Are There Moral Absolutes?

Note: For the record, I’m not a scientist, nor do I have any in-depth knowledge of the science/logic behind these questions.  As such, I apologize for any scientific and/or logical fallacies that may be in this article.  These conclusions are based on what I have read or seen in other media as well as my own thoughts.

Morality is perhaps one of the most controversial topics of discussion that I can think of, mostly because of the highly subjective nature of where people’s morals come from.  Everyone has their own moral code that they stand by, each from different sources, and that is the root of many of the arguments we have amongst ourselves today.  However, aside from the debate over whether a certain action is moral or not, there is a similar debate about whether or not there are moral absolutes, inherent, unchanging laws that determine what is right and what is wrong.  Many claim that morality is absolute regardless of one’s personal opinion of what constitutes being “moral”, while others say that there are no set moral guidelines for people to abide by and that morality really varies from person to person and situation to situation.  The question of whether there are moral absolutes is a difficult one to answer for reasons I’ll cover shortly.  However, I’ll attempt to give an objective view followed by my own personal opinion on the subject.

Objectively, it is actually impossible to determine whether there are moral absolutes, and, if there are, what those absolutes may be.  Regardless of what people may think or the merit of their argument, there is no way to prove things one way or the other.  I can’t prove that there are moral absolutes any more than I can prove that there aren’t.  This is mainly because the concept of morality isn’t a tangible thing that can be shown to exist using evidence; the argument ultimately comes down to logical reasoning.  That may lead some to conclude that there can’t be moral absolutes because there is no evidence to suggest that there are, however, that way of thinking is flawed.  That is essentially the same logical fallacy as arguing that something exists because there is no evidence to suggest that it doesn’t.  In either case, you are making an argument without any evidence to support your claim.  And so, since neither side can prove that it is right, there is no way to know for sure if there are moral absolutes.

However, I believe that there are moral absolutes.  It seems highly paradoxical to say that there aren’t any moral guidelines that determine whether an action or thought is right or wrong.  To suggest that morality is relative is to, in my opinion, contradict oneself.  Let me give you an example: I personally believe that abortion is morally wrong, but there are plenty of people out there who believe the opposite.  How can we both be right?  How can abortion be right and wrong at the same time?  Wouldn’t one of us have to be wrong?  That aside, if morality is relative, how can we as a society ever hold anyone accountable for their actions.  If a murderer believes his actions were right, and his opinion is just as valid as ours, what right have we to sentence him at all?  If the answer is that we don’t then what authority does any governing body, or society, have for that matter.  By that  logic, society should be disbanded because we could never hold each other accountable for doing something “immoral”.

Now, this merely suggests that it wouldn’t really make sense for there to be no moral absolutes, and it doesn’t explain where any sense of morality would be derived from.  So, allow me to explain more concretely where this morality would come from and why it exists in the first place.  I am basing this point on the following assumptions: all humans are inherently equal, as such all humans have certain rights (life, liberty, property, etc.), these rights are inherent to their existence, and these rights are inalienable.

Morality is similar to truth in that it is related to an outside force; truth is related to reality (something is true if it coincides with reality) and morality is related to ownership of the self.  This goes back to my assumptions above in that people automatically take ownership of certain rights inherent to their being human.  To deny this would be to deny our humanity.  Part of what sets man apart from beasts is our ability to think rationally, to use our imagination, and to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong.  People own themselves.  Because of that, any attempt at or action resulting in the violation of an individuals rights would be wrong or, in other words, immoral.  So, murder is immoral because it deprives someone of their right to life.  Stealing is immoral because it deprives someone of their right to their property.  Attacking someone is immoral because it deprives someone of their right to pursue happiness.  Morality is inherent to our existence as it is directly related to our natural rights as humans.

