Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thinking about Morality

While you are equal, the societies to which you belong are different. Abner will judge kodiacman by the standards of the educated atheist society of which he is a part. Kodiacman may very well say that God does not approve of the educated atheist society, or at least the atheist part, and in effect say 'Throw Abner to the wolves.' Abner will probably like Brer Rabbit say 'Don't throw me into that briar patch full of atheist chemists.' And you both will walk away feeling virtuous and filled with righteousness for making the correct moral judgment."

Moral authority is always a segment of the society of which the person is a part. Or depending on your definition of society, it may be the local society, the church, the community, or a self chosen community of peers. None of which have supreme authority, not even the church or God.

By calling another 'evil' a person is basically saying that the behavior is unacceptable for membership in the relevant society. In effect saying that if the behavior continues we, the society, will 'throw you to the wolves' and give no protection or benefits from belonging to the society. The outsider may find a society that tolerates the evil behavior, and may even encourage it, in which case there may be a clash of societies up to and including warfare if the evil is deemed onerous enough. Please note that the 'evil' society probably does not view itself as evil, and may in fact consider all other societies evil. It may even base this on a particular God belief, but even that is not absolute.

As an example many societies consider treating women as property and subjugating them to some relevant male to be evil. There are other societies that say this is requirement of God. I would challenge anyone to show either view is a supreme moral edict.

Substantive lying to anybody is wrong. It injures the other and is a disaster for self image. One can't hurt self or society much more grievously.

Adultery is a different issue. There are many workable forms of parenting. And to a greater extent marriage without the intent of children. Consensual open marriages. Open mistresses and concubines with the knowledge if not the blessing of the wife isn't even a biblical sin. About the only moral issue is the ability and willingness to provide proper support to the mother of any resulting children.

Adultery without spousal consent is certainly a moral issue, but with contraception and STD prevention it is probably one of the most common moral failings around. Religious or secular. And if you factor in serial monogamy as a moral failing, which I do especially with children involved, statistics are ugly for religious and secular alike, something like 30% for religious couples and 20% secular."

Pair bonded parents provide the most stable platform for child raising, particularly when both parents are committed to the child raising process. The dad provider, mom caregiver paradigm is a holdover from the patriarchal religious past, and provides an unbalanced role image for the children. Far better is two parents sharing the providing and the nurturing.

A much more useful way of looking at things is the source of the constraints on behavior that we choose to accept. This assumes that unconstrained choice is the natural state of human cognition, and it is the constraints on acting out the choices which are the important considerations.

This changes the whole picture. Free will is not a gift or an option it is the natural state of the human mind. We can and do think about all sorts of behaviors that might be expressed. However, as a part of being socialized as a child and to a lesser extent as an adult member of a society, and perhaps partly instinctual as a social animal, there are certain behaviors that may not be expressed. Once internalized as a constraint, we have no 'free will' to express the behavior. At the very least our self-image as a moral and ethical member of our society will prevent the expression of the thought as behavior. Of course fear of Hell or jail may reinforce the decision. but ultimately it is the internalization of the constraint which determines the control of the behavior. Free will has nothing at all to do with it.

The problem that is being ignored by all is that morals are neither personal nor universal. Morals are derived from the local society that one considers herm own, and reflect values that benefit that society from the individual working out and therefore from the society back to the individual. If the society is God based then morals will come from God as interpreted by that little tinhorn in the fancy dress in the overdecorated balcony that speaks for God. If the society is not God based, say a typical University community, the morals are no less stringent and are probably more strictly enforced as there is no get out of Hell jail free card, or plagiarism is OK if you don't get caught by the prof card.

Compared to a high level university the typical religion is a group of moral slackers even if they get their morals direct from God. The GOOHF card of the Cross can excuse a lot of sin.

True they abide by the same rules, but the rules are fundamental not God. In other words God has no choice but promote rules that are good for the society of believers, and by and large those rules would be good for any society. Do not lie, cheat, steal, kill, respect authority beginning with parents and going on from there, to God if religious, to other authorities worthy of respect if not."

The big differences of course are in the "control morality." That morality that is use to control the sheeple. Paul found the efficacy of sexual morality for paternalistic control, and Christianity has gone downhill from there. A rational sexual morality is necessarily based on the welfare of the family whatever form that takes. The pair bond seems nearly universal in nature and seems to be the most workable sexual morality in humans. That is morality that strengthens and preserves the pair bond seems best for all social groupings.

Sorry. The dark side, the yang, the masculine, are all socially imposed on the natural instinctual behaviors that must be controlled to fit properly into a specific society. Many societies reinforce natural behaviors in ways that another society might consider dysfunctional, but within the society they are controlled expressions of natural behavior. The difference between a benevolent pastoral leader and an exploiter of herm followers is not that one is responding to a genetic instinct to lead benevolently, and the other to an exploitation gene. The both are responding to a natural genetic drive to alpha status for those who can and follower stats for those who can't. The only difference is that both leaders have different control of their alpha instinctual behavior. Historically this control has been mediated by religious beliefs, a powerful social control force, both for good and for evil, at least by my society's standards, but as Heinlein noted, 'Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes...' and generally not in the eyes of his local society. I am quite sure that Torquemada and his fellow priests were filled with satisfaction for doing God's will indeed they gave themselves the title of 'Protector of the Faith' which has persisted to the present day. One wonders sometimes however, just what faith it is that the protector is protecting?

Good and evil are socially defined concepts. Generally what supports and protects the social unit is good, and that which disturbs it is evil. I find evil much more of a problem than good, as scientific studies of social animals find almost no evidence of willful disturbance of the group. Even among social predators, while the prey may find them evil, within the group they are extremely careful of each other, even the lower status members of the group. The low status members may get the tough and dangerous jobs in the hunt but if they are hurt they will be supported by the group.

As I have mentioned before it takes a religious leader to create the 'us vs. them' that permits evil in a social animal. Other humans learned from the religious leaders, so the evil is spread.

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