Morality: Is It a Religious Thing or Is It Determined by Natural Selection?

Thailand
October 4, 2008 10:32pm CST
Where does our moral code come from? What is moral in one society is decidedly immoral and another so where does our sense of morality originate? Does our morality come from our sacred texts, or is it something that has evolved with our species?
3 people like this
8 responses
@soooobored (1187)
• United States
5 Oct 08
Interesting question! For me, morality seems shaped by society (which would include religion), and obviously the practice of religion depends heavily on the needs of the people in the area. One "moral question" that I always find really interesing is incest, pretty much across the board in all societies people find incest immoral. Most religions preach against it. There are tons of justifications; there are risks of birth defects, etc. Really, it's just a societal pressure. Most families want to expand, and marriage is a good way to tie into your neighbors. So the idea that it is wrong to be with a brother or sister (or even cousin most times) is drilled into you from birth. Yet in some circumstances, where it is seen as advantageous to inbreed (like some royal families), there is no moral dilemma. These kids are raised to be okay with it. But the reaction you would get from most people today is "ew, that's gross", without ever really questioning why they think that! I don't think morals really can be attributed to evolution... Evolution provided us with brains that can change as the needs of our environment dictate, not much is originally stamped on there when we are born. If anything, people seem to be predisposed to violence and aggression, and morality is a way of taming that. Great discussion, I'm looking forward to seeing others responses!!
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@santuccie (3375)
• United States
6 Oct 08
Your response is better than mine (Dang!). I said that the desire to love and be loved is instinctive to us, but I'd never thought to point out that such an instinct could not be a product of natural selection, as self-sacrifice would be taking a step backward. I have been taught that the tendencies most advantageous in the wild would always be "survival of the fittest." Humans are more self-destructive than most (if not all) other organisms, yet because of our superior overall intelligence, we happen to have dominion over all the rest. This defies everything we understand about natural selection. If this were my thread, I would give you BR. As it were, all I can say is kudos! P.S.: Did you just have a birthday?
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• Thailand
6 Oct 08
I have to go to work so I just have a moment here. Consider this and I will get back to the discussion as soon as I can. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/science/18mora.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=prin
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• United States
6 Oct 08
Santuccie, I just responded to your response, and then I read the link from Chiang... the article says what I wanted to say much better! (and then some!!) And I have a birthday on Thursday, how did you know?? Chiang (hope I spelled that right!!), GREAT article!! That theories about disgust are really interesting. And again, great discussion!
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• Australia
6 Oct 08
150 years of Anthropology tells us that all social and cultural codes are created by the individual societies. Things like historical pressures, religion, even the physical enviroment have a major affect. That said, we do seem to have a built-in need for a moral code, and as society evolves it finds a purely practical need for a moral code to make the society able to function. So it's a bit like the nature/nurture debate - both are a part of the individual's make-up, including the fact that some individuals will see nature as more important, and others nurture. Lash
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@santuccie (3375)
• United States
5 Oct 08
Good question. I think morality is determined first by nature, then by influence. Culture is shaped by people, and different people have different preferences because of where they live, whom they have associated with, and what they have experienced. This would explain why a stepchild of Afghan heritage, raised from birth by native-born Americans, will probably be annoyed as a guest in an Afghan home when asked three times if they are finished eating. This also explains why abused or neglected children, even after daydreaming throughout their childhood of being some sort of hero or heroine, will sometimes grow up to become cold and brazen toward the world. You know where I stand on the Bible (and other doctrine). There are a lot of wise words in it, but these wise words were written by people. I believe in a Higher Power who engineered such marvelous mechanisms as the 11 systems in the human body, and instilled in us the natural desire to love and be loved, but not in a throned Ruler who writes laws without making sure everyone is savvy on them. I could be wrong, and if I am wrong, I hope to be forgiven my ignorance. But I am not a man of blind faith.
