Why Humanity Needs Universal Morality

Pinciple 2: Attempt to maximize the happiness and fulfillment
of all other present and future human beings.

How We Usually Make Moral Decisions

There are two ways people usually decide what is right or wrong. Either they feel that they instinctively know what is right or wrong, or they decide based on what someone they consider a moral authority tells them. These usual methods will likely lead to the destruction of all or most of humanity, our cultures, and possibly the whole planet.

Morality Based on Instinct

For our whole lives, almost all of us have heard the phrase "you know what is right or wrong" so often that we believe it is true. Certainly we feel we know what is right or wrong. These feeling are based on our emotions, which have been moulded by our environment. Our parents have told us, and demonstrated to us with their actions, what is "right and wrong." From what recent psychology research has discovered, we probably learned even more from our peers (friends and associates). Our emotions are also moulded by our society in general (television, school, the internet, etc.). The problem with this system for humanity is that people instinctively reach different conclusions about what is right or wrong. These different conclusions lead to conflicts that threaten our very existence.

Morality Based on Authorities

Many of us decide what is right or wrong based on what our "moral authorities" tell us. Usually these moral authorities are religious leaders. Many of us also listen to our political leaders on these issues. The problem with this method is that different authorities have different opinions. Depending on who we listen to, we will have very different opinions about what is right or wrong. These different opinions from moral authorities have supported all kinds of horrible actions and conflicts in the past, and will undoubtedly do the same thing in the future. Probably all wars were supported by religious authorities from both sides, not to mention actions like the Christian Inquisition and Crusades.

A Joke that Illustrates the Problem With These Methods

(This is a joke told by Emo Philips.) Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!" Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

The Problem with Different Conclusions about Right and Wrong

Conflicts Among Tribes

Different conlcusions about what is right and wrong have driven all human conflicts. Historically, every tribe that has defeated another tribe, and often exterminated all of them, has felt that this was morally correct. I believe this starts with the instinct to take care of our family before other people, and then take care of our tribe. we all "know" that it is morally correct to put our family before anyone else. We also "know" it is morally correct to put our close associates (our tribe) before any other group of people. If two tribes are competing for the same resources, then we "know" that it is morally correct for us to kill all members of the other tribe, so we can have the resources for our tribe. The difference in morality is that Tribe A "knows" that they are better, and that it is morally correct for them to kill members of Tribe B. Tribe B knows the reverse. In less developed parts of the world where people are still closer to these tribal cultures, this is still very common. In urban environments in more developed places, this type of morality takes place in gangs. Every gang memeber "knows" it is morally correct to defeat any member of the opposing gang, even to the point of killing him.

Conflicts Among Countries

Wars are just an extension of the tribal conflicts described above. Most of the people in every country at war believe their position in the war is morally correct, and the position of the people in the other countries are morally incorrect. They have made these moral decisions based on instinct, and on what their moral authorities have told them. Often these wars are fights over resources. The country who wins the resources has the ability to make life better for its citizens. We "know" it is right to make life better for our family, for our friends and associates, and for the people of our country. We "know" that patriotism is the highest moral position a person can have. Therefore, we "know" that, when our country is at war, it must be a good war, and it is morally correct for us to support this was. We "know" that the highest moral action a person can take is to give his or her life in support of our wars. We also "know" that the lowest moral action a person can take is to support the other side of the war, and anyone who does that is inherently evil, and probably not even really human.

The Ultimate Result: Destruction of All Humanity

When wars were fought with technology that could kill at most one person at a time, and humans lived in relatively small tribes, the result of human conflicts was at most one small tribe eliminating another small tribe. As our technology has improved, we are able to kill more people at a time. At the present, many countries have nuclear weapons that can kill many thousands of people with one bomb. Humanity has only had this technology for a short time relative to our history. As technology improves, it will become progressively easier for countries to make these weapons. The spread of nuclear weapons has been slowed by treaties, political pressure, and the technological difficulty of developing them. As technology improves over the years, it will become easier and cheaper to make these weapons. In a hundred years or so, every country will be able to have nuclear weapons. Any country in a conflict will want nuclear weapons if it suspects the other side has them. What will our small wars be like when nuclear weapons are cheap, common, and easy to make and obtain? An even worse problem is the advances in technology in biology. In the fairly near future, any good science laboratory will be able to genetically engineer viruses that can kill vast numbers of people. Every country in the world will be able to have this capability, not to mention every small group with the desire, including every terrorist group. It should be obvious that if the people who commit terrorist acts in the world right now had the capability to kill hundreds of thousands of people with genetically engineered viruses, they would do it, especially if they also had vaccines to prevent infection that they could give to the people they wanted to protect. These groups are absolutely certain their positions are morally correct. Suicide terrorists are so certain of their moral positions that they are willing to commit suicide during their terrorist acts. They "know" their positions are morally correct because they have been told so by their moral authorities, and because they instinctively "know" what is right and wrong.

The Only Hope for Humanity

When every country, and every small group with the desire, is able to make or buy means of killing vast numbers of people at a time, the only hope for humanity will be a morality that replaces our present methods of determining right and wrong. We need a moral system that makes it immoral to hurt other people, no matter how much it helps us and our group (our family, our tribe, our country). This is why we need the second principle of Universal Morality.