Swaying with the wind

We are all very conscious of the ways in which the mores or the values in our society have changed over our lifetimes.  To take an obvious example: the matter of abortion. Go back to the 1940s and abortion was broadly seen as a sordid crime whether it was a wealthy person getting herself out of trouble, or whether it was an illegal backstreet abortion. Today you would not be surprised to find the most respectable and moral person supporting the right of women to have abortions.

Of course divorce has been with us for many decades, but we may feel that what was once a rare tragedy, has now become common – almost routine. We wonder whether most of our fellow citizens make their marriage vows with a silent reservation: “as long as we continue to be happy together”. But then of course many of our fellow citizens don’t get to the altar because cohabitation has become so common, and is perhaps more honest if people are unwilling to make an unconditional commitment.

But I am kicking at an open goal: the morality of sexual activity provides the obvious examples. So let’s just touch on other possible areas.

Thou shalt not steal. No indeed, our society will not tolerate the housebreaker or the pickpocket. But how about the person who doesn’t declare casual income for tax? Or the supermarket which will reduce the contents of a familiar item — trying to fool customers into not noticing that the price has gone up? Has our society become slacker here?

Bearing false witness, envy and greed, care for the reputation of others – these all bear examination. And what interests me is not that we, and our society, are all – and have ever been – sinners. It is the way in which our moral values change. None of us is an island, and we know that we are all susceptible to being influenced by the morals of our society. We must be aware, not just of how the morals of society have changed, but the extent to which our moral assumptions have changed with them.

But changing moral values is not a one way street. Think of the way that we treated “fallen women”. Our society was prepared to immure many of them in homes for the mentally retarded. Political correctness covers a number of areas. How we laughed at its over-sensitivity! Do you recall the state official in Washington who had to resign because he had used the word “niggardly” in public? But a little self-examination may show that you, like I, are much more circumspect about causing offence than we were in our youth. And think it right to be so.

Now, I am hoping to write in due course about the way that moral values change in society, and the extent to which we find, perhaps in retrospect, that we have changed with them. I am afraid that I look back with shame at some of the views I held as a young adult, which I would now be the first to repudiate.

So I would be much helped if you would contribute  examples, from your own experience, of moral values which have changed for better or worse during your lifetime. And to what extent, if any, your own moral judgments have changed in concert.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Moral judgment, Philosophy, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Swaying with the wind

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    In my own case, the only instance that comes to mind is an increased respect for speed limits, and that is probably due at least as much to fearing the possible consequences of infringement as to any moral improvement.

  2. Brian Hamill says:

    To me the most momentous change is the almost total disappearance of the traditional concept of ‘sin’. What has taken its place is a heightened awareness of ‘evil’. Of course these two concepts are related but they are not synonymous. There are many ‘sins’ in the Catholic context which are clearly not morally evil, such as missing Mass on Sundays. On the other hand, the sex abuse scandal has shown that much evil existed unrecognised within the Church, particularly from the point of the cover-up to prevent scandal. This is now recognised as sin, but not then. The younger generation have picked up on this trend. Sin they realise is so often a ‘religious fault’, not necessarily a moral fault. They are much more human-orientated in their thought. Perhaps they have a real point in this.

    • Vincent says:

      This triggers a thought. Much was made in my youth of the virtue of obedience for its own sake. That is, the putting one’s own will at the behest of another. Christ, indeed, put great emphasis on his obedience to the Father. And this is reflected in the vow of obedience made by monks and others. In this context, disobedience to the Church implies a moral fault – it is disobedience to God to disobey his Church.
      However, in our modern times the emphasis has moved towards autonomy and obedience appears to be a culpable abandonment of human dignity. Moreover many would put the faults and arrogance of the Church down to the willingness in the past of her members to obey without questioning.

      • tim says:

        Those were the days!

      • John Candido says:

        Thankfully those days are comming to an end!

