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Ethics and morality
A very brief overview of all aspects of morality:
When many people see the word "morality," their first thought often
relates to sexual activity of some type. Many individuals and groups, like us, use much broader definitions.
Morality can be defined as a system of criteria that determine whether a specific act under defined conditions is right (moral), wrong (immoral), or neutral (without moral implications).
There are many sources of ethics and morality in use:
Moral codes are often derived by theologians who interpret holy books, like the Torah in Judiasm, the Bible in Christianity and the Qur'an in Islam. Their conclusions are often accepted as absolute truth by believers. Unfortunately, each of these books contain apparent contradictions and ambiguities that must be harmonized. Since a person's interpretation of a holy book is heavily influenced by the interpreter's culture, theologians within a given religion -- and theologians among different religions -- often produce very different moral codes and theological beliefs. The end result is -- for example in Christianity -- that the religion consists of over 20,000 denominations, sects, traditions, etc., teaching very different beliefs and practices. This places the validity of sets of moral codes derived by humans from the Bible and similar texts, in serious doubt.
Evolutionary sociobiologists view many human behaviors and elements of morality as having originated in primate societies among chimpanzees, bonobos, and early humans. They believe that moral codes evolved and adapted as human groups advanced from small hunter-gathering bands about 100,000 years ago, to
tribes, to chiefdoms, and finally to nations circa 2000 BCE. 1
A current and very active debate involves the "science of morality" -- the concept that superior and objective systems of morality and ethics can be derived by studying human cultures and by then applying the scientific method in order to maximize people's well being. A leading proponent of this concept is Sam Harris who advocates in his book "The Moral Landscape" "... a conversation about how moral truth can be understood in the context of science." 2
Needless to say, with such different sources from which moral systems can be derived, we can expect to be deluged for the foreseeable future with conflicting sets of moral codes concerning:
There are an enormous number of topics that we hope to be covered eventually in this section. We have
just begun to scratch the surface.
Specific topics covered:
"Evolution of morality," Wikipedia, as at 2010-SEP-04, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
Sam Harris, "The Moral Landscape: How science can determine human values," Page 2, Free Press, 2010-OCT. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Available in Kindle format.
See our "Hot" religious topics menu
for additional essays with a moral component.
Original posting: 1998
Latest update : 2018-JUL-16
Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys