Whose Morality?

Home The Universe Murphy's Laws Entropy The Paranormal What is Art? Paintings Sculpture Foibles and Follies Desiderata Optimal Living Happiness Government Free Will Intelligence Whose Morality? Meaning of Life Religion The Face of Wars Prisoner's Dilemma Sleep and Dreams How Life Works How to get Rich Does God Exist? The Iconoclast


Morality is the product of the evolutionary development of man and society. Morality is always relative and never absolute. Within the framework of our society, we chose our own, personal code of moral conduct.


Excerpt from Book: "How Life Really Works"

Book II: Man and Society

Chapter 08.00: Morality


Note: Sections in Red are only available in the Book "How Life Really Works"





        1. A Rational, Scientific Perspective

        2. A Theological Perspective

        3. A Biological Perspective

        4. A Sociological Perspective

        5. A Cosmological Perspective


Chapter 08.04 A NEW MORALITY

        A New Morality, Part 1: The Natural Rules of Morality

        A New Morality, Part 2: The Negative Golden Rule

    A New Morality, Part 3: A Personal Morality








What is morality? Most people pay only cursory attention to the somewhat intimidating philosophical concept called Morality. They erroneously presume that a precise examination of morality is the domain of philosophers.

Most people acquire a somewhat vague sense of morality, a sense of how we should or should not behave, from their parents, their social group, their political environment or their religious affiliation. They believe that they have a sufficiently clear understanding of morality to meet their needs and they do not try to analyze a subject that is seemingly fraught with contradictions.

Why should we analyze the concept of morality if every human being knows that it is immoral to kill other people or to steal the property of other people, except under special circumstances. As adults, we act intuitively with regard to morality. We absorbed fundamental aspects of morality during the early days of our youth. Do we really need to know more about morality?

Most persons have acquired the basic tenets of their morality from others and have accepted them as true and valid, without further questioning. However, how will we know if an unexamined idea, imposed on us by others, is actually true and beneficial to our well-being? Can we improve our lifestyle, including our interactions with others, if we enhance our understanding of the nature of morality?

Knowledge is power and the extent of our knowledge of Objective Reality directly determines our standard of living and our happiness. Our happiness is determined by our degree of alignment with Objective Reality, with truth, The more facts we have at our disposition, the more closely we can align ourselves with reality, the fewer conflicts we will have in dealing with reality and thus, the more happiness we will reap. How does morality really work?

The term Morality covers the vast arena of human conduct that examines our interaction with other human beings. Morality touches every aspect of our life, every moment of our life. Our morality governs all of our contacts with members of our family, with our co-workers, with our church, and with all aspects of our government. Morality determines our attitude to politics, to war and peace, to our children, to our parents and to spiritual questions such as life after death.

When we discuss morality we do not talk about an obtuse philosophical concept, we talk about the totality of our everyday existence. If we want to be effective in our interaction with other human beings, it behooves us to understand the concept of morality with all its nuances and implications. A clear understanding of morality is of extreme importance to all of our interactions with our environment and thus, to our attainment of happiness.

The more precisely our thought processes and our emotions are aligned with our environment, the more advanced will be our ability to avoid painful conflicts with reality and the more enhanced will be our ability to achieve happiness. We will not find much happiness if we do not understand the basic nature of man and the ebb and flow of human interactions as governed by human morality. If we do not fully understand what morality is and how morality affects human beings, we will encounter many conflicts in life

Human beings are constantly interacting with two principal spheres of their environment. The inanimate world, such as trees, houses, cars, is distinctly separate from the domain of human interactions. Morality does not concern itself with our inanimate environment.

Neither does morality refer to the interaction between man and other animals. Human beings have no social contracts with other animals. Other animals, aside from fellow human beings, exist solely at our pleasure. We kill animals for sport, or we eat them at our pleasure and convenience. If other animals, such as mosquitoes, bother us in any way, we poison them in vast numbers.

Morality concerns itself exclusively with interactions among human beings. The human concept of morality has been the subject of controversy and has provided fuel for many heated philosophical discourses during the entire range of human history. Morality provides the rules by which people love each other, fight with each other and interact with each other in every conceivable way.

Many people have killed each other, fighting over the alleged superiority of their respective morality, without a clear understanding of what they were fighting for. What is morality? In order to address this question, we have to go back in time about 4 billion years.

All living organisms, including bacteria, fish and human beings have developed from inanimate matter through the process of evolution. Evolution, and life itself, is due to the ability of a complex chemical compound to sense a threat to its continued existence and to react upon such impulse with an attempt to negate any incipient threat. We know this instinctive, automatic interaction with the environment as the survival instinct.

This instinct must be present in all living things and is the basic emotion from which all other emotions evolved. Over eons of time, man has enhanced the survival instinct imbedded in his genes, by developing complex emotions, such as love, hatred, hunger, despair, fear, joy and many other powerful feelings. The nerve centers dealing with these ancient emotions are physically located in the deepest layers of the human brain, particularly in our brain stem, our so-called reptilian brain.

Deeply imbedded instincts and emotions govern all animal behavior, including human behavior. However, during the past two million years of hominoid development, man has developed a new mental faculty that sets him aside from other animals. This ability superimposes rational, logical thought processes on our primitive emotions.

Our rational mind applies a thin veneer of logical thought processes over the raw emotions that govern our interaction with our environment. Emotions control the preponderance of basic human needs and behavior patterns. Emotions determine when we are hungry, when we feel sexually aroused, when we are afraid, when we feel a sense of well-being.

The evolution of our newly developed rational mind greatly facilitated interaction among human beings. Our instincts and our emotions still initiate the human sex drive but our rational mind imposes beneficial restrictions as to the circumstances under which the sex drive can be satisfied.

Unlike dogs, humans do not meet their emotional sex drive by copulating at street corners. Instead, humans go through a rational mating process that enhances the survival of the offspring that often results from sexual activity. Thus, rationality greatly enhances the survival and perpetuation of rational, intellectual beings.

Our rational mind has similarly enhanced many other human interactions, such as our ability to influence or to manipulate other human beings: We have learned how to cause other people to do what we would like them to do. All of human existence is a constant process of manipulating or influencing other persons with different degrees of subtlety. The degree of subtleness usually depends on the respective intelligence of the manipulator and the manipulated person.

The arena of morality is one of the primary spheres where human beings utilize their rational mind to manipulate other human beings. We may refer to another person as evil in order to prod him to mend his ways and to modify his behavior to our liking. We may also refer to another person as evil if we wish to prevent other persons from emulating him or associating with him.

We may even go further and refer to another person as evil in order to justify depriving him of his property, or to kill him. This manipulative strategy is an integral part of propaganda during periods of war or during religious conflicts.

We frequently obfuscate the term morality by the clever use of words. Morality becomes somewhat more transparent if we replace the emotion-laden word morality with the emotionally neutral synonym Code of Conduct.

In this context, it becomes clear that our discussion of Morality revolves around the manner in which persons conduct themselves in relation to other people. Morality pertains to concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. Our morality tells us how to act under specific circumstances.

It is important to differentiate between morality and related terms such as ethics and legality. We may apply the term ethics synonymously with morality but this word may also refer to laws or to quasi-laws, such as the ethics of a particular profession. Some varieties of ethics may convey merely an informative context, such as the lack of ethics of a politician. Other designations of ethics have the force of laws. The ethics of the legal profession, if flaunted, can result in disbarment.

The term ethics can be ambiguous and it is best to avoid it in the context of moral issues. We should also avoid any potential confusion of morality with actual laws, either common laws or codified laws.

Morality and laws are definitely not synonymous: A specific act may be moral, valued and lawful in one country, while the identical act may be punishable by death in another country. This disparity in moral values is evident in many conflicts arising from divergent religions. Salman Rushdie discovered this truth when he published the "Satanic Verses".

A society of persons, in the sociological context, is the conglomeration of individual human beings who have come together for their mutual protection, welfare or communality of interests. All such individuals search for individual happiness in their own way, as is the nature of all individuals.

One person may wish to pursue a tranquil lifestyle; another person may be intent on accumulating wealth. In order to function smoothly, society must apply common denominators, common values that large numbers of people share, in order to achieve order, safety and predictability for all of its members. The emotional and physical well being of a society and its members depends on a common code of conduct, a common morality among all of its members.

It is not necessary for all members of a society to subscribe to the identical morality. However, it is important for all individuals to be aware of any differences in conduct that may exist among various groups. This consensus enables individuals to cope with, not only other individual members of their own society, but also with groups of non-conforming persons beyond their own society.

