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PostPosted: 12 Oct 2007, 16:00 
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In this thread, I mentioned the Pope's appeal to South Koreans about stopping embryonic stem cell research.

The part that got me was the appeal to their "inherent moral sensibility". Shouldn't their "inherent moral sensibility" have already kicked in and stopped the research if it was against such an inherent sensability?

I'm currently working my way through a book, The Evolution of Moral Understanding by C.R. Hallpike, and one of the propositions that he puts forth is that morals are a function and response to social structures and individual dilemas.

Now, many religions dictate a code of ethics, either complicated (look to Judeaism, where the book of Leviticus presents a code of ethics to adherants) or simple (The Wiccan Rede), and some adherants can't seem to conceive of why non-adherants (atheists/pagans/heathens/infidels/etc.) would have any morals at all.

Should we be looking for a universal code, as the Secular Humanists would have, or should we be looking for something inherent? Do all humans have some basic set of morals built in? And, if so, are they all the same?


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PostPosted: 13 Oct 2007, 21:32 
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I think humans do have an inherent moral sensibility, one that we evolved in order to function as social animals. All social animals have "codes" of behavior that enable them to cooperate instead of each member of the group looking out for its own short-sighted self-interest. Why should we be any different? The difference, if any, is that we are aware of our instinctive morals and can examine to what extent they serve the interests of our modern, non-native lifestyle, and train our consciences to overwhelm instincts that no longer serve.

In any case, I don't think our "inherent moral sensibility" has anything to say about embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, technologies which could never have been imagined in the Paleolithic. Oddly enough, there does seem to be a cross-cultural taboo against creating humans "artificially," often rooted in the notion that such beings would be mindless or "soulless," not real people. I have no idea whether this taboo is instinctive or learned culturally. Possibly, it comes from a) a conviction that no fallible manmade process could possibly duplicate all the complexities of the human mind, including our inherent moral sensibility, and b) the fear of a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a human but does not share said morals (hence the proliferation of "pod people" horror stories).

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PostPosted: 27 Oct 2007, 15:09 
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Interesting--- the homoculous thing.

I thought it was more of a moral issue with trying to become 'god'--- the main message/reason behind Frankenstein.

I remember as a child reading detailed instructions on how to make miniture people, with a stern rebuke at he end that it would all implode. Basically, to say 'I'm not god'.

But it also brings to mind 'mindless' zombies.

I do think we all have an inherent moral code, but one that has to be reinforced by manners. In literature, there are 'rules' for good guys and heroes that are standard accross cultures and millenium. I would think these are recognitions of the inherent moral structure and an approval of it.


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PostPosted: 29 Oct 2007, 09:02 
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jess wrote:
I thought it was more of a moral issue with trying to become 'god'--- the main message/reason behind Frankenstein.


Interesting you should bring this up. Actually, in the original novel, Dr. Frankenstein's crime was not that he attempted to "play God" and create life, but that he failed to properly nurture the life he had created. The monster was effectively his child, and he abandoned it when it did not turn out to his expectations. The movie versions warped Mary Shelley's original message--to the detriment of the story, I think.

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PostPosted: 31 Oct 2007, 13:19 
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I actually do know that... I should have been more clear. I was more referring ot the whole 'age of reason' reaction period.

Now that I know way more about Mary Shelly, the pain that caused that theme is really evident.

I apologize for using 'frankenstein' as shorthand. I should have known better. ;)


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PostPosted: 03 Nov 2007, 10:10 
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Hex wrote:
Should we be looking for a universal code, as the Secular Humanists would have, or should we be looking for something inherent? Do all humans have some basic set of morals built in? And, if so, are they all the same?


It's my opinion that we should be willing to celebrate diversity and not be looking for a universal morality code.

This brings me to think of missionary work. If a select group of very intelligent green people from some fantasy island come up with a code of ethics which they believe would make the world a better place if everyone followed it, should they start to go around the world preaching the superiority of their new moral code (i.e. religion), maybe even making war against non-believers as they grow in power? Would the world get along better if everyone believed what I believe, what the Christians believe, what the Muslims believe?

Sure it would, but it's not the reality of our world. The world is working the way the spirit intends (my belief). It is not for me to change the way others believe; it is for me to tolerate their beliefs and learn from them. A global code of ethics may evolve on our planet as we become more globalized in our thinking and more able to deal with the basic needs of the peoples of our world. But I don't think that would ever be universal (in the sense of alien life visiting our planet), because I think that morality is part of our evolution, not naturally and universally inherent.


