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The Genesis of Morality

We all have moral compasses that are influenced by everything around us. Our age, race, gender, religion (or lack thereof), political affiliation, local culture and societal norms all play a part in how we define our set of morals. But everyone is individual, and thus our compasses are unique.

Is there a true base for morality that isn't tied to religion, politics, or society? Can you find a universal root that can be ascribed to from all walks of life?

From constant pondering and discussion with others, I've come to the conclusion that empathy is the genesis of morality. Our miraculous gift of putting ourselves in each other's shoes and viewing the world in different perspectives is the doorway to morally sound decisions. While the exact machinations of the reasoning behind historical villains can be debated for hours, you can chalk up many infamous immoral acts such as the Holocaust, the Crusades, and the Kony abductions to a lack of empathy, a complete disregard for the victims. If more people learned to see what their neighbor sees, the world would be a much more cooperative place.

(I just want to make one point perfectly clear: there is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is the mutual agreement based upon emotions or feelings. Empathy is putting yourself in another's perspective to gain an understanding.)

But that's just my opinion. What's yours?

  • May 9 2012: Good thing that you did not ask about the morality of genesis.
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        May 10 2012: Wow Obey. I wasn't even thinking that Sr. Moreno was discussing biblical genesis. I was thinking biological genesis. Interesting.
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          May 10 2012: Your right Obey. It always comes down to the bible with you guys. The favourite scapegoat for all the word's ills.

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          May 11 2012: Hi Obey,

          At the end of the day what matters is what is real / truth / fact. Nothing else is relevant in the long term. There are many facets of the bible that I don't like, many where I think I could have done better. However I believe the bible is the Handbook for Mankind; authored by the Creator of the Universe. I reached this belief after many years of searching. I may well be completely wrong, but little in the camp opposite has any logical or persuasive value to me; so far. Feel free to continue trying :)

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          May 12 2012: Hi Obey.
          Don't knock it, the world would benefit from a few more Buddhists.
          We cannot make a blade of grass from a pile of dirt. The practical engineering problems are immense, it is impossible. Logically the idea that this world self-assembled to me is ridiculous. Simple as that.

        • May 14 2012: This is beginning to stray away from the topic at hand. I don't want this to turn into a religious debate. I kindly ask that we keep the conversation on topic before things get out of hand.
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          May 14 2012: Sorry !
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    May 31 2012: Morals are part of our programming.

    Hebrews 10:16 (NIV)
    “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

    We still have the option of ignoring our conscience by our actions, but it is difficult to get rid of it completely.

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    • May 8 2012: Excellent viewpoint. Although I would like to remind you that the conversation was concerned about the genesis of morality, where it all begins. Empathy can definitely leads to the other traits you mentioned, but that's better discussed on another conversation. Although I can relate: morality is such a vastly entangled subject, it's difficult to talk about one specific topic without branching out to other sub-topics. Thanks for your contribution.
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    Jun 5 2012: My recent injuries have enabled me to witness human behaviour that I would not have sen before. By my calculation kindness seems to trump unkindness 9:1 so 90% of people will help me or be kind to me if given an opportunity. I am a bit fearful of the calus 10% and it has made me cautious. They do not seem to realize that if they bump into me, I might (likely) fall and if I hit my head I am a goner.
  • Jun 1 2012: Morality, as with everything in existence, is in constant change.

    There is no perfect answer (not even this one denouncing perfect answers), no one way to do things, not even a reason to do things. We make them up, and they're in constant change. Steering away from religion, my research has shown me that punctuated equilibrium serves to explain not only biological evolution, but the changes in societies, ideas, different moral and ethical codes, and everything that comes with it.

    Its not a gradual change towards a better future, as with biological evolution, its specific developments in short periods of time, in response to the needs of the place and time. And even though you're better than the previous generation, you're worse than the next; as with ideas.

    But this isn't a new idea, people have been arguing about it for ages, literally (which in a sense further proves the point), and its brought together beautifully in the philosophy of Roberto Mangabeira Unger, False Necessity, emerging in the 70s, which is the subconscious framework for a great majority of people's minds today, and it washes any idea of a "universal code" away.

    On another note, from a psychological perspective, there's enough evidence (both in literature and in life experience) to show that the moral codes we develop as individuals are a mere response to what is around us:

    You see that being nice helps, you do it.
    You see that stealing from your neighbour is wrong, so you don't.
    But what if he's just sitting on the cure to cancer?

