I’m afraid our children, if left alone, would determine right vs. wrong on their own via their own internal passions as opposed to any outside system. By the way, if you doubt the existence of original sin, spend some time with toddlers or small children. You will note that there is no need to teach them how to be “bad”. It just comes naturally.Unless guided, children will not use an outside system to judge things and adults are not much different, other than perhaps they will more readily yield to the majority. For many, cultural consensus has become the guarantee of truth. If enough people told you that up is down and right is wrong, you’ll cave unless you have an outside system to refer to.
If this seems ridiculous, ponder the insanity of abortion. If educated people can actually be made to believe that an unborn baby is a “non-person” with no right to be alive, what else can they be convinced of? If said persons were to ask, “When did we become persons?” They would accept subjective thresholds of viability or conscience as dictated by the majority, instead of the observable and scientific point of conception. We often fail to live up to the edicts of the obvious.
Reflect on the unintelligibility of same-sex marriage as well. Too many have been easily duped into thinking that marriage has no rational basis in procreation; that marriage having been defined the way humans reproduce is somehow a trivial coincidence. If humans did not reproduce the way they do, marriage would never have been defined the way it has (male-female) around the world and throughout history…but back to outside systems.
Consider a Compass:
Allegories to a moral compass are just about perfect for describing a moral outside system. The compass uses the earth’s magnetic field to determine which way is north. It does not matter what direction a group of travelers believes is north. The way the magnetic field and the compass needle react to each other is completely independent of the minds of the travelers.
What happens if a large group of symbiotic travelers refuse to use the compass? They will go “somewhere” based on their beliefs and experience about traveling. They may split up into smaller groups, but even the smaller groups need to decide what to do. The strongest will rule eventually, whether by physical force or via other kinds of peer-pressure, coaxing or bullying. It’s the same in societies. Even for the most stubborn and independent of individuals, the strongest will rule eventually, whether it’s a dictator by physical force or just a majority via lawyers and laws.
If a customer complains that a product or system is not working right, one of the first questions the vendors support team should ask (internally) is… “Is there a deviation?” In other words, is the product/system working within its normal operating limits or not? There are many situations in which a product is working within in its established parameters, but the customer still doesn’t like it. Here we have a situation where the customer is saying “it’s wrong” and the vendor says “it’s right”. So what should they do? Is the customer ALWAYS right?
Many times they will refer to industry standards as the outside system (like ISO). The data comes via an outside body of industry experts. They establish widely accepted benchmarks which are independent of the opinions of both the customer and the vendor.
If you’re a true a relativist, then this post is not really for you, since pure relativism cannot plant a stake in the ground for anything to be truly right or wrong; there are only opinions. For those of us who think right and wrong actually exist objectively, where do we look to? Should moral standards be left to some “body of experts” like in industry? If humans look to other humans to know what is moral for humans, I would say it is still an internal system, like the travelers looking to other travelers instead of a compass to find which way is north. Humans would need to look outside of humanity, but also higher than humanity, so animals would not suffice.
INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:Bonobo chimps are most similar to humans genetically and are known for their sexual promiscuity. They do not seem to discriminate in their sexual behavior by sex or age. In addition, communal sex seems to decrease tension and keeps the peace. I’ve heard it argued that if we could be more like the bonobos, we would all be happier. Wanting to use animals as our outside system for sexual morality shows just how far the human intellect has fallen.
Many believe that God is the outside system for human morality. God would act as the unchanging magnetic field in the compass allegory, but what would act as the compass itself, the visible and universal thing that points the way? Some may point to sacred writings like the Bible as a kind of travelers guide or map, but written words do not “interact” with people the way a compass interacts between the earth’s magnetic field and the travelers. A map would be an irreplaceable tool, but maps will not orientate you in the right direction like a compass will.
If God really does exist and really does care that we know “The Way”, it seems reasonable that He would provide a reliable compass that was visible and universal for each new generation of travelers to navigate life with. We call this “compass” the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The idea of this kind of outside system is not new; the earliest Christian writers understood its importance…"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Tim 4:3)
Life without an outside system...
Life without an outside system...