In the interest of the internal cohesion of a society, it is imperative that all individuals and groups within the society adhere to fundamental rules of moral conduct, which we will call the Three Natural Laws of Morality. We call these laws natural, not because they are immutable Laws of Nature, but to indicate that these laws have evolved from the innate nature of man.

The most fundamental law of the Three Natural Laws of Morality is the dictum: All persons within a society must refrain from killing or injure other members of the society, except in self-defense. This law is so simple and self-explanatory that all societies throughout human history have adopted it and vigorously enforce it. The other two natural laws of morality are set forth in detail in subsequent sub-chapters. These laws are concerned with the right of all members of society to be free from enslavement and to hold property.

In an attempt to consider all relevant issues associated with the all-pervasive impact of morality on human affairs, it is helpful to view this subject from several different perspectives. The basic issue that divides all discussions of morality revolves around the question, is morality an evolutionary human concept? Is Morality a relative and subjective concept, or is morality imposed on humans as an absolute, universal and objective imperative?


Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible only in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".



       1. A Rational, Scientific Perspective

        2. A Theological Perspective

        3. A Biological Perspective

        4. A Sociological Perspective

        5. A Cosmological Perspective


1. A Scientific Perspective of Morality


2. A Theological Perspective of Morality

Religious persons try to find the answer to moral right or wrong, evil and goodness, in the bible or other religious texts. Where do these scriptures come from? In reviewing the origins of many different religions, it appears that scholars attribute religious texts to mysterious or mystical writers in the distant past. The element of time has shrouded all such scriptures in extreme mystery or factual haziness.

There is never any clear, objective, historical chain that might clarify and establish the authenticity of the authorship of religious texts. These writings have been copied innumerable times and have become less and less focused with each copying process. As a result, religious writings have become so ambiguous and nebulous that it is often necessary to substantially re-interpret or re-phrase their meaning.

The translation of these texts from archaic languages provides ample room for misconstructions or misinterpretations. Such translations and interpretations will vary with each translator and interpreter, depending on their personal beliefs, opinions, preconceived notions and their comprehension of the original language.

As the result of this multi-faceted, compounded obfuscation, there are many conflicting interpretations dealing with the concept of good and evil in the Bible, the Koran, the Torah or any of the multitudes of other scriptures.

All of these texts proclaim to be the only definitive arbiter of morality. Each religious authority implies that a person acts moral if he follows its prescriptions or its dogma. Christians have no moral problem eating pork; Muslims and Jews have strict moral prohibitions against eating pork. It is moral for Jews and Christians to drink alcoholic beverages, Muslims can get their heads chopped off if they imbibe alcohol.

How can we determine which of the many contradictory revelations described in different religious writings are correct so that we may all act in a moral manner? Since all of these scriptures contradict each other, how can we know which one is really the true one and which ones are false?

Is the Torah correct or is the New Testament more truthful? How can we reconcile the Bible with the Koran? Do all of the one billion Muslims follow an erroneous doctrine or does the Koran more truthfully reflect the nature of true morality than the Bible?

Religious person face the difficult task of selecting a suitable morality because their search is made more complicated by the large number of religious sects, cults, churches and denominations from which he can choose. He faces constant contradictions because each of these belief systems claims to be the only true and authoritative source of morality. These contradictory claims appear to be absurd because they can obviously not all be correct

One of the universal contradictions in the theological approach to morality involves a dilemma posed by all religions. What is the relationship of good and evil to a benevolent and omnipotent god?

Regardless of the ambivalent and unreliable nature of religious texts setting forth the moral teachings of a particular religion, the ultimate source for the moral code imbedded in a religion always rests in a god or gods. A god is the central, authoritative and controlling power that is the backbone of all religions. By definition, all religions must have an omnipotent god, a supreme being and creator of the universe. This god must be specific to a particular religion. Different religions cannot have the same god.

Thus, all religions derive their morality from the authority of the god they worship, usually through an intermediary in the nature of a messenger or affiliate, such as Jesus or Mohammed or Joseph Smith.

A system of morality that relies on the existence of gods or godlike beings is irrational because no god or godlike beings have ever manifested themselves in an objective manner to human beings. There is no evidence whatsoever that a god exists or has ever existed, anywhere, at any time. In fact, all objective evidence available to man precludes and contradicts the existence of a god or gods.