We form governments in order to collectively protect the rights of the individual from those who would seek to violate the rights of others.  Governments are not forcing their will on the people, but rather enforcing a moral code that already existed.  But, in the event that the government does begin to impose its will rather than imposing preexisting morality, the people hold the government accountable for any immoral actions it may take.  Now, some may argue that this logic is flawed because of so-called moral “gray areas” in which someone commits an immoral act for what they consider to be the right reasons.  However, regardless of context, any action taken is either moral or immoral, right or wrong.  Even if you kill someone in self-defense, that does not make the act of killing right, it only means that, although what you did was wrong, you were justified in doing so.  There is a distinction in the case of something being justified, but that doesn’t make the action any less immoral.  In essence, it is the concept of the individual that brings about moral absolutes and those moral absolutes are inherent to our existence.  Because all individuals inherently have rights, any violation of those rights is inherently immoral.

My opinion that there are moral absolutes is grounded in the existential belief that individual rights are inherent to one’s existence and that the preservation and protection of those rights are, by necessity, moral while actions taken to violate those rights are immoral.  However, let me reiterate: there is no way to definitively prove that my argument is correct.  My argument is more existential given that the existence of moral absolutes cannot be proven using physical evidence.  That being said, I believe that, given the assumptions listed above, moral absolutism is the only logical conclusion.  If you accept that all humans are created equal and with the same inalienable rights, it seems to me that moral absolutes (namely the preservation of those rights) are inherent to that idea.

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Are We In The Matrix?

Note: For the record, I’m not a scientist, nor do I have any in-depth knowledge of the science/logic behind these questions.  As such, I apologize for any scientific and/or logical fallacies that may be in this article.  These conclusions are based on what I have read or seen in other media as well as my own thoughts.

This question is much more recent than the other ones I have attempted to answer in my earlier posts, but it is no less thought-provoking.  Ever since ‘The Matrix’ hit theaters, the idea that we may all be in some sort of virtual reality has become more and more popular.  In fact, scientists have already theorized that we may be in an elaborate virtual reality programmed into existence by some other being.  While this may not be appealing to some, it is still a possibility, though it is one that I am somewhat skeptical of.  And so I will try to objectively examine the question and come up with an answer and then offer my own opinion on the matter.

Strictly from an objective viewpoint, there really isn’t any way to know whether the world we interact with is real or not.  We completely rely on our brain to process everything that we experience, and our brain isn’t always reliable.  It is all too easy to trick the brain into seeing something that isn’t really there (optical illusions, mirages, hallucinations, etc.).  And, since this world is the only one we’ve experienced (aside from our dreams, which we know aren’t reality) we have nothing to compare it to.  So, although our surroundings may seem real to us, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are because we would have no idea what reality is actually like, and would thus accept this world as being reality.  That’s not to say that our world isn’t real, there’s just no definitive way to know for sure.

Now, this is where my opinion comes into play.  Personally, I have a hard time believing that our entire world is some virtual reality.  Think about it.  It would be incredibly difficult to create a world this vast with such realistic graphics with virtually no flaws in the program whatsoever.  When we try to create a virtual world that gets to be too vast, often times bugs or glitches start to appear, such as in the case of the fifth Elder Scrolls video game, Skyrim.  And the world of Skyrim is nowhere near the size of our world.  Not only would you have to create an entire planet complete with vast oceans and towering mountains, but you would also have to program in all of the portions of space that we’ve observed.  And since I can’t think of anything that could be considered a glitch, that would mean that there aren’t any, which is highly unlikely for a virtual world.

I just don’t think that it would be possible to create such a complex system without encountering serious glitches in the program.  That being said, it is possible that whatever being created the world has far greater technological capabilities than we do, but even so, it still seems unlikely.  Therefore, while it is entirely possible, when looked at objectively, that the world we currently inhabit is just one giant virtual system created by a higher being, I seriously doubt it.  The amount of detail one would have to put into the world to make it believable just seems to be too much to realistically function, in my opinion anyway.

The Grandfather Paradox

Note: For the record, I’m not a scientist, nor do I have any in-depth knowledge of the science/logic behind these questions.  As such, I apologize for any scientific and/or logical fallacies that may be in this article.  These conclusions are based on what I have read or seen in other media.

