Morality

The other day, I posted a video that dramatized a moral question aimed at stumping the secularist.  The idea behind the video was that since behavior is dictated by DNA, how can we call behavior moral or immoral?  The video, called “Cruel Logic” puts the question in the context of a secularist sociology professor being kidnapped, tied up, tortured (with only a stun gun, and only twice, and quickly, it’s not that bad) and asked the question, “Why shouldn’t I kill you?”

So, that’s what I did, I asked the secularists why I shouldn’t kill them, give me one good reason to act morally if my DNA is the thing deciding my actions, honestly hoping to get a few answers.  I definitely got a few answers. 

Although the answer came from several different people, and were put in a few different ways, they all said the same basic thing.  That I shouldn’t kill them because I’ll be punished by the majority of society.  First of all . . .

That’s Not An Answer To the Question

That answer falls apart when you consider that no murderer plans on getting caught.  Consequences don’t matter if no one ever knows what you did.  So future consequences are not a present deterrent to someone who thinks they won’t get caught. 

However, there is a deeper problem with this answer.  The implicit suggestion, which was made explicit by some of the commenters, is that morality is given to us by other people.  Our morality is decided upon by the other people in the society that we live in, and given to us as we grow up.  Put another way, morality is a social construction.

We’ve decided, as a society, upon what is moral and what is immoral.  Similarly, as an American society, we’ve decided that capitalism is a good thing.  Sure, there are some dissenting opinions (*cough* Obama *cough*), but in general we’ve decided that capitalism is the best choice given the other options.  Within your own family, perhaps you’ve been taught that tattoos are “bad”, this is a social construction on a smaller scale. 

The problem is . . .

We Don’t Treat Morality this Way

Social constructions are up for debate.  In our capitalism example, capitalism has a very diverse spectrum.  There on many differing valid opinions regarding capitalism and it is being used in just as many different ways in 1st-2nd world countries.  It’s pros and cons are up for debate and neither side is considered irrational as long as their reasoning is sound.

Now, if the immorality of murder was just as socially constructed as capitalism, then there would be a debate about the merits of murder.  There would be many valid dissenting opinions.  After all, social construction is just the same as saying “many people have the same opinion” or “The majority of society has decided that ____”.  A strict capitalism opinion can be just as rationally valid as a more liberal capitalism opinion.  Is that how we treat murder?  Is there a dissenting, valid opinion about whether or not murder is wrong?  Or do we have discussions about how wrong murder is?  Of course not.

The point is, if the immorality of murder was socially constructed by the opinions of billions of people, then there would be many differing opinions on murder.  And yet, that’s not the case at all is it?  The universal consensus is that murder is just plain wrong, no matter what argument is put forth.  Murder is treated and explained as a universal, absolute evil.  The secularist can argue all they want that it’s a social construction, but that’s just not how human beings act.  It doesn’t explain the obvious universal consensus that murder is wrong; a consensus that is acted upon in every culture, in every part of the world on a daily basis. 

However, if there is a universal morality Giver, then that makes sense of our human experience.  The observation that every single culture in the history of the world believes that murder is wrong is not explainable as a social construct and is only explainable by a God who gave us “murder is wrong” at birth.

I Know What You’re Going to Say

Every secularist reading this is going to point out the cultures that act badly.

“Well, the Muslim extremists think that murder is OK”

See, that’s where you’re wrong.  We’re talking about the word “murder”, not the word “jihad”, “kill”, or “war”, we’re talking about murder.  Even amongst Muslim extremists killing their own is not OK.  Even among those who kill, murder is wrong.  Even among the cannibals of the African rain forest, killing their own, murder, is wrong. 

How can their be such differing opinions on the issues of social constructions like religion and economics, yet an absolute universal law on murder in another social construction, morality?  Such universality renders the social construction explanation of morality void of real world logic.  It becomes a “just so” story that secularists have no evidence for.

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39 Comments on “Morality”

  1. internet elias Says:

    Hmmmmm. Interesting. Several years ago in college, I had a gay biology teacher who spent two weeks fiercely trying to convince the class that there is a genetic predispositon for gayness. I asked him this question, “If I walk into my back yard and see pedafile raping and cuting off the head of my two-year-old…what do I do? Do I call the police or do I say……oh, no matter…he’s just genetically predisposed to molesting two-year-old.” While that is an extreme example…I get a little bothered when we try to find a crutch (gene?) for deviant behaviors….rather than just letting the guilty bare their consequences for immoral acts.