Thus, an attempt to seek morality as a derivative of non-existing gods is difficult to justify. In all religions, faith and fairytales replace and supersede factual evidence. The faith-based acceptance of a theological doctrine of morality reflects merely illusions or delusions: Faith is necessary only for the acceptance as true of a statement that objective evidence has already proven false. Faith is only necessary if religious dogma is in direct conflict with Objective Reality.

No matter which one of the many religious text we might adapt as the basis for our own morality, we are making such choice based on our individual preferences and convictions. We are choosing our own morality from a variety of religious moralities. Again, we choose our own morality. We are not considering if we should follow an absolute, universal, objective religious morality, but we are considering which one of many relative, subjective morality systems we should select from a smorgasbord of religious morality systems.

Thus, by making a personal choice from many contradictory religious morality systems, we end up with a personal, relative morality, rather than an absolute, objective, universal morality.


3. A Biological Perspective of Morality

Our self-proclaimed moral authorities do not consider animals capable of or subject to morality. The Law of Evolution clearly establishes that man is only another animal, although man has evolved a more highly developed brain structure than other animals.

Why do we talk about morality when we talk about Homo sapiens but why do we not refer to morality when we talk about other species of animals? If we consider it immoral for human beings to torture other animals, why do we not condemn a cat for playing with a mouse before eating it or discarding it?

Why do we morally approve of the fact that man kills and eats other animals, but we condemn the mistreatment of animals as immoral or unlawful? If there were a choice, it is obvious that an animal would rather subsist in a cage than be killed and eaten. As human beings, would we not prefer to be enslaved or mistreated than to be killed? Slaves do not commit suicide, even under the most horrible conditions. Therefore, slavery or torture is universally preferable to death.

Clearly, our various preordained teachings about morality make a nebulous moral distinction between the animal called man and other animals. We are saying, morality only applies to selected animals instead of having morality apply to all forms of life.

If there are extraterrestrial life forms or beings, are they subject to human morality or can they make the same distinction that we make between man and other animals. Would an extraterrestrial thus be morally justified in eating us or in killing humans for sport? An affirmative answer seems to be the logical consequence of our view of morality as we apply it to humans and other animals.

These situations demonstrate that, from a biological perspective, morality is a relative, synthetic concept, solely for the convenience of man, rather than a universal and absolute dictum.


4. A Sociological Perspective of Morality

Morality does not apply to individual human beings when they are alone. A shipwrecked survivor on an island need not concern himself with morality because it does not apply to him in his isolation. This illustration emphasizes the fact that gods or extraterrestrials did not imbed the concept of morality in individual human beings but that morality is applicable to an individual only when he interacts with other persons.

Morality is a societal phenomenon and, since man creates societies, all morality is a concept created by man. It follows, that morality is relative to our environment and does not apply to all persons at all times. Morality can only be relative and subjective; instead of objective, universal and absolute.

A wide variety of morality-systems exists among men, depending on where they live. Eskimos, Europeans, Atheists, Americans, Devil Worshippers, Iranians, Chinese. Brazilians, Indians. All of these societies have voluntarily adopted unique and different morality systems, and all of these systems contradict each other in many aspects.

The specific conduct that one group may consider immoral or forbidden, may be tolerated, praised or even venerated in another societal group. The Confederate Government sponsored slavery, the Old Testament is in favor of slavery, but the United States Government condemns slavery as evil. The original Constitution of the United States firmly approved of slavery. A previous U. S. Supreme Court approved of slavery. The current U.S. Supreme Court condemns slavery as evil. The heroic founder of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, condemned slavery but owned as many as 150 slaves.

Morality is nothing but a code of conduct arrived at by mutually consenting persons who consider such code of conduct, such morality, to be in their own best self-interest.

All successful societies have based their specific code of conduct, their morality, on the innate human drive to always act in what each individual considers to be in his own best self-interest.


5. A Cosmological Perspective of Morality

All evidence known to man confirms that the universe is 13.7 billion years old.

Life on this planet, on earth, developed about 3.5 billion years ago.

The human race has existed for only a few hundred thousand years.

The Earth is part of a small solar system, centered on an insignificant star that we, somewhat presumptuously, call our sun.

Our solar system is part of our Milky Way Galaxy that consists of about 100 million stars, of which our sun is a minor component.