1 person likes this
• United States
6 Oct 08
Yours is a great response, and I feel guilty now for neglecting love in mine! I think that it is possible that love is hardwired, at a minimum need for other people is... Humans may have evolved to change easily in environments, but I think it's a pretty safe assumption that a trait that would ensure groups would be advantageous. So yes, feeling the need to be with others and doing what you can to help them (ie, a kind of love) could totally be the product of natural selection.
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@santuccie (3375)
• United States
6 Oct 08
Going by all the posts I've read from you, I know that love to you is not an unfamiliar thing. If anything, perhaps it is so second nature to you that you forget to mention it. The fact that you feel guilty for not having mentioned it makes two things clear to me: 1) You have a conscience. 2) Love is important to you. Cheers!
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@KrauseHome (35517)
• United States
5 Oct 08
For many of us, it is definately something that is Sacred portrayed as something Religiously in what is best for Single people to follow in the way of Act and Dress especially when it comes to the things of the world as well. Unfortunately, Morality and Morals is a lost art with most people anymore and it is a shame. I see nothing wrong with people saving themselves for Marriage, and dressing appropriately at all times to not turn on others as well.
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• Thailand
5 Oct 08
If morality is determined by religion, what religion? There is no universal religion. I think there is a basic morality but religion carries it beyond where it should go. You cite dressing properly. What is dressing properly? There are places in this world where it is considered appropriate for a woman to go topless. This does not turn anyone all on and is considered morally appropriate. I don't think we can look to religion for a universal definition of morality.
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• India
9 Oct 08
I think because there is confusion regarding which one is right, that does not lead to the conclusion that no religion is right. Dress code can vary, but I guess moral issue like human right is so important. Do we say that just because some people don't care about Human Right, does that make human right purely subjective. Are people who violate human right sincerely thinking that it's ok immune from the 'attack' of the objective moral law? I think natural selection alone cannot account for objective moral law. When science is used to explain even morality, and thus failed to see philosophical explanation morality, I guess science is crossing is its boundary because natural science must not get into categories like beauty, morality, language etc. Can natural selection explain morality exhaustively? No way. Morality lies in the domain of theology and philosophy.
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• India
6 Oct 08
I think some moral code are gradual evolutionary product, but some are not. I think just because we experience moral choices in our daily lives which are equally valid that does not mean that there are no moral code which are not 'given'.
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@taurus54 (320)
• Philippines
5 Oct 08
What is morality? In this world we need certain things. We have many wants. We are exposed to many dangers. We need food, fuel, raiment and shelter,and besides these wants, there is, what may be called, the hunger of the mind. We are conditioned beings, and our happiness depends upon conditions. There are certain things that diminish, certain things that increase, well-being. There are certain things that destroy and there are others that preserve. Happiness, including its highest forms, is after all the only good, and everything, the result of which is to produce or secure happiness, is good, that is to say, moral.Everything that destroys or diminishes well-being is bad, that is to say, immoral.In other words, all that is good is moral, and all that is bad is immoral. What then is or can be called, a moral guide?The shortest possible answer is one word: Intelligence.
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@urbandekay (18312)
5 Feb 10
In my opinion the concept of morality arises as part of social living. Wolves have a kind of morality, every wolf and every dog wants to be a virtues one. But what constitutes such morality arises through religion, that is to say, that it is religion that prevents morality being no more than the rules of the tribe, pushing to become more than it is. As Nietzsche would say, "...behold I show you obermench." Morality starts as rules of the tribe, both pragmatic and something more and develops in to codified laws and then into metalaws all the best urban
• Canada
2 Dec 09
I think it came from religion, as did a lot of other things. Things which started with a religious basis (heterosexual marriage as the norm, and homosexual marriage as controvercial, for example) come from Biblical texts in Christian societies, and other religious texts in other societies. Even things like the year we live in (2009) come from Christian Christian calendars (BC used to be Before Christ, but has now been secularized into BCE, or Before Common Era). The years as they are in other countries (the Muslim calendar and the Jewish calendar) have their basis' in sacred texts as well.