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Can science decide questions of morals?

The current method of deciding moral questions seems to be might, accepting that people fight for what they believe, so might relates to how well moral ideas resonate.  The problem, if you value life and property, is incompatible moral ideas can resonate with different populations or individuals and the result can be unpleasant.  

Science has done a great job of confirming and rejecting models of physical systems based on objective tests, so is it possible to borrow any of these tools for questions closer to the heart?

(You might reject the use of the term science for that, so if you have a better word, that's fine.)


Sure. If you can ask a specific testable and falsifiable question then you can apply scientific methods to it regardless of the discipline.


What would you see as grounds for falsifying a moral statement?


No. Morality comes from people and how people think. You can get as close as you want with signs to how people think, but ultimately, how they think is how they think. Science isn't actually what would play a part in that. You are simply observing the process.


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>Can science decide questions of morals?
No.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is–ought_problem

Fundamentally, it is impossible to derive an "ought" statement from a set of "is" statements.


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I suppose I'm talking more about engineering than science, then.  Engineers say we ought make a bridge that won't collapse, then use science to determine what that means.  So the question moves to whether there might exist an ought that most everyone could agree to, a foundation for moral engineering? Well, something more than the mightiest ought prevail.


Sure you can.

Pizza IS on sale today. Pizza IS usually expensive. But today pizza IS not expensive.

I ought to buy some pizza!


I don't agree that might decides morality. That's literally "might makes right", a phrase used by people to criticize that notion.

I think morality comes from a place of empathy and understanding. So I don't think it's possible to scientifically explain unless you quantify things like happiness, individuality, liberty, freedom etc. Can you scientifically quantify happiness? I don't think so.  


A project set up and via science we can calculate the probability for success. And we can do a risk analysis to determine the results and probabilities of negative outcomes.

This will give us a myriad of data.
But can we have an objective way to interpret the results and determine whether the project should be initiated?

We can calculate the risk, but whether it is worth it is a manmade decision.


>Pizza IS on sale today. Pizza IS usually expensive. But today pizza IS not expensive.
does not logically entail
>I ought to buy some pizza!


How so? Logically, if there is something you wish to obtain, and it's being sold for less than it's usual price, you should pay the smaller price for it.


I can just imagine your robot servant coming back to you.
> Have you put the money on the bank like I instructed?
< Negative, there was a sale on pizza.


>Can science decide questions of morals?

No. Morals do not exist in any material sense. Science really only serves to answer questions about material realities.

>The current method of deciding moral questions seems to be might

Okay ... so ... this seems like a really ... fascist assumption.

I don't  think there's really anything left to answer in light of that.


Facists are a kind of authority.  If you can not be respectful of authority, you have nothing to add, so your post is disregarded.



People use might to to enforce how they've quantified things like happiness and liberty.  Therefore that is how we currently decide morality.  Today's morality has largely already been determined by this, far in the past, or in some cases fairly recently in the past.


I'm not sure I follow. Most of history is full of people rebelling against authority in the pursuit of those things.


>Most of history is full of people rebelling against authority in the pursuit of those things.

Using might.


Not always.

But anyway, most societies create morals among themselves without it being forced upon them.  Plus there are things ingrained in humans that lend themselves to morals.

Humans have an innate desire for fairness, so most societies discourage things like theft. Most humans mourn the dead, so things like indiscriminate murder are taboo in most societies. Things like religion and laws are just people attempting to collect and codify understood taboos such as those to try and make work for all the people in the community.

That's why I don't think creating scientific answers for this is possible. "Is it wrong to kill?" is a philosophical question, not one that can be answered by science. It has a different answer depending on what society one lives in AND one's own personal views. That... ain't science.


Suppose 'might makes right' can have several meanings.  I'm thinking of might as power generally, not just physical violence, to be clear.  Persuasion and economic power decide moral questions as well as guns and knives.

You could take a strong just-world belief, in which all might, or I suppose, a lack of it as well, is justice.  Of course, I think, that comes to nothing useful as everything is equally moral.  It's most respectful, though, since you have nothing judgemental to say about anyone ever.

