Skepticism About Moral Truth Actually Has Consequences

“Most right-thinking, well-educated, and well-intentioned people — certainly most scientists and public intellectuals, and I would guess, most journalists — have been convinced that something in the last 200 years of intellectual progress has made it impossible to actually speak about “moral truth.” Not because human experience is so difficult to study or the brain too complex, but because there is thought to be no intellectual basis from which to say that anyone is ever right or wrong about questions of good and evil. . .

“The first thing I should point out is that, apart from being untrue, this view has consequences.

In 1947, when the United Nations was attempting to formulate a universal declaration of human rights, the American Anthropological Association stepped forward and said, it can’t be done. This would be to merely foist one provincial notion of human rights on the rest of humanity. Any notion of human rights is the product of culture, and declaring a universal conception of human rights is an intellectually illegitimate thing to do. This was the best our social sciences could do with the crematory of Auschwitz still smoking.

But, of course, it has long been obvious that we need to converge, as a global civilization, in our beliefs about how we should treat one another. For this, we need some universal conception of right and wrong. So in addition to just not being true, I think skepticism about moral truth actually has consequences that we really should worry about.”

Sam Harris, “The New Science of Morality” delivered at the Edge Conference.


One thought on “Skepticism About Moral Truth Actually Has Consequences

  1. It is absurd that this world cannot determine if there is moral truth, let alone what that moral truth would be. Reason being we are all born with an innate sense of a code of morality set outside of our limits – i.e. if one pre-schooler steals the snack of the other, the victim knows there was a wrong that needs to be righted “hey! give it back!” and the thief knows he committed a wrong and enters justification/denial “un-uh, I didn’t take anything!”. Problem though: to believe in a moral standard means you have to subject yourself to it, and the one who put that standard in place. By trying to remove ourselves from that moral standard (because it’s still there, no matter how much people try to debate it away) we are subjecting ourselves by our actions to the consequences, much in the same way that you’ll still get pulled over and get a ticket no matter how much you explain to the officer about how you felt the speed limit did not apply. Thank God that we can know the truth – as He created it! (sorry for the longer post, it’s easy to rant…)

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