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Where Do Morals Come From?

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Where morals as we think of them in modern society is largely interpreted across many schools of thought that each go into different depths of detail. While many perspectives have a moderate amount of validity, I think that evolutionary scientists, psychologists, and philosophers have the most believable and provable theory on how we think about morality. They think of it in terms of how we grew to develop higher thinking processes and social awareness over the course of billions of years. Further, it is believed to have explained the ways we react to and judge why things are as good or as bad as we think.

Psychologists and scientists have done research and experiments on observing animals and humans, and what they notice, or more appropriately what they don’t notice is most animals with smaller brains is that they tend to not make the morally right decisions when faced with a dilemma like with bigger brained mammals such as chimps and humans. That is because in their branch of evolution, their genes were not as mutated from generation to generation of their species. Brains did not even come into being in any animal until 250 million years ago. Human or “true” brains (most modern adaptation) did not evolve to its current sophistication until 200,000 years ago, and hasn’t changed much since then. Along with the evolution of the sophistication of our brains, came the evolutions of our ability to distinguish our emotions, the increased capacity of learning and adapting, and figuring out what actions lead to more or less pleasant results. Our social skills also furthered likely from the result of climate change and the scarcity of fruits and vegetables. Humans needed to learn to come together to hunt bigger game for the meat. The rules that followed afterward started as a way for many individuals to get along without a struggle. Though through many millennia of socializing and creating our modern societies, we prefer to think of our rules as morals based on how we feel. As individuals, we label things as right and wrong based on our emotional response to whatever act we are judging.

We have the initial emotional reaction (whether we loved what happened or hated it) to the action, and then we try to give reason to the emotion. For example, if we just heard that our close friend’s significant other cheated on them, we would have a nejerk reaction of anger or sadness which make our lives worse. We decided this was a bad thing before we thought through any logic or reasoning. Then we say cheating is bad for decided reasons. A conscience is just a collection of all the pre-judged acts that we have had experiences with or heard about, and we use our conscience to apply what we already learned from similar past instances to whatever action happens next. Our minds do this whole process so quickly, some tend to think that we innately know what is right and wrong when we do not objectively know in every circumstance. We only know our feelings about a situation, and the reasoning we put on those feelings. It is only logically to then believe our conscience or moral sense changes over time. It changes when we as individuals change, and we as a society change. When I was 10, my feeling on a lot of commonly debated issues was very black and white based on my lack of experience to which to base my thinking on. For instance, 150 years ago the popular opinion on black people was to think they were lesser than other people and should only be used as slaves. That was not seen as wrong by the main populus until much later. Things change and evolve over time, especially emotions and opinions. If no one’s way of thinking ever changed about any topic ever, we would still be living a harder life in the stone age. Localization and the wide range of diversity across the world is what keeps us from all having the same sense of right and wrong. People who live relatively in the same vicinity will likely have similar senses of right and wrong versus people who live in two dramatically different countries across the world.

Since we have such cultural and religious diversity, there is little way to all come together on the same set of knowledge or rules. We collect and accrue these rules from our emotions towards different interactions, and then store that in our mind for the next time something similar happens. That knowledge, or conscience just grows and gets modified and rethought all the time. Since no two people ever have the exact same set of experiences, we would not all have the same set of right and wrong. However, this is also a good thing for the reason I stated earlier. If no one’s mindset was every challenged, i. e. we all have the same opinions on right and wrong, then no healthy change would ever have occurred as it has in our history. So it is almost necessary for everyone to not have the same opinions. In conclusion, I believe that morals arose from simply branching off from our common ancestor and evolving to become more intelligent and social. This higher order processing capability allowed us to find more ways to improve our lives and working together with other humans under similar rules. These rules evolved with us as our individual and societal feelings changed about certain actions and situations. When the population grew and separated off into new groups, they would create their own morals, until no one group on Earth had the same opinions about anything because we didn’t all share the same experiences anymore. This helps to keep us evolving our feelings and judgements, or morals, as we continue in our future. That is where morals come from.

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