  2. Eric Kemp Says:

    Elias

    Yea, it’s a slippery slope. First we affirm gayness through DNA, then what? Of course, the gays unbiasely say the slipperiness will stop there, but what’s next. Polygamy? Animality? Or your pedophilia example? I know it sounds ridiculous, but isn’t the argument the same? Well, they have a genetic predisposition too, don’t they?

    Btw, you were kicked out of that class weren’t you?

  3. shamelesslyatheist Says:

    First, sexuality and morality have nothing in common. Sexuality is genetically determined as numerous experiments have shown. (I can supply citations if you’d like.) Ask Ted Hagard if he wakes up every day asking himself whether he’ll be a homosexual or heterosexual. His preference has always been for the same sex, always will be, no matter how much godification he gets.

    Second, to equate the actions of a pedafile [sic] molesting a child (which is clearly against the welfare of the child) with the private affairs of consenting adults is stupid and bigoted. What are you trying to say here? Pedophiles = homosexuals? That’s dumb on so many levels that it’s impossible to know where to begin.

    Third, gay bashing is usually a sign of latent homosexuality…

  4. morsec0de Says:

    Elias,

    You can prove that sexuality isn’t genetic very simply.

    Choose to be homosexual.

    You know, for a day or so. A week tops.

  5. Eric Kemp Says:

    SA

    Look man, there is no need to get so nasty. Why can’t we discuss these things with cordiality?

    “First, sexuality and morality have nothing in common.”

    That depends on what your definition of morality is. If morality is what you make of it, then yea, you can include or exclude anything you want.

    “Sexuality is genetically determined as numerous experiments have shown. (I can supply citations if you’d like.)”

    I would LOVE to see how they prove this. You can give me the studies, that would be great.

    “Ask Ted Hagard if he wakes up every day asking himself whether he’ll be a homosexual or heterosexual. His preference has always been for the same sex, always will be, no matter how much godification he gets.”

    That’s not the argument, you just created a strawman. I’ll explain…

    “Second, to equate the actions of a pedafile [sic] molesting a child (which is clearly against the welfare of the child) with the private affairs of consenting adults is stupid and bigoted. What are you trying to say here? Pedophiles = homosexuals? That’s dumb on so many levels that it’s impossible to know where to begin.”

    I know that one of your main assumptions is that Christians are bigots. I also know that one of your main goals is to show this bigotry across the blogosphere. Although it may be true in the case of some Christians, you’ve invented it here where it didn’t exist. If you would have read the comments without your “Christians are bigots” goggles on, you would have seen what Elias and I were saying.

    Elias gave an example of a professor who was trying to prove a genetic predisposition for homosexuality as an argument for how homosexuality is biologically “normal” and therefore perfectly acceptable behavior. Now here is a shocker, I’m going to agree with the professor. I think that there definetly is a genetic predisposition for gayness. However, the therefore gayness is acceptable behavior conclusion is where I differ. But that Elias and I disagree wasn’t even the point. The point was that don’t those who have sex with animals and pedophiles have the same genetic predisposition? Isn’t the argument the EXACT same Shameless? Can you please tell me what the genetic predisposition for homosexuality gives them the green light, while the genetic predisposition for pedophilia gets them punished by society? Both are merely acting on their DNA right?

    “Third, gay bashing is usually a sign of latent homosexuality…”

    Oh c’mon. Seriously Shameless? Is this how you want to behave on the blogosphere? Making unfounded claims and calling people gay? I’m not going to defend myself because I have no need to. If you had evidence of this “gay bashing” you would have presented it.

  6. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    “You can prove that sexuality isn’t genetic very simply. Choose to be homosexual. You know, for a day or so. A week tops.”

    That’s ridiculous and you know it.

  7. morsec0de Says:

    Why?

    If it’s a choice and not genetically determined at all, then anyone should be able to choose to be homosexual. And then choose to be heterosexual again.

    So by all means, choose to be attracted to males. Then you can tell us all how it obviously isn’t influenced by genetics.

