Is “Morality” Written into the “Code of Creation”

codeofcreationRecently a commenter here at the wrote the following, “What if morality was written into the code of creation itself?”  Great question but before I go on, you should know that this commenter is someone I know.  This someone is Christian, so like most questions, it is always angled to make the point, “this proves my version of God”.

So first I will dispel that argument, this way.  Whether the God of the Bible does or doesn’t exist is irrelevant to the question, period.  “Morality” could be written into our code by the God of Deism, by the God and Goddess or the Pagan or by the pure evolution of they atheist.  The atheist would say over time those groups with morality survived at higher rates and developed structure.  Said structure via imprisonment and penalty of death, caused humans to accept “morality” and pushed a lot of those who would not, out of the gene pool.

This type of thinking is what makes discussion with a Christian difficult.  It seems that anything that leads one to believe in creation is to them proof of their version of it.

Still the question is great, is morality and the evolution of said morality part of the code of creation.  I would say that it is.  As I previously blogged basic morality and ethics are observable in animals far less advanced than humans, and not just ones we have trained, either.  See this post for examples of that.

I guess the first question would be are we born moral?

This is difficult to answer, more than you might think.  We are born unable to hold up our heads, barely able to do more than puke, drink our mothers milk and crap on ourselves.  We really can’t look at the behavior of a new born and ask is this child moral or not.  It will be at about two years of age where the child is truly mobile and functioning high enough to make that judgment.

So are two year old children moral?  The parent in us want so say so innocent, etc, but that is bullshit!  Two year old children are selfish, demanding, they steal, they bite, they throw tantrums and I have seen many hit other children and animals for nothing more than their own amusement.  I am going to say, no, we are not born moral, we are taught morality and develop during our growth as humans.

Let us shelve taught morality for this post and come back to it later.  It is a big can of worms and one can be taught something as moral that is actually horrific.  For today let us just discuss developed morality where real life feedback apart from other humans is our teaching tool.  Here is a classic one.

A young boy with a BB gun shoots a bird.  He likely had to work hard to do so, sneak away where he would not be seen, get a clean shot, make a good shot, etc.  Unlike the TV where Johnny does this on his first shot in his back yard, there is a lot of missing and hits that don’t take a bird out before one goes feet up and drops to the ground.  Also what the TV doesn’t show is that such a hit likely doesn’t kill the bird, it mortally wounds it and Johnny watches the bird die or must finish what he started, for the bird to not sit and suffer.

Once it is over and Johnny buries or hides the bird and “gets away with it” he is likely to have remorse.  He will realize that this death was senseless, that the bird may of had babies that are now alone, etc.  He doesn’t need a wood shed to have this feeling, trust me I know.  Johnny may grow into a man who hunts and kills many animals, he may have a small farm and slaughter many for food and not feel remorse for it.  But he likely will not kill anything ever again unless the death serves a purpose.

In this example the morality is learned, yes, but it is also hard wired in some way.  It is not learned like say touching something hot that physically burns Johnny.  Unless Johnny has something inside of him that says, “senseless death is wrong” there is no reason for him to change his behavior and not kill say thousands of birds.  So yes I believe on some levels basic morality is wired into our DNA.  Emotions like regret, doubt, remorse and emotional pain are the checks that force us to find it in time.

I see it a lot like walking, the ability to walk is wired into our DNA.  Even if a parent never teaches a child to walk the child if well cared for and if left to itself will walk one day.  It will first lean to roll over, then to crawl, then to use objects to pull itself up, then to walk.  A child is not born able to walk but it is born with the ability to walk coded into it.  So the fact that we are born before our morality is developed doesn’t mean we are born without it coded into us.  Just as we must develop to realize our coded capacity to walk, we must develop to realize our coded capacity for morality.

Then there are children who should be able to walk but can’t.  Something is broken, some will learn to walk anyway and some will live life in a wheel chair.

I think this can happen with morality too, a child should be born with the capacity to develop morality on its own at least to a degree but some are born with something “broken”.  We call these people psychopaths.  This is the Johnny that kills the bird and has no remorse but enjoyed it.  He enjoys it for a time but then it becomes boring and he moves on.  He may kill or injure higher life forms or even people.  Sometimes if the psychopath is highly intelligent he/she realizes they must blend in.

