Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Discussion - Is Human Morality Fundamentally Flawed?

International Bureau of Morality
It is a fictional entity, but perhaps it should exist.
But no, that is actually a terrible idea.
So I'm certain that this one might provoke some discussion because I'm going to try and shake the very foundations that you stand on with my words (perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration).

The question itself is actually flawed because it's virtually impossible to define "Human Morality" in any single way however I want to try and look at things from the aspect of universal and common sense as well as the morality that we are all born with in comparison to what might possibly be a viewpoint external to the human race.

First up the thing that I'm sure nearly all of you thought about when the topic of Morality is raised is the idea of "Right and Wrong", "Good or Bad", "Black and White" and also perhaps the Ten Commandments. However, I personally believe that all of these concepts of Morality are flawed, there is not enough substance to Black and White and is there really such a thing that is right or something that is wrong? Morality is humanity's one primarily defining feature and it exists in the grey area and all the colours in between the black and white.  I mean, the bad guys very rarely think that they are themselves the real bad guys right?

Before I start crunching morality down to all of its more complex components I want to just take a step back and try to look at it in simple terms.  The simplest way to view the way humans judge morality is the use of colours to define things.  Black is always considered 'Evil' and White seems to always be 'Good' especially in any good vs evil stories and ideas.  This simplicity I'm certain comes as a result of our evolution, the day was bright and light because of the pure white sun that chased away the darkness and fear of the night and darkness vs light is as simple as that.  Before the times when all humans lived in houses and even learned how to use fire during the dark of night were animals and even perhaps other humans stalking and killing and causing fear.

This idea of attributing emotion to different colours is a fascinating thing as well.  Most people will see colours and their emotions in a particular way but not always the same.  Red is anger, blue is sadness, pink is love, green is happiness or contentedness etc. This again is a faulty way of doing things because again it comes from the way colours are perceived in nature, fire is red, water is blue and when it rains it's sad but logically colours do not contain emotions - or do they?  Logically they do not, but Emotionally they absolutely do, if you've ever had something that has made you see red then you know what I'm talking about and there we hit the grey area again.

Yin and Yang with Grey Area
A fantastic representation of the way I see Yin and Yang.

I'm not saying it's not okay to think this way, it's the way we all are and it really could be part of our genetic memory. I'm just saying it is a flawed way of making decisions.  So I ask this, what is the most correct perspective of morality?  Should morality be defined by Emotions or should it come from Logic?  Once again  the most correct perspective is a little bit of both but not too much of either because there are so many awful things linked to negative emotions, but also to the pure application of logic. Note: Again the use of a word 'awful' but from whose perspective is that word used?

Lets have another look at the idea of darkness being evil and light being good.  What is more deadly to humans? The burning heat of the sun or the dark vacuum of space?  In-fact they are both equally as deadly to life, so perhaps as the above yin and yang picture represents life and morality is something that occurs in the grey area in the middle it comes down to what it almost always seems to come down to, finding the perfect balance of ruin and preservation, destruction and creation, because life cannot exist without them both.

One thing we definitely cannot use as a basis for morality is the basic nature of science and the universe (the idea of of morality based on pure logic), because if we try and put morality anywhere outside of our own human condition then we just walk straight into chaos.  The universe if full of amazingly destructive forces, black holes, supernova, colliding galaxies - the destructive power of each of these things are so vast that they cannot be comprehended by the human mind in rational terms.  The idea of a black hole being a puncture in space time is simply not something that humans can wrap their minds around let alone the ridiculous destruction two galaxies colliding would endure.  Destruction and Chaos is the only path a purely logical perspective of morality can lead as the Universe itself may have been created out of this very substance (The Big Bang).

Morality on a quantum level? Well it's chaos unless we observe it which it then becomes predictable to a certain extent, even quantum theory requires a balance to equal out.  If the universe contained no life such as our planet contains then I would have no qualms about categorically saying that the universe is simply chaos and that there is no right and wrong, no higher purpose but thanks to the pure existence of life and the ability to make the determination myself convinces me that chaos and destruction is only one side of the coin. Order and creation being the other.  This is also why I am absolutely without doubt that the universe is abundant with life, there is simply no room for there to be life on Earth but no where else, because if there's not it seems like an awful waste of space.

Galaxies Collide Image
Two Galaxies colliding is one of the most fascinating space images but if there is life on any of the systems in these galaxies I wonder what is happening to them.

I think the best definition for human morality comes from the saying "Do unto others as thou would do unto thyself" which is one of the earliest ideas on the subject dating back to before the ancient Egyptians from what I can discover on the internet from various sources.

But what about morality from non human perspectives?  We cannot look at the way morality is handled in nature because without the state of self awareness the idea of morality can not exist.  Animals live within the circle of life and survival of the fittest.  It is only when you get to self awareness that morality even becomes possible, so what about other life forms that evolved under totally different circumstances to us?  It's almost impossible to conceive of morality in any way other than the way we see it ourselves.

Perhaps the easiest way to picture abstract forms of morality is to try and think about whether Computers can ever process a sense of morality.  If a Computer ever gets to the point of sentience it will be a completely different type of sentience to that which we currently understand, there will be no conscious mind lying over the top of a sub-conscious brain but rather a fully functioning mind from all the base functions to the higher self aware thought processes. But is something artificially created capable of containing a soul?  I believe once it reaches that level of sentience, of self awareness this is the time the soul appears.  Note: For example a baby isn't a person until it's brain is developed enough to begin to understand what it is, and yes - again a whole other topic.