    The lines get fuzzy, and this is where Kant really fails in seeing reality. It's as beautiful as some of Plato's ideas on truth and ideas, but just as limited in that its ideal. No one actually follows any moral code for the entirety of their lives, and if they do, then they've sadly missed the point to life, change, and development. Racism, sexism and other -isms still to come and go, were true/right to those of the time; aren't we glad they managed to grow?
  • May 30 2012: Hello Alan,

    First, your question is a part of a question that I already had thought about : is everything relative or is there anything universal ? I think that we can not simply accept the idea that there is no natural morality and that everything is relative. So, first I see the man like Rousseau : with his natural empathy, and I totally agree with you and think that it is thanks to this empathy that we behave morally.
    Kant had already understood it, empathy is the heart of his message when he writes :
    "Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature."
  • May 21 2012: exclude the bible
    morality would stem from a time much earlier than the Babble-on Book
    it would first rear its head when one animal got its kill and another attempted to take it from them.
    even an animal morality would spawn when a conscious, reflecting awareness of the experience occurs.

    How it leapt into one particular species, no one knows.
    And it is thus, not legislatable and never has been. That is where most of our problems have then sprung from. Trying to legislate morality in others, and viola! the rise of the Unjust System. Next, the spread of it, the control of it, the oppressive use of it and the suppression of others, solely for only one morality.

    Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it? Not so. Not forgetting it, leads and has led, to repeating it.
    Let's repeat, "don't repeat it!" That's a better idea, me thinks.
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      May 18 2012: You know, people have been moral far longer than there has been religion. Not to mention that religion is not universal and many many peoples morally function without it. Religion is only a blip in the greater scheme of time.
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          May 28 2012: Nope I disagree. I don't come from the people of Swedemborg. I know my people did not have a religion or church and the belief system was based on nature and natural rhythm. There was no organized anything. No Shaman, no priest, nothing. Yet somehow, they were still moral. Morality has little to do with religion outside of punishment.
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    May 14 2012: I see you are enforcing a "non-religious debate" Mr. Huckle, that is your right. But I must say I would not call it "straying from the subject" to introduce the argument that the Holy Bible is germane to your topic. Do I understand you wish to debate the source of morality while excluding the Holy Bible?
    • May 15 2012: I agree. I don't see how a Christian would refrain from claiming that their god is the source of morality. Nor can I imagine why those who don't believe that such a god exists from arguing against such an idea.
    • May 30 2012: By no means did I say you can't count your faith as a basis, I'm religious myself, but what I wanted to find was a basis that everyone could ascribe to. Not everyone is religious. Are non-religious people automatically immoral?
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        May 30 2012: No. Not at all Alan. I know some very moral heathen and some very immoral religious people. My uncertainty was about your willingness to allow spiritual input. If others cannot ascribe to my beliefs does that rule them (my spiritually based opinions) out of the conversation? Thanks.
        • May 31 2012: The whole point of the conversation was about finding the universal root to morality if there is one. I'm not necessarily ruling out religion per se, but then again not everyone agrees upon the same religion.
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        May 31 2012: Best of luck in your search for the lowest common denominator. I doubt you will find the genesis of morality in the natural realm. "Moral compass" is of questionable value as a descriptor of man's moral constitution. The cause of man's conduct is in the spirit, not the chromosomes. Thank you!
        • May 31 2012: You seem a little tense. Why so serious? It's just a friendly conversation after all
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        May 31 2012: Not tense, Alan, just a bit of a worrywart when it comes to the root-cause of most of mankind's problems. If you are truly wondering about human morality, which I assume you are, it is incongruous to me that the very realm from which those standards come is excluded. If your intent is tongue-in-cheek I did not realize it. Sorry to dampen your amusement and levity. I leave you with the words of our French friend Voltaire, QUOTE: "All sects are different because ,they come from men; morality is everywhere the same, because it comes from God."
        • May 31 2012: You make a very interesting point there. Thanks for all your contributions, Edward.
  • May 14 2012: I would agree with you that empathy is the key factor in determining morality, however I don't think that it is possible to seperate this empathy from society in a smaller meaning of the word. I mean society in the sense of the family, the tribe, the clan, it's this sort of small structure that empathy evolved to deal with. I think however in discussing the root of a universal morality that religion and politics are very peripheral indeed.