  8. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    Look, you’re simplifying an argument that wasn’t even made. Of course there are many environmental and genetic factors that go into homosexuality, but we are ultimately responsible for our actions. The genetic argument that is made is that since homosexuality is genetically determined, therefore homosexuality is perfectly acceptable biological behavior. Why draw the line at homosexuality? Aren’t pedophiles just as genetically determined? If so, then why is homosexuality perfectly acceptable behavior but pedophilia is not? Why the difference? If pedophilia is not as genetically determined, how do you know?

  9. morsec0de Says:

    “The genetic argument that is made is that since homosexuality is genetically determined, therefore homosexuality is perfectly acceptable biological behavior.”

    I don’t think that’s the argument.

    The argument is against those people who say that homosexuality is unnatural and a life-choice.

    The argument doesn’t exist in a bubble.

    Something being natural or biologically influenced doesn’t mean it is automatically a good thing. It just means that it’s not ‘unnatural’.

    Pedophilia could be genetically determined. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a judgment of that behavior. Especially since it causes harm, whereas homosexuality does not.

  10. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    Look, please don’t act like the biological argument for homosexuality isn’t also a morality one. We both know that it is. When Christians make a moral claim against the homosexual lifestyle, the secular answer is, “It’s biological therefore it’s not immoral”. It’s a morality argument.

    Also, you aren’t answering the question. Of course you can make judgements about anything you want. But why make a distinction between two genetically determined lifestyles, pedophilia and homosexuality? Why is there a difference if they are both genetically determined? Why is one judged and the other isn’t?

  11. morsec0de Says:

    “But why make a distinction between two genetically determined lifestyles, pedophilia and homosexuality? ”

    For the same reason we make a distinction between heterosexuality and pedophilia. One doesn’t cause harm, and the other does.

    “Why is one judged and the other isn’t?”

    They’re both judged. One is harmful and one is not. So, one is immoral and the other is moral.

  12. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    So your basis for if something is immoral is if it causes harm? And how do you define “harm”?

  13. morsec0de Says:

    I don’t define harm. That’s the job of medical science.

  14. Eric Kemp Says:

    Ok, so the only harm that exists is physical harm?

  15. morsec0de Says:

    Did I say that?

    Psychology and psychiatry, I think, are included in medical science.

  16. dwilli58 Says:

    Good point, Eric!

    My question to the secularist is, If the only reason I don’t murder someone is due to the fact that I’ll be murdered, or punished by society, then am I really a “free moral agent?”

    If the only reason I’m moral, in this sense, or any other, is due to fear of punishment from society, then I’m not moral at all, in my estimation.

    God is the reason I don’t murder, because, as you point out, Eric, it is something that is built into us by our creator, as is all other truths about what we call ethics and morality!

  17. Curious Says:

    Here’s an interesting perspective that agrees with you: morality is innate. But it’s also innate because it’s been hard-wired into us through… wait for it… EVOLUTION!

    http://discovermagazine.com/2007/may/the-discover-interview-marc-hauser/

    I love when things work out.

  18. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    If you’re equating psychology and psychiatry with medical science, that’s quite naive of you. But ok, I’ll give it to you. The sciences of psychology and psychiatry decide what “harm” is.

    So let’s say there is a 15 year old girl having sex with a 30 year old. When questioned about the relationship, the 15 year old claims she feels great, the sex is consensual, she’s never been happier and the psychologist can find nothing wrong with her. So, since there is no harm being done, is that not morally wrong? What about a 14 year old, 13, 12, 11…where do we draw the line and why is the line drawn there?

  19. Eric Kemp Says:

    Curious

    So are you saying that morality is genetic? Hard-wired in our DNA?

  20. morsec0de Says:

    “When questioned about the relationship, the 15 year old claims she feels great, the sex is consensual, she’s never been happier and the psychologist can find nothing wrong with her.”

    Show me that happening in real life, and I’ll gladly entertain it.

    If there is no harm being done, then no, it’s not immoral.

    But there is only no harm being done to young children in relationships with older adults in hypotheticals. In the real world, there’s harm.

  21. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    Alright then, at least you’re being consistent. Your worldview forces you to admit that pedophilia is not wrong as long as there is no harm being done. You can say all you want that “there is always harm being done in those situations in the real world” but this is something you can’t know. That’s an absolute positive blanket statement that isn’t, and can’t be, supported by evidence.