In practice, I think it's safe to condemn random acts of violence by criminals.  They do not seem much of a factor in morality, and the acts oppose powerful states.  You'd have to make an exception for rebellion that leads to a new state or social change, perhaps.  Suppose things are gray for states in flux.

>morality comes from a place of empathy and understanding
I think so.  I'm not always clear with my words.  I expect those with understanding are usually granted social power.

>Today's morality has largely already been determined by this
Yeah, conquest is no longer common.  I read a book that claimed, basically, 'conquest ain't what it used to be.'  In an agrarian culture, land is the biggest prize.  It's not as clear how you'd use soldiers to occupy Facebook or Google to steal their wealth.

Or perhaps conquest is not seen as a moral act.  However as you mention, the conquests of the past influence who controls what, and if they were unjust, current political systems might come into question.


>However as you mention, the conquests of the past influence who controls what, and if they were unjust, current political systems might come into question.
I think at some point people need to let bygones be bygones.  Like, it wouldn't make sense to seriously consider a claim the the UK has a right to take over America as its former colony, or for Mongolia to assert a right over Finland, or for Russia to claim that they were tricked into selling Alaska for below its true worth.



I think I would have a lot to add as someone who does not respect authority, who does not accept any real justifications made for that authority's legitimacy.

No morals or a
ethics are of any worth if they are derived solely from the whims of an authority figure


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What if the authority figure is     God    ?


No, but I don't really consider absolute solved morality a realistic or achievable goal. More an optimisation problem. Rationality is by definition the means which is most likely to produce the desired outcome, and so the best tool to solve the optimisation problem.



Wouldn't matter.

Morals derived from an authority figure logically cannot be absolute, if that god could, hypothetically, change them on a whim.

And it would mean the morals are fundamentally arbitrary.


>solely from the whims of an authority figure
Authority figures seldom present themselves as operating on their whim.  A King is in communion with God.  Law enforcement in a democracy responds to the will of the people.  A republic enforces rights.  A dictator, probably, is leading a country through threat or trouble.

Yet each uses force, which implies people with authority and people without -- the subjects of that authorized force.

If you got rid of authorities, at least in the sense of someone authorized to use force against another, you'd have to get rid of the state.  Which is anarchy, where everyone is their own authority.  I'm told that kills people (in a bad way), though.  Humans can't be trusted to operate that much as individuals, they need authorities above them to maintain order.

Granted, I guess you're not telling me that.


I mean, i always saw morality as a fundamentally basic optimization problem: Maximize happiness. While certainly that doesn't look exactly the same for everyone, there's a lot of commonalities. Basic needs, fulfillment, following passions, that sort of thing. To me, a lot of that is just good social structures to take care of basic needs and keep society running, and everyone being strong-minded enough to be true enough to themselves to really discover their passions without just falling in line or caving to social whims, while still being considerate enough of the whole to not pursue passions that would be destructive to the whole. There's going to be a cornucopia of edge cases of course, but that's kindof how i see the equation, which seems to certainly be, at least to some extent, compatible with the scientific process.

Of course, at some point, this requires people to self-actualize. I think a lot of people end up in a sort of mental survival mode, even, perhaps especially, the very very wealthy, where they just exploit exploit, breed breed, as much as they can, like dumb wild beasts. They get so caught up in survival, or "the game" that they forget how to be happy or to cultivate their soul with passions/exploration/learning/improvement. They get so caught up surviving they forget why they survive. For the very poor, this is understandable, and i think it's better for everyone if we can use social safety-net systems to get them past that mindset and join society as productive, self-actualized members. For the ultra wealthy, well, i think if affluenza is going to be a legal defense, then it should be considered a mental disorder that needs treating, same as any other, perhaps treated more aggressively. I honestly believe it's probably at least, and probably much more, destructive than something like ADD or OCD. They cause far more problems for the people around them, they're like a plague, taking and taking and taking, consuming consuming consuming, without ever cultivating a human soul. We need to treat these people, they are honestly sick and a danger to society as they are. They'd be happier, and they wouldn't cause so much misery to those around them.  

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