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Is morality unique to humans?

Noaidi said:
Is morality an evolved trait and present in a variety of species, or is it bestowed only upon humans from a deity?
I think you and painted wolf did a great job answering this question. I'd like to throw out the idea that perhaps humans are not quite as moral as we like to pretend. It seems to me that under a wide range of conditions, every human has the capacity to be a killer, rapist, thief, etc. After all, constant warfare has been the hallmark of our species. And, in many respects, humans stand out among the apes in the sadistic cruelties we have inflicted on each other. What immoral behavior of chimpanzees can possibly be compared to the Holocaust, or the thermonuclear bomb, which may one day wipe out our species and most life on Earth? Which set of animal teeth or claws inflicted more suffering, more needlessly, than the napalm, mustard gas, burning at the stake or crucifixion employed by this "moral" species? There are serial killers who kidnap, rape, torture dozens of victims in human societies and are never caught. How long would such an individual last in, say, a lion pride? Such immoral individuals could not exist in animal societies for very long, it seems to me.

In the book Guns, Germs, and Steel the author points out that in primitive tribes the most common form of death is murder, in many cases a woman's current husband was her previous husband's killer, and throughout history every contact between a powerful society and a weak society has resulted in conquest, genocide, and slavery.

I also think the book The Science of Good and Evil by Shermer makes a strong case that humans are basically "moral" towards the in-group (family, tribe -- with some lying and cheating and betrayal among friends) and "immoral" or hostile towards the out-group. It's only relatively recently in history that some societies have developed a vast surplus of food and provisions using technology, which means we don't need to fight over resources in order to survive, and at the same time we have cultivated the idea of a "nation" where strangers are considered part of your "in-group". These two things, which have as much to do with accidents of history as the innate character of human beings, bring out the "moral" aspects and mask the "immoral" aspects of our species. And, while these factors made humans seem more "moral" than animals when dealing with our in-group, they have also enabled us to inflict ingenious and often needless cruelties on the out-group, cruelties which far surpass anything any other animal has ever been capable of.

So are we really an especially "moral" ape or are we just smarter than the other apes? Smarter, in that we have the communication and foresight to set up complex, cooperative societies which can meet our basic biological needs and benefit all of us, without resorting to "immoral" practices which benefit only the lucky victors?
 
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Zadok said:
Many want proof that there is a G-d before they will consider in any way being thankful for all the wonders of creation.
It seems that you're suggesting "many" atheists aren't thankful for all the wonders of creation, therefore, they are less apt to be kind towards others. However, without proof of any gods an atheist can appreciate the wonders of nature and feel lucky and glad for the life we have. Clearly, atheists like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Isaac Asimov appreciate(d) the wonders of nature, and AFAIK they were not unkind in their personal lives.
 

The Neo Nerd

Well-Known Member
Many want proof that there is a G-d before they will consider in any way being thankful for all the wonders of creation. My question then is - if someone requires proof before they are thankful for all creation what is the odds that they will contribute to the wellbeing of their fellow creatures unless there is absolute proof such creature disserves it.

So are you saying that we should pretend really really hard that there is a god before we appreciate the beauty of nature.

-Q
 

McBell

Admiral Obvious
Let me make this real simple. Many want proof that there is a G-d before they will consider in any way being thankful for all the wonders of creation. My question then is - if someone requires proof before they are thankful for all creation what is the odds that they will contribute to the wellbeing of their fellow creatures unless there is absolute proof such creature disserves it.

I know lots of people who are not only moral, but also contribute to the well being of others, without having a god to tell them they have to.
One wonders why there are so many people who think that the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because some super powerful being will punish them if they do not.

Do you, Zadok, require the threat of punishment in order to be moral and contribute to the well being of others?


My point is that those that require proof that something is disserved before they offer any kindness or appreciation - how humane is that? How is that more moral than the brute savagery of dumb animals?
If I ever meet someone who fits this bill, I will be sure to ask them for you.
 

Just_me_Mike

Well-Known Member
One wonders why there are so many people who think that the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because some super powerful being will punish them if they do not.
One wonders if you can actually produce an example of so many people who actually say such a thing.

