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The Moral Scientist

  • Morality based on religion had the advantage of providing absolute principles.
  • Religious morality has fallen out of touch with reality. Different religions have always had different values because they were born in different places at different times. That plurality of "moralities" still exists. The fact that no new religion has a chance to dethrone the existing ones simply adds to the disconnect. Many religions still promise a paradise to the faithful but most individuals now perceive paradise as a rather boring and even terrifying outcome. Some religions promise that we will spend eternity in the company of our parents, but many individuals in the 21st century do not even want to spend an entire day with their parents, let alone eternity. The problem with religious morality is precisely that it provides absolute principles that do not change with the times.
  • When religious morality declines, moral relativism tends to be on the rise. Moral relativism inevitably leads to conflicts that might escalate into anarchy. In fact, that might be the very history of religious morality, introduced to restrain moral relativism.
  • An alternative morality based on biological evolution can provide absolute principles. However, many of them conflict with moral values that most people hold dear. For example, "nature" has programmed men to rape women, and especially underage women; and children need to be trained over many years not to steal and not to attack others. Many laws in the modern state are, in fact, just a way to rein in our natural instincts, i.e. human nature. What is "natural" is not necessarily considered "good" by the community.
  • The 21st century is, instead, witnessing a rapid shift towards a materialist form of morality based on a different principle: anything that contributes to well-being is "good". De facto, the new morality is increasingly medical, financial and social in nature. Facts define an individual's well-being: how healthy the individual is, how much money the individual has, how many friends the individual has. The new principles of morality are anything that maximizes the individual well-being: quit smoking, save money for retirement, vaccinate against the flue, see the doctor once a year, etc.
  • Individual well-being is not trivial to determine, though. For example, humans tend to do things that harm their health or their finances. They are usually referred to as "vices". It is telling that the category of vices has changed over the centuries (i.e., premarital sex is no longer considered a vice in most Western societies). It is not obvious which ones are good and which ones are bad for one's well-being. It is not trivial to tell which of the things that give us pleasure in the short term will also give us pleasure in the long term.
  • If long-term well-being is based on facts, then science can provide the new morality. A scientist (for example, a physician) can scientifically determine whether a behavior is "good" or not for an individual.
  • Science also removes moral relativism: it can provide absolute laws of behavior just like religion.
  • The 21st century is de facto creating a "moral scientist" by empowering physicians, dieticians, financial analysts, environmentalists and others to decide what is "good" for the individual. The combination of all these disciplines is the new "morality". The scientist who can muster all of them is going to be the "moral scientist".
Proof-edited by Alexander Altaras