    I agree with what Jeremy Rifkin says in his talk that we need to extend our idea of society to become more inclusive. Or if you prefer we need to use the empathic system that evolved to deal with our societies and 're-wire' it for a more generalised empathic response that goes beyond society and even beyond our own species. Another RSA Animate talk that touches somewhat on this subject I've linked below.

    It makes an interesting case that the distance and discrimination we can put between us and the world is both the system that allows empathy in the brain and also the system that allows us to be more expolitative and machiavellian. It's slightly off topic but relevant enough to include for the purpose of this debate I feel.
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      May 12 2012: Hi Obey.
      No problem at all with 'natural' forces & our understanding them. If we are children of the creator, it stands to reason that we would be able understand his ways of doing. We may well be able to understand much more in time. Whether mankind has much longer to go is very debatable.

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          May 13 2012: Hi Obey.
          Biblical morality is more out of step today (in the West at least), because we are more out of step with it. We have 2 Gods, 1) Self. 2) Money. I doubt that we value humans more today.

          Centre of the Universe ? We thought this when we discovered that everything around us was red-shifted, but changed the model to avoid this. Now we have quantized red-shift pointing in the same direction, guess the model needs changed again. Doesn't really matter, but there is no proof we're not the centre. Open mind.

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          May 15 2012: Hi Obey.
          I did answer your question on biblical morality, it's on page 2 of my profile if you can't find it here.
          Science should be about testing things. At the moment we can test that life comes from life; so we have the law of biogenesis. We have zero evidence it can be created by intelligence, & zero evidence it can initiate itself. If we create life in the lab, we then have two scientific sources of life. Life itself, & intelligence. It is of course possible that it initiated itself & through time the product of that initiation learned how to create life, but that is not scientific, as it can not be tested. We're off-topic again.

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          May 16 2012: Hi Obey.
          I do understand your frustration, but you seem to major on the downside all the time. Our society has so many human rights, it's not safe to walk the streets. I work part time delivering mail. We are constantly attacked by dogs. That used to be a death sentence for a dog, but no more. We can get owners evicted, but the council has to rehouse them. A dog bite used to be practically unheard of, now they are killing children on a regular basis.
          The Isle of Man was a great place to holiday; zero bad behaviour. They had the 'birch' for those who did. Hardly ever had to use it. Don't know about now, but it was ripe for falling foul of the civil rights brigade.
          We're not going to agree on this one, the 'Spirit of the Age' is too strong in you Skywalker lol.
          Note Jesus put a stop to the stoning for adultery by challenging the mob with whoever was without sin to cast the first stone. That's where I live. Adultery wrecks nations, I imagine the idea was that there would be no adultery therefore no need to stone anyone.
          Noah yelled at folk for 120yrs , no- one paid any attention. We are yelling at people today, same response. Sorry, I'm ranting; it breaks my heart..

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      May 15 2012: Do you have an idea as to just how "soon we will be able to create artificial life"? Are you saying somewhere someone is close to combining and processing non-living matter to CREATE a living entity? That is pretty big news Obey!. Who is close to doing it? I read a lot and haven't seen any non-hoax information to support what you say. Please share your sources. Thanks.
      • May 15 2012: So artificial life has to start from inanimate matter? Let's say we make a complete genome to our own liking, we produce the pieces of the genome in a lab, and then put it together with the help of some model organisms, then inject that chromosome in a cell deprived from its original genome. the proteins of such deprived cell do the work of "booting up" this artificial chromosome and cells replicating after the first one have every component coming from the synthesis of proteins and such from the artificial chromosome. Every generation afterwards uses only the synthetic genes, and thus the synthetic gene products to replicate and so on. How would that not be artificial life?
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          May 15 2012: Hello Professor. What is the difference between artificial life and life? Surely you do not mean man-made versus not man-made?
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          May 15 2012: Hi Gabo.

          Wouldn't that just emphasise the point that it takes intelligence to produce life ?

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          May 15 2012: Actually, Obey, you are guilty of a sweeping generalization by saying "no one can agree on God". The truth is several of the largest religions each have millions and millions of people who agree on their particular god.
      • May 15 2012: Hello Edward,
        You tell me. How is what I described not artificial life?

        Hi Pete,
        I don't think that our making artificial life works for nor against the need for intelligence to produce life. Do we need intelligence to produce fire? Yes. Does that mean that fires in nature are produced through intelligence? Nope.