The concept of time travel is perhaps one of the more interesting areas of theoretical science, and it is also the source of oe of the more complex conundrums that I’ve looked in to: the grandfather paradox.  For those of you who don’t know, the grandfather paradox is a conundrum surrounding one’s potential actions if one were to travel back in time.  The most common example of a grandfather paradox (and the source of its name) is going back in time to kill your grandfather so that you would never be born.  This isn’t exactly a pleasant thought, but it does raise an interesting question.  If you killed your grandfather and would thus have never been born, you wouldn’t have been able to go back in time to kill him in the first place.  So what would happen if you were to do this?  There isn’t any one definitive answer I could find, however, I did manage to come up with three theories regarding possible results of this paradox: the Steins;Gate theory, the Timeline theory, and the Stephen King theory (yes, I did make these names up).

The Steins;Gate theory is based on the portrayal of time travel from the show Steins;Gate, so my explanation could be considered spoiler-ish for people who haven’t seen the show (as could all the other theories).  Time travel in Steins;Gate works based on the idea of an infinite number “world lines” or timelines running parallel to each other (similar to the theory of a multiverse) and that any action taken to change the past would shift the divergence number (the latitude of a world line on a continuum) and the universe would jump to a world line in which the changes made did happen.  So, if you killed your grandfather, this theory says that the universe would shift to a world line in which your grandfather was dead and you would cease to exist when you went back to the present.  Some of you may ask: but how could you have made the change if you were never born?  It’s because you came from a different world line, which is like a separate universe, only it is affected by your actions.

The second theory is the Timeline theory, which is based on the Michael Crichton book, Timeline.  It’s actually very similar to the Steins;Gate theory, but it deals with alternate universes, not alternate timelines from the same universe.  According to Timeline, time travel itself is impossible, but you can travel to another universe that is very, very similar to our own, just at a different period in time.  So, if you were to kill your grandfather, that universe would then become one in which you were never born, however the universe you came from would remain unchanged because the universes exist separately from each other and actions taken in one have no effect on the other.

Finally, the Stephen King theory is based on the book 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  This theory portrays time as a sort of entity that naturally resists change of any kind.  This resistance is proportional to the magnitude of the change you attempt to make.  For example, carving something into a tree so it’s there in the present is easy, but something more drastic like, say, preventing the Kennedy assassination would be near impossible.  So, something as drastic as creating a paradox would be such a great change that time’s natural resistance would make the action impossible.  That is, something would always happen to keep you from reaching your goal, whether it’s falling and breaking your leg or getting caught in traffic.  Time would always throw obstacles in your way, thus making it impossible for you to kill your grandfather.

Unfortunately, there is no way to definitively draw a conclusion about what would happen if this paradox were to occur, but these theories should give you an idea of the possibilities.  Now, I know these are all taken from fictional works, but they are based on theories in real life (world lines, the multiverse, etc.).  However, I think that the Steins;Gate theory is the most plausible.  It’s logic seems the most sound and it could also answer the question of Schrödinger’s Cat.  But, regardless, there is no real way to know what would happen if this scenario were to play out, we can only guess at what might or might not happen.

Which Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?

Note: For the record, I’m not a scientist, nor do I have any in depth knowledge of the science/logic behind these questions.  As such, I apologize for any scientific and/or logical fallacies that may be in this article.  These conclusions are based on what I have read or seen in other media.

We humans seem to have a nasty habit of asking questions that lead us in circles.  This question is no exception.  Which came first: the chicken or the egg?  It appears straightforward, but when you start thinking about it, it gets more complicated.  If the first chickens hatched from eggs, then where did those eggs come from?  Presumably from a chicken, but then where did the chicken come from?  The questions keep going on and on, and you never come to a definitive answer only using some line of reasoning rather than actual data.  So, to get an answer, I’ll take a look from a scientific point of view, exploring both sides of the argument, starting with the chicken.

The argument for the chicken coming first starts with the protein necessary to form a chicken egg.  The protein, OV-17, can only be found in chicken ovaries, meaning that any chicken egg laid could only come from a chicken.  But then, where did the first chicken come from?  This aspect of the argument is derived from evolution and, more specifically, the genetic mutations that occur during reproduction that gradually lead to the development of a new species.  Some time ago, a species very similar to chickens (proto-chicken) would have reproduced, and the tiny variations in the offspring’s genetic code would result in the birth of the first chicken.