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Yes, I was listening to deacons make their vows last week and much the same thoughts ran through my mind -especially when it got to the vow of celibacy bit. Yet if we are serious about denial of self then autonomy does come into question.

  3. Nektarios says:

    Quentin & Fellow bloggers

    I suppose over the years, we have indeed seen many changes in morality, so we say.
    What to me was a big change in morality, by which I mean, social morality, which exists to produce order and to a degree is necessary lies in its failure to produce virtue or a true morality.

    I gave up the conforming morality we are brought up in by Church, the State, by Class, and by Education seeing it as hypocritical, but for a long time stayed within the confines of the social morality, because it was wise to do so if one wanted to get on in this rotten society full of its morality, based on hypocrisy, greed, envy and hate. That is the social morality of our society.

    What did I put in its place or rather found out? Well, it would make this posting too long, but suffice to say for now, the morality I was brought up in failed me, my generation, and the nation.

    And I discovered two or three things along the way.
    One cannot cultivate morality, if one does, it is merely intellectual set of ideas and concepts – it does not work.
    I also noted that those who saw themselves as moral and upstanding were not in fact moral at all.
    Lastly for now, I also discovered, that cultivation of morality to keep up with progress has not brought about the well-being of man.

  4. Nektarios says:

    John Candido

    As an aside from this topic, John, I would like to thank you for several of the links you provided
    in the Multimind section of this on going discussion. I have had the pleasure of looking through
    these websites and links – very profitable,
    I would recommend to the fellow bloggers who passed them by at first to revisit them and spend some listening to some wonderful, spirit-filled people – a real blessing awaits you.
    Thank you again, John.

  5. John Candido says:

    Thank you Nektarios! Your kindness and your thoughts are noted regarding my links about consciousness and meditation. And thank you also for bringing my posts in ‘Multimind’ to the attention of others. Much appreciated!

  6. mike Horsnall says:

    Good question. The really obvious one for me is my view on homosexuality which went from standard working class “queer bashing” to “cure the poor sinner” to “Hi, my name’s Mike”- over a 30 year period.

  7. Nektarios says:

    Fellow bloggers
    There has been so many changes over the 54 years I have been a Christian.
    One is the biggies, is the place the Church now has in society.
    At one time the Church was attended by dignatries, and services attended by most, and the Church was central in the hub of society.

    Over the last fifty -odd years, but more so in the last 20 years, the Church not just the RC Church
    many churchs lie empty, turned into pubs, clubs or offices. Others are turned into houses and the remainder fall into ruin.
    But fifty-odd years is a short period in the life of the Church. Travelling up and down the country one passes villages and towns with Church building in ruins and have been that way since before tWW1& 2.
    During the WW1 millions of men were lost on the battlefields, there was great hardship for those left to bring up children on their own. Many who had gone and filled Churches, lay dead beneah the soil.
    WW2 took less of our menfolk away than in WW1 but it became clear to Churchmen and leaders
    that many had lot their faith. Their suffering trials and sorrows and the hardship bringing up their children, for many thousands who had gone to Church, their energy was after two world wars spent.
    Years of austerity had taken its toll on the population and the conformity approach by Church
    institutions led to a mass departure from the tradtional Church values and morality.
    In came a period, of the pursuit of pleasure,of pubs and dances nd so on.

    The Church unfortunately did not adapt to the changing scene but without any seeming sensitivity,
    continued although there had not been the devastation both of lives, homes, families, relationships – just the same old dogmatic moralistic put downs and atitudes, so people not only stayed away, but the love, respect, obedience towards the Church lay only with the very small
    minority compared to what is was pre- WW2.

    to be continued

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      I was flabbergasted by a comment on the front page of our diocesan news-letter that “… we have seen an amazing renewal in the Church over the past 45 years …” Am I missing something?

      • Quentin says:

        It’s certainly an odd reading of the time since Vatican II. And right now the Curia seems to be battening down everyone’s hatches. Congrats by the way on your letter appearing in the CH. Q

  8. Nektarios says:

    Fellow bloggers
    Sorry about so many mistakes, I will be more careful checking everything first.
    I hope you get most of what is meant and can follow it without too much difficulty?

  9. tim says:

    Mike, your remark about ‘autonomy’ is to the point. Autonomy for its own sake used to be called the sin of pride – the fundamental sin – Satan’s ‘non serviam’ (‘I know better’). Many of us seem to have moved from a position of unquestioning obedience to ecclesiastical authority to one of objection on principle to any assertion of such authority not backed by arguments that we find immediately convincing. I’m not sure that this is an improvement. The Church Militant requires a measure of discipline – even if it is an army of volunteers.

    • Quentin says:

      I agree with this, Tim. It seems to me that, being an incarnational religion, we will have an external and visible structure with a spiritual effect. That is, the Church is a sacrament in being an outward sign of inward grace. Although this outward sign has many imperfections, history shows that without its structure the Church would simply not have survived. It seems to me that Catholics who want to disagree with the Church must take serious responsibility for doing so. I am very much with Newman’s approach to this – in his letter to the Duke of Norfolk. q.v. http://www.newmanreader.org/works/anglicans/volume2/gladstone/section5.html

      • tim says:

        Thank you, Quentin. I shall have to read that more than once. True conscience – and false conscience ‘as the right of self-will’.

      • Quentin says:

        Glad you’ve had a chance to read this. You may find the Pope’s commentary (as Ratzinger) on this as inspiring and clarifying as I did. It’s at http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/RATZCONS.HTM Others concerned with the balance between faith and credulity may enjoy it too. Actually this link is on the blog at a piece called ‘Holding out for a Hero’ which – for what it’s worth – was my take on it all. Q

    • Rahner says:

      ” objection on principle to any assertion of such authority not backed by arguments that we find immediately convincing.”
      I am quite sure it is an improvement. It is what is required for an adult rather than an infantile faith. In any case, most of the “objections” relate to issues that can’t possibly be regarded as fundamental to the faith.

  10. Mike Horsnall says:

    Quentin,
    Re Newman
    Many words but I take the gist of it to be that Newman sees our conscience not as a rudder for whimsy but as something more solid and in itself submitted to the spirit and the will. I agree with this. I was profoundly moved watching, last week at Oscott, ordinary workaday family men taking diaconate vows of obedience and future celibacy. Doing so with full consent and understanding that their vows are binding, not in the matter of their being enforced by external authority but by their being bound by the heart of service which calls them on. I agree strongly that the Church is a sacrament- all the more astonishing for that and incarnate evidence of the grubby soil out of which miracles are born. Though there are problems with clericalism etc- much of that which moves to denigrate the church flies in the face of its true nature.

  11. Mike Horsnall says:

    Rahner:
    ” I am quite sure it is an improvement. It is what is required for an adult rather than an infantile faith..”
    This is the really challenging thing, that our faith be made firm, not in idols but in our hearts and our will, that we assent as adults,not to unquestioned doctrine-which is in fact servility-but that we agree to stand, in as disciplined manner as we can muster, before the awesome incarnate mystery that bids us welcome. Otherwise why bother at all? This does of course allow for wonderment and questioning but it does not allow for petulance.

  12. Iona says:

    “Do you recall the state official in Washington who had to resign because he had used the word “niggardly” in public?”

    I hadn’t heard about this, and can hardly believe it. The two words come from completely different roots. You can tell that from the spelling. And yet he had to resign?

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, hard to believe but true. Check it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controversies_about_the_word_%22niggardly%22 under “David Howard incident”.

      • Rahner says:

        Quentin, In the earlier link Ratzinger/B16 claims “Some authors reduce conscience in this its aspect of final arbiter to the formula: conscience is infallible”.

        The words “straw man” keep coming to mind……. I can’t think of many moral philosophers in the analytical tradition who would make such an absurd reduction. Also, the reference to relativity is, to say the least, somewhat unfortunate.

