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Poll: Is this way too friggin long!?
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Hey guys, this is an essay I wrote concerning morality for my English class. It's very long in terms of online posting, so I don't expect anyone to read it. BUT if you do and you have any thoughts, I'd be glad to hear (read?) them.

Morality’s Foundation

In belonging to a society, human beings necessarily interact with other thinking individuals whose thoughts, desires, and motives are completely alien to their own. Since their goals are different, there is an unavoidable conflict amongst the individuals in any particular group. This conflict stems from the fact that not everyone can achieve, for example, the highest possible position in the group, or the most money. Simply, there are finite resources, with human interests competing for each and every one. In other spheres, such struggles are decided by a show of force, such as a duel between rival male elephant seals for a harem of females. This method of deciding supremacy, however, is simple; alone, it would not have allowed humans to develop from nomadic family bands of hunter-gatherers to sedentary agrarians. The rules governing human interaction are more complex and run deeper than a simple test of strength. This is especially true of the last one hundred years; the population of humans has more than doubled since the start of the nineteenth century. Evidenced by the intricate layers of human civilization of the present, there must be a set of rules or guidelines which govern the day to day interactions between people. These rules are often defined as morals or ethics, and they lie at the core of human behavior. These morals affect every action, imagined or performed, which could influence others. They also seem to have, with minor variations the world over, more or less universal applicability. That is to say, what is wrong in Canada is wrong as well in China. Of what is classified as wrong, there seem to be three major rules: murder is wrong, rape is wrong, and stealing is wrong. These main conventions can be viewed as common to all humans, at least in theory. The question, then, is no longer whether or not a set of rules exists, but where it came from. For most of human history, religion was believed to be the only possible source of such regulation. Recently, however, forays into evolutionary psychology have uncovered surprising and persuasive evidence that human morality is in fact, “built-in” to the human animal. Although believers will no doubt balk at the idea, it is clear that human morality does not stem from that the Bible or other holy writings, but in fact are entirely products of evolution.

The idea that religion has a monopoly on morality is not new. In the western world, the classic example used is the set of Ten Commandments in chapter twenty of Exodus from the Holy Bible. This list, passed in the story down from the God of the Hebrews to Moses, extols the well known rules by which the God expected his people to live. They are the so-called golden rules that all followers of the religion (Judaism or Christianity) and cover murder to stealing (King James Version Bible Ex. 20). These rules, followed up by the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, form the foundation of Judeo-Christian values. They foster good-will towards all, and could be taken, when viewed apart from much of the rest of the bible, as excellent behavior guidelines for a society. What is interesting is that more or less the same set of rules, with minor variations, can be derived from any major religion. The bible for Christianity and Judaism, the Quran for Islam, the Veda for Hinduism: all these collections contain within them the prescribed attitudes and comportments for their followers. However, to simply read the Christian Bible, for example, is not enough. Contained within it are “many admirable moral teachings [...], even beyond the obvious moral rules,” but therein can also be found acts which, by today’s moral standards would be deemed horrific. In Leviticus, hand in hand with commandments to feed the poor and the famous “love thy neighbour as thyself” are passages which condone the execution of homosexuals, adulterers, and men who engage in sexual intercourse with their menstruating wives (King James Version Bible, Lev. 13.46, 19.10, 19.18, 20.10, 20.13, 23.22) Without a doubt, if all these rules were applied in society there would be considerable outrage. Of course they are not all practical in modern society- so, when Christians point to the Bible as their moral compass, it is clear that they are choosing, from the many writings in the Bible, which passages to follow. This of course, highlights the important point; Christians are in fact not using the Bible as a base for their morality. Anderson points out in “If God is Dead, is Everything Permitted?” that since doing so “requires that [they] use their own independent moral judgement, founded on some source other than revelation or the supposed authority of God, to decide which biblical passages to accept” (341). The particular standards by which believers make their choices from the Bible cannot, logically, be taken by them from the Bible itself. There must be, then, a set of moral values in each person, either learned or inherent.