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PostPosted: 03 Nov 2007, 10:48 
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While the world may 'get along better' I think that overall, it would suffer from a lack of diversity. It's the different outlooks that lead to differnt ways of attacking a problem.

Overall, I do feel that there is a standard 'moral code' imbedded in us. We feel disgust at rape and murder and child abuse not because we are taught it's wrong, but because it's not healthy for society.

Take dogs, for example. They put up with serious abuse by children and puppies (with rare exceptions) mainly because they are hardwired to tolerate the young. It's the way the pack survives. As such, I feel that there are certain taboos across the board in humans because without them, we'd not survive as a group.

We have currently in our area a unique murder case. About 20 years ago, a yound lady named Linda Yalem was brutally raped and murdered while jogging in a safe area. Her murder was especially 'evil' because she was choked to death while being raped--- but not a simple choke, she was brought in and out of consiousness several times by a talented murderer. On the anniversary of her death, another woman was killed the exact same way.

Well, they caught the guy and have pinned several more murders and rapes on him. For 25 years, he was a model citizen, while being a brutal monster in his 'off time'. He's being studied as one of the most severe cases of disconnet between civilzationa dn brutality ever, without involving a mental illness. They are actually planning on studying him to see if there are biological reasons to do this.

I'm bringing him up here because he's a decent 'proof' of an inherent morality. He does not seem to share it, but all around him do. And the argument that there is a biological difference in him implies that he is not hard wired the same way the rest of us are.

That said, I find it interesting that humans seem to succumb to a 'mob mentality' where numbers and anonimity provide an excuse to break the rules. For example, I'm thinking looters/rioters and Gate night/devil's night revellers...


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PostPosted: 03 Nov 2007, 20:44 
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My two cents worth:

I, for one, do not believe that the human being is wired to do anything except seek survival, first as an individual being, and then, perhaps as a species.

If you reduce "morals" down to a core essence (I am sure there is a technical term for that sort of thing...somewhere), taking out all things which might be perceived as "cultural" or "societal", it all comes down to a set of guidelines which support the continuation and safety of the culture or society being studied.

The environment and belief systems then modify this basic stricture to a variety of forms.

Some individuals naturally abide by these rules without question, others follow them because they accept the basic principles involved, still others abide out of "fear" of the repercussions of not "playing along" (if you will), and still others simply don't follow the rules.

The last category is generally seen as evil, the "villain" that is easily recognized and thus "punished" by society through laws, taboos, or other mechanisms. The truly frightening ones are the second to last category, because when they find a way to circumvent consequences, they can act out their "anti-moral" desires and hide in plain sight.

In saying the continuation and safety of the culture, I believe it is important to understand that this works on a small, if you will "tribal" level, (or whatever you wish to call the primary community of the human animal outside of blood relations). Because of this, you get the mobs and other groups that work contrary to what would be rationally perceived as the "good" of the larger culture. They operate for their own safety and continuation, regardless of the "moral" wrongness it may have for the larger culture.

Morality is different at different levels within ones own culture, as well as between different cultures. What is good for the "goose", in this case, has nothing at all to do with the "gander."

I could keep going, but I won't right now. On to reading more posts...


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PostPosted: 05 Nov 2007, 22:05 
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HavenMage wrote:
My two cents worth:

I, for one, do not believe that the human being is wired to do anything except seek survival, first as an individual being, and then, perhaps as a species.


I feel that the need for our genes to survive as a species outweighs our need for our own genes to survive on some level. Most people will die for another's child, but not for another, for example.

I spent way too much thinking about this while undergoing infertility treatments. Human genes, it turns out, are waaay more important to me viscerally than my own genes are, no matter how much my genes mean.

(That said, I'd sell you all out if it meant saving Galvan. :oops: )

Quote:
Some individuals naturally abide by these rules without question, others follow them because they accept the basic principles involved, still others abide out of "fear" of the repercussions of not "playing along" (if you will), and still others simply don't follow the rules.

The last category is generally seen as evil, the "villain" that is easily recognized and thus "punished" by society through laws, taboos, or other mechanisms. The truly frightening ones are the second to last category, because when they find a way to circumvent consequences, they can act out their "anti-moral" desires and hide in plain sight.


Strange--- that is one of the scary things about many theists--- the wonder of what stops atheists from raping and stealing and killing because they aren't afraid of a sky daddy. I had an intellegent friend (chemist and catholic) sincerely wonder about this.

