Problems with Moral Diversity

Have you ever noticed how much cultures around the world disagree on basic moral principles? Sure, there are some nations, such as the United States and Canada, that agree on a good majority of areas, but there are also many nations or cultures that seem to be miles apart. I'm sure you can just imagine how different, say, many western nations and some middle eastern nations are. If you stop to think about just one topic, things may become more clear. Let's talk about birth control for a moment to shed some light on this subject.

It's fair to say that most forms of birth control are legal in most western nations. Western nations are fairly liberal when it comes to controlling the births rate of its citizens. I think it's also fair to say that the whole area of birth control is viewed much more conservatively in some middle eastern nations. And in some places, it may even be illegal. Or at least frowned upon by groups within populations. If you were to ask citizens of western nations whether or not they think birth control is moral, they'd likely say yes, it is. If you were to ask citizens of some middle eastern counties the same thing, they'd likely say no, it isn't moral. So right there, we've got an example of moral relativism. Some cultures say that something is moral and some say that it isn't. The question is, what's driving these views? What is it that each of these people within these cultures have been told that has led them to believe that something is moral or not? I don't think it's good enough to say that cultures differ when it comes to morality. I'd like to know why that's the case. I just can't accept that something "just is."

When attempting to determine why one culture believes that an activity is moral while another doesn't, it's important to discover how much each culture is aware of. What if the one culture that has a more liberal view on an activity has a lot more information to go by while the other culture is closed off to the rest of the world? What if this extra information is critical to how a specific activity is viewed? What if, when a culture receives new information, they'd change their views on the morality of an activity immediately? Does that previous moral truth stand? Was it ever truly a moral truth if it could fall so easily?

Let's go back to the birth control example again. What if a heavily religious group deems all forms of birth control evil and immoral, from contraception to abortion and everything in between? They say that the most sacred thing on the entire planet is human life and nothing anyone can ever say will change their minds. If you were an outsider looking in, you'd think that this group was very steadfast in their believes. You'd also think they'd never sway from their opinions. Now let's say that a different group, a group of scientists, embrace contraception, abortion, and everything in between, within reason and the realm of decency. The goal of this group is to keep tabs on human population so it doesn't grow out of control and become a detriment to all of civilization. What if the first group was completely closed off to the rest of the world and their population was unknowingly (to them) growing out of control? What if the second group had tons of data, graphs, and charts that showed that in just one year's time, the lands of the first group would be overrun by humans. Food would quickly run out. Available drinking water would run dry. Disease would run rampant and the majority of those who are living in these lands would perish within a few month's time. If the first group was shown this information, do you think they may discover some newfound "morality" in allowing the introduction of a few different types of birth control? Perhaps.

Now let's reverse the scenario. Say the first group had the information, data, charts, etc...and the second group of scientists didn't. The first group knew that the human population was declining to such a degree that all humans on earth would be gone in one year. That's the reason they're so steadfast against birth control. Since the group of scientists didn't know any of this, they'd likely change their views on morality when they discover the impending doom. It's remarkable how one's view on morality can change when actions are based on necessity. It's also remarkable how quickly one group can come to understand the thinking of another as they learn the justifications and reasoning behind certain actions.

The point is, resistance to relative morality can be somewhat explained away by information groups and cultures have on one another. While one culture's activity or moral viewpoint can be seen as strange, backward, or even barbaric to some, it oftentimes makes much more sense once outside groups learn the reasoning for it. Just because it's different doesn't make it wrong. And just because it may not be the way one culture may handle something doesn't make it invalid or any less moral for another.

Let's take a look at a two-part argument of a moral relativist against objective morality. First, the moral relativist claims that if there was only moral objectivity, moral diversity wouldn't exist. And second, the moral relativist argues that since moral diversity does exist, moral objectivity must not. It's sort of circular.

Just because there's a diversity of opinion when it comes to morality, it doesn't mean that every version of morality it right and just, no matter the reasoning given or the views of the cultures involved. As my examples above go to show, many cultures simply don't have enough information to make intelligent decisions. Certain groups may be basing their moral viewpoints on the information they've got, which doesn't necessarily make them right or "moral." If anything, it makes these moral justifications expedient. If ten cultures each hold different sets of morality and each is deemed a version of objective morality by a moral relativist, something's got to give. Someone's got to be wrong. Everything can't be moral. Moral truth has got to be somewhere.
 
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