Similar rules to those in the Bible are also found in Buddhist, Taoist, and Greek writings- so they are not, as many modern believers claim, solely to be found in the writings passed down by their God. In fact, “every stable society punishes murder, theft, and bearing false witness; teaches children to honour their parents; and condemns envy of one’s neighbour’s possessions (“If God is Dead...” Anderson 335). The fact that people have existed in societal groups since at least the Lower Palaeolithic is evidence enough then that morality existed and was valued long before the advent of the major monotheistic religions (Jelinek, 1-22). It is not very difficult to understand that a society or group without such social regulation would be doomed to self-destruction. Without some type of moral standards, the individuals in any given group would be at odds; each individual’s effort to obtain as much wealth (in the sense of money, food, or mates) would clash with every other member of the group. Solving this issue, morality can be viewed as “a means to resolve social conflict and thereby make social living and cooperative action possible” (Teehan 748). A civilization lacking such structure given by morality would be unable to compete with one whose members were working together. Put simply, a society where murder and theft goes unpunished would be completely unstable or at least, would soon have a severely diminished population and be easily defeated or assimilated by a civilization which did not condone such acts. The societies which survived, by the same logic, would be the ones whose members had a cohesive moral system which allowed them to live harmoniously. The question remains, however, as to why and how morals in fact originated; morality, an element essential for a society’s existence, was developed at some point. There is no doubt that partly, “moral knowledge springs not from revelation but from people’s experience in living together, in which they have learned that they must adjust their own conduct” in response to others (“If God is Dead...” Anderson, 335). It is likely, however, that morality got its start very early in human development.

Human evolution has undoubtedly given rise to and shaped morality. There are two probable forces which gave rise to moral tendencies in humans: selection of reciprocal altruistic behaviour and sexual selection. The first, reciprocal altruism, is an expansion of a basic evolutionary concept; genes for aiding kin will tend to propagate in a population (Dawkins 88-108). At its most basic, this is parenting- if human parents nurture their children, the genes for nurturing will survive in the children themselves. However, such behaviour applies not just to offspring; the brother of an individual in all likelihood shares one half of the genes of the individual, which is exactly the same as the genes shared by the children of the individual (Dawkins 93). Expounding this idea, Dawkins gives different degrees of relatedness- even a first cousin shares, in all probability, one eighth of an individual’s genes (93). Because of this relatedness, a gene which promotes altruistic behaviour towards, for example, any supposedly related organism would quickly spread through a population. It is necessary to note here that evolution is not directly shaping an action; rather, it is shaping the emotion which accompanies the action. For instance, the “feeling of pride and love that motivates” parents to care for a child is the incentive to care for a child, rather than the distinct knowledge that doing so will propagate the parents’ genes (Teehan 752). With this basis, Teehan points out, what is known as reciprocal altruism can “extend the influence of morality beyond the clan ethic supported by kin selection (751). However, the extension of altruistic behaviour cannot account for all morality; sexual selection was another major driving force. What are often viewed as “romantically attractive traits” such as kindness, fidelity, and bravery are in fact a kind of indicator (Miller 97). Fidelity would be a very valued quality in a mate for a human female, for example. It would be sought as a loyal mate would have a much higher tendency to help feed the female during pregnancy and the child after birth. Similarly, bravery could indicate a willingness to fend off predators or other dangers. Sexual selection, then, could drive such traits very high in the population. Combined with kin selection, this presents a very simple and elegant way in which human morals could have evolved.

Morality is part of everyday life and affects nearly every choice made involving human interaction. They are part, it would seem, of human nature. It is indeed interesting that some people find it necessary to ascribe their morals to a God; they only do good in order to please their deity. On the face of it, this seems as though they are acting as they should in order to be in whichever religion they happen to belong to. However, it is difficult to justify the idea that doing what is seen as right only because there is a God watching is truly moral. Since, luckily, it is not only the religious who are moral, it would seem that morality is derived from something more visceral; humans do not need a constant watchful eye in order to do what is morally right, they need merely be human.

