Moral Relativity, Absolute Evil, and the Survival of Mankind

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When I was 22 years old, I developed a philosophical system that was based on the concept of relativity. Since everything is relative, I argued, there are no absolute values. Panta rei. Everything moves. There was no certain knowledge and there were no binding values. No absolute good existed and consequently also no absolute evil. Consequently, my system postulated skepticism. My motto was: “Always expect the worst.”

Still, I disliked the taste of negativity this imparted on my whole approach. To add a positive notion to the system and go one step further than Saul Alinsky, who got stuck in his relativism, I added another motto: “Always hope for the best.” And I called my system “Positive Skepticism”.

Looking back, I find that my juvenile philosophy was eerily similar to the way of thinking, which our so-called intellectuals are promoting today. The concepts of “good” and “evil” do not seem to exist for these folks. They are lost in total relativism and subjectivism – which is doubly strange, because the apostles of subjectivism are also the torch bearers of collectivism. The result of this toxic and illogical mix is total moral confusion.

Just look at Black Lives Matter. Its founders proclaimed themselves to be “trained Marxists” and they allegedly fight for the rights and liberation of black people. Never mind that more black Americans are murdered by other black Americans than by anybody else. But how come the same organization that is so sensitive to discrimination of Blacks supports Hamas, a fanatic Islamist organization that hates Jews in the name of Allah? As Arthur Howell correctly stated in a previous issue of the Beacon, it sure seems like the World no longer recognizes evil.

As I grew older, I moved away from conjectural thinking and began to see reality as what it is, not as what I wanted it to be. I still believed that most values are indeed relative. Christians used to think that Jivaro Indians are evil people, because they eat their enemies’ hearts and brains. But the Jivaro religion mandates that a warrior must ingest the slain enemy’s heart and brain in order to appropriate his spiritual powers. This illustrates the whole dilemma: one value system condemns what the other value system demands.

My doctoral dissertation was about charismatic movements and I had to define abstract concepts such as “social movement”. So, I read a lot about what other scientists had written about concepts. In his work “Science as a Profession” the German sociologist Max Weber wrote that reality is an “indefinitely complex, indefinitely differentiated, indefinitely complicated” phenomenon and that in order to understand it humans must define “clear concepts”. I think he was right. In particular with regard to immaterial reality.

But could we not say the same about morals and ethics? I realize today that I drew the wrong conclusions from the fact that morals and ethics are largely relative, i.e., dependent on a person’s or group’s core values. It is because there is moral relativity and confusion about ethics that humans must define clear moral concepts and ethical standards. Since nature has obviously not implanted uniform moral behavior into homo sapiens, we must develop such standards ourselves.

Needless to say, that we have woefully failed to accomplish this. If Muslims believe that it is justifiable behavior to shoot thousands of rockets into civilian Jewish settlements, murder Jewish teenagers who are having a party out in the country or to gouge out the eyes of Jewish babies and then decapitate them and that teens who blow themselves up as suicide bombers will go directly to the Muslim paradise as martyrs as long as they also kill a bunch of Jews, there is zero compatibility between the Islamic concept of good and evil and that of most other religions.

Alinsky is right. Many things are indeed relative. Values, behavioral standards, even scientific knowledge. But Alinsky is also wrong. And I was wrong in my early philosophical endeavors. Because there are things that are not relative.

If you think that there is something relative about a group of men beating and raping a woman in public or gunning down patrons in a bar because they may not share your world view or religious believes, you are – as I see it today – excluding yourself from humanity. To say that such behavior makes you an animal would be an insult to animals.

If you believe that the objective justifies the means regardless of how grewsome, brutal, and despicable the means may be, you are no longer capable of recognizing evil. And if your religion or ideology tells you that decapitating babies is a good deed that entitles you to admission to paradise, your religion or ideology are the work of Satan. Evil, when postulated by a religion or culture, is not legitimized by religious or cultural relativity. Religions and cultures are delegitimized by postulating evil.

Clitoridectomy is an evil practice even if it is common in many African cultures. Slavery is an evil practice, even when it was common to most cultures all over the world and for thousands of years. Human sacrifices are an evil practice, even if mandated by many religions. Anti-Judaism is an evil practice, even if Islam and to some extent also the Christian religion have been promoting it.

One of the key problems we have in the USA at present is that we no longer distinguish between violent aggression and violent defense against violent aggression. When a bully attacked one of my sons in high school, he defended himself. Both students were suspended. The Declaration of Independence names “life” as one of the unalienable rights of humans, but our government seeks to take away our right of self-defense. Citizens should rely solely on the government, on law enforcement, to protect their lives. Self-defense is placated as just as bad and objectionable as unprovoked aggression. This puts the defender on the same level as the aggressor. The crucial distinction between aggression and defense against it disappears in intellectual fog.

We humans have succeeded in technology and science. But we have not been capable of developing binding ethical and moral standards and forms of behavior that are accepted worldwide. In past millennia we have behaved like troglodytes with clubs. Now we behave like troglodytes with nukes.

If we cannot develop a uniform code of ethical principles and behavioral norms that are accepted worldwide, chances are that we will eliminate ourselves. Today, the USA, Russia, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, the UK, France, and Israel have nuclear weapons. There is a potential for nuclear war in the war between Ukraine and Russia, in the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan, in the conflict between China and the USA over Taiwan, and in the Middle East over Israel’s survival and Iran’s hegemonial aspirations. It just takes one wrong move, and the earth goes up in smoke.

Nukes are like inventions. Once they are there, they cannot be disinvented. I doubt that anything or anybody can persuade Kim Jong Un or the Israelis or the Russians to give up their nukes. Or the Iranian Mullahs to not produce them.

Maybe a new world order could bring lasting peace? Not if it is Mr. Klaus Schwab’s new World Order, which might eliminate conflicts between nations but at the cost of universal slavery and tyranny. Eat bugs, own nothing, follow orders, and be happy. Seems that mankind is intellectually and emotionally not fit to survive.

The American Constitution is a unique platform for minimal moral consent. There are other good constitutions like the German, the French or the Italian constitutions. Perhaps – if we all live long enough – we could convene a World Constitutional Congress, which would work out a Standard World Constitution that could be adopted by all nations.

But one wonders what set of values such a World Constitution could be based on? Judeo-Christian values would we opposed by Islam, which is now the most numerous religion. Islamic values would be unacceptable to more or less all Christian religions. Perhaps natural law could provide a platform that might be globally acceptable. We should try that. Because if mankind fails to develop a generally acceptable moral code of behavior – and soon – our species won’t live to regret it.

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