    But let me ask you: Why do you assume harm is being done in those situations in “the real world”? Why does it have to be so? If the child is happy and being loved, even if it’s not how you personally would love a child, why must you assume there is some underlying harm being done? You assume harm, in order to say there is harm, so that you can call pedophilia “wrong”. Along these lines, what about something more mundane like voyuerism? There literally can’t be any harm being done because the victims don’t know. So voyuerism, including hidden child pornography, can’t be wrong right?

  22. Eric Kemp Says:

    Dave

    Yea, it’s not morality, it’s just fear of punishment. I don’t act a certain way because I know I shouldn’t, I only act that way because I’m afraid of what will happen to me.

    It’s a morally bankrupt position.

  23. morsec0de Says:

    Eric,

    Do some research into studies on children involved in sexual relationships.

    My statements are supported by the studies and the evidence.

  24. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    Look man, you’re a nice guy. And I appreciate the cordial manner you conduct yourself with the vast majority of the time. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you get over the top snarky. However, I must tell you, from the several conversations we’ve had, and from this one, that your tactic is to respond as long as you have a rehearsed and rehashed argument and then quietly bow out when you don’t. When it get’s down to it, the to real nitty gritty of the argument, you go away, or stop responding the the main points. This has happened several times and I can give you examples if you like.

    Not only this, but you are non-plussed about the irrationality of your worldview. I pointed out that your “there is always harm” position is unknowable and unsupportable. I even pointed out that the structure of the statement, a universal, absolute positive of “always” is unsupportable by science. Instead of thinking through the wonkiness of “there is always harm”, you just restate your position with “I’m right, look it up”.

    You also ignore the obvious problems with your definition of morality. You can’t call voyuerism, including child porn, morally wrong because there is definetly no harm being done. This doesn’t cause you to examine the merits of your moral definition in the slightest.

    You’re a true believer just as much as I am, Morse.

  25. morsec0de Says:

    “However, I must tell you, from the several conversations we’ve had, and from this one, that your tactic is to respond as long as you have a rehearsed and rehashed argument and then quietly bow out when you don’t.”

    Actually, my tactic is to have a decent conversation until I see I’m getting nowhere or the person I’m talking to fails to understand me…either through my own fault or through deliberately misunderstanding me to keep their own point.

    “Instead of thinking through the wonkiness of “there is always harm”, you just restate your position with “I’m right, look it up”.”

    And yet you still fail to look it up.

    When you use the word ‘always’, you associate eternalness with it. When I use the word ‘always’, I mean ‘according to the sum of all available evidence’. That’s good enough for me to call ‘always’.

    “You can’t call voyuerism, including child porn, morally wrong because there is definetly no harm being done.”

    Sure I can.

    First of all, child pornography implies that a child is specifically used and presented in a sexual context for film or other media. That harms the child.

    Second of all, the immorality of use of child pornography, in my opinion anyway, is less about the actual use of the pornography than it is about the potential abuse the person using it may perpetrate on a child. If you view child pornography, you are more likely to have abused a child or that you will in the future.

    I’m not a huge fan of punishing people for what they may do in the future, but we have to determine how much we want to protect our children.

    Voyeurism is bad mainly because when it is discovered by the person who is being spied upon then it can harm them mentally or emotionally. That potential for harm exists even if the voyeur never gets caught.

    It’s your inability to look beyond absolutes, Eric, that is your problem.

  26. krissmith777 Says:

    My own comment:

    Athiests usually say they are moral without believing in God.

    I’ll give them this: I don’t doubt that it is possible to be a good and moral person without believing in God. —- BUT that morality wouldn’t have existed in the first place ithou him.

    If there is no God, there is no right or wrong. Therefore evil and good are just words.

  27. Angela Says:

    How can homosexuality be biological, isn’t it in opposition to evolution? As well as Christianity…

  28. Eric Kemp Says:

    Kris

    A very good point. The words “good” and “evil” are meaningless in an atheistic universe because those things don’t exist.

  29. morsec0de Says:

    Sure they do.

    They are words used by people as labels for behavior or certain happenstance events.

  30. morsec0de Says:

    “How can homosexuality be biological, isn’t it in opposition to evolution?”

    Not at all.

    If a species just continually reproduced and reproduced, it would eventually die out from using up all natural resources.

    Certain groups of individuals not mating within a species seems like a perfectly good method of controlling overpopulation.

  31. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    Yes, but when you call something “evil”, you are comparing it to something “good”. What is your standard for what “good” is?