Instead of a life of crime they go into “legitimate roles for psychopaths”.   Such are positions of power in Government, Business, Religion and Military occupations.  This is not to say that all in such roles are psychopaths, most are not.  It is to say that intelligent psychopaths generally take over top leadership roles in such institutions and use the power of them to harm and control others.

I finish with this thought because in the next post I will discuss taught morality.  And on that, we have to acknowledge something.  You can successfully teach real morality, “do not harm others”, etc.  You can also successfully teach false morality, “it is okay to keep blacks as slaves” and have otherwise moral people believe it.

Well if morality is “written into the code of creation itself” one must account for such teachings being accepted.  In the end though I think history shows that we if not damaged, do have morality written into our genetic codes.  But that is for the next post.

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Comments 19

  • Elihu Palmer wrote:
    “Vice is everywhere ruinous and destructive to the happiness of the individual and society.” And… “Man is possessed of moral and intellectual facilities sufficient for the improvement of nature, and for the acquisition of happiness.” I certainly concur. I think his choice of the word “possessed” in the latter quote is intentional in describing the spiritual nature of God. I believe morality is evolutionary. And as superior beings we must take it upon ourselves to have the integrity to adhere to a moral code to continue to evolve (destination Utopia if that’s possible). Use our God given reasoning if you will. It’s said that God helps those who help themselves. I don’t believe you can pray to be a better person. But I do believe God endorses those who help themselves. The reward however is self imposed.

    • Paul,

      You said, “I don’t believe you can pray to be a better person.”

      I do think you can pray to be a “better” (changed) person…. Even if God doesn’t listen, and even if there is no god at all. Prayer is intense focus on a goal, and that has been proven to change people, to make them “better.”

      • Agreed of course you can pray to be a better person and even the atheist with an understanding of intention would say it can work.

        A person that says every day, “I am going to work hard today, do my best, try to find opportunity, learn all I can and strive for excellence”. The moment they get up, before lunch, before dinner and before bed, will in all likelihood do better professionally then a person with otherwise equal opportunity who doesn’t.

        If such affirmations take the form of prayer, there is no reason even if God doesn’t exist or doesn’t care (God doesn’t care being a tenet of classic Deism is false slander by the church by the way) doesn’t mean it won’t have a positive result.

        However, I do believe a prayer of “affirmation” is more powerful in our lives then a prayer of request or beseechment.

        In other words “God help me to be a better person” is weaker than, “God thank you for helping me be a better person”, which is weaker than, “God thank you for the fact that I am a better person today than I was yesterday”, which is weaker than, “God I am a better person today because I know that is my place in your creation.”

        All would be weaker than simply, “I am becoming a better person every day”. With the simple knowledge that God as spirit exists and is part of everything including you.

  • A well thought out article that I would have to say I agree with, for the most part… Any disagreements would be insignificant so it is not necessary to go over them.

    I do have a few questions though, and I don’t need the Christian Perspective on these, I am already fully aware of those. I am asking what a Deist thinks about these questions.

    Is there any hope for the Psychopath? Or the “broken” person? Can they change?

    What about the person who just has psychopathic tendencies? What if Johnny does feel remorse for killing the bird but after a while he does it again anyway… because the excitement of the kill was a little stronger than the feeling of remorse?

    Is he still broken? Can his morality be repaired?

    What about the kid who steals a candy bar, and feels bad about it, but then justifies it by saying, “well they have lot’s of candy bars, and i don’t have any… that’s not fair! It was right that I stole that candy bar!”

    Is there any hope for him? Or is he doomed to follow the path of stealing more and justifying it until he has lost everything that he once was?

    What about the psychopathic bird killer? The one who keeps killing without remorse. Is there any hope for him? What stops him from full on serial killer status? Besides fear of punishment because we already know that psychopaths don’t care about that.

    • Some of this will be in the next article but here are some short answers.

      “Is there any hope for the Psychopath? Or the “broken” person? Can they change?”

      My response is, is there any hope that a child born not able to walk will walk or one that born not able to hear can be made to hear? The answer is, it depends. Sometimes yes, sometimes the damage is beyond our limits to repair. The bigger question is as a species is, what are our long term limits, many children today that are able to walk or hear or see, or live would not have 100 years ago.

