By Graham Strachan
October 10, 2002
One of the Big Lies of modern times concerns the notion that morals are a ‘social construct’ largely traceable to the Christian religion, and in particular the Ten Commandments. For readers who’ve forgotten, and those who never knew, the Ten Commandments say it is wrong to murder, steal, lie, falsify corporate accounts, and have sex with interns in the White House when your wife’s not around. Little wonder then, that the globalist Left and Right are both working hard to have the Commandments ‘disappeared’, along with the morals they supposedly gave rise to.
But according to Biblical legend, the Ten Commandments date from the time of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, thought to be around 1500 BC. If morals indeed date from that time, what went before? - bearing in mind that human civilisation dates from the Neolithic Revolution around 8000 BC. That’s a long time for the world to be operating in a moral vacuum, and in fact it didn’t. The law code of Lipit-Ishtar, which dates from ancient Sumerian times - perhaps 4000 BC - has an unmistakeable moral foundation. Morals long predated Moses and the burning bush. The Ten Commandments merely codified moral rules which had, even then, existed from time immemorial.
Let’s be clear on what morals are: morals are rules of conduct in a social context, in their most visible form consisting of bans on certain specific types of behaviour. Contrary to popular belief, they are not confined to matters of sex, in fact sex is the least of their concerns. Their chief concern is to outlaw murder, rape, assault, lying and the failure to honour promises, behaviours which tend to make social living impossible. They are strictly a human thing: there are no morals in the wild. In fact morals ARE the defining difference between the wild state - in which the strong are free to kill and dominate the weak - and civilisation, in which the weak have as much right to exist as the strong. Morals define civilisation. Buildings, parliaments, law courts, universities and other institutions of societal governance do not make a ‘civilisation’ unless the people in them are acting morally. If they cease to act morally, ‘civilisation’ becomes simply a jungle with buildings.
If morals antidated the Ten Commandments, where did they come from, and who or what initially decided what was, and what was not, moral behaviour? The claim by the globalist Left that morals are a social ‘construct’ suggests they were consciously thought up by human agency somewhere back in time and deliberately imposed. The authority of God may have been added later, they will say, but that’s how morals began. The implication is that if one ‘social construct’ works, another ‘social construct’ can readliy be substituted for it which will work equally as well if not better.
However, as Professor Frederick Hayek explained at length in his ‘Law, Legislation and Liberty’, the idea that humans deliberately constructed their own society, together with its rules of moral/social behaviour, contradicts everything known about the origins of civilisation. Anthropology has shown that human societies evolved, the social behaviour patterns later called ‘morals’ evolving along with them. Societies that adopted cooperative moral/social behaviour gained a distinct evolutionary advantage over those that did not, and prospered while the others disintegrated and disappeared. We are here today because our distant ancestors happened to act morally.
The belief that human society is, or even could be, the product of deliberate human design, and that morals were consciously thought up and legislated, is an important ingredient in the ideology of the socialist Left, who want to replace existing morality with another mortality constructed by themselves. But as Hayek pointed out, it has never yet been demonstrated that one can simply do away with the moral rules that built a civilisation and replace them with another set concocted in a ‘think tank’, at least not without risking social disintegration and collapse.
The evolutionary origin of morals presents other problems for the social engineers of the globalist Left. First of all, if moral rules evolved by natural selection, the resultant rules are likely to be those best suited to the human condition; improving on them would be difficult if not impossible. Secondly, since the most successful societies would have been those whose members had a natural propensity for moral/social behaviour, the tendency to act morally may well be encoded in the genes of the most civilised peoples, contradicting the notion that morals are ‘nothing but’ a social construct.
Thirdly, if the rules that evolved naturally were the same rules ultimately codified in the Ten Commandments – as a comparison between the Bible and the Codes of Lipit-Ishtar and Hammurabi suggests - then the scientific and religious explanations for the origin of morals are reconciled. People would have a powerful incentive to re-affirm existing morality, and to reject the ‘new’ morality being offered by the global socialists. One could no longer, for example, undermine the basis of traditional morality simply by declaring – as Nietzsche did – that God is dead.
Whether one accepts the religious or evolutionary explanation, there is a good reason to act morally. As Ayn Rand argued [The Voice of Reason (1988) p.17], man’s ultimate survival ‘qua man’ - as a rational being in a civilised order - depends on it. It boils down to a question of whether one values civilisation or not. If the answer is ‘yes’, then adherence to the morality of civilisation is essential – and by that is meant the morality that evolved with civilisation and made civilisation possible: the time-tested variety, not the yet-to-be-proven variety being promoted by the globalist Left/Right.
The results of the new ‘socially constructed’ morality are already in evidence. As the world enters the 21st century it is witnessing a reversion to a jungle ‘morality’ in the centres of power - survival of the politically and economically fittest. Whoever can get control of the machinery of government and hold onto it by fair means or foul not only rules, but supposedly has a ‘right’ to rule. The ‘moral’ superiority of brute force and animal cunning is being exalted over reason and common decency. The result is a complex technological society controlled politically and economically by people with a ‘morality’ more suited to beasts than man, a frightening mix of sophisticated technology and primitive barbarism. It is time for all good people worldwide to demand a return to time-tested morality.
© 2002 Graham Strachan - All Rights Reserved
Graham Strachan is a lawyer, author and international speaker on globalization and world affairs, living near Brisbane, Australia. His website is www.grahamstrachan.com, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org