An interesting paper from Jonathan Haidt, on how different cultures and people with different socioeconomic status judge victimless "crimes" or infractions:
Abstract of the paper:
Are disgusting or disrespectful actions judged to be moral violations, even when they are harmless? Stories about victimless yet offensive actions (such as cleaning one's toilet with a flag) were pre- sented to Brazilian and U.S. adults and children of high and low socioeconomic status (JV= 360). Results show that college students at elite universities judged these stories to be matters of social convention or of personal preference. Most other Ss, especially in Brazil, took a moralizing stance toward these actions. For these latter Ss, moral judgments were better predicted by affective reac- tions than by appraisals of harmfulness. Results support the claims of cultural psychology (R. A. Shweder, 1991 a) and suggest that cultural norms and culturally shaped emotions have a substantial impact on the domain of morality and the process of moral judgment. Suggestions are made for building cross-culturally valid models of moral judgment.
Hat tip to Doone (this one may warrant its own discussion later on).
Morality is evolving over time, so that many people now see it as immoral to cause needless pain in animals. We don’t use chimps in medical research if macaques will do, and won’t use macaques if mice will do. People are rising up against battery chickens. It would be nice if we could extend that morality to ecosystems as well, recognizing that they have a simple right to exist because their species are just as evolved as we are.
I was at this lecture by Sam Harris a few months ago at the Center for Inquiry in NYC. If you haven't read the book, you may consider watching this lecture first.
Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.
As Mohandras Gandhi is believed to have said:
There is enough in this world for everyone but not enough for greed!
That is a great quote!