There are approximately 200 billion galaxies in the universe, with an average of 200 billion stars in each galaxy.

As far as the universe is concerned, this infinitely small grain of sand that we call Earth, and all the human beings on this tiny grain of sand, almost does not exist. From the perspective of the universe, the human race exists only to the extent of recognition we give to a single grain of sand on all the beaches on earth.

In this, the cosmological perspective, it would seem rather presumptuous or even ludicrous to stipulate that our human code of conduct, our human morality, is universal and absolute and must therefore be presumed to apply to the incomprehensible vastness of the whole universe.




It may be enlightening to apply some of the above aspects of morality to actual life situations. All of the depicted events confirm the relative nature of all morality:

Most people consider slavery one of the great evils of humanity. Were Thomas Jefferson and George Washington evil? They both sold and maintained hundreds of slaves on their estates throughout their lifetimes, while simultaneously proclaiming the equality of all men. Were they evil hypocrites? If we oppose the evil of slavery, why do we build marble monuments to men who enslaved other men for their personal gain?

The ancient Greeks and Romans also maintained vast numbers of slaves. If they needed more slaves, they simply started another war in order to capture more slaves. Modern societies universally condemn slavery.

However, as far as the slaves were concerned, slavery was a desirable condition. Prisoners were either enslaved or killed. Human survival instinct always makes it more desirable to be a live slave than to be a dead freeman. Therefore, many slaves considered themselves very fortunate. Does the act of enslaving prisoners, instead of killing them, absolve the Greeks from the moral turpitude of enslaving them?

Did their laudable accomplishments in the arts offset the evil of the slavery they practiced? Can we offset an evil deed by a good deed? Who defines good and evil?

We hail Epicurus as one of the great, enlightened philosophers of Ancient Greece. However, Epicurus owned and operated several slaves. Is it surprising that Epicurus admonishes us to eliminate pain and achieve tranquility? It was easy for him to suggest such conduct because he forced slaves to tend to his tranquil garden. Was Epicurus an evil hypocrite, like Jefferson and Washington?

In a war, is it an evil act to kill civilians intentionally? The Greeks slaughtered or enslaved women and children of nations they conquered and yet, we admire them for the works of art they produced at the same time. Are there degrees of evil?

Who is more evil, George Bush or Sadam Hussein? Who of the two killed more women and children? It is questionable if Bush or Hussein killed more civilians. Are they both evil? Are the Americans who supported the Gulf War, evil? They made it possible for Bush to kill civilians. An analysis of the morality of historical events can be very enlightening with regard to the hidden motivations of the perpetrators, the participants and the alleged victims.

Stalin killed 30 million of his fellow Russian civilians in the 1930s. Hitler killed five or six million Jews. Churchill, Roosevelt and Truman intentionally burned alive about 2 million German and Japanese women and children as part of their terror-bombing campaigns. What is the definition of a mass-murderer? Is it always the victor, who writes the history of a war and who defines war crimes? Are some of these mass-murderers more evil than others are or, are all mass-murderers evil?

Do Americans consider Roosevelt evil because he intentionally killed millions of women and children? Are the people of the United States evil because they allied themselves with and supported a super mass-murderer like Stalin? Who was more evil, or was none of them evil: Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt or Truman? Can we design a graduated scale for the measurement of evil?

Millions of people in Europe, and most Arabs, cheered Hitler on when he exterminated the Jews. Many citizens of Nazi-occupied territories cheerfully helped Hitler round up and kill the Jews. These officials were doing their legally prescribed duty. Were these officials evil although they acted within the moral framework of their society?

The flight-crews of the American bombers dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and incinerated about half a million Japanese women and children. These soldiers did their prescribed duty. They were even proud to do so. Were they heroes, or were they war criminals?

Were the Nazis heroes or were they evil because they incinerated millions of Jews? If they were evil, why do we acclaim as heroes the American bomber crews who obliterated 161 German cities, incinerated several million women and children in Europe, and vaporized 300,000 civilians in Japan by nuking their cities? Were the Germans less evil than the Americans were? Were the German SS-Men more moral because they gassed the Jews before incinerating them, whereas American and British aircrews burned their victims alive? Who was more evil, the American aircrews or the SS-Men? Were any of them evil?