      • Quentin says:

        You may have a point here, although I would not suppose that a strict analytical philosopher would accept that infallibility had any useful meaning in any context.

        If I grasp Ratzinger’s point correctly he is disagreeing with attitudes which imply that a decision of conscience has any validity beyond its relationship to the conscience-former. Thus we might obligate ourselves to accept a judgment of conscience which does not in fact accord with the truth. The obligation in itself does not make a proposition either truer or less true.

        Behind this there is, I suspect, another layer. That is, we may be obliged to do X because that is the conclusion of conscience. But if that conclusion happens to be incorrect then the objective evil of the wrongful act is still brought about.

      • Brian Hamill says:

        Quentin,
        I was intrigued by your reference to ‘objective evil’. Since evil is strictly speaking a non-being, I find the concept of objective evil rather difficult to grasp as a reality. We all recognise situations in which we have made mistakes but evil implies something done deliberately wrong. The appreciation of evil, which, as I have said above, is one of the great pluses of younger generation, is not evil in this sense. Your use of the word ‘evil’ here may be able to be defended in certain philosophical systems but it lacks psychological reality and therefore is an ‘inappropriate’ word, it seems to me to use in this discussion.

      • Quentin says:

        This will illustrate what I meant. I can easily believe that someone choosing an abortion does so in good faith intending to do the best. But for all their sincerity the baby is unjustly deprived of its right to life — that is the objective evil.

      • John Candido says:

        Simply appalling! Don’t people consult their dictionaries in a controversy? Unbelievable lack of common-sense! It is interesting that David Howard, who is the person that was unfairly dismissed from public service, thought that he had learnt from the incident. If I may quote him,

        ‘I used to think it would be great if we could all be colour-blind. That’s naïve, especially for a white person, because a white person can afford to be colour-blind. They don’t have to think about race every day. An African American does.’

        Although I agree with him, it was quite an expensive lesson for him, I would have thought.

        The reply of Mr. Julian Bond, who was the then Chairman of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), was a much needed social correction. The NAACP was formed on the 12th February 1909 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAACP. Its stated purpose is,

        ‘To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.’

        This is a just and admirable goal despite its difficulty in achieving it in the context of racism in the United States against African-Americans. Julian Bond thought that the David Howard matter was utterly deplorable and went on to say,

        ‘You hate to think you have to censor your language to meet other people’s lack of understanding’, he said. ‘David Howard should not have quit. Mayor Williams should bring him back — and order dictionaries issued to all staff who need them.’
        Julian Bond also said,

        ‘Seems to me the mayor has been niggardly in his judgment on the issue’ and as a nation we have a ‘hair-trigger sensibility’ on race that can be tripped by both real and false grievances.’

  13. Iona says:

    “I would be much helped if you would contribute examples, from your own experience, of moral values which have changed for better or worse during your lifetime. And to what extent, if any, your own moral judgments have changed in concert.”

    In the 50s, smoking – by men or women – used to be perfectly acceptable (though women smoking in the street were somewhat frowned on). The discovery about the link between smoking and lung cancer began to make it seem undesirable, though not immoral. On the whole it was good if smokers gave up, and non-smokers didn’t start. That would be in the 60s and 70s. More and more health-related links were discovered, and somewhere along the line smoking came to be condemned in the sort of terms that used to be reserved for sin. Indeed, smokers are now isolated in the way Quentin reminds us that “fallen women” used to be, – I exaggerate, I know – but they are to be seen clustering a few yards away from the doors of pubs, cafes etc., excluded from society except one another’s . And actually, health-related issues have taken on a moral tinge, – at least, those health-related issues which are considered to be under the individual’s control, e.g. overweight.

  14. Nektarios says:

    Fellow Bloggers

    Part 2. Cont’d.