      “Is he still broken? Can his morality be repaired? ”

      Most likely, and I don’t really think there is a such thing as psychopathic tendencies, I think it is made up bullshit honestly. If one does feel remorse and behaves in a psychopathic manner likely the behavior is environmentally caused.

      As to the rest, none of those are psychopaths, yes there is help.

      There are a lot of misconceptions about “bad people” while true psychopaths do exist they are NOT the majority of criminals. I know Christians tend to hate the Zeitgeist movies, because the first one really hammers the mythology of Christianity but the third film really addresses your questions at a high level.

  • Very well done article, I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I have to disagree about little Johnny. He does not kill anything without reason because of empathy, not morality. Empathy does not dictate right or wrong, it simply dictates the ability to feel as others feel. Psychopaths lack empathy not morality; some rigorously stand by their codes of morality. True morality does not exist as there is no universal right or wrong, there just is. Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t believe in my own set of morals, but I recognize for what the truly are, mine. It is society, not our DNA that dictates our morals. For example, cultures such as the ancient Roman had sports involving killing; people entertained by senseless (according to modern perspective, that is) death. Society said that killing one another merely for entertainment was acceptable, and lo and behold, the citizens found it acceptable. It is a very interesting topic, and, once again, great article, and I look forward to the next!

    • You are not actually disagreeing you are trying to nit pick technicalities. Yes empathy leads to remorse but that leads to morality. Just like an engineer designs wires into a car so the lights will light up the road. That is in the design, if the wires are missing no lights, if empathy is missing no capacity for the individual to develop morality as an individual.

    • “Psychopaths lack empathy not morality; some rigorously stand by their codes of morality.”

      I think that is a very true statement. And, I do think Psychopaths can change. I think it takes Love, to change them. As evidenced by this video of an expert on Psychopathy, who happens to be a psychopath himself.

      You have to watch it till the end, but in the last couple minutes of the video, you see him using his love for his wife as a “selfish” motivation to change his behavior.

      • See my post from today, again it depends.

        Can a lame child learn to walk, how bad is the damage vs availability of treatment and current technology.

        • I see what you are saying… I think.

          If technology or medical science was advanced enough to fix a psychopath, then it could be done. Such as maybe a computer implanted into the brain, or some sort of highly advanced laser surgery to correct the imbalance so to speak?

          What I am saying is that while that could be true, maybe there are other ways that can accomplish the same ends.

          Such as the a fore mentioned prayer of affirmation, or even in the psychopaths case, the seemingly selfish ambition of doing the right thing, as an experiment or whatever the motivation might be. The psychopath begins to see the reciprocation of that selfishly motivated love and begins the healing processes.

          Maybe he wasn’t born with morality, but the experience of Love begins to change that, as a kind of learned morality. Not because he was told what is right and wrong but because he was shown it, in a highly personal way.

          If love can change a psychopath, what can it do for the rest of us?

          • Oh, I see. I thought you meant your previous comment. I see that you have written a new blog post. I will check that out.

            Looking forward to reading it.

          • Well may be.

            Could we one day develop a hard technology (implant, drug, etc) that could “fix” a psychopath, yep.

            But yes I also think it could be done with soft technology and that is USUALLY better. Counseling, etc. Do we know how to do this with a true psychopath today, no, we do not.

            We can and do get it done with “pseudo psychopaths”, meaning they lost empathy or have suppressed empathy.

            The true psychopath though has a wire cut for lack of a better term. You can love em, read em stories, etc and it doesn’t’ matter. They can develop a logical morality and most do, that is how they blend in. Some develop more logical morality than others, but none feel anything akin to remorse.

            Imagine Aaron if you saw a person stabbed to death and felt nothing, perhaps other than mild amusement, oh that is what that is like. You might think, “hey that guy should not kill that guy, society will be f’d if we let that happen and hey damn it if it can be done to him, it can be done to me too.” So you might even try to stop it but more for self preservation or perhaps “being a hero” in the worst sense of the saying but if they guy died, you just didn’t give a shit.

            What if you harmed thousands in some way, not necessarily death but by taking them out of their homes, leaving them in a hell hole and ruining their lives and when asked, how does it make you feel, you honestly said, it doesn’t, it needed to be done so I did it, and you MEANT IT.

