It has been argued many times that we need to change our ethics and moral system to fit the present. While the religious texts (whatever it is you use) are helpful to some degree, some have claimed that they are not as revolutionary as people believe. Even condemning such ideas as personal greed, which can lead people to help with charity, or even the claims of living a simple life are not necessarily the best for the common good. An interesting opinion from CNN puts it this way:
But as far as we’ve come because of these two ideas, human progress demands implementation of a third idea to complete the scientific and political revolutions.
We’re still beholden to the past in ethics.
Although few of us would turn to the Old Testament or the Quran to determine the age of the Earth, too many of us still turn obediently to these books (or their secular copies) as authorities about morality. We learn therein the moral superiority of faith to reason and collective sacrifice to personal profit.
But the more seriously we take these old ethical ideas, the more suspect become the modern ideas responsible for human progress. The scientists in their laboratories did not demonstrate the superiority of faith. Thomas Jefferson in his Declaration did not proclaim the superiority of collective sacrifice. Why should we think these ideas are the path to moral enlightenment?
Perhaps, of all the damage these antiquated moral ideas do to human progress, the most significant is how they distort our conception of moral ideals.
Ask someone on the street to name a moral hero; if he isn’t at a loss, he’ll likely name someone like Jesus Christ or Mother Teresa. Why? Because they’re regarded as people of faith who shunned personal profit for the collective good. No one would dream of naming Galileo, Darwin, Thomas Edison or John D. Rockefeller.
Yet we should. It is they, not the Mother Teresas of the world, that we should strive to be like and teach our kids the same.
If morality is judgment to discern the truth and courage to act on it and make something of and for your own life, then these individuals, in their capacity as great creators, are moral exemplars. Put another way, if morality is a guide in the quest to achieve your own happiness by creating the values of mind and body that make a successful life, then morality is about personal profit, not its renunciation.
Monetary profit is just one of the values you have to achieve in life. But it is an eloquent representative of the whole issue, because at its most demanding, as exhibited by a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs, making money requires a profound dedication to material production.
The fact that earning money is ignored by most moralists, or condemned as the root of evil, is telling of the distance we must travel.
For that matter, what about ideas of sexual repression, birth control, and the malaise of social issues that require a new paradigm. I don’t foresee the apostles worrying that much about stem cell research, do you? The hard part is finding a way for our moral and ethical guidelines to catch up with our progress in other fields, which is easier said than done. I do not wish to find ways to change the whole ethics system here, but at least one can mull over the thought.