I am sure you can find examples of those that say punishment is a fear for them, however to over-generalize as you are doing here is wrong. I have never met a person who says the only reason they are good is so they don't get punished.

Your attempt to reduce a complex subject just to make a pathetic point, speaks volumes above and beyond your actual post.
 

McBell

Admiral Obvious
One wonders if you can actually produce an example of so many people who actually say such a thing.
nice strawman.

I am sure you can find examples of those that say punishment is a fear for them, however to over-generalize as you are doing here is wrong.
What am I overgeneralizing?

I have never met a person who says the only reason they are good is so they don't get punished.
Perhaps that is because you are merely attacking your strawman...

Your attempt to reduce a complex subject just to make a pathetic point, speaks volumes above and beyond your actual post.
So you freely admit that you use assumptions to jump to conclusions?

Your need to to strawman my post in order to reply is rather interesting.
 

Just_me_Mike

Well-Known Member
nice strawman.


What am I overgeneralizing?


Perhaps that is because you are merely attacking your strawman...


So you freely admit that you use assumptions to jump to conclusions?

Your need to to strawman my post in order to reply is rather interesting.
Did you not say, or do I need to quote you again :
One wonders why there are so many people who think that the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because some super powerful being will punish them if they do not.
You said "only reason" not me? You have a problem backing up your statement? Pretty clear cut to me :yes:
 

waitasec

Veteran Member
this is interesting...

Experiments with rhesus monkeys would prove that the evolution of empathy is a very long one. These little monkeys were given the option of doubling their food source while simultaneously shocking their fellow monkeys, or eating half as much and letting their friends live an electricity-free existence. Using a system of chains, batteries, and automatic food dispensers, the experimenters found that two-thirds of the monkeys preferred the empathetic less-food option. In a few cases, these monkeys were even starving themselves to avoid hurting their little buddies. They were also less likely to shock another monkey if they had experienced a shock themselves, and were less likely to shock any monkey they knew, although they might not be so kind if one of the scientists were thrown into the cage.

Empathy is fundamental to any species that raise their young. As it turns out, the right brain is critical in early childhood development, and is dominant during the first three years of life, until the left brain has its growth spurt and becomes dominant as the child develops its language capabilities. The first few years are a right-brained wonderland between mother and child, as non-verbal communication is vital. The right brain's gift for emotional recognition and communication is well suited for mothering. The irritating nonsense words uttered by parents to their infant children during this stage are a product of the right brain. The right brain makes a mess out of the English language.

But empathy has expanded far beyond the confines of mother and child, to incorporate people we have never had contact with, and even alternate species we have not seen before. Empathy can be interactive, which is genetically motivated or contact-based empathy, such as that we experience with our family and friends. It can also be abstract, which maybe something we experience for people subjected to a tsunami, poverty, a disease, or an unborn baby. Abstract empathy is usually much weaker than interactive empathy for most people. But we need to look no further than our right brain, which is the dominant hemispheric source of our empathetic nature.

Conservative Left Brain, Liberal Right Brain
 

McBell

Admiral Obvious
Did you not say, or do I need to quote you again : You said "only reason" not me? You have a problem backing up your statement? Pretty clear cut to me :yes:
I am not playing with your strawman.
Nice try though.

Interesting that you have not explained what it is you think I am over generalizing...
 

Just_me_Mike

Well-Known Member
I am not playing with your strawman.
Nice try though.

Interesting that you have not explained what it is you think I am over generalizing...
Ah so you can't answer for your very own statement. Nice...

As for your over generalization, of course I can answer that. I wasn't sure the point if you couldn't even back up your original claim.

When you make a statement such as
One wonders why there are so many people who think that the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because some super powerful being will punish them if they do not.
you are submitting the claim you have evidence that there are many people who believe such a thing. I asked you to give us an example. This is your over generalization, you are generalizing about a made up group of people (that you made up) and what they believe in, and indirectly tie that to a particular sect of Christianity.

Keep up now...
 

McBell

Admiral Obvious
Ah so you can't answer for your very own statement. Nice...
I can and will answer to my statement.
I refuse to play with your strawman.