Can you imagine what it would be like to have to consciously think about everything your body does during every moment of living?  In just the last second your brain has performed thousands of functions at the same time. Just try to imagine handling all of that information consciously, it's staggeringly overwhelming - if you don't understand what I mean just read on.  You brain must continually and simultaneously process the information coming from your five senses at the same time as taking oxygen from the latest breath and using the lungs to oxygenate the blood in order to deliver oxygen to the muscles in some part of your body in order to make it move all the while regulating a complex set of chemicals throughout the body while at the same time ensuring all the other multitude of internal organs are doing their jobs, kidneys, liver, bowel, stomach the list goes on and on.  Now I'm not saying that a computer will have to do all of these things however for a computer mind to reach a state of self awareness it will be so much more intelligent than a human being could possibly be at the very moment of its creation and thus what kind of morality could such a being understand?

It's an interesting thought experiment and it's kind of like trying to wrap your mind around relativity and the fact that time is not linear but it's an incredibly interesting topic to think about for me.

Next, I would like to have a look at a small part of the history of morality  From the perspective of most human beings, the idea of morality and what is prescribed as right and wrong comes from the holy book's. The Bible, The Qur'an, The Tanakh, The Shruti are the main few and they all have some very specific ideas about morality.  Perhaps the primary idea that we've all heard at some point in our lives are the ten commandments:

Ten Commandments Stone
I don't believe these are the original Ten Commandment stones, but it's interesting to see and think about anyway.

This is a short form of the Commandment list, but I'm sure we all understand.

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make idols.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet

This list is actually kind of frightening to me because of the very idea of its existence as a basis for morality. It spends the first five commandments prompting the correct type of worship and it takes until the sixth commandment to reach the things that should really be the true elements of proper moralistic values.  I have a big problem with a supreme being saying to someone that they shall have no other god than me, if there really is one true god then in my opinion it is not a being that can be considered Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu but rather a being that is all of those things, but none of them.

I brought up these ten commandments because it is the thing that so many people look to when they want to justify their actions as being right or wrong because doing right in the eyes of their God justifies anything as long as He said it is okay.  Yet this is exactly why I have such a massive problem with the morality of a God commands to his creations it sounds more like the Ori from Stargate than the actions of a true god to me. Surely an omnipotent being could see an understand the massive potential for misuse in these statements, I mean I'm not omnipotent and I can see very clearly that there is a big problem with this list.

The first thing that almost everyone turns to when they think about morals is this "Thou shall not Kill", but none of the good (Note: the bible is oft called the "good" book right but is it truly good?) books even say that particular phrase, but rather the word is murder and the whole hypocrisy of this minor wording difference is staggering. It basically says that killing is okay if you have a good enough reason for it, but then who decides what define's murder or not? It is this ambiguity on a subject that is so relevant to us as humans because we can only view the world through their own two eyes with our own individual consciousness.  Therefore if you believe you are justified in the act then it's okay to kill, just as long as it's not murder. What's worse about this commandment is that it becomes so easy to justify killing as "not murder" in the name of the god that gave you this rule in the first place. You decide that someone didn't follow these rules given by God to your standards and therefore they should die.

If this ends up being a good representation of god then I'm going to have to eat a mighty large amount of crow when I die.
Frankly, the whole idea of such a superior being commanding their creations, their 'subjects' makes the being seem more like a tyrant than a god.  I do believe that there is some kind of superior intelligence to the universe and that this God being is not so interested in the actions of individuals at our level of consciousness and therefore the morality of a God cannot be interpreted let alone comprehended by a human.  People so often wonder that if there is a God why he would let such horrible things happen to them, and us as a people. To be honest our lives are more likely to be like insignificant ants to a being of that kind of intelligence that I seriously doubt that they could really care about us individually or our worship.

I guess this is being pretty harsh towards religion, and I apologise for no reason other than I am sorry if I have offended you but I am not sorry for what I have said, I guess I am just fundamentally against the whole idea of organised religion that requires its subjects act a particular way (or not as long as they say they're sorry before they die). That is not to say that I don't believe in some things like an afterlife or God, I just don't believe in it the way that religion teaches.

Human beings are amazingly intelligent but can be incredibly silly creatures some times especially when killing in the name of a god, I can't think of anything more morally reprehensible and fundamentally ridiculous than this.

To finish up, I'd just like to say that Morality is a huge bucket of worms and there really is no right or wrong and to what is good and bad, however in my mind there are only two different aspects to the universe "alive"" and "not-alive" and therefore anything that is "alive" has a moral requirement to perform actions that benefit anything else that is also "alive", it's not for me to decide how each individual is to live their lives the most and only important thing is that consciousness and intelligence continues to live and unfortunately sometimes that involves the death of other life whether it be for food purposes (plants might not have brains yet they still count as life and therefore I find vegetarians hypocritical in a sense) or for evolutionary reasons.

As stated earlier the best idea for morality is also one of the oldest - Do unto others as thou would do unto thyself it is a simple statement and a very effective way to judge if you are a good person or not.

Also, if you've not read The Egg which is a short story about the birth of a god then I suggest you do so right away.  I often wish this to be what life really is, it is much more comforting to me than the religious texts ended up being.