A terrorist for one country is a heroic freedom fighter for another country. The American Government referred to Osama Bin Laden as an evil terrorist. Simultaneously, hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world acclaimed him as a hero. Women even named their children after Osama Bin Laden. Is Bin Laden a sainted hero, or is he an evil terrorist?
American guerillas under Francis Marion were famous for killing many British soldiers from ambush. They were freedom fighters. Iraqi insurgents killed many American conquerors from ambush, why were they terrorists?

A study of the relative nature of morality poses interesting questions. Penetrating questions regarding morality make many people uncomfortable or angry because they often interfere with their personal view of morality or history. It is often painful to come to terms with the relative nature of the human concept we call morality.

We fare best if we avoid the use of morally judgmental words like good or evil. Precision in language suggests the use of descriptive words without moral connotations, such as unproductive, counterproductive, inefficient, efficient, lawless, dangerous and murderous. The list of words depends on our vocabulary.

Due to the relative nature of all morality, the list of moral conundrums and enigmas is endless.



Chapter 08.04 A NEW MORALITY

        A New Morality, Part 1: The Natural Rules of Morality

        A New Morality, Part 2: The Negative Golden Rule

        A New Morality, Part 3: An Individual Code of Conduct


A New Morality, Part 1: The Natural Rules of Morality

All morality and all moral codes can only be relative and subjective. Human beings devise moral judgments, such as good and evil, right and wrong, either with the objective of furthering law and order within societies, or with the objective of manipulating other human beings.

Manipulations, under the pretext of morality, may represent an attempt to reap personal gain by altering the self-perception or self-esteem of another person. Manipulations of moral issues may also be attempts to gain from the distortion of reality, as other persons perceive it.

Although morality is relative, human societies have established codes of conduct, codes of morality, to meet their particular needs for manipulations. Because of such manipulations, members of a particular society may loose the ability to recognize the relative nature of the morality system imbedded in their society.

Instead, all members of that particular society will consider the moral dictums of their society as applicable to all of humanity and the universe and they will then proceed to impose their standards on other human beings.

This moral stance has been very common throughout human history. We can readily discern this distortion of values at the beginning of the third millennium, as societies with a predominant Judeo/Christian orientation try to impose their morality on Islamic societies.

All societies impose moral standards on its members. Societies cannot exist without a cohesive code of conduct, without a system of morality. In past centuries, the religious hierarchy governing a society commonly promulgated the rules and dogmas of what they consider moral conduct.

In order to validate their own moral system, members of a particular society frequently insist that their moral standards apply not only to their society, but also to all human beings. These persons conveniently overlook the fact that their universal moral standard would need to have its origin in innate human characteristics, imbedded in human genes. There would have to be a gene for morality. Of course, there is no such gene

Alternately, mysterious or mystical beings or exterior forces might have imbedded such moral qualities in human beings. There is no objective evidence whatsoever of such genetically imposed morality or the imposition of moral standards by mystical beings, such as gods. Nobody has ever provided any evidence of such mystical beings. Babies are not born with a moral code imbedded in them. Morality is always relative to our society.

Freedom is the opportunity to do what we please, subject only to the restrictions that we voluntarily impose on ourselves. We accept such moral restriction in order to enhance those objectives that we consider being in our own best self-interest. If all other members of our society adhere to the same set of moral rules, we mutually benefit from this enhancement to our security.

In setting up rules of conduct we must have a means of determining precisely what conduct is mutually beneficial and therefore permissible, and what conduct is not beneficial and therefore prohibited.

Adherence to a Code of Conduct, a Codified Morality, requires that we give up some freedom of action in return for the enhancement of our security and thus, our survival. Without this framework of morality, governing the conduct among members of a particular society, there cannot be an orderly conduct of human affairs. Any society lacking compulsory rules governing the conduct, the morals, of its members will quickly collapse into chaos.

Since there is an infinite number of potential human activities and desires, we cannot establish a Code of Conduct, a morality system, by making a list of human activities that society permits or tolerates. Conversely, a list of human-caused events that no person likes to experience is very short.

Therefore, an effective moral code must define only those activities that are not permissible, that society prohibits under threat of punishment. Furthermore, it is imperative that any societal system of morality stipulates unequivocally that any act, which is not expressly prohibited, is permitted: Anything that is not prohibited, is permitted. This statement is a crucial ingredient of any effectual legal system.

