Is Scientific Morality Possible?

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Mithridates's picture
Is Scientific Morality Possible?

The question that arises in my mind is whether or not we COULD scientifically codify an “objective morality”. Clearly morality as a societal construct throughout the ages has been subjective, with a good examples being the relatively recent condemnation of slavery by the majority of people, or the variation in acceptable cuisines across cultures (i.e Pork consumption being frowned upon in some cultures, Horse consumption in others, and Human consumption being frowned upon outside of Liberia and Papua New Guinea). With this evolution of morality in mind is there any way to scientifically deduce objective moral constants? I would think that things such as wanton murder are immoral, but how can we go about formulating what is right and wrong? Or is objective morality is a concept which is a scientific falsehood?

This is just a line of philosophical thought which I have been tossing around for some time and I would like to hear the perspectives of my fellow non-religious comrades on this matter.

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David Killens's picture
Can science be the agent to

Can science be the agent to codify morality? Are philosophical positions such as humanism a better reference point?

IMO morality is an ever-shifting morass that is determined by the environment. For example, I am sure most would agree that killing another human being is wrong. But what about the US Midwestern corn farmers who convert their corn crop into biofuel for transportation? I reference that because a child dies somewhere every ten seconds. Do those farmers carry a moral responsibility in this sad equation? Provide food to a starving child or supply fuel to a retiree living in Florida so they can enjoy driving a gas guzzling Cadillac?

What about the Inuit living in the Arctic who (used to ) practice senicide, where the old are left to die outside? In those harsh and brutal conditions, an unproductive old person becomes a liability on the tribe, and could lead to the entire tribe perishing.

In my opinion we can determine some simple guidelines, such as "do no harm to others" but as far as a subjective set of moral rules, personally I do not see a method to codify morality.

Mithridates this is a very complex subject, and worthy of a healthy and respectful debate.

Cognostic's picture
All morality is scientific.

All morality is scientific. Were it not, the theists would still be killing homosexuals, burning witches, fighting holy wars, and believing that the earth was flat and covered by a dome with all of it resting on four pillars. For the past 2000 years science has been dragging the religious kicking and screaming from the dark empty pews of imagination and myth into the light of day.

qilin's picture
The answer is yes IMO -

The answer is yes IMO - principally, but 'scientific' in the sense of social science, not 'hard' science, and very generally - it's conducive for life/mankind/the tribe to help one another. That's a very basic program not in humans only but in animals, too - a dog adopting kittens, or my wife's cat trying to save her from drowning in the bathtube (the cat was wet as a seal afterwards, and my wife had scratches all over her). From that principle one might derive the golden rule "Treat others as you want them to treat you" maybe1, but I'd doubt whether there's a way to any 'moral catalog' where you may check off what's right or wrong in a given situation.
But now another question is popping up for me: Is morality possible AT ALL when there's no free thinking? If morality said "A, but not B", but I have no means to decide which way to follow - what would that mean for morality - and for me?

Sheldon's picture
Science is a method to

Science is a method to improve and expand our knowledge. It cannot help us obtain an objective basis for our morality as that is impossible. It can help make objective decisions based on our moral worldview.

If our moral worldview accepts we should avoid all unecessary suffering, then better understanding what causes it would help us make objective decisions about moral actions.

Science can't help us decide that our moral worldview should be to avoid necessary suffering though, but that should be a no brainer for any decent person.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Right! We might be able to

Right! We might be able to use the tools related to science for maximizing or minimizing certain goals. What those exact goals should be is another question altogether.

Sheldon's picture
@Nyarlathotep Exactly...



Randomhero1982's picture
In my opinion, no.

In my opinion, no.

Morality will always be subjective and therefore cannot be objective.

But science can be used as a tool in order to quantify and understand what is best for the human race, giving us a better form of subjective morality.

Cognostic's picture
There is no morality in

There is no morality in Religion. Morality must necessarily be judged right or wrong, good or bad, according to its goals. The goal of Christian morality is to get into heaven or avoid the tortures of hell.

If you promise a child cake an ice cream for good behavior and then that child engages in good behavior, he or she is doing so out of anticipation of an award. NOT BECAUSE OF BEING MORAL. If you promise the child eternal torture. horrible pain and damnation if they are not good, and then that child behaves in a way defined as good / moral, the child is not engaged in morality but simply avoiding punishment. In neither case has the child developed an internal sense of morals. (Being moral because it is the right thing to do. Being moral because he or she cares about living in a world where people treat one another in a moral fashion. Being moral because they have an internal sense of right and wrong and what it means to care about the well-being of themselves and others. )

Morality does not occur in a system of reward. punishment, and moral dictates.

Randomhero1982's picture
May I also ask, is it moral

May I also ask, is it moral to have the people you 'created' have to praise you and be obedient?

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