventing morals creates as much division in human existence as it does creates safety in numbers. We won't get over our differences as a species until we can see to a greater degree, that morals are evolutionary and not a product of superstition or politics.

Life is a range and actions are a range and all humans are capable of the same range of actions, both good and bad. There is no need for fictional super friends to say that people do good things and people do bad things.

 

 

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Even if there is a God, and

Even if there is a God, and he tells us how he wants us to behave, that does not logically define 'right' and 'wrong', that would require the assumption that 'might makes right'.

It requires the naked assumption that God is 'good', but that renders the concept meaningless, the opposite of defining it.

Yet another aspect of Theism that introduces more problems than it 'explains'.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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Society

I think that the fact that societies exist is enough to attest to where morality came from. You can't have a successful society if you don't condemn killing, lying, and stealing. If these things go unchallenged, then there really is no structure and the city you're trying to build will ultimately fall in on itself.

We've been taught that to kill is wrong for so long that it just seems logical and rational to assume that it is. How do we know? Well...we just do. Most likely because we've been told that it was wrong for so long. And it is wrong. We reasoned that it was wrong. Then we reasoned further that the wisest thing to do is to treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Which, by the way, is the most commonly ignored rule of all mankind. It's not treat people like you would want to be treated SOME of the time. It's ALL of the time. And I think most people do not treat everyone as they would want to be treated.

Our job on this Earth, is to take care of each other. Something that we have ultimately failed at doing, hence why we are so miserable.


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Killing, lying and stealing

Killing, lying and stealing are not 'wrong' in ALL circumstances.

The negative formulation of the Golden Rule is better, IMHO: Do not do to others what you would not wish done to you.

I would not necessarily wish to be treated by others the way they wish to be, in all aspects, at all times, since we have different personal preferences.

Even killing - if I am under severe pain or mental deterioration, I would wish to be end it all, even if others do not believe in euthanasia.

If you define 'treat' as 'respect my wishes', that could work. It should aimed be at that level, rather than at specific actions.

Avoiding harm and hurt to others is far more important than making them happy, which is still a 'good' where practical. "First, do no harm" is embodied in the Hippocratic oath.

Consideration for others in our group naturally evolves, and not by 'reason', in all social animals that depend on cooperation for group survival.

Reason has allowed it to be further developed, and not necessarily in positive ways.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

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Killing, lying and stealing

Killing, lying and stealing are not 'wrong' in ALL circumstances.

The negative formulation of the Golden Rule is better, IMHO: Do not do to others what you would not wish done to you.

I would not necessarily wish to be treated by others the way they wish to be, in all aspects, at all times, since we have different personal preferences.

Even killing - if I am under severe pain or mental deterioration, I would wish to be end it all, even if others do not believe in euthanasia.

If you define 'treat' as 'respect my wishes', that could work. It should aimed be at that level, rather than at specific actions.

Avoiding harm and hurt to others is far more important than making them happy, which is still a 'good' where practical. "First, do no harm" is embodied in the Hippocratic oath.

Consideration for others in our group naturally evolves, and not by 'reason', in all social animals that depend on cooperation for group survival.

Reason has allowed it to be further developed, and not necessarily in positive ways.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


Weston Bortner
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BobSpence1 wrote:Killing,

BobSpence1 wrote:

Killing, lying and stealing are not 'wrong' in ALL circumstances.

Indeed. This is a point I should have made.

This is another reason why I think religion fails. I don't think that religion says it is okay to kill SOME of the time, like say, in self defense. I don't think religion says it's okay to steal when you are starved and you have children to feed. I don't think religion says its okay to lie when it could save you from being sent to a concentration camp.

Our job on this Earth, is to take care of each other. Something that we have ultimately failed at doing, hence why we are so miserable.


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Weston Bortner

Weston Bortner wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

Killing, lying and stealing are not 'wrong' in ALL circumstances.

Indeed. This is a point I should have made.