When you make a statement such asyou are submitting the claim you have evidence that there are many people who believe such a thing.
And there are many people who do believe such a thing.
For example, Zadok certainly appears to believe such a thing.

I asked you to give us an example. This is your over generalization, you are generalizing about a made up group of people (that you made up) and what they believe in, and indirectly tie that to a particular sect of Christianity.
I made up the group of people who think that the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because some super powerful being will punish them if they do not?
Hate to tell you this, but these people have been around for much longer than I have been on this planet.

Please explain how I "tied it to a particular sect of Christianity"?
Seems to me that I intentionally left any specific religion out of it simply because no single religion has a monopoly on the belief.

But hey, you continue with your strawmen, seems that that is all you really got.
 

Just_me_Mike

Well-Known Member
One wonders why there are so many people who think that the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because some super powerful being will punish them if they do not.
And there are many people who do believe such a thing.
For example, Zadok certainly appears to believe such a thing.
Nice, so out of all the people that believe in such a thing, the one you point out is Zadok.

A curious thing though, I went through all ten pages of this debate and could not find where Zadok offered any information on this conclusion of yours. Tell you what, can you point me to where Zadok says, "there are many people that think the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because of punishment by a super powerful being"

It would be mighty kind of you...

As for your other comments, let's hold off until we get past this tiny little question about where Zadok said such a thing. Thanks! Afterall, these are your specific words we are addressing here, so I am sure you want to clear this up, and not side track to anything else... right?
 

McBell

Admiral Obvious
Nice, so out of all the people that believe in such a thing, the one you point out is Zadok.

A curious thing though, I went through all ten pages of this debate and could not find where Zadok offered any information on this conclusion of yours. Tell you what, can you point me to where Zadok says, "there are many people that think the only reason to be moral or contribute to the well being of others is because of punishment by a super powerful being"

It would be mighty kind of you...

As for your other comments, let's hold off until we get past this tiny little question about where Zadok said such a thing. Thanks! Afterall, these are your specific words we are addressing here, so I am sure you want to clear this up, and not side track to anything else... right?
Ok.
You win.
I am not going to even try to explain it to you.
You win.
Congratulations.
 

Just_me_Mike

Well-Known Member
Ok.
You win.
I am not going to even try to explain it to you.
You win.
Congratulations.
Quite nice of you...
However, I couldn't help but be curious about this explanation.
It seemed pretty clear. You made a claim. I examined all the posts. No evidence existed to support your claim. So, I think it is probably good that you not try to explain.

After all, it must be frustrating with my strawmen and all :sarcastic
 

Noaidi

slow walker
Does the notion of animals possessing morality threaten or offend any of those here who have said that animals don't have this trait? Does it reduce the "special-ness" of humans to accept that other species have moral behaviour? If so, why? If you believe that your god gave us morals, then fine, but is there a problem in accepting that the same god may have endowed other species with the same trait? After all, if morals help us function within a society, it would make sense for other social animals to operate in a similar way.
 

McBell

Admiral Obvious
Quite nice of you...
However, I couldn't help but be curious about this explanation.
It seemed pretty clear. You made a claim. I examined all the posts. No evidence existed to support your claim. So, I think it is probably good that you not try to explain.

After all, it must be frustrating with my strawmen and all :sarcastic
Nope, not frustrating at all.
I merely flat out dismissed your strawmen.


i wonder, where does the Bible use the word "trinity'?
Cause using your logic, unless the Bible specifically uses the word trinity, the trinity is not Biblical, right?

Where does Jesus say "I am God"?
Cause again, using your logic, unless Jesus specifically said, "I am God", then Jesus is not god, right?
 

Just_me_Mike

Well-Known Member
Nope, not frustrating at all.
I merely flat out dismissed your strawmen.


i wonder, where does the Bible use the word "trinity'?
Cause using your logic, unless the Bible specifically uses the word trinity, the trinity is not Biblical, right?

Where does Jesus say "I am God"?
Cause again, using your logic, unless Jesus specifically said, "I am God", then Jesus is not god, right?
You might have a point here if Zadok even remotely indicated something in the nature of your claim, but it just isn't there. So disguising your gross claim behind an attack to me, just won't work.

Do try to keep up here...
 
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