    As we trace the historical background as to why so many have left the mainstream churches since WW2, as I said earlier and to recap, two world wars had taken place, millions lost in both world wars, great austerity, poverty and sorrow.
    Britain was no sooner out of one austerity of WW1 before it was plunged into WW2 the austerities of which lasted to around 1954.
    Many were the orphans, whom the State shuntted off to Canada and Australia to be little more than unpaid workers – yes, it was a form of enslavement. But these children, many, many of them were the children of those whose fathers had laid down their lives on the battlefields for our nation. A strange repayment on by the Government of the day on those children?

    In the early 50s things began to change and people wanted austerity to be gone, and so dived headlong into pleasure puruits. Relationships and especially sexual relationships, were not so much a matter of love with a view to marriage, but pleasure.
    The Church had lost hundreds of thousands of people that used to attend Church. As I said previously, and it is an important point, the 1st WW took away millions of menfolk, killed in action;
    WW2, took away their faith in God.

    For awhile at least, the conditioning of the population retained so much of their religiousity,
    and the Churches, pursued the same old well trod methods of guilt-tripping everyone and insisted on its place in society and its Authority.
    It was a place by the late1960s it had largely lost. The people did not like the hectoring, bullying, austre approaches made by the Churches, who demanded conformity like in the days of old in which they obtained by unjust, unchristian and using the appuratus of the State – the Law means to obtain. Oh it was, they say, “to keep order”, Sadly the only order they wanted to keep was their own Church order.

    People walked out of the Churches in droves, retaining as I have said , something of the religious faith they were brought up in. Some became fanatical Evangelicals, others wisely realizing the status quo at the time, became more liberal and acceptng and accommodating of others piccadiloes. Others had lost their faith completely.
    Some thinkers started a new social orde with a new moral order, which was not by the Church but by liberal and not so liberal secularists.

    Nature abhors a vacuum and what did they do that walked out of the Churches in those days?
    They did what past generations faced with similar problems did, they invented a personalized religion and spirituality. They had become, wrongly for the most part, their own authority on Faith, the Church and religious matters.
    The same would apply to morals. It had now become one’s own morality the lived by, but not some Institution or other and not perfectly, of course.

    To be continued

  15. Mike Horsnall says:

    Brian Hamill:
    “…We all recognise situations in which we have made mistakes but evil implies something done deliberately wrong..The appreciation of evil, which, as I have said above, is one of the great pluses of younger generation, is not evil in this sense. Your use of the word ‘evil’ here may be able to be defended in certain philosophical systems but it lacks psychological reality and therefore is an ‘inappropriate’ word, it seems to me to use in this discussion…..”

    I would have thought that evil implied the existence of something that IS wrong rather than something ‘done’ wrong. The act uncovers the underlying state? I am intrigued by the relationship of the word to the phrase ‘psychological reality’

  16. Nektarios says:

    Fellow Bloggers

    Part 3 , Cont’d.

    Although what I have traced historically so far, it is not meant to be definitive, I am not a historian. We are only picking up the trends, most of which I have lived through, seen and been effected by such transitions as outlined in Parts 1&2. The purpose of writing all this, is to give us all an overview of the trends that have led us to where we are today.
    So let us proceed with Part 3.
    In matters of faith, morals, philosopy and spirituality, society in Britain, battled with the social order and religious order, as they do to this day.
    The political leaders, religious leaders and business leaders were mostly children after WW2 who were and are products of this movement away from the old order to this new order of thought and ways of doing things.
    It is therefore not any surprise over the next 30 years gradually to see what this new order consisted of, its methods of working, thinking and so on.
    This new order consisted of, individualism, being competitive, and highly assertive.