Works cited are available if anyone wants.
[Image: Canadatheist3copy.jpg?t=1270015625]
RE: Morality
Smaller paragraphs next time please Smile

But it is a fairly good read when a girl actually gets started on it Smile

Which works did you cite?
Please give me a home where cloud buffalo roam
Where the dear and the strangers can play
Where sometimes is heard a discouraging word
But the skies are not stormy all day
RE: Morality
Yeees they are awful I'm sorry. I just copy pasted from word, where they look ok.

Anyway, here're the Works Cited

Anderson, Elizabteh. “If God Is Dead, Is Everything Permitted?” The Portable Atheist. Ed. Christopher Hitchens. United States, Da Capo Press, 2007. 333-348.

Jelinek, Arthur J. “The Lower Paleolithic: Current Evidence and Interpretations” Annual Review of Anthropology 6 (1977): 11-32. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Okanagan College. 5 Apr. 2009 <http://web.ebscohost.com>

Teehan, John. “The Evolutionary Basis of Religious Ethics” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41.3 (2006): 747-74. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Okanagan College. 5 Apr. 2009 <http://web.ebscohost.com>

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints

Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Miller, Geoffrey F. “Sexual Selection for Moral Virtues” Quarterly Review of Biology 82.2 (2007): 97-125. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Okanagan College. 5 Apr. 2009 <http://web.ebscohost.com>
[Image: Canadatheist3copy.jpg?t=1270015625]
RE: Morality
Good paper. I liked it. I have 3 points to make if you're accepting criticism.

1 You list selection of reciprocal altruistic behaviour and sexual selection as to leading factors of human morality. You state that one by itself isn't inclusive by itself, implying that theese 2 alone can explain the whole of morality. You only list 3 universal moral constructs and only 2 possibilities of contributing factors.

2 Are you wrinting about moralities foundation or attacking the origins of the theists morality. It would be prudent to list religion as a proponent in the history of morality. Perhaps a broader selection of religions with citations could be of better use in your arrangement. You could break up the second praragraph into 2 paragraphs; 1 about different historical/ religous backgroud of morality and another about scientific discoveries about the psychology of morality. I think that would make it read easier as well.

3 I don't know many christians who only believe what the bible tells them as the rules for their morality, so without quoting numbers or citing polls your perspective seems a little biased. The entire last paragraph could be completely redone for a more formal conclusion with a lot less subjective rhetoric.

Thanks for the read and great job!
RE: Morality

No, I'm just kidding of course, thanks for those points I really appreciate the feedback. You're right, it's not fleshed out, (I think that's what you mean) and I wish I could've put more. However there was a word cap and it was actually over by this point haha so I had to pick and choose what I focused on. What would you add to my list of universal moral constructs or contributing factors?

As well, you're exactly right- I am implying (in the paper) that those 2 do explain at least the basis of human morality. I excluded religion from a force for morals explicitly- I do not believe that religion actually contributed to or "founded" morals- religions may espouse morality in scripture and in sermon but I doubt very much that morals did not exist before any religions came along. As for my exclusive attention to Christianity; I agree with you wholeheartedly. I focus (in all my writing) on Christian beliefs, which is simply ignorance on my part- of all religions, it is the one I know best by far, having gone to bible camps and such as a child.

As to your third point, I didn't mean to give the impression that people only believe what the bible tells them is moral. What I was getting at is that the idea of a punishment/reward system which enforces morality simply rings false. Actually, I can't think of a single Christian among my friends (about 50% of my friends are, or say they are) who actually have read the Bible in full. In fact, I'm still working on it myself. The point I was trying to make, at least, was that the reason (some) Christians pick and choose verses from the bible to support their morality is simply because not all of the bible is compatible with the morals of today.