  32. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    So as a scientific theory, Natural Selection predicts that species will act to further their species AND act to supress their species? Natural Selection predicts both, even though they are the exact opposite of each other?

  33. morsec0de Says:

    Same as my standard for moral and immoral.

    Harm and benefit, demonstrated by the scientific method.

    With a dash of emotion thrown in, on occasion.

  34. morsec0de Says:

    Eric,

    Natural selection shows that species will do what is required to survive and reproduce.

    If every member of your species just keeps having more and more babies, that will lead to the quick death of your species due to overpopulation. Overpopulation leads to extinction…the opposite of survival.

  35. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    A population is made up of individuals. Natural Selection is driven by random genetic mutations during reproduction. Are you saying that the recombinating genetic code of an individual in a certain population “knows” that that population is becoming overcrowded and mutates differently based upon the numbers in the population? That individual genetic recombinations “sense” the plight of the species in that specific area and mutate accordingly? And if so, how? How does biochemical material “know” overpopulation is taking place?

  36. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    Ah, but see. You don’t want to discuss the unscientific nature, and the many logical problems of deciding what “harm” is and is not and “when” exactly it is taking place. Because to decide what “harm” is, you must first decide on the definition of the word. So how does science, using observation and testing, decide what the definition of a word is, and more specifically, the definition of the word “harm”? Then you have to decide, using science, what “not-harm” is.

  37. morsec0de Says:

    “Are you saying that the recombinating genetic code of an individual in a certain population “knows” that that population is becoming overcrowded and mutates differently based upon the numbers in the population?”

    Not at all.

    The genetic predisposition to be homosexual is always present in the society. But, if suddenly it becomes more fit to not have children than it would be to have children, those who cannot (the homosexuals) would suddenly become more fit for that particular environment, thus swelling their numbers.

    Harm is what causes damage. Damage assists the movement towards death. Being an end and an unknown and the reaction to horrible trauma, death is not desired when it can be avoided.

  38. Eric Kemp Says:

    Morsec0de

    Don’t get me wrong, I know for a fact that evolution has a “just so” story for any scenario I can throw at you. I mean, they found T-rex soft tissue and that hasn’t deterred them in the slighest. But what I’m saying is that your arguments are unscientific. You can’t scientifically prove what the definition of the word “harm” is, and you can’t show, with observation and testing, that overpopulation raises the incidence of a genetic predisposition for homosexuality. Sure, it “makes sense” in the evolutionary framework, but that’s all it does, there is no way to prove it. A sociologist could come around with a social mechanism for the incidence of homosexuality and their reasoning and science would be just as sound as yours.

    The main point is that with your with your “just so” stories in hand, evolutionary explanations in these conversations is unfalsifiable, and that’s the problem.

  39. Angela Says:

    Basic biology teaches; two people of the same sex can not produce children. I think we all understand that much well enough and would agree.

    If Homosexuality is genetic, (which it hasn’t been proven to be) but for those who argue that it is. I ask why hasn’t the `evolutionary’ process selected it out, LONG before now!? By the evolutionary standard a homosexual gene would be seen as an extremely valid DANGER! A very strong step towards the EXTINCTION of the human race! Most certainly NOT an advancement forward.

    And for those who would argue that God made them that way, so thereby homosexuality must be genetic. This is also an extremely weak argument, and they know it! It can be nipped in the bud with three words; Adam and Eve. God created Male and Female to have a union in marriage in order to fill the earth, (produce children) and He gave them the equipment between the pair of them to do so. The bible is also clear on its stance of homosexual practices.

    Homosexuality is not a `new thing’ that the evolutionary process just hasn’t latched onto yet. It goes back a very long way into our history. And we’re not the first to accept it into our society, like the liberal loving individuals we like to think we are. It has been rife throughout the centuries, and was widely accepted and encouraged in many cultures, along with many other debauched practices. The sacrifice of first born babies for an example, by throwing them alive into fire pits. Does that shock you? – Do you feel society had moved on since then? – If so look again… We’re no different, only now we call it Abortion. And because its a medical procedure, we view it as clinical, after all the mother is unconscious when it happens. The baby isn’t though! The baby is very much awake and very much alive! As it has its body butchered and dismembered in order to remove it from its mothers womb.

    When we get past this debate perhaps that might be another area to take this discussion and find out what the moral view is. As this seems to be an acceptable practice in our society.


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