    The fragmentation of the old order and of human beings, the collective being called society,
    started after two WWs. The talk down method by the ruling classes that had exisited for better or worse for centuries, was now fragmenting slowly as it is today. No doffing ones cap to ones superiors, not knowing ones place anymore. This transition was corrupting the whole of society
    from the top to the bottom.
    Governments reacted to event on the ground, fearing losing their seats at a General Election. Government seldom acts, but reacts to events. Reaction of this sort, is never right, and always leads to emotional pain and sorrow.
    One of the major bills passed in the late sixties was the Abortion Bill Over the next 50 years
    over nine million babies were aborted here in Britain alone, globally the numbers are horrifying and the yearly number continues to rise. – it is a philosophy
    and rational of death.
    Were people going to receive moral instruction? No, they wanted to continue having sex outside marriage an on the side if the wished. Governments reacted and now you have youngsters having babies and been given housing and benefits, often going on to have more children. Men are seldom if ever challenged about their promiscuious behaviour. And girls are left carrying the baby, or aborting it, but there is a price being paid. One of the prices being paid is fragmentation within society, sorrow, misery and poverty.

    To be continued…..

  17. Nektarios says:

    Fellow Bloggers

    Part 4 and Final

    To conclude this potted, non definitive tracing historically to where we are today, I would like to bring us up-to date.

    Next, regarding promiscuity came Aids and death for those who contracted the disease. Did that stop them? No, they wanted more and more freedoms regarding sexual behaviour, no matter how deviant it became. Homosexuality was now talked about with gay abandon ( excuse the pun). Those with Aids, demanded of Government to provide treatment, and Government reacted as usual and retro-vial drugs were invented at the cost of many millions of tax payers money. Did the dangers of Aids through promisuity cause them to stop and think? No, the gay lobby wanted their homosexual lifestyle to be respected. They wanted same rights as marriage of hetrosexuals. Then they wanted marriage. First civil, then they demanded marriage in the Church.
    I hope you are seeing this new order’s attitude in being individualistic and highly assertive here? It seems they do not understand what relationship actually is, and without it nothing works.
    Out from the woodwork of the Churches the gays proudly came from high ranking clerics, to priests and monastics and laity demanding the Church bow down to their dictats. In many cases over a period, it was a mealy -mouthed arguments and defense of the hetrosexual norm, but it has given way although many fight against it, (bless them). There is a price to be paid by such in the Churches.

    Governments have continued to back the gay agenda, legalizing it, stopping the Church from saying outright what its position is on the matter. Government has removed any legal impediment to the gay agenda, the Church has its own problems with it, yes there is a price to be paid, as the Apostle Paul said, `they shall not enter the Kingdom of God.’
    They can repent of course.
    So even though there may be no earthly price to pay there will be a spiritual one to pay. Those who suggest differently are living and teaching others falsehood and delusion.

    The state of morality is totally fragmented, was it always so? No, we had social cohesion and norms, though far from perfect kept society together, now it is badly fragmented and that means people who make up society are fragmenting and breaking down.

    When a nation starts calling that with is bad, good, then it spells the beginning of the end.
    Around the world these things we have covered here are global, and the continuing fragmentation of societies will continue.
    Short of a nationwide revival and change in direction the end is inevitable.
    Is it any wonder what the Book of Revelations calls the beginning of sorrows, is with us now.
    Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon us.

  18. John Nolan says:

    Those of us of a certain age can remember the 1960s TV sitcom ‘Till Death Us Do Part’ featuring two loud-mouths (Alf Garnett and his son-in-law, the ‘Scouse Git’, played respectively by Warren Mitchell and Tony Booth). It was in part a generational difference which generated the comedy, but also a clash of different moral attitudes. Alf was a working-class Tory with an exaggerated respect for authority (particularly the monarchy) and a rather naive patriotism which easily spilled over into xenophobia and racism. He believed that whatever you had, you had to work for. His son-in-law on the other hand was a Labour voter who believed in working-class entitlement (in his case to draw the dole, live with his in-laws and subsidise his beer and fags with his wife’s income).

    In one episode Alf is complaining about his fellow dock-workers’ casual attitude towards pilfering. He will have nothing to do with it – it’s stealing and therefore morally wrong – but is mocked by his son-in-law who takes the attitude of ‘if it’s there, take it’. At the same time both he and his wife deplore Alf’s prejudices, particularly his racism. Although this was written over forty years ago it does, I think, represent a sea-change in moral attitudes which is still being worked out today.