        Have a great day guys.
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          May 15 2012: It's only words Gabo my friend, it's only words. You described "artificial life" which is not the same as CREATING life. I can describe you accepting the truth that the Holy Bible is God's Word given to Man for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that does not make your conversion real. PS- You didn't explain the difference between real life and artificial life.
      • May 16 2012: Hi Edward,

        If its only words, then what's your problem with accepting that we will be creating artificial life pretty soon?

        Artificial life is a subset of real life. Nothing unreal about the artificial one.

        P.S. Oh, I see, so, you think we have to give it "the spark," to call it ***create*** life? Is that it? Do you think there is a magical thingie there that we will never be able to figure out? What about we follow my example about fire for Peter? When we ***create*** fire, are we just using the magical fire spark left by the gods into flammable materials or are we actually creating artificial fires?
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          May 16 2012: No Gabo, I just think the word create means to cause that which did not exist to come into existence. Using your example of fire, which is the active principle of burning, characterized by the heat and light of combustion. To create fire one would first have to create everything necessary for fire, otherwise you have not created fire, you have discovered fire. You cannot borrow the pre-existing elements needed to make fire and then claim to be the creator of fire. To create means to start with nothing. In my belief system God alone created everything from nothing. We can only combine things He created. Man cannot create life. Of course you disagree, just as I do with your belief system. Give faith a chance Gabo. Be well.
      • May 16 2012: Edward,

        But then this was a problem with how you wanted to understand what Obey was talking about. Had you said that "create" means "from nothing" in your definition would have saved us a lot of discussion because then humans have created nothing at all. But shouldn't it be obvious that Obey was not talking "create" in that sense?

        I don't think "discovered" works. But no value in further discussion.
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          May 16 2012: Is there another sense of the word create? Did Darwin create Evolution? Did Edison create electricity? Did Newton create gravity? Did Gore create global warming? We agree re: no value. Adieu.
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    May 12 2012: What we call the good and the evil could bee the genesis of morality .
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    May 12 2012: I believe that some are born morally corrupt and some are born morally endowed. From that, you have environmental conditioning. Some children are taught who their enemy is from an early age. They learn to hate others by morally corrupt parents.

    The history of life has shown that we are getting better at overcoming human injustice. As life evolves, it appears that we are learning to do better. We have learned so much about increasing the food production yield of our planet. We have learned so much about harnessing and using energy. We have more positive things to focus our attention on. We are less fearful. We are less uninformed. We see what positive results can produce as opposed to what fighting produces. I believe that morality was always a part of us, but it wasn't always the part most important to us. We have come a long way.
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    May 8 2012: I think the interesting thing about morals is that they are socially constructed...I think the real question of morality is what it can tell us about its creators and their motives for establishing moral principles.

    when one is in the face of real danger, all moral principles are out of the window....survival is the only thing that is on ones mind and this I do not think is a bad thing....but it does show that in morals are indeed a privilege.

    morals are only useful when we are interacting with others in a circumstance that would allow such values to be exercised

    I think morals are actually anti-humanistic and the reason I say that is because we've established morals to turn us away from our natural states, which many believes to be cruel, instinctual and chaotic...

    weather or not its a bad thing is up for debate.

    while empathy is a great thing I do not think its the genesis of morality..
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    May 8 2012: It occurs to me that people think that selfish greedy people are not moral. Selfish, greedy people, even murders are moral. They are just operating under a different set of morals.

    Empathy may impact your moral behavior but it is not the only thing that does. Abuse, hatred, culture, circumstances, even genetics all contribute to moral behavior.

    There seems to be a preferred morality where we love one another and contribute to each other, but I suspect that within each of us is the capability of survival. And for some of us, that could mean if it is my (kids) life or your life, I win. And some people because of their circumstance operate at that level of survival morality on a daily basis.

    All senscient people are moral.
    • May 9 2012: Could it be argued that the abuse and hatred stemmed from a lack of empathy? If the person/people empathized with the person in question, would the abuse have existed?

      And where does culture get its morals from?

      Just thought I'd offer some more food for thought.
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        May 9 2012: You could argue it but I think you will always find an exception. I think so many variables come in to play such as quantity and duration of abuse vs empathy as well as when in neural development the empathy/abuse occurred. You might be using empathy as a panacea that will fix everything. It doesn't.

