Friday, November 13, 2009

Morality... not one thing.

One of the major problems with the Great Morality Debate is that no-one ever seems to define their terms. The word ‘morality’ gets flung about like shit in an unstimulating chimp enclosure, but people often end up speaking at cross-purposes because they’re talking about different concepts. When the theofanboiz ask, ‘where does morality come from?’ they’re talking about absolute right and wrong, and how to distinguish between them.

The Tree of Knowledge’s (per Genesis) full title was, after all, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Quite aside from the fucking ridiculous theological knots this presents us with, the fundamental idea is that Good and Evil not only absolutely exist and are in some way in actual constant contest with each other, and the only reason we can tell the difference between the two sides is because that bitch Eve had no self-control around quinces. Which is odd, really, because if we can tell the difference as a result of a bit of inadvertent scrumping, then why would we need to be told? More fucking knots than Mistress Truss-em-up on a good Friday night…

In reality, there’s about as much evidence for the existence of Good and Evil as there is for God, which is to say bugger-all. To those of us minded to take our cues from reality as opposed to made-up bullshit, morality is nothing to do with these illusive constructs. Morality is an interplay between two things:
i) The group of behaviours exhibited by evolved social animals, which both grew out of and enabled the development of said social animals, also known as Why Not Everyone’s a Cunt; and
ii) The process – and product – of the application of abstract reasoning to our perceptions and experiences of our interaction with others and our wider environment, also known as Thinking About How Not to be a Cunt.

Where does morality come from? Well, it’s an artificial (as much as anything is) construct that pretty much just acts as an excuse for whatever it is that you’ve just done, or are about to do. That’s the very simplified answer dealing with the religious version of morality. It’s a fucking excuse. No foul, though, in a larger sense, since that’s pretty much what your consciousness acts as: a generator of excuses.

Our evolutionary development has armed us with certain behavioural responses to certain stimuli. Reciprocal altruism is one, and generally cast as a rather nice one. Tribalism may well be another, and if so, it’s a fucking ugly one. It fits, though.

The point is that even if my behavioural tendencies, inherited through selection over millions of years, are such that I’m inclined to be a right cunt, reason trumps that. I may, possibly, be hardwired to be wary or suspicious of people with brown skin. I don’t know if I am, but it stands out as a prominent example. I may be hardwired somehow to class women as some mysterious baby-generating devices. Even were that the case, I also have the capacity to weigh such behavioural tendencies and realise that they’re bullshit.

When the religious buggers come and spout ‘morality’ at us, it may behoove us to remember that they’re talking another language. They may be using words that sound the same, but they mean something completely fucking different.

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