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There is no Morality

November 15, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday I talked about the “weird stuff” which we see when looking at wave-particle duality. I got this topic from a discussion at the Quora web site and there were a few other similar subjects on the same page. So let’s try another: where morality comes from.

This is an interesting one because many religious people claim we need a god to have morality. At least they claim this is a requirement for an “objective morality” which I interpret as being rules on how to behave properly which come from outside the species, or world, or universe those rules apply to.

The first point is that there is not a single rule of any kind which applies in every case. So if there is an absolute morality it consists of more complex rules than “thou shalt not kill”, etc. Of course there are times when killing is the right thing to so, or at least a good argument could be made for that. For example, if a terrorist was about to blow up your friend and many other innocent people and you could kill him instead would you? Most people would. But the way people apply these rules makes no sense. See my blog entries which discuss the famous “Trolley Experiments” for details.

So even if there was a god he couldn’t create a reasonable set of moral rules which would be practical to communicate to everyone. There are just too many reasonable exceptions to make this practical. Look at human laws. They are ridiculously complicated and no one really understands what they mean. How could any practical rules of any kind be any different no matter where they originated?

And there is one other point here too. If a god makes up rules how do we know they are moral? There are only three ways this could happen…

1. We have some built-in understanding of what is moral and what isn’t so we can judge the rules as being truly moral. But if we have this why do we need the rules? Clearly we don’t.

2. The fact that the rules are moral is dictated from something higher than god. Clearly this can’t work because god is supposed to be the highest power, and even if there was something still higher the same argument applies to that.

3. The god tells us that his rules are moral. But again we get into a circular argument here. The rule that a god’s rules are moral is itself a moral rule. How do we know that is moral? Again, clearly we don’t because we end up with another circular argument.

So I think I have shown that absolute objective morality cannot logically exist. This means we get to two other models: one which is a set of rules invented by a church and the other a set of practical guidelines agreed on by all socially well-adjusted (yes, I know, hard to define) people and subject to modification as society changes. I know which I would rather follow!

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  1. November 15, 2013 at 11:41 am

    The morass of complication you present here argues for the simplicity of God-given ethics.

    “Thou shalt not murder,” is simple.

    If everyone followed this simple commandment there would be world peace.

    Man makes things complicated, not God.

    • OJB
      November 16, 2013 at 4:09 am

      Yeah, “thou shalt not kill” (closer to the original meaning, I think) is simple but is it too simple? Does it cover the many possible situations where killing is involved? I don’t think so.

      Also remember that rules against killing are not a unique attribute of Christianity. There are many sources pre-dating the Old Testament/Torah which indicates that God is an unnecessary element in those rules.

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