        Culture gets its morals from the immediate needs of the society/culture. For many cultures, stealing is not a moral act. However, stealing food during famine may be overlooked, and depending on the intent (feed children) may even be considered moral. Stealing from the music industry in pirating music may be justified by the incredible gap in resources allotted to music creators/distributors. Good questions.
        • May 9 2012: By no means is empathy a panacea. Empathy in and of itself isn't compassionate it, it isn't nice or good. It may lead to these traits in making decisions, but empathy alone is simply a "mechanism" that gets the ball rolling for a morally sound behavior (most of the time at least).

          Where did the notion of stealing originate from? And why does the exceptions come into play when is comes to starving children?
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        May 10 2012: OK I really didn't want to go there but you brought it up. It is difficult to discuss morality without discussing ethics. Ethics is kinda like the philosophy of moral behavior and it gives us a language to discuss differences in what is considered moral behavior. So the stealing example is a common one to illustrate differences in morality based on intent. But some could argue that the differences are between male and female morality. I had to look to find it but you could look up male and female morality at
        You might see why I say that empathy is not the true base of morality.
  • May 8 2012: Alan,

    Here is a very interesting video on youtube called "Dawkins vs. Lennox on Morality" It's a segment of a longer debate on Dawkins's book "The God Dilusion" There is also a longer video of the whole debate on youtube as well.

    I think you'll enjoy it
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      May 9 2012: Hi Daniel.
      I love when Dawkins quotes the bible to prove that we don't need the bible. The Golden Rule beloved of Athiests.
      Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
      "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

      The reason we all have a similar moral code is no mystery...
      Hebrews 10:16 (NIV)
      “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

      • May 10 2012: Sure, because no humans could have come up with a golden rule without the bible (curiously it was there before the bible), because sure the golden rule is not obvious, we had to learn it from a god.

        Yeah, it seems like this lord was rather incompetent at writing those laws into "their hearts." Or maybe it's the opposite and those laws written in their hearts were the ones Christians rather not mention, like the genocide of complete tribes and cities, babies and all, because this lord had promised those lands to "the chosen," and those peoples living there before, who gives a damn. Or slavery, or stoning women who were not virgins when they got married, or stoning homosexuals, or ...

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      • May 11 2012: While I admire your devotion to your religion, Peter, this doesn't apply to the conversation. If you read, I specifically stated, "Is there a true base for morality that isn't tied to religion, politics, or society? Can you find a universal root that can be ascribed to from all walks of life?" Not everyone is religious. You can't tell an Athiest that the basis of morality is God's teaching.
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          May 11 2012: Hi Alan.
          I agree, religion has nothing to do with this thread, as it has been discounted by the originator. A bit like asking how to build a brick wall without mentioning cement.

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          May 12 2012: Hi Obey.
          Genuinely I get deleted for off-topic whenever I talk about the bible (see above).You seem to be immune so far. Neither is it my place to defend the bible; it does that very well by itself. I will comment for you on the way I see things...
          Slavery in the bible was introduced by men as a method of paying off a debt. The bible gives instructions which ensure it is not abused. The word only became emotive when someone decided that black folks were less than human & could be treated as animals. True, some in the church declared that they didn't have a soul. The bible is quite clear that we are ALL made in God's image, regardless of skin, teeth, or any other part of our anatomy.
          Regarding killing etc.
          Every breath is a gift from God. It is withdrawn when He says so. This existence on earth is an infinitely minute part of our existence, though it seems important at the minute, it is nothing. So let's assume the village next to you was burning children, raping at will in the street, murdering at will,& consumed with disease. They were immune to your protestations & looked like heading your way. Would you & yours wipe them out ?
          There is a story somewhere of a king who was due to die. He pleaded with God & was granted another 15yrs. In that time he spawned a son, who in due time turned out to be a tyrant who killed thousands of innocents. Did God do right in being merciful to the king ?
          I am a Christian, I am not a Jew. Jesus is my God, the OT is part of my heritage; I do not completely understand it, but Jesus does & is ok with it. This guy made the universe, then came to earth & died because he loves us. I'm sorry, but I don't see anyone else around who I'd rather trust with my soul. I've just got to believe he knows better than me when folks should depart this life. If you disagree, then take it up with him. If you really believe he doesn't exist then chill, & get on with life.

