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Nic Nak
  • Nic Nak
  • Louisville, KY
  • United States

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Can naturalism support a universal, moral code?

If nothing exist beyond the material universe (naturalism), on what epistemological footing can naturalists claim a universal, moral code? For example: can naturalism say that genocide and rape are inherently evil or merely culturally inappropriate? Do laws protecting against such injustices simply ensure the propagation of the human species or is there something more fundamentally wrong with rape, murder, and theft?

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  • Dec 15 2012: It depends on how you define universal moral code. I would say no, if you are considering a "good and evil" definition of moral.

    The symbiosis and golden rule arguments are pointing to a world that is defined simply by sociological benefit. We act a certain way because it helps humans as a species survive. This concept can explain many different things that we consider basic rights. (We dont kill because it hurts the species and also because we dont want to be killed. We hope that by outlawing murder, we will reduce the chance of murdered.) This type of thinking can explain many things that we consider moral, but, once again, it depends on your definition of moral.

    Another possibility is that through evolution humans have some of this golden rule concept built into our genetic makeup. Humanity is a social species. We could have some of these traits (such as empathy) built into our DNA and that is why we consider things "right and wrong." It does raise the question of sacrifice though. Why would evolution ever lead to selfless sacrifice as a good thing if it hurts oneself?

    If you believe there is a true "good and evil" or "right and wrong," it must be asked where did that come from? Is it beyond scientific understanding (aka supernatural)? Could it simply "just be?" Is it just a complex form of evolution? If all morality is a complex form of evolution, what does that mean to one's personal worldview? (Random fact, this was one of the questions that C.S. Lewis wrestled with when he was examining his spirituality. Since he believed that there was a true good and evil, he concluded there must be something more than just the physical world.) It is a great question to think over.

    I got really distracted in that last paragraph. I do not believe that naturalism can support a universal moral code because a universal moral code seems to be in a more philosophical realm. Naturalism can however support a society of people that are kind and overall nice people.
    • Dec 15 2012: Are the laws of mathematics supernatural? Did they come from somewhere? No, they just are, the same goes for things like the golden rule and ethics.
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    Dec 14 2012: Yes!
    Moral, ethics, and laws are the rules of SYMBIOSIS used to “simply ensure the propagation of the human species”.
    Otherwise, there are no human in the world.


    (For SYMBIOSIS, see the 1st article, points 4-8, at https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D&id=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D%21283&sc=documents)
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    Dec 13 2012: Materialism is something that gives use a structure for universal moral law however it doesn't completely answer the problems presented to use, this is were mathematics and logic and come in to form a complete moral code.

    Something is good when it doesn't effect others negatively, then is becomes more complex and also more difficult, this is were mathematics comes in to create a form of path closest to the best moral action with the least bad and the most good.

    Propagation of the species comes along with the idea of limiting bad while maximizing good.
  • Dec 13 2012: The golden rule is a pretty solid basis that can function in naturalism, plus there is logic: it simply does not make sense to discriminate people based on the color of their skin on the jobs market because skin color is irrelevant to performance, it also makes no sense to convict two people who committed the exact same crime to different, random sentences, so you arrive back at the golden rule.

    Please note that you are confusing ethics with morals: something is inherently evil when it's unethical, but immoral things don't have to be inherently evil, ethics are determined by rules grounded in universal logic, morals are grounded in tradition and religion. When god commands you cannot eat shellfish then eating shellfish becomes immoral but not unethical because god simply argues from authority (listen to me because I am more powerful than you) without their being a logical explanation as to why eating shellfish is a worse offense than eating a cow, so a theistic universe struggles with the exact same problem of having to find a basis for ethics, this is only excacerbated by the inhabitants of a universe being unable to find out if they live in a naturalistic or theistic universe.
    • Dec 13 2012: Where are these ethics of "universal logic" found in naturalism? This is the crux of my question.
      • Dec 13 2012: It basically comes down to "do you have any rational reason to treat people differently?" Often you don't have such reasons so you conserve resources and keep yourself safe from potential angry reactions by not distinguishing. This brings you to treating people equal under equal circumstances which means that whatever you decided to do to people under some circumstance, they will do to you under the same circumstance (so you don't want to make it any more unpleasant than necessary), which brings into play the golden rule, now add in the principle that it's not you designing society but someone who has yet to be born and can be born in any social economic class with any gender and any skin color (which you can base on the previous equal treatment rule), and before you know it you have derived many of the basic rights we know, maybe not all, but you'd sure get pretty far. Then you have things that so clearly make no sense that I hope I won't have to explain it, for example legally allowing the police to plant evidence (makes the concept of having police a complete waste) or giving religious people an unlimited heckler's veto (you'd get legal paradoxes because christians and muslims would try to outlaw each other).

        Again, I must stress that all of this doesn't change in a theistic universe since no god can create ethics, just as no god can make 1+1 equal 3, a god can only lay down morals from authority.
    • Dec 13 2012: John.
      I believe it "does make sense to discriminate on the basis of skin color (or on anything else) in or on the jobs market." Why? Because money and survival are what people believe depends upon it.
      Thus, people will do the unethical simply to survive.
      You said that unethical is equivalent to evil. I think not.
      Or else, all those "good people" of all colors, cultures and countries, who have done something unethical in order to survive, are actually evil and not worthy of surviving. No matter what their circumstances.

      I find that hard to accept. In fact, I reject it!
      It doesn't come down to a necessary 'rational reason' to treat people differently but rather a "justified reason" that only that person can choose. Outsiders can only judge and they do. Methinks their judgments have been wrong, more than they would like to admit.

      Also, there are many things which are thought to be immoral that are not. So, a huge mistake in understanding becomes the basis for thought, action, decision and conclusion.
      For instance, many believe sex is immoral, unless or only if, performed in marriage and in only one religion.
      Sex is not even a moral issue to begin with.
      Killing. Apparently, or all too clearly, this is not immoral, unethical or evil.
      Those who condemn it, after first giving it to humanity, have killed with glee, joy, wantonness and lust.
      And they continue to do so today.

      The causes are more important to look at because they hold the key to ending unethical, immoral or evil behavior. But, most people don't want to look at the causes because that requires wanting the truth, and today, too many worship lies.
      • Dec 13 2012: "I believe it "does make sense to discriminate on the basis of skin color (or on anything else) in or on the jobs market." Why? Because money and survival are what people believe depends upon it."

        How does racial discrimination increase wealth and the odds of survival?

        "You said that unethical is equivalent to evil. I think not.
        Or else, all those "good people" of all colors, cultures and countries, who have done something unethical in order to survive, are actually evil and not worthy of surviving. No matter what their circumstances."

        I never said any person who has ever done something evil is not worthy of living, the word "evil" is just a synonym for "wrong". Stealing candy is evil, so is genocide, but that doesn't mean they are equally great offenses.

        "For instance, many believe sex is immoral, unless or only if, performed in marriage and in only one religion.
        Sex is not even a moral issue to begin with."

        It's a moral issue, but not an ethical issue: morals depend on tradition, religion and societal norms, ethics have a deeper foundation, independent of culture. When you do something immoral you're sorry that you got caught, when you do something unethical you (should) feel sorry that you did it. People do confuse the two a lot (organized religion encourages this), but they are not the same.