A few days ago I was asked, "Where did you get those morals from anyway? What made you decide that's the right way to look at things?"
The question was asked because this guy was brought up in a religious home and apparently thinks his morals came from rejection of those morals, plus his realizing that biological imperatives contradict with social/religious morals. He claims playing games with people, being the alpha male to 'get' all the females and power, females automatically trying to attract all male attention away from other women, and taking what you can get no matter the expense to others (to a degree, he's not actually horrible); are all normal biological human behaviors and shouldn't be denigrated as immoral.
The fact that I say he's not horrible points out to me that I feel his morals are less than they should be. I wonder why? After considering his question, I think the point of biological imperatives are perfectly normal but the point of social and religious morals is to raise the level of human functioning and life above that of the rest of the animal world. It doesn't seem to be working too well in many ways but in others, it does. Many things we consider humanly unique aren't anyway - like compassion. Rats freely running about take the time to let out rats caged in their area. They even shared chocolate with the rats after they freed them! Maybe we're trying to get UP to the level of other animals?!
Really? Does your friend hunt, kill and eat people, too?
As I see it, he's refuted his own argument. There is a biological imperative to mate and procreate. Ok.
There is no biological imperative to play manipulative mind games in the process.
He's aware that people do get hurt by such games playing.
Perhaps he feels no remorse or guilt. But he recognizes that games playing actions have consequences.
Is there an animal imperative in that?
Methinks he is rationalizing his bad behavior.
Just realized I never got to my answer to his question about where my morals came from. For one, obviously from my parents. Two, my life experience. It seems that acting in a purely animalistic way for survival is embarrassingly low-class and that humans should be more. But I don't know why I feel like that. Why do I think helping others is the right thing to do, especially when I often don't want to? Does that come from later religious and spiritual discoveries? Game theory, which is basically socio-biological, isn't it? And what about getting revenge? Getting revenge is satisfying in a primal way so why is it considered wrong in some modes of thinking? In some societies, but not others? As I've gotten (so much) older, I realize it's not nearly as important to me as it used to be while my feeling that the right thing to do is eradicate destructive creatures/people. I agree with the death penalty for criminally insane people but also that whoever drove that person to be criminally insane should be destroyed as well. But really, who can decide if something went biologically wrong with the insane criminal or if it was a reaction to abuse and circumstances? If it's too dangerous to allow that person in society, why should they stay alive? Who has the right to take the life if not the society they try to destroy?
And what about men fighting for the "right" to have sex with a woman? And what about the woman who leaves a man for another because he's more successful and powerful? Are these too animalistic to be decent human behaviors?
I'm getting carried away I guess. I love discussions like this but at work, we are too busy actually working to get too far into it. We start and then have nowhere but our own heads to continue! On here at least, if someone wants to discuss things, they can whenever they get a chance or think of a point they want to make. And now I have to go get ready for work.
MM, that's always my first reaction when he starts talking but...
I realize a lot of what he says is true. It's not so much manipulative mind games as working with what he's realized is how the world works. Personally I think it's coming from pain and maybe feel like he's run out of time or something. He read about all this somewhere and seemed amazed to discover it's 'true' that people work like this. He now analyzes peoples' behavior and crows out when he sees it fits this model so often.
Yes, he's getting carried away!
But I have to admit that many times, it DOES seem to be working like he says and for some reason, I totally hate it. I don't want to see people as "mere animals" but then I see that not even animals are mere animals.
Are humans 'supposed' to be different? Higher, better? Who decided that? God? People? Do dogs or lions or giraffes believe they should be more than they are? Are they in fact? This type of thinking is why I prefer to be alone I think, I drive myself crazy enough without others' thoughts making it worse! Why do I feel compelled to discuss it, then? I don't know, but I do.
What you are calling social or religious morals are just as biologically evolved as the mating behaviors he is placing at the center of his decision making.
Religions came about as a way to put language and ritual (and superstitious enforcement) around evolved social behaviors. We are primates, and therefore evolved as a species who relies on group-normative behavior. Social norms include cooperation and sharing of resources.
Reproductive behaviors are older imperatives, and there are TWO successful strategies that survived to present day: Alpha and Beta. Alpha males are as you described and go "spread the seed wide" so to speak. The continuation of their genetic material is guaranteed by volume, and they use their energies to fight for and defend turf and mating rights. Beta male strategy insures the continuation of their genetic material through the investment of energy in protecting and seeing to adulthood (breeding age) of young in a smaller group, a.k.a. the family unit. Both strategies worked, and because they both work, humanity has evolved a conflicted breeding pattern that is confounded by these two seemingly adversarial styles.
The reason religions have come about in literally every society on Earth through all of recorded history without exception is that they are important to try to at least balance out the two approaches not only to reproduction, but to leadership and aggression. This is why so many religions have lots of "proper behavior for women" worked into them, and it's not hard to see how each religion in its way works to find some form of containment for the biological imperatives (some favoring/authored for alpha type society, and others for beta type societies).
Beyond the essential and older mating drives, came the other social behaviors mentioned at the top. Those are sharing, caring for others, looking after wounded or injured (picking ticks of the other monkeys back, etc.), those are essential, and serve as the foundation of the "social and moral" stuff you are talking about. The more generous and cooperative apes had more successful groups in the wild, they did better for resources, and had more offspring survive, propelling the genetic predisposition for cooperative behavior forward into time, etc., etc. Religion wraps texts and rituals around all that, and you call them "morals" now and attach them to churches or whatever. Religion has nothing to do with it beyond pointing out which natural behaviors work better in a given society that has agreed to (or been forced to agree to) a particular religious rule book as THE one that binds it in a reference-able and, therefore, enforceable way—enforceable here on Earth rather than waiting for the spirit world to sort it out after death. This is why there is religious conflict in the world. Societies started butting up against one another as populations and technology grew, and they learned that there were other groups that had written other rule books. That doesn't work out well most of the time.
But in the end, it, as with your friend, comes down to which instincts you choose to follow, the older, baser, alpha male strategy, if that is how your Y-chromosomes have set you out, or the higher social functioning of a beta male strategy.
Shade, I really like your answer, thank you. It's true, isn't it, like you said:
--> What you are calling social or religious morals are just as biologically evolved as the mating behaviors he is placing at the center of his decision making. <--
But then why do you consider alpha 'baser' and beta 'higher'? Why would one be better than the other or are you only saying that in context of specific modern societies? I think this is one of the issues; is it "better" to work for the good of the group as opposed to the good of the individual? Isn't that one of the (perceived) differences in European and Asian societies?
When I was shown/discovered/realized a unifying life force/God, it made me believe that working for the good of all was superior to selfish behavior, that working for one's self and one's 'own' doesn't even make sense. We are all one in some way. BUT to even be able to conceive of working against the unity points to that possibly not being the right way to look at it. Maybe it's like the economic theory that working for one's own best interest IS in the best interest of the economy as a whole. Sometimes that works but sometimes it doesn't.
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