What Makes Us Moral?
instinctively follow what the law says,
they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong.
They demonstrate that God’s law is written within them,
for their own consciences either accuse them
or tell them they are doing what is right
The current Time cover story asks this question and seems to answer from science, particularly biology, that we are hard wired this way. Then come further questions about why some are moral and some are not. As the article puts it:
We're a species that is capable of almost dumbfounding kindness. We nurse one another, romance one another, weep for one another. Ever since science taught us how, we willingly tear the very organs from our bodies and give them to one another. And at the same time, we slaughter one another. The past 15 years of human history are the temporal equivalent of those subatomic particles that are created in accelerators and vanish in a trillionth of a second, but in that fleeting instant, we've visited untold horrors on ourselves—in Mogadishu, Rwanda, Chechnya, Darfur, Beslan, Baghdad, Pakistan, London, Madrid, Lebanon, Israel, New York City, Abu Ghraib, Oklahoma City, an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania—all of the crimes committed by the highest, wisest, most principled species the planet has produced. That we're also the lowest, cruelest, most blood-drenched species is our shame—and our paradox.The full text of the Time article is online here: What makes us moral?
We were discussing this very thing last night at church in the series on Questioning Your Faith as part of a discussion on whether other religions can be true too. Given my particular line of work, it shouldn't be too surprising that I think we were hard wired with morality written on our hearts. The wiring isn't too precise to be sure as we can debate which killing is justified and which is prohibited even while instinctively knowing that taking life in general is wrong. Biology may find that takes place genetically, and I have no beef with that description. Either way, we do have a sense of right and wrong and the free will to choose to violate that moral code if we wish.
To make things even more interesting, they offer an interactive online quiz full of moral dilemmas: The Morality Quiz which you can take and then how you stack up against others who take the quiz.
And if you are still up for another moral dilemma, what about this article A Hoax Turned Fatal Draws Anger but No Charges about the 47-year old Mom who created a fake identity on MySpace.com to harrass a neighboring 13-year old girl. The teen ended up committing suicide. Nothing the Mom did in harassing her is illegal, but the violation of "Love your neighbor as yourself" is so grievous that it can't help but make heaven weep. Should all moral wrongs be illegal? If so, who determines what is immoral for purposes of law?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
and I will write them on their hearts