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    May 8 2012: We all share millions and millions of tribal ancestors. In a tribe it pays to be empathic, fair and moral. But it also paid some to be underhanded. The good thing is morality survived and moral people passed on the codes through thousands of generations and thousands of locations. Religions may be ancient but they got nothing on our 4 billion year ancestry.
  • May 7 2012: Part 2
    I didn't quite finish my thought below, so I continue again here..

    As the little child grows, it absorbs whatever is in its surroundings... the good as well as the bad. The child's ability to emulate / imitate it's surroundings is quite evident when you observe how it learns to use the language. Every word that the adult says is being repeated within the being of the child. The vocal cords of the child are at work even though the child has not yet learned to speak. They are copying the sound of the words inwardly. ...almost tasting them... repeating them... and eventually learning to vocalize them out of their own organ for speech.

    You may have heard of "feral children" Google it if not. Children who are not in the presence of adult human beings will not even walk in an upright position but rather almost on all fours like the animals. The human child is more or less given over to its surroundings... both physically and spiritually. It copies what it sees without question. Without defenses. Without knowledge. Without morality.

    But later, as the child develops, it learns to give names to things. Everything gets a name... and in time, even such abstract ideas as morality begin to develop within it. ... and these "ideas" continues to develop.. parallel with the culture that the child itself lives in,.. in that particular part of the world,.. in that particular time in history...

    But none of this could be done without the ability of the child to recognize "within itself"... within its "own" soul being .. the very conditions that have been founded and it itself has replicated from other human beings

    Now all this might seem quite complicated... but I hope you're still with me...;-)

    Because we are able to use our own "thinking self" to observe our own inner world of feelings... that even our own feelings can become objects of our perception.. this is why we can then relate to another persons feeling of sorrow or happiness. ... Thus empathy...
  • May 7 2012: Alan, Part 1
    You phrased your question very well.
    Yes, empathy is one of the central elements. Some claim that morality is "embedded" in us as human beings at birth. To this I would have to disagree. And, as you also point the important fact that what lives in a culture or group of people conditions what we call moral or immoral. This is also shown by your examples. In a culture where cannibalism is the norm, or slavery, or even murder (such as honor killing) then the idea of what "we" might call immoral would not at all be considered immoral within the framework of that particular culture.
    So it is important to point out that morality is also developing and evolving. The importation of slaves from Africa to the USA was at one time the norm. Today it is unheard of. It would be considered immoral. People of that time could not see the ethical problems with slavery.
    As time moves on, questions of similar dimension arise as if coming on a fast moving assembly line. Questions of an ethical nature that we have no real answers for. Where then do we look for these answers?
    As I have pointed out earlier in other discussions on morality here on TED, for example on Frans de Waal's video about morality in animals, one has to recognize the exceedingly abstract nature of the concept of morality. When I refer to morality as abstract, it also presupposes a mind that is developed enough to think in the abstract. Which is more or less a strictly human attribute. Animals can of course reflect a simple form for morality, at their own level, as de Waal attempted to point out with the cucumber and grape experiment, but this level is far lower than than of humans, as is the animals ability to think abstractly.
    What conditions the development for the foundations of lasting moral impulses lies mostly in what we are exposed to in early childhood. Perhaps most of all the morality of our own parents and people close to us at that time. A child is an open vessel ... even to morality.
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    May 7 2012: If we are talking about morality that out of any religion, then simply put, the root of morality is: Fairness. And behavior that is closer to fairness is, doing something for goodness based on sincerity, as good as possible, as we want for ourselves.

    Less or more ...
  • May 7 2012: I imagine that empathy is an evolutionary response meant to protect the collective from obliteration. We learned to care for our sick and injured because reductions jeopardized the health of the species. We've superimposed our feelings for the injured or aggrieved party more recently (like, you know, 175,000 years ago or something).

    I think our morality ultimately stems from two bastions of deep-rooted philoso-evolution:

    1. Stay alive as long as possible, even if it means f***ing up another living thing
    2. Don't f*** up living things that can fight back and win, cause they will.

    Which translates to:

    1. Love thy neighbor as thyself/Do unto others as you would blah blah blah.
    2. Love God with all your heart, soul and blah blah blah.

    and also translates to:

    An' it harm none, do as thou will shall be the whole of the law...let love be the law, love under will.


    Karma's a b****, so you best treat her right (that was a loose translation from the Rig Veda :p ).

    Which is all whatever since we have words like "empathy" and "sympathy" now. Of course, all that does nothing to change the rising tide of spiteful ambivalence reality shows are teaching us to produce.