The last paragraph is whimsical, I know- it was a paper for a class called "Intro to Narrative" if that explains at all.

Again, thanks so much for your feedback and I hope you have more to say- where do you think morals come from?
[Image: Canadatheist3copy.jpg?t=1270015625]
RE: Morality
some condensing and reworking points

I think a lot of people have a misconception of Christianity. Modern Non-denominational Christianity seperates itself from the other religions by actually not going along with the "reward/ punishment system". We are born evil and can only recieve salvation through Christ. This does signify that you are recieving something, however should not be confused with other religions belief that doing good works earns you a spot in heaven and doing bad things land you in hell.

As far as what I feel contributes to the founding of personal morals :
-Evolution of animalistic tendencies for survival
-evolution of communal necessity of sexual selection
-the categorical imperative
-peer influence of reasoning individuals
But you're speaking of the foundation of morality, so it key that you don't include religion as an origin.

Statements like "It is indeed interesting that some people find it necessary to ascribe their morals to a God..." are refercing current "people" and their morality not the foundation. While religion I don't feel is a contributing factor to the origins I feel it emhatically is a factor in the development of morality over time.
RE: Morality
I don't know why I need to include stats/info from other religions in this paper. The caveat is that in the western world, the Christian religion is the most well known.

Could you explain how I was being superfluous? Also note that this paper was handed in a long time ago, I was more interested in thoughts on content.

As for your point about modern christianity, I don't see how that is not a variation of punishment/reward.

I'm also wondering how the evolution

Could you expound on what you mean to say by "Evolution of animalistic tendencies for survival"? I don't know that that would ever "evolve..." if it wasn't present then animals wouldn't exist? So I guess technically it has to be there but it doesn't figure in.

As well, what exactly are you talking about regarding utilitariansim, the categorical imperative, or peer? How would they ever contribute to the foundation of morals?

On that point, could you give me one example of where the church/religion has actually advanced human morals? It seems to me that it is always following in the footsteps of what is accepted by society.
[Image: Canadatheist3copy.jpg?t=1270015625]
RE: Morality
*Lunchtime doubly so!*Tiger
"The Universe is run by the complex interweaving of three elements: energy, matter, and enlightened self-interest." G'Kar-B5
RE: Morality

If you say modern Christianity is about recognising r having faith in the salvation via Jesus C, this and only this, are you saying too they ignore the verse: Faith, without works, is dead?
RE: Morality
(January 15, 2010 at 8:31 pm)lukec Wrote:

Sorry I didn't check the tense of wrote.

Superfluous- That whole sentence in it's context draws conclusions where none is necessary or should be left to the reader and is unnecessary. It should be a statement of the facts supporting that religion isn't the foundation of morality. Not a conclusion that some morales could be in-part seperate from the whole construed as uplifting.

Yes Christianity is the most well known in the western world still I believe (I think we're down to 70% or so), but it's also fair to say it's the most misconstrued. The most common doctrine among Christians is the Nicene creed (ref)here in the West. Simply stated to be Christian: 1, believe in God, father; God, son;, God, Holy spirit. 2, Jesus died so that we're fogiven, being baptised allows you to accept his grace. 3, God, father created the earth and that's it.
It implies a lot of things, but that's the only requirements.

No where in here are the 10 commandments, or the beattitudes, or anything else moralistic. These 3 things are the dogma of faith (not morality) of Christianity. Many different sects of Christians have further doctrines to include codes for morality in their Dogma, but then you have to use the more specific branch of Christianity. Christianity in itself doesn't have any moralistic dogma, but is often assuemd to, since most branches have some form in their doctrine. Punishment is incorrectly asserted and implies moral right and wrongness. The creed doesn't say you'll go to hell for not believing.

