Let the preachers preach…and forget about morality
I am not very good at preaching and not an expert on morality as well. I am not going to pretend: it is hard for me to make smart conclusions here.
Still, my biggest point about morality is that is very relative. What is good here is certainly terrible there and vice versa. Women can drive and wear minis in many places of the world. They are not allowed to do so in Saudi Arabia. And we, the majority of the world, believe it is a bad thing and discriminatory. Is it?
You can smoke dope in Colorado and Alaska… and you can do it in Moscow, but is illegal here. What is good or bad in this case? In Moscow you can’t buy any alcohol after 11pm (in stores) because the government is afraid that its citizens would be drinking too much and not be in good shape the next day.
The US and the West promote democracy and today’s Russia and China follow their own mysterious ways. America thinks there are universal human rights and I would agree with that. But I know lots of people here in Russia, who are denying all things American or Western and trying hard to find their own path, proclaiming something like ‘Russland, Russland uber alles’. At the same time, they buy foreign cars and watch American movies at theaters. What about morality here?
Look at what happened in the past. If in, say, 1467 I had declared that it is the Earth that orbits the Sun (and not the opposite!) I would have a pretty good chance to be burned alive for the sake of morality of that epoch. And that would be a very moral thing at the time: they would be saving me from the devil’s hands.
So let the religious and political preachers preach, but forget about morality as a universal thing. It just doesn’t exist. Morality is a local issue and a subject to change.
Should driverless cars have morality?
My rather limited intellect unfortunately makes me think of morality in simple terms. (Actually, it isn’t simple at all, but sadly I am…) Before I explain that more fully, here is an example.
I, like thousands of people throughout the world, pay tax on my private pension. It goes to the government of a little island in which that pension was earned, but where I no longer abide. Recently, a decision was taken to remove all the normal allowances against the tax bill for all ex-pats who no longer reside in that island, resulting in me and Mrs B paying thousands of pounds more per year in tax. We, and hundreds like us, have absolutely no right to any services, and no automatic right to reside there, even though most of us have given a lifetime of service to the place. Just as importantly, we have no vote. So thanks to the American pastor for his phrase “No taxation without representation.” I know the context was slightly different, but the words ring true to me.
Anyway, I consider this decision to be severely lacking in morality. Increasing taxation for helpless (and in my case, simple) pensioners who cannot fight back, is, quite simply, immoral.
Now that’s off my chest, here’s my simple take on Morality. I reckon there are two types.
To have a code of conduct, both in actions and words, that would be considered and accepted by all rational people, like you and me. Right-minded people, decent people, you name it how you like, but you know what I mean.
To have a code of conduct put forward by a group, such as religion. (You know, where it can be considered morally right to behead somebody in full view of the cameras, because the victim is a non-believer, or to say that gay couples are immoral, the list is damn well extensive.)
I accept that no system of morality can be considered as universal – maybe, if a hundred of us wrote a piece, we’d get several different versions. And I do like what the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once said of morality: “…. is what the majority then and there happen to like, and immorality is what they dislike.” (By the way, what sort of name is North??)
I think that when it comes to the law and morality, they are quite different entities. If you park illegally, is that immoral? Telling a barefaced lie is immoral, but it’s hardly illegal.
Morality is therefore very much up to the individual; law surely must be universal to society as a whole.
Enough of my rubbish, save to give you something upon which to ponder…………
What about Morality with AI? Can you teach morality to a driverless car, for instance?
What should happen if the brakes fail, approaching a pedestrian crossing? Should the car carry straight on, and knock down and kill one human on the crossing? Or swerve across the road to avoid that, and crash into a concrete barrier, killing the driver, and three dogs in the car? What’s more important, an old lady crossing the road, or a baby being pushed in a pram? Animals or humans? As drivers, we all of course act purely on instinct in that situation – there is simply not enough time or cognitive ability to sort it out. But a machine with artificial intelligence will be able to, so will have to be programmed with some kind of morality to help make that decision……
Just don’t ask this simple fellow to help!
Free The Nipple!
Americans like to believe that morality is cut-and-dry. To quote a green thing: “Do or do not; there is no try.” And so Americans find themselves greatly vexed by the continued freedom the female nipple demands. Consider this: the male and female nipple truly look about the same, yet to even gaze at the female version is enough to make Fox News more than a bit uncomfortable. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, they will blather on endlessly about freedom and justice. But do they really want both nipples treated equally?
Not long ago in a huge stadium filled with people, all of whom had nipples of their own, the call went forth “Lock Her Up, Lock Her Up!” The male nipple before the assembled hoard had a secret. He understood there could be no male nipple without the female nipple. But he wasn’t foolish on this occasion and agreed that we should never see the female nipple again, it simply isn’t moral. But secretly, he needed the female nipple for his very existence.
While scientists and plumbers everywhere may consider the male nipple useless, others see strength. Cut a statue of David from a great granite stone, you have just freed the nipple. Mary will receive no such freedom. Americans like to believe that we don’t have political prisoners, yet, a few of us insist on locking her up. There looks to be a direct correlation between how conservative one is and the need to keep the female nipple Burka-like, covered and away.
And so I must ask you, why is one nipple moral and the other not? Even those who consider themselves the standard bearers of morality, white evangelicals, wrestle with this very idea: In 2011, only 30 percent believed that personal immorality was permissible when it comes to public exhibition. “Today, 72 percent of white evangelicals—up an astounding 42 points–believe that the two can go together.” Yes, it turns out that morality is malleable. You can see the seeming random change in moral attitudes in this Bookings Institute article.
So I do find myself confused: Are we not equal? Why is abortion bad but the death penalty good? Here is a hint: all life is precious and must be protected.
Why do we declare the female nipple immoral? I truly don’t know.