The human survival instinct is the primary and most powerful human emotion. The promulgation of prohibited acts must take cognizance of those events that no person wants to be subject to, such as to be killed. These basic prohibitions are the backbone of the laws of any society and may be verbal or they may be embodied in a formal, written code of laws. Disregard of these basic moral laws will invoke drastic punishment and anyone breaking these laws must take into account the potential consequence of breaking them.

The fundamental prohibitions, without which no society can function, cover those events that no human being wants to happen to him:

It is prohibited to kill or injure another human being, except in self-defense *

It is prohibited to enslave another human being by physically restraining him

It is prohibited to use the property of another person without his express consent*

*Note: Self Defense includes the protection of members of the immediate Survival Circle:

Preemptive Strikes are never permitted: They destroy the fabric of society.

Property: Things subject to the legal and physical control of a person

All activities that are not expressly prohibited, are permitted.

Adherence to the Negative Golden Rule is beneficial, but optional. The Negative Golden Rule falls into the framework of a Personal Morality, based on the individual perception of what is in ones own best self-interest.

We could logically derive the Three Natural Rules of Morality from the concepts of the Negative Golden Rule. However, we are treating them as an entity separate from the Negative Golden Rule, because they serve as the skeleton of a moral framework by stating fundamental, unequivocal and unambiguous prohibitions. The Negative Golden Rule fills in the muscles and sinews of the moral system and the Personal Code of Conduct facilitates the smooth operation of a personal system of morality.


A New Morality, Part 2: The Negative Golden Rule

Three billion years of evolution have imbued all life on earth with one basic motivation: All living organisms, including all human beings, always act in what they consider to be in their best self-interest. This unalterable motivation is the source for all other emotions of all living organisms. This motive is also the precursor of the Negative Golden Rule, which first appears in the writings of the nascent periods of major religions and civilizations.

The Biblical Golden Rule states: "Do unto others what you want done to yourself" The Negative Golden Rule states: "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself". This nugget of wisdom goes back thousands of years. It appears in old Judaic teachings as well as in the ancient Tibetan Buddhist aphorism: "Let all hear this moral maxim and having heard it, keep it well: Whatever is not pleasing to yourself, do not that into others".

The actual Golden Rule, as embedded in the New Testament of the Bible, is adverse to human emotional and evolutionary motivation. Unfortunately, St. Matthew was not familiar with human nature when he said in (7-12) "Therefor all things whatsoever ye would that men do to you, do ye even so to them. For this is the law and the prophets".

Immanuel Kant, too, knew little about human nature when he torturously invented his Categorical Imperative. Since this long-winded moral exhortation is nothing but a convoluted version of the Golden Rule, it is just as ineffective as the Golden Rule. Most people are not even aware of this Kantian moral imperative and nobody pays any attention to it. This type of philosophizing exposes Kant as just another one of the many philosophers who lacked a basic understanding of human nature and reality.

The same psychological principles that apply to the moral code of a society, also apply to individual members of a society who merely wish to enhance their coexistence with other members of their family or society. All human beings have an infinite number of wants, needs and desires. It is impossible to know and understand all of the wants and likes of another person.

Therefore, it is impossible and presumptive for a person to decide what may be desirable for another person, merely as a projection of his own desires. A projection of our own likes would rely on the unrealistic assumption that others have the same needs and desires as we do. We know from everyday observations that other people do not have the same likes as we do and, since we can merely surmise what others may like, we will almost certainly create dismay more often than happiness.

Even persons, who may have indicated a particular preference, may actually have entirely different wants. My friend may have heard me say that I like red sweaters and he then may have stated that he likes red sweaters, too. However, his statement does not mean he will rejoice if I make him a gift of a red sweater in order to make him happy. Although he may like red sweaters, he may actually very much prefer to wear blue sweaters. Instead of offending me by refusing the red sweater, which he will never wear, he is now wondering what equally unwanted gift he can bestow on me to reciprocate my favor, to make me happy, and to eliminate the undesired obligation created by my gift.

The broad applicability of the Negative Golden Rule explains the well-reasoned attitude some persons have towards gifts. Some people do not give gifts for any reason. To the great consternation of some well-meaning givers of gifts, they also refuse to accept gifts. These people enjoy lives that are uncluttered by undesired gifts and obligations.