Let me try to better explain the reward system. A lot of religions believe that you should do good to earn rewards or to pay your way out of hell or a bad karmic cycle. Christiainty, as a generality, assumes that we are all already born evil and into a world that is our own hell where "good" Christians don't belong and should be as little a part of as necessary. To put it more succienctly a Christian shouldn't typically worship out of fear of reprisal or reward, but out of awe and majesty. Christians who worship to get into heaven or avoid hell are adding personal fear and bias to the religion that is humanly interjected to increase tithing and other selfish reasons of church leaders. I'm not a Christian because I want to get into heaven because it's a great place and full of rewards, I'm a Christian because I want a closer communion with the creator of all things after my Spirit leaves the material realm. I hope that explains it a little better.

I guess I should explain more in detail my views of morality's foundation. Evolution is a start. Let's say some types of morality fundementals I'll discuss are, guilt, fear, self-preservation, doing good for others, doing good for self, etc. Primitive man would have probably more animalistic tendencies prior to moral constructs. Clubbing our women over the head to take what we want and all that imagery. Somewhere some cavegirl meant enough to her caveman that he felt "bad" for clubbing her, or it was easier to have a conscious mate, etc. This started primitive man thinking about his own personal action and the consequences of them. Recognition of consequences led to the recognition of guilt and defined it into existance. This particular example shows the sexual selection in evolution, but similar things led to identification of other parts of self.

Being upwardly mobile apes now on 2 feet with less physical defences leads us to developing tight knit communities. Letting the weak die off to propigate the stonger would be animalistic tendencies. While altruism later in the progression sees us taking care of each other at the detriment of self, the animalistic tendencies lead to preservation of self. My moral value set say not only to protect others, but to protect myself through natural instincts. If we as a society didn't believe in this moral construct there you be no difference between manslaughter 3 and involentary manslaughter or insanity defences in the justice system. Utilitarianism is moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome and consequentialism is definately a key in helping us define what is wrong and right. It is based on the "greater good" outcome and are morals from a perspective that is selfless.

The categorical imperative is about reason and necessary. While it is true hypothetically that if I wish to quench my thirst, I must drink something, categorically I can say I must drink. Survival is intrinsic to life and assumed. Reasoning the necessity of personaly what needs to be done fpor survival while minimizing the affect on others is also a key to the definition of morality (wiki).

Peer influence of reasoning individuals I feel is also a developing factor. As we personally define what is morally relevant to self and compare that to utilitarian and altruistic constructs of what is best for everyone else we develop a communal definition of right and wrong. this comes from debate and definiton sharing of individuals. I can't see 2 cavemen saying "Well that's a good point you made, I think I'll use that in my definiton". But I can imagine as their reasoning skills develop that their subconscious is saying this and thus the influence of peer discussion on moralistic foundations.

Hope this is a little more detail and clearer.. I had a little more time today to post.. however that's shortly coming to a close.

(edited to add more) Sorry for leaving out the question. Religion helps us define an absolute moral truth rather than a subjective personal moral truth. It has changed over time to try and include more people in the religion, much to it's detriment.

"I think what makes more sense is that churches be organized around the particular vision that God has entrusted to the leaders, and that the church remain true to that vision.... Individuals, particularly younger generations, are saying, 'you know what, it's got to be genuine. It's got to be authentic. It has to reflect who I am, what I need, where I'm going.' So you are going to see all these other models: the house church; the cyber church; the boutique churches; faith communes; eschatological forums; marketplace affinity groups and so forth." -George Barna
Barna continued, "I don't think that Christ died on the cross to create a stable institution. He died on the cross to help us understand that the world is a wicked place and we are wicked individuals at our bottom level. We have to be transformed and there is only one way of that happening, but that is not happening in America today."

Religion has got it wrong.. it's not about the community of believers, but about a personal relationship with God. However to learn about such things one needs an institution. The institution of Chritianity and religion changes to try and reach more people and changes it's basic tennants which is counter-productive. I don't claim that theist's are better than atheists moralistically.. in fact there was a recent survey whre Christians have a higher divorce rate than atheists/agnostics.(ref I can't view from work) But do you really think religion has had no positive impact on moralistic relativity?

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