This is another reason why I think religion fails. I don't think that religion says it is okay to kill SOME of the time, like say, in self defense. I don't think religion says it's okay to steal when you are starved and you have children to feed. I don't think religion says its okay to lie when it could save you from being sent to a concentration camp.

 

Who's worried about going to a concentration camp?  When you tell you auntie that she looks fat in those pants, you will wish she sent you to a concentration camp.

 

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Weston Bortner wrote:I think

Weston Bortner wrote:

I think that the fact that societies exist is enough to attest to where morality came from. You can't have a successful society if you don't condemn killing, lying, and stealing. If these things go unchallenged, then there really is no structure and the city you're trying to build will ultimately fall in on itself.

We've been taught that to kill is wrong for so long that it just seems logical and rational to assume that it is. How do we know? Well...we just do. Most likely because we've been told that it was wrong for so long. And it is wrong. We reasoned that it was wrong. Then we reasoned further that the wisest thing to do is to treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Which, by the way, is the most commonly ignored rule of all mankind. It's not treat people like you would want to be treated SOME of the time. It's ALL of the time. And I think most people do not treat everyone as they would want to be treated.

Society formation follows a process similar to evolution.  This is especially true where competition is abundant.  If we follow evolution far enough it's obvious that the so called 'objective morals' that the religious attribute to god, are simply vital elements without which a family unit would go extinct.  In other words, if you have a given number of family units interacting only for mating purposes, only those that do not kill or steal internally, survive as a unit.  Fast forward a considerable number of generation and only humans that naturally prefer not killing over killing get to reproduce.  Mirror neurons are another important piece of the so called puzzle of objective morality.  We experience discomfort when we suffer, or when we see another suffer.  We have to learn from other's mistakes because we can't survive long enough to make them all, hence people with a well developed sense of empathy have an evolutionary advantage over sociopaths.  It follows that the DNA of those individuals is predominant to the point where true sociopaths are extremely rare.

There is no objective moral frame of reference.  It's all subjective.

 

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If you kill someone in self

If you kill someone in self defense, most would say in the given details of such a situation, is justified.

Stealing? While illegal, most would understand, even if they still wouldn't condone it, would understand if you were doing it to feed your kids.

What is so insidious about the god's of Abraham is that their head character's main focus is about gaining club members and the most important "morals" are about his worship where the consideration of humans seem to be an afterthought of this alleged character.

And even if your worst crime is simply not wanting to hang out with this guy, you get punished as badly as Hitler. And even women get treated like property.

The bible is clearly a book of myth and it's claims to morality HAVE NOTHING to do with the reality of the evolution all humans share. It is a book about one guy, one dictator, and if you don't worship him or follow his arbitrary selfish sense of morality, he will hunt you down and beat the shit out of you forever. Again, even IF your only crime is " I don't want to hang out with you".

The god/s of Abraham can hardly be called moral. They are merely the reflection in fictional form of the selfish side of human narcissism and insecurity.

I wish evolution could weed out this flaw, but evolution isn't about perfection, it is about getting to the point of reproduction, and luck and flaws and placebos can produce that result.

God belief is a result of life being imperfect and the flaw of our own brains allowing ourselves to fill in gaps when we seek patterns. This unfortunately is a product of natural biology.

 

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little l

Quote:
Mirror neurons are another important piece of the so called puzzle of objective morality.

I hope they don't support too much Girard's mimetic desire. I like Freud most.

Brian37 wrote:
And even if your worst crime is simply not wanting to hang out with this guy, you get punished as badly as Hitler. And even women get treated like property.
The bible is clearly a book of myth and it's claims to morality HAVE NOTHING to do with the reality of the evolution all humans share. It is a book about one guy, one dictator, and if you don't worship him or follow his arbitrary selfish sense of morality, he will hunt you down and beat the shit out of you forever. Again, even IF your only crime is "I don't want to hang out with you". The god/s of Abraham can hardly be called moral. They are merely the reflection in fictional form of the selfish side of human narcissism and insecurity.

Here is the problem: this is an atheists/agnostic forum, if we were in a theist one "explanations" would be presented.

Quote:
God belief is a result of life being imperfect and the flaw of our own brains allowing ourselves to fill in gaps when we seek patterns. This unfortunately is a product of natural biology.

I found myself thinking about this too. I mean, if we were "better", would have we made religions? In other words, superman (or superwoman...) believes in god?


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 Well, I am not really

 Well, I am not really going to say no to any of the ideas already posted. That being said, anthropologists have found that there is some general morality to be found all over the world. Which brings up the idea that no one group has a lock on the matter.

 

The golden rule is illustrative as a case in point. The exact phrasing varies from one time and place to another as it does from one source to another. However, a quick check of wikipedia finds a great many specific formulations from cultures so far flung, that it is improbable that all the formulations have a common root. Well, not unless that common root is so far back in time that it has become a world wide thing.

 

Actually, wiki lists one version which is attributed to the native Americans. Since they have been isolated for about 30+ thousand years, it either goes back at least that far or it is so intuitively obvious that it just keeps coming up whenever anyone tries to formulate an idea of morals.

 

Another point of note comes from Brian37's idea about messing with a child in any culture. This seems fine enough but it also could be observed that if you walk out in the woods and punch a baby bear across the nose, you will find out how hard it is to out run momma bear.

 

Not that you are a real threat to a bear or that anyone would attribute an awareness of morality to bears in general. They just know not to let the kids get messed with on a very deep level.

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My main reason for thinking

My main reason for thinking that morality is completely subjective is because it has been shown to be. In times of great hardships, morality has been cast aside for the sake of survival. If Apophis were to hit the Earth in the next few years, and it wiped out the ecosystem, making it very difficult to grow food and feed everyone on this planet, you could be that McCarthy's book "The Road" would come to life and we would have people killing each other to eat each other to stay alive. There would be plenty robbing, stealing, and killing to go around and nowhere would be safe.

Even if there is a god, morality, in this world, would still be subjective because you have to wait until death to recieve punishment for whatever it is that you've done. And we're not so sure that there is a god or a heaven.

Our job on this Earth, is to take care of each other. Something that we have ultimately failed at doing, hence why we are so miserable.


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A 'God' cannot define

A 'God' cannot define morality, only make laws and give orders and enforce them, a very different thing.

Morality is about doing things because of subjective feelings about our relations with others in our society.

A God is one way people think of the source of these feelings, when they lack insight into how our minds 'work'.

The question is, what determines those feelings, and the evidence is that they are highly genetically determined, and in higher social animals, strongly influenced by brain mechanisms like 'mirror neurons' which help us assess how others are likely to react to our actions.

And of course different patterns of behaviour will develop when conditions are more difficult for survival or easier.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

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BobSpence1 wrote:A 'God'

BobSpence1 wrote:

A 'God' cannot define morality, only make laws and give orders and enforce them, a very different thing.

The whole concept of a god being the Absolute One whose desires we must follow, simply for being the one who 'created' (fathered) us, is entirely nonsensical, as well as making the entire concept of 'free will', pretty much a 'bait and switch'.

It's a special pleading fallacy to assert that because a god would have 'fathered' the first humans, that logically he has some 'right' to dictate what our likes/dislikes and characteristics should be, down the bloodline, for thousands (or hundreds, in the case of YEC's) of generations.

As far as 'morals and ethics', there are obviously no 'hard and fast' rules that are logically perfect under every conceivable circumstance, under the complexities of reality. Anyone convinced otherwise, immediately demonstrates a clear ignorance of even the most basic skills at modeling outcomes, and problem solving in management and leadership.

There are clearly times that one must set aside their 'ideals', for the 'greater good'. Anyone who doesn't comprehend, or agree with this, is intellectually handicapped.

 

 

 

 

 

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