This brings me to the egg side of the argument.  The first chicken would have had to come from an egg, and even the chicken argument has the first chicken coming from an egg.  That is, the first chicken came from a chicken egg created by a mutation in the genes passed on from the two proto-chickens.  But, then again, the argument could be made that it was a chicken born from a proto-chicken egg and not an actual chicken egg.  In the end, it comes down to how you define a chicken egg that determines what side of the argument you’re on.  Is a chicken egg an egg laid by a chicken, or an egg that a chicken hatches from?

Whichever way you view things, we are left with two possible scenarios.  The first being that a proto-chicken mated with another proto-chicken, which laid a proto-chicken egg, and the genetic mutations in the zygote led to the first chicken being born.  This first chicken would then go on to lay chicken eggs, so the chicken would have come before the chicken egg.  The other scenario is that the two proto-chickens mated and a chicken egg was laid which then hatched the first chicken.  In this case, the chicken egg would have come before the chicken.  This brings us back the question: what is a chicken egg?  This is a fairly meaningless question, though, because there are no set criteria for what makes an egg a chicken egg, leaving it entirely up to your perception.  But, ultimately, whether it came from a chicken egg or a proto-chicken egg, the first chicken came from an egg of some kind.  Thus, the egg came first.

Theseus’ Paradox

Note: For the record, I’m not a scientist, nor do I have any in depth knowledge of the science/logic behind these questions.  As such, I apologize for any scientific and/or logical fallacies that may be in this article.  These conclusions are based on what I have read or seen in other media.

Theseus’ paradox, otherwise known as the ship of Theseus, is a philosophical conundrum stemming from Greek mythology.  This paradox was most notably recorded by Plutarch in the 1st century.  He asked if an object, in this case a ship, which had had all of its individual components replaced remained the same object.  This is an interesting question, and, from what I can figure, there are two possible answers.  It all depends on how you define “remaining the same object”.  For the sake of historical accuracy, I’ll use a ship as my example.  All ships have a certain design and layout as well as a designated name used for reference.  Thus, in your mind, your ship (let’s call it the Riptide) is a ship with a specific design and layout and with the name “Riptide”.  Now, if you were to replace every individual component, this newly repaired ship would have the exact same design and layout, and you would still refer to it as the Riptide.  So, from a strictly personal (and thus subjective) perspective, it is essentially the same ship, making the your answer to Plutarch’s question “yes”.  However, from an objective view, this is not the case.

From an objective view, the Riptide is that individual ship with the given design and layout, and thus any ships that happen to look like it are merely copies and not the same ship.  Therefore, when you replace all the components, the ship you are left with is technically not the same ship even though you may consider it to be the same.  So, a completely objective view tells you that replacing all the components of a ship makes it a different ship that happens to look exactly like the original in every way.

An Unstoppable Force vs. An Immovable Object

Note: For the record, I’m not a scientist, nor do I have any in depth knowledge of the science/logic behind these questions.  As such, I apologize for any scientific and/or logical fallacies that may be in this article.  These conclusions are based on what I have read or seen in other media.

This is a question that has been asked over and over.  What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?  To start off, let’s define each of these entities.  Technically speaking, all forces are unstoppable.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to keep a force, be it gravity or some other force, from affecting you is to not interact with it.  Even light could be considered an unstoppable force because you can’t keep it from hitting you unless you completely sealed yourself off from it or became transparent.  However, what people typically mean by “unstoppable force” is something that cannot be stopped if it’s already moving.  That is something with a velocity greater than zero that remains constant and, thus, has an acceleration of zero.

Moving on to the immovable object, again technically speaking, there is no such thing.  You can make anything move so long as it’s viewed from a certain frame of reference.  All you have to do is move relative to the object and, from your perspective, the object will be moving.  But, what people really mean is something that can’t be made to move if it isn’t moving already.  That is, an object with a velocity of zero that remains constant.  This means that its acceleration is also zero.  Sound familiar?  That’s because it’s almost the exact same definition of an unstoppable force.  The only difference is the velocity of each object.  So, what would happen if these two objects collided?  Well since, by their own definitions, their velocity would have to remain constant no matter what the only possible result is that the two objects pass right through each other.