If a person in this category does not own a particular item, he does not possess it because he does not want it. If he had wanted a specific item, he would have bought it a long time ago. If he had bought the item himself, he would have bought the particular product he desired, instead of an item that another person thought he might like.

Well-intentioned people who try to make themselves happy by erroneously following the Golden Rule, are the givers of most gifts. Therefore, most gifts end up in attics, at garage sales, or people simply discard them - with the exception of money.

Money is more versatile than other gifts. Alas, money is rarely the medium of gifts because money provides relatively little satisfaction to the person giving the money: It does not have the personal touch, for which a giver would like to be remembered.

Why does the Negative Golden Rule function so exquisitely when the Golden Rule is completely counter-productive? Human beings have an almost infinite variety of Likes and Wants. Since human resources are limited, we have to set priorities for our Likes. One person may deem an object desirable but another person may hate the same article. Some people like banana bread others detest the stuff. Some people chase after sex; others would rather read a good book. Our likes and wants are infinite but our dislikes are very limited.

Opposed to the myriad of Wants that differ dramatically from person to person, there are basic Dislikes that apply uniformly to all human beings. Absolutely nobody likes to be killed or injured, nobody likes to be enslaved and nobody likes to have his property stolen. These universal dislikes are the reason for the superior moral applicability of the Negative Golden Rule: "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself."

The Negative Golden Rule can thus serve as the basic framework for a personal morality system. A moral code based on the Negative Golden Rule relies on the innate emotional and rational nature of human beings.

The promulgation of moral codes has always been a major perquisite of nascent religions. All religions embrace a dogma, a set of moral rules, specific to their particular religion. It is noteworthy that most religions have found that the Golden Rule does not work. Instead, they base their moral code on the highly effective Negative Golden Rule:

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udana-Varga 5:18)

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. (Mahabharata 5:1517)

Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have them do to you. (Analects 15:23)

Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not god for itself.

Only Christianity and Islam include the Positive Golden Rule in their morality system, although the Golden Rule is inherently counterproductive to human morality and happiness.

The Christian faith actually uses two complimentary rules: The ineffective Biblical Golden Rule which proclaims: "All things whatsoever ye would that man should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt 7:12). However, most of the Ten Commandments are framed in negatives, as all moral codes must be in order to be effective.

Islam: No one is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Sunnah) This moral code is also a version of the positive Golden Rule. It is very ineffective and ambiguous. Muslims, being normal human beings, follow it very selectively. This code relies on the unrealistic assumption that your brother has precisely the same needs and wants as you do.

If we wish to live in harmony with others and never give rise to a conflict with others, we must convert the Golden Rule to the Negative Golden Rule. Only the Negative Golden Rule is in alignment with innate human survival instincts: Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.

A moral code based on the principle of the Negative Golden Rule is very short and eliminates the uninvited imposition of our own desires on others. Only the Negative Golden Rule can demonstrate the principle of peaceful coexistence among men. The Positive Golden Rule is an invitation to meddle in the affairs of other persons, guided by our own preferences.

If we are determined to make somebody happy by providing gifts, why not give such gifts to ourselves and make ourselves happy? Nobody else in the whole world knows better than we do, precisely, what it is that we enjoy. If every person does what brings him happiness, instead of engaging in the speculative attempt to make other persons happy, it follows logically that all people will be happy.

The whole world would be brimming with happy persons, if only people would stop trying to make other people happy. It is much easier and much more rewarding to focus all of our efforts and resources on making ourselves happy.

It is sometimes difficult to gain insights into our own needs and to make ourselves happy by acting upon our needs. Most people find it easier and more convenient to try to find happiness in their futile attempt to make other people happy, regardless of the true preferences of those other people.

The moral stance of most religions further aggravates this situation. Religious organizations benefit from encouraging the indiscriminate giving of gifts. Religions proclaim, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Churches are frequently the beneficiaries of guilt-ridden adherents. These persons try to find happiness not only in their current life. By giving to their church, they try to open the door to a happier life after their death. They believe that their Church holds the key to this door. The morality of the Golden Rule has rewarded churches with immense wealth.

    A New Morality, Part 3 - A Personal Morality

Chapter 08.05: Morality - Summary and Conclusion


Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible only in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".


Top of Page

Table of Contents

Interesting Links

Copyright Walter E. Requadt  All Rights Reserved