            This is a true psychopath! Bone chilling logic, no temperament with compassion and yet a strong motivation for self preservation and personal achievement.

            Again this is 1% of the population and it is honestly half of that. How do we control these people? We don’t, by and large they control us if we stay entrenched in any of the system’s ideology.

            Consider 1% of 300 million is 300,000 people in this nation that are likely psychopaths. The TV tells you they are in prisons, plotting murders and running gangs. The truth is they are in board rooms, positions in government and running yes, gangs but not street gangs. Gangs of legitimatized thugs.

            Out of 300,000 psychopaths, likely only about 3,000 are conventional criminals, the rest are legitimate criminals.

            These people blend in well, they are HIGH FUNCTIONING. They are not like me, I grew up with Aspergers Syndrome. I appeared to lack empathy, I didn’t, I simply didn’t realize a person was hurt by my words or upset by something. You can identify a person like this easily! They stand out, they are “different”. Unless you catch a young psycopath setting cats on fire or something they quickly learn to blend in, you never realize who they are. So this is a sickness that is harder likely to diagnose than treat.

  • […] Is “Morality” Written into the “Code of Creation” […]

  • *clicks tab* FRACTALS! Ah fractals and deism in one place~ This is a place, where I will fit in.

  • Morality can be explained in evolutionary terms. We know that we survive best if we look after our own. We assemble in groups and look after each other. We also have the survival of the fittest gene as well which also explains feuds and wars. We have no qualms about fighting with that other tribe over resources etc. that will allow us to come out on top. The hardest thing for us to do is feel the same way about people on the other side as we do about our own friends and family. This explains why we have such a difficult time eliminating war and racism. Only learned morality can change that.

  • Great article…..Ones environment contributes very much to how we turn out. Not all DNA is the same, that’s why we are individuals.Why are some people lifetime criminals? It’s there environment that dictates a large part of who we are. We certainly don’t know everything about DNA, but it’s possible in the makeup of the DNA certain aspects of our personalities will be more dominant. Two people can grow up in the same town, drink the same water, it similar foods,breath the same air and one will get cancer and one won’t. Our DNA and our environment contribute to who we are.

  • Point taken. I’ve always viewed prayer as requesting something. But as you stated, focus on a goal to provoke change constitutes prayer as well. Tapping into your will power and thinking positive can be spiritual I suppose. The old addage” God helps those who help themselves” comes to mind. We’ve been given the ability to make positive changes. As Matthew Tindal explained, how we partake in the nature of God determines our happiness or misery.

  • Though this is a mature post, I’d like to add my grain of thought.

    As we, human beings have an innate understanding of the concepts of good and evil, and the sense that pursuing the former is vastly “better” than doing the latter, morality certainly is coded into the creation.

    Of course our free will (which is also part of “nature” may have some people elect to ignore or even negate morality.

    Now whether morality as evident to human beings, would be the same for or applicable to other species on this planet, or indeed, for conscious lifeforms elsewhere, is far outside the scope of our discernment.

    And the same applies (even stronger) to the question of whether morality is among the design criteria of the universe. I’d venture to suggest that at that level the concept would be irrelevant, supplanted by the “feasibility” requirement of the universe itself (the laws of nature and the sustaining scalars).


  • I find myself sitting on the end on this question.

    On one hand, the fact that we are here *seems* to point to a creator who in some way desired life, even if it is rare and precious. The teleological argument for creation is not easily dismissed (IMO), so I find it reasonable that there may be evidence (not proof, but evidence) that there is a creator who values life. If this is indeed the case, then how we treat life becomes a very moral issue. One of my huge problems with Christianity is that the God of the Bible was so flippant about human life – flooding the world, killing babies, burning people in hell, etc. This deity does not really seem to value his creation much, except for, perhaps, a very, very small patch of it that we call Israel. So I tend to think that if a deity exists, it cares enough to make a stable world for ALL.

    On the other hand, science tells us that life is not permanent. That it will all run down some day. That no life can ultimately survive the great coldness that is coming. So I’m not sure what this might say about the creator and its designs. Perhaps we are all just part of a “what if” experiment that the creator set up. But even if it all does end in a dark coldness, we know that we have now. So it is in the now that WE, not creator, must find and use morality. It may not last until the end. But it makes a difference today.

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