Even these first few steps in our exploration of a possible future morality move us far enough along to begin an examination of some of the contentious moral problems we are facing in the world today. I will try to illustrate how rational connections might be made between a few current ethical issues and a desire to support Life’s continued evolution. The examples I have chosen to discuss include killing, some aspects of personal freedom, and genetic manipulation.
But, before we can begin, several cautionary points need be made. First, possessing the “potential to contribute” to Life’s advancement needs much careful consideration when exploring moral positions. It is possible to state that all living things have this, and that their potential to contribute should never be limited. But this creates an impossible situation—eating kills what is consumed and moving crushes entities underfoot. Any kind of exploitation reduces potential in exploited arenas (raising it in others), but, as discussed, life and exploitation cannot be separated. In like vein, it could be argued that no individual’s action should be curtailed because any action may hold the future possibility of “contributing” to Life’s advancement. “Potentiality” is clearly a very important concept, and the meaning, scope and depth of this term need defining and limiting before any significant work on moral behaviour can be advanced. I have mostly ignored the importance of any “potential” contribution in the following subsections (largely because I have not the ability nor inclination to examine such a difficult issue) and leave it as a task that others might perform.
Second, the discussions that follow attempt to show how a code of moral behaviour that relates to human interactions might be developed. It does not explore how humans might appropriately behave towards animals, plants, or other non-human life forms. Certainly, any moral code that proposes supporting Life’s evolutionary journey should detail appropriate behaviour toward any and all kinds of life—more work left for others to consider.
Third, accepting Life’s possible evolution to become oB as the meta-purpose we support (made useful by sculpting from it a definition of a universal purpose) means that decisions would be made toward furthering the attainment of that meta-purpose. We would value new discoveries, new knowledge, new understandings, and the increased ability to control each might bring, because each paves tiny sections of the highway to Life’s future. Currently, we all “contribute” to helping life achieve its “meta-purpose,” and we do so never learning the ultimate significance of our contribution. (In fact, any lengthy periods during which we do not contribute, may, in some of us, create the feeling that our lives were becoming meaningless.) But once we had decided to use the meta-purpose to guide our morality, our “moral duty” becomes much clearer; we would know we were acting irresponsibly whenever we behaved in a manner that undermined its attainment.
Thus it would appear that one takes on certain responsibilities when adopting Life’s meta-purpose as one’s own. The notions of “responsibility” and “contributing” lie at the heart of our attempt to define a moral code and I will be referring to them from time to time below. However, these terms should also be carefully defined—another difficult task that perhaps others might undertake.
Lastly, teams of experts working jointly on individual issues would be needed to develop rational connections and usable codes of behaviour once a universal purpose had been defined; the sub- sections below are simply the product of my mind’s undeniably biased constructs. They are included to demonstrate how a desire to support the attainment of some purpose might be used to determine “right” (and therefore also “wrong”) behaviour. It is clear that this determination must be possible, as everyone of us does exactly this each time we decide how to act to solve problems standing in the way of completing our daily tasks. However, it will likely soon be equally clear that I am not the person to join any of those hypothetical teams!
Now to the examples.
- We are approaching this state in some “emancipated” parts of the world, where individual freedom and universal equality are becoming sacrosanct principles. The first is interpreted to mean that anything (not harming others) is permitted; the second equates to “what you have, I must be able to have.” Combine both, and we end up with garbage-strewn streets that disgust visitors, and gay bishops that split religions.
- This is the mechanism that underlies religion’s value in society: social tensions and disagreements are reduced when everyone values the same religious goal—because each undertakes the responsibility of following the same code of behaviour.