When Thomas Jefferson said his famous But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg a New York minister retorted
Quote:
Let my neighbor once perceive himself that there is no god and he will soon pick my pocket adn break not only h=my leg but my neck.


Personally, it scares me no end to think that there are large groups of people held in check only because of fear of an invisible sky daddy. And watching the crime rate go up and the churches close, I can't help but wonder if it's a good thing fewer people believe.


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PostPosted: 06 Nov 2007, 15:05 
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Paradigm shifts are never easy...but we'll be better off, as a society, as sky-daddy belief wanes. Fear of punishment is not a supplement for genuine conscience but a substitute for it, and a poor one at that. Ask any child who has ever misbehaved while Mom wasn't watching.

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PostPosted: 12 Nov 2007, 13:09 
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As I mentioned above, I'm reading Hallpike's book, and when you finally wade through it (I finally got to the meat of it, go me! :study: ), the author gets to the ethnographic analogies and points out that in smaller, simpler societies, being 'good' or 'moral' is merely acting in accordances with corporate order. The individual's 'morals' are not individualized, but in accordance with the group (so in essence, -everyone's- morals are dictated by the code of ethics or the group). However, the more time or responsibility the individual has to make descisions that might fall outside the corporate group, the more personal morals become, but they still stay tempered by corporate guidelines (This is where the 'How would you like it if someone acted that way toward you' questions come into play). People can be 'good' and 'bad', dependant on their actions toward their fellows in the group.

But when the focus gets to the level of empires, the focus is so heavily on the individual and the potential of inter-acting with so many different people that the corporate group breaks down, and there's no 'accountability' except to the actor themselves. This is where the 'sky-daddy' seems to come in. Even if you break the man-made laws so well that you'll never be caught, there's -still- retribution from the supernatural that knows all, sees all, and tells a damn sight more. :tongue3:

Here, what you need is to instill a personal set of compatable morals into each member of the society. Fear is the easy way to do it, thought/rationalization is the more difficult one. Hence, religious law sets the tone, providing a (sometimes) simple (sometimes) cohesive ethical code that people can draw on to show that they're still part of the larger corporate group (the us vs. them scenario).

How do you combat this and get into that more difficult way? Look at LeVay's Satanism; even just the Nine Satanic Sins. Rational thought and personal accountability masquerading as a religion ... :twisted:


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PostPosted: 12 Nov 2007, 16:43 
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regarding fear as a motivator to be good---

I recently read an article on the relationship between Washington (a self made aristocrat officer) and LaFayette (a genetic aristocrat officer). Both were weaned on Frederick the Great's treatise on how to maintain an army, which basically said to involve fear, fear and lots of fear in your soldiers.

Basically, officers, being nobility, were capable of fighiting for the greater good and being, well, noble, but enlisted men needed to be whipped at every turn.

Steuben fucked this up, apparently. He treated his soldiers with respect and brotherhood, and while Washington berated him for this, LaFayette decided to incorporate it.

At one point, LaFayette and someone else (sorry!) were both suffering from heavy losses in desertion and mutinies (if armies can do that). The other officer executed the ringleaders of his group, causing more unrest. LaFayette pulled his men together and bascially said that an soldier who left was fine, no isses. Other than his personal sense of betrayal of his country and his compatriot.

LaFayette not only stopped the desertion, some of his previously AWOL men came back.

Washington learned, and the rest is history. LaFayette apparently tried to instill the same vaules in France when he got home.

The reason I bring this up is that you don't need fear to control people. Love and respect work as well.


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PostPosted: 12 Nov 2007, 21:58 
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Love and respect do work, to a certain point. I agree with that.

At the same time, there is also the matter that some people love and respect the opposite of what is good for them, the people around them, and the society as a whole. That leads to a whole other set of problems.

It has been my experience that respect can show a person a decent path, and if they have not been twisted by some darkness within themselves, it can be a great motivator. In the case of an army, this seems to be a very important issue.

There was an article on heroism in the Yahoo!News about how many heroes were "heroic" not from a love of country (and other thing) but simply because of a sense of loyalty to their fellow soldiers. A useful tool.

So how does one handle the matter of persons that will not be swayed by such positive reinforcement?

Should a society impose a "legalistic" approach as in the West? Or is a "Shame" culture, as in Japan, a more appropriate response?

It seems (to me anyways) that morality continues to come down to the majority imposing a "value" set on the whole. We use morality to define what is "good" for the society and what is "bad", regardless of its actual value to the individual...


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