Science and morality

The science of morality is interpreted by empirical findings based on the senses, and is in effect linked to the scientific method in where observation and experimentation to acquire knowledge, to form an understanding of the subject is in play. Many sceptics claim that science doesn’t have the means to determine what can be moral or immoral, but observable facts are reached by using the scientific method, yet the whole concept of morality is about well-being and living a virtuous life, yet what’s good for one person could be detrimental to another.

So can science actually determine morality? Science attempts to be objective, and reach a conclusion based on reason, reality and facts gathered from evidence. Two of the biggest questions in philosophy and science are; who are we? Where did we come from? Many people of faith believe that we are here because we are made in the image of god, and were placed on Earth to rule a dominion over other life forms, and with us being in God’s image we have a morality giver. Yet this is purely speculative, without justification and is subjective to the religion a person puts their faith into. For something to be universally moral, it has to be based on facts or how else can it be agreed upon?

“Psychological and neuroscience research both tell us that morality, our mental ability to tell right from wrong in our behaviors and the behaviors of others, is a product of evolution. Morality has been passed on through the course of evolution because it helps us to live in large social groups by enhancing our ability to get along and interact with others. – Source

So using that standard, religion can not be moral. Morality is in two parts and the first part is how you act and the more empathy, compassion and humility you use, then the greater the chances are you’ll do something for the greater good that’s beneficial to others; and the second part is how your actions make you feel, and if you do something bad, you feel guilt, resentment or remorse, then it’s likely that if put in that same situation again you’ll try and change your ways for the greater good. Is having expectations supplied by a god, who doesn’t want you to worship anyone but them, being moral or is it just being obedient and following the rules? Morality is about being about to distinguish between good and bad, wrong or right. Being moral is about trying to work for the betterment of all, not just the ones who are part of your elite club..

“Morality must relate, at some level, to the well-being of conscious creatures. If there are more and less effective ways for us to seek happiness and to avoid misery in this world—and there clearly are—then there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality” – Sam Harris

Very often a person’s view of morality is derived from cultural traits and expectations, and people are conditioned socially to act in a certain way that doesn’t infringe the rights of other sentient beings. Many philosophers arrive that morality is inherent from birth, and to be socially accepted into a pack, then we must adhere to standard or principles to maintain an equilibrium so we can multiply as a species. Whilst science can’t directly determine what’s moral and what’s immoral, it can certainly study empirical evidence to determine if an action is going to constitute in the well-being of others, and what can be done to reduce suffering of the majority. So science can determine what’s true, but not what’s right. Yet, by using the scientific method we can reach moral conclusions. Take murder as an example. To take another person’s life is an infringement on their rights as a human, and it causes suffering to the victim and those close to them. But if you had a choice to save 100 people and let one die, would that judgement be a moral one, as the decision was for greater good, or is it a decision that can’t have any moral implications as a choice had to be made or everyone would die.

Can you see the real me?

It’s a natural human condition to attempt to manifest yourself as a better, and more attractive person than you actually are, but what’s the benefit of creating an elaborate facade when the truth will inevitably reveal itself? This mindset of creating an altered persona, or avatar, is extremely prevalent on social media and dating apps, yet surely it’s counter productive if you’re attempting to be something you’re not if you are already known, or wanting to be known. So many people use Snapchat filters to completely alter their physical appearance, then they become unrecognisable in person. What is the thinking behind this action?

“Most users of social media have experienced catfishing (which cats hate), senseless rejection, being belittled or ignored, outright sadism, or all of the above, and worse” – Jaron Lanier

Some people take a step beyond this and create a whole different character, and this is known as catfishing. This is an extremely deceptive tactic which is often used to attempt to gain financial advantages, scams, bullying, blackmail, explore their sexuality in anonymity, or to stalk/troll their chosen victim. Whether it’s someone living out a fantasy, or portraying themselves as more desirable than they truly are, often the victim is taken in as they are enjoying the attention they are receiving. The perpetrator may just be lonely and self-conscious and by creating another persona they are getting more attention than they would in the real world, but many people have a more sinister motive with psychopathic tendencies. Most people assume that a psychopath is a violent person, but there are other signs of psychopathological behaviour, and these tend to be a lack of empathy and remorse, vindictive and self-serving, antisocial or manipulative behaviour.

The potential for anonymity loosens up social and moral codes. This means the need to be a certain way to fit into society seems distant, freeing up mental space to explore the dimmer, darker bits of our personalities without fearing stigma.” – Source

Face to face most people reach a judgement quite quickly whether someone is being genuine, and you can read people by their body language, but when you’re at the other end of an electronic device to the other person, it’s impossible to read signals and body language. If someone seems too good to be true then they probably are and you are wise to trust your instincts. If you’re with someone you have to portray your image relative to who you really are as it’s extremely difficult to pretend to be someone else, but being online behind a level of anonymity, people are able to craft themselves to be more appealing to the victim. They may empathise with you, be sympathetic, or claim to share the same interests as you in an attempt to lower your guard and persuade you to begin to trust them. You know you’re being catfished when the person is reluctant to reveal themselves in a video call, or they aren’t fond of the idea of meeting in person. Many will use reverse psychology and will over emphasise their alleged loyalty and honesty, and will play on your heart strings with a traumatic life event which has left them in financial ruin. As soon as the subject of money arises, you’re being played. Trust your intuition!

The quest for truth

We live in an age where there’s a lot of cynicism towards media outlets, governments, and organisations that have a large influence regarding information and how it’s shared. Depending on the source, you could come across conflicting information, and if several sources make the same claim then it’s natural to be inclined to take the information as fact or knowledge. Oxford dictionary defines truth as being that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. This is where the study of theology has left me full of doubt, as religion isn’t absolute and it’s subjective and relative to a person’s perspective or personal beliefs.

“Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.” – Thomas Jefferson

If you look at the root word for truth it’ll lead you to the Latin word veritas, who was the goddess of truth and the daughter of Saturn, and the Greek equivalent was Aletheia, and in Ancient Greece, philosophers used the word ἀλήθεια to mean that which is not hidden; the truth. The quest for truth was the biggest theme that the ancient philosophers debated. According to Plato the truth is objective, and is without bias and independent from subjective perceptions, opinions and unjustifiable beliefs.

“Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The issue with objective truth is knowledge, and is the knowledge accurate. Not too long ago people believed that the Sun rotated around the Earth and we lived in a geocentric solar system, until the Polish born mathematician and astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, corrected this and the beginning of the Copernican Revolution was born and scientists accepted that the Earth and the other planets revolves around the Sun.

In science, the purpose is to gather facts, and understand reality using doubt and scepticism, and no scientific theory is ever once and for all put to bed as new evidence is always ready to be discovered. Despite this, science and it’s relation to objectivity is about discovering a collective understanding, that’s not influenced by outside interference. When a scientific theory is established it’s often presented to a scientific journal where it’s peer reviewed by neutral scientists and they attempt to dissect it to to reach the same conclusion, or prove their doubt, and enforce the objectivity of the scientific method. Yet the truth can only be established if the evidence is substantial, and to prove something is incredibly difficult. So if people find it difficult to obtain the truth, then why do the majority of the world’s population surround their lives with the idea of a creator and an all knowing god, when there’s no objective truth?