For someone who believes in absolute, objective morality, calling someone a “Moral Relativist” is akin to calling them a “Raper of Babies”
However, as a moral relativist myself, I find this ridiculous. For me, morality isn’t something universal. Let’s discuss:
Where does morality come from?
In its first, descriptive usage, morality means a code of conduct or belief which is held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong. Morals are arbitrarily created and subjectively defined by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience.
Ta-da. Therefore, since not everyone grows up with the same contributing factors to their morality, we can deduce that not everyone is going to share the same morals.
Take for example a this statement: “killing is wrong.” I doubt that very many people would disagree with that. But, is killing simply ending a life or is it more merciful sometimes to kill to end suffering? Is it considered killing if you do nothing to save a life? And what about war? Execution? Abortion? Is killing ever justified to save another life? The situation is almost never as cut and dry as “killing is wrong.” Even though most people would agree with the first statement, the rest of the questions are what internet flame wars are made of. If I were to make any definitive statement regarding any of the more ambiguous questions, I’d be getting hatemail out the wazoo.
Who decides what’s right and wrong?
For some people, it’s their god. There will be a final judgment and some of us will go to Hell and others will get Sky Cake. For the rest of us, it’s up to our individual conscience or philosophy. Yet still, people feel the need to pass judgment on each other.
To the first group I say, who are you to judge? If your god is the god of the righteous, who will rain fire from above and punish the wicked. If we choose to ignore your god and we are going to hell and your god, the all powerful judge is providing the sentence, then what is it to you? Are you trying to save us? Or are you doing your god’s work by screaming at us whose beliefs and values are different from your own. What do you gain and what good is it supposed to do us? If I’m a sinner and your god is going to punish me, when did it become your job to judge me in the meantime?
To the second I say, I’ll leave you to your beliefs and values, you leave me to mine. I think some things are immoral. I try to practice and live by the moral code dictated to me by my conscience and my philosophy. I intend to raise my children with my values and I often choose friends with similar values. If I make a choice that you find immoral, but it doesn’t affect you, what harm does it do to you? Whose choice is it?
Right now, there’s been a heated discussion on The Skeptical OB regarding two posts about Downs Syndrome. Mostly, Dr. Tuteur is being lambasted by parents of Downs Syndrome children who found her posts callous and inflammatory. She’s been accused of presenting her opinion as fact (which they seem to fail to see the irony of) and of using her MD to promote an unethical point of view. These people missed the entire point of the posts, which is one of choice. A rosy picture is often painted by a self selecting group of parents for whom raising a child with DS has been a blessing rather than a burden. These people, because of their experience, fail to see how anyone could terminate a pregnancy because of a diagnosis of Trisomy 21. It would not be fair to parents for them to only see this side of things just as it would not be fair to parents for them to only see the other side, the parents for whom the burden was too much or the sad stories of DS children abused as adults, depressed because they can never have a normal life, the lives cut short from medical problems. People with positive stories don’t see it this way. In their view, if people knew how positive it could be, they would never terminate and so people should only be told the positive side. That goes entirely against the entire point, which is the freedom to make a choice based on the best information available. That means BOTH sides of the story.
Dr. Tuteur is caught in one of those moral gray areas. Unfortunately, the people who see it in black and white have decided to pass judgment on her and are writing hateful things. I applaud Dr. Tuteur in sticking to her point of view and not backing down in the face of this moral bullying.