When ethics become outdated
Like all our other senses, our sense of justice, too, has ancient evolutionary roots. Human morality was shaped in the course of millions of years of evolution, adapted to dealing with the social and ethical dilemmas that cropped up in the lives of small hunter-gatherer bands.
Is the hunter who brought down the mammoth with his own hands entitled to a larger portion of its meat? Does the fact that I am stronger than you allow me to take all the mushrooms you gathered so laboriously? If I know that one of the women in the group is plotting to kill me, is it ok to act preemptively and cut her throat in the dark of night?
On the face of things, not much has changed since we left the savanna for the urban jungle. One might think that the questions we face today—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, social discrimination, the destruction of the Forests—are fundamentally the same. But that is an