    • John Candido says:

      That is an excellent example of social change. ‘Till Death Us Do Part’ was one of my favourite shows. It is a brilliant and classic television comedy. I was young when I first watched it but it was utterly funny. Warren Mitchel is a great actor and so are the rest of the cast. I must buy the whole set of series on DVD one day. ‘Till Death Us Do Part’ was followed by ‘Till Death…’, and finally ‘In Sickness and in Health’. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Mitchell

      • John Nolan says:

        Indeed, John, and the first series was the best. Even in the ‘sixties Alf Garnett’s rants against foreigners of every hue were embarrassing and the writer, Johnny Speight, was at pains to point out that in Alf he was creating an anti-hero whose prejudices were being held up for us to deplore and ridicule. But like all good comic characters he is by no means one-sided and his antagonist is portrayed as someone who preaches a conventional tolerance but who is basically an amoral scrounger. The heroines are their sorely put-upon spouses!

  19. Vincent says:

    I see that Mike Horsnall has said this above: “Good question. The really obvious one for me is my view on homosexuality which went from standard working class “queer bashing” to “cure the poor sinner” to “Hi, my name’s Mike”- over a 30 year period.”
    An interesting note to this is that, now we are faced by the possibility of gay marriage, the idea of a civil partnership seems quite innocuous. So our views may have been modified here over only 8 years.. What next? (I am only observing not criticising..

  20. Iona says:

    Quentin, thanks for the “niggardly” reference, from which I wandered on to the “Water buffalo” reference, equally breathtaking.

  21. John Nolan says:

    I think views on sexual morality have certainly changed, and since human nature doesn’t, there is less hypocrisy about, which can be counted a plus, perhaps. Despite decades of feminist ‘pro-choice’ propaganda I think that there is still a conscientious objection to abortion, which, since it does not rely on any particular religious proscription, might be part of our nature. Similarly, despite a lot of social conditioning (some of it quite subtle) the objection to homosexuality might just be hard-wired into our brains as a result of evolution; similarly the revulsion most people have towards incest.

    Are moralists merely rationalizing what is intrinsic to human nature?

    • Brian Hamill says:

      John Nolan – ‘Are moralists merely rationalizing what is intrinsic to human nature?’ If one accepts the view that evolution is built into the creative action of God, then it is the true role of the moralist to discover ‘what is intrinsic to human nature’ and to put that into a rational form. In other words, the word ‘merely’ is not appropriate.

    • Quentin says:

      John, you raise the very important issue of what may have been bred into our human nature by, presumably, evolutionary needs. I recall my father in the ’60’s noting that, although the bulk of people seemed to be happy about contraception, a certain distaste lingered about abortion — even in those who accepted it in principle.

      Homosexual revulsion remains in many. Was it evolutionarily adaptive to discourage homosexual alternatives? If that revulsion had not been there would homosexuality have been at least as common as heterosexuality? And would that have damaged the common good? The historical example we have is Athens and Sparta. These were both distinguished by the almost invisible status of womankind. Was this cause and effect? But incest is a clear candidate for the need for revulsion.

      Of course it doesn’t follow that what was necessary for the common good in past times is so today. But at the least it puts us on warning to investigate.

  22. Nektarios says:

    Fellow bloggers

    Yes, we are all well aware of how our old nature works with its passions and desires and so on it seems, but not so acquaint with all that proceeds from and operates in the new nature Christ gives us. Truly, it is very different, and all its ways are the ways of peace.
    Any offers to discuss that?

  23. mike Horsnall says:

    Brian and John,
    “…If one accepts the view that evolution is built into the creative action of God, then it is the true role of the moralist to discover ‘what is intrinsic to human nature’ and to put that into a rational form. In other words, the word ‘merely’ is not appropriate….”

    There is something quite creepy about this conclusion -can’t quite put my finger on it yet…. but it doesnt seem right somehow….

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