Because I Said So

Innate doesn’t have to mean always has and always will be, only that it is so right now.

Innate morality is a well grooved standard of many a secularist when faced with the equally gouged interrogative: without God, where do you get your morals from? and the corollary how can anything be called right or wrong without an outside agency setting a standard?

For a time I was satisfied with the genetic argument; that it was necessary for our species to possess predispositions toward fairness, fidelity, and  kindness to those around us (our family, group, tribe, town, city, and nation, in about that order of priority, and commonly referred to in evolutionary terms as kin selection). Without an innate desire to help your neighbour (and for he to help you) our chances of surviving the harsh prehistoric landscape would have been very grim indeed. On the surface, a perfectly cogent argument defeating any argument for the necessity for a codified and objective morality.

But but but. Let’s return to the notion of genetic, or, more precisely, evolved morality. There is a germ of implication here that my chromosonally challenged and prefontally retarded mind cannot reconcile with the notion of innate morality (or ethics, I use the terms interchangeably).

If we are evolved and evolving* hominids, then the hominids we are evolving toward may very well lack innate morality.

Innate implies genetic, and genetic implies gene, and genes are selected for. Therefore, it is conceivable at a minimum that environmental factors in the future may be such that a lack of moral intelligence will be an evolutionary advantage. It is also conceivable that due to environmental change, that a wholly foreign, radically alien, social behavior might become the moral standard of non homo sapien hominids.

Before I am accused of moral relativism, let’s make this point perfectly clear. One can argue for a universal moral standard as it applies to human beings, regardless of culture or creed or nationality, and think that same morality does not apply to, say, earthworms, spiders, rabbits, lions, or lemurs. Those species seem to want something somewhat different out of life, and so may the creatures we evolve to be.

So, here we are left with the danger, if it can be called a danger, of moving away from a species that emphasizes fairness, courage, love, kindness, etc. to a species that may no longer value those traits. Is that a problem? I think a perfectly reasonable case can be made for either side of that debate. If a conclusion is drawn that such a state of affairs is a problem, then what that species will need is a book saying what is right and what is wrong. A bible, divine or not.

*Whether or not human beings are still evolving may seem like an obvious question. Of course we are. We are animals subject to our environment. But that process may very well have slowed to a trickle. I ask you to reflect on what Darwin said about islands, and the necessity of quarantining groups within a species so the same sets of genes are not passed on endlessly. Nowadays, the Earth is one giant breeding harem.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

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2 Responses to “Because I Said So”

  1. Andrew Fraser Says:

    moral and ethical are not interchangeable terms. the former is subjective the latter is objective. morals are based on convention and ethics on evidence and reason.

    • rockrobinoff Says:

      ethics: first def: a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.

      morality: first def: 1.

      conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.

      from wiki, first line nder ethics:

      Ethics, also known as moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality

      from wiki, second and third paragraphs on morality:

      Morality has two principal meanings:

      * In its “descriptive” sense, morality refers to personal or cultural values, codes of conduct or social mores that distinguish between right and wrong in the human society. Describing morality in this way is not making a claim about what is objectively right or wrong, but only referring to what is considered right or wrong by an individual or some group of people (such as a religion). This sense of the term is addressed by descriptive ethics.
      * In its “normative” sense, morality refers directly to what is right and wrong, regardless of what specific individuals think. It could be defined as the conduct of the ideal “moral” person in a certain situation. This usage of the term is characterized by “definitive” statements such as “That act is immoral” rather than descriptive ones such as “Many believe that act is immoral.” It is often challenged by moral nihilism, which rejects the existence of any moral truths,[5] and supported by moral realism, which supports the existence of moral truths. The normative usage of the term “morality” is addressed by normative ethics.

      *********

      words dont mean things because what we think they should mean. words means things because they are used that way. your distinction, exists in your head only.

      lastly, sam harris, also uses the terms interchangeably in the moral landscape… and the man is a moral philosopher.

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