The Moral instinct -Ny times

Category: , , , , , , , , , By freshouttatime

The Article

Read the article first. Its kind of hefty. But Professor Steven Pinker from Harvard is speculating how humans come to hold the morals that they do, leading one to infer, it is innate.

I'm going to pull out quotes from the article that resonated with themes from the Quran, making the case that axioms for morality justified through rationality, game theory or utilitarian purposes can just as well be justified through a Prophet claiming to have rules regulating human behavior in a scripture from God.


"Does God have a good reason for designating certain acts as moral and others as immoral? If not — if his dictates are divine whims — why should we take them seriously? Suppose that God commanded us to torture a child. Would that make it all right, or would some other standard give us reasons to resist? And if, on the other hand, God was forced by moral reasons to issue some dictates and not others — if a command to torture a child was never an option — then why not appeal to those reasons directly"?

I feel that in light of moral/philosophical questions that people ask today, people have not  sought to find answers in Oriental traditions - Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. What i mean is that when Religion and God are refuted say in Marxist Communism, its a rejection of the Western tradition of God, and not the tradition of God that MANY other people in the world hold to. The God as is revealed through the Quran, has laid out many dictates on what is permissible and impermissible.

As for going back to the quote, there was a tradition of the Arabs before Muhammad (peace be upon him) started preaching to bury infant girls. The Prophet banned this practice, and this verse was revealed in the Quran:

and when the girl-child that was buried alive is made to ask

for what crime she had been slain 81:8-9


[on that Day] every human being will come to know what he has prepared [for himself] 81:14

The other verses all deal with occurrences of the day of resurrection, which ultimately lead up to People being accountable for their actions.


"This throws us back to wondering where those reasons could come from, if they are more than just figments of our brains. They certainly aren’t in the physical world like wavelength or mass. The only other option is that moral truths exist in some abstract Platonic realm, there for us to discover, perhaps in the same way that mathematical truths (according to most mathematicians) are there for us to discover. On this analogy, we are born with a rudimentary concept of number, but as soon as we build on it with formal mathematical reasoning, the nature of mathematical reality forces us to discover some truths and not others. (No one who understands the concept of two, the concept of four and the concept of addition can come to any conclusion but that 2 + 2 = 4.) Perhaps we are born with a rudimentary moral sense, and as soon as we build on it with moral reasoning, the nature of moral reality forces us to some conclusions but not others.

the verses are self explanatory:

by the soul and He who shaped it

and inspired it with knowledge of evil and piety,

he who makes it pure has prospered;

and he will indeed fail who corrupts it 91:7-10


"In many arenas of life, two parties are objectively better off if they both act in a nonselfish way than if each of them acts selfishly. You and I are both better off if we share our surpluses, rescue each other’s children in danger and refrain from shooting at each other, compared with hoarding our surpluses while they rot, letting the other’s child drown while we file our nails or feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys. Granted, I might be a bit better off if I acted selfishly at your expense and you played the sucker, but the same is true for you with me, so if each of us tried for these advantages, we’d both end up worse off. Any neutral observer, and you and I if we could talk it over rationally, would have to conclude that the state we should aim for is the one in which we both are unselfish".

I'll equate patience and forgiveness to being unselfish:

The recompense for a crime shall be its equivalence, but whoever forgives and makes right, then his reward is upon God. He does not like the wrongdoers.

And for any who demand action after being wronged, those are not committing any error.

The way is only open against those who do wrong to the people, and are insolent in the earth wrongfully; there awaits them a painful chastisement.

But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs. 42:40-43


"The other external support for morality is a feature of rationality itself: that it cannot depend on the egocentric vantage point of the reasoner. If I appeal to you to do anything that affects me — to get off my foot, or tell me the time or not run me over with your car — then I can’t do it in a way that privileges my interests over yours (say, retaining my right to run you over with my car) if I want you to take me seriously".

Muhammad's contemporaries asked him to modify some teachings, and also doubted his veracity as a Divine Prophet:

And when Our signs are recited to them, clear signs, those who look not to encounter Us say, 'Bring a Koran other than this, or alter it.' Say: 'It is not for me to alter it of my own accord. I follow nothing, except what is revealed to me. Truly I fear, if I should rebel against my Lord, the chastisement of a dreadful day.'

Say: If Allah had so willed I should not have recited it to you nor would He have made it known to you. I dwelt among you a whole lifetime before it (came to me). Have ye then no sense? 10:15-16


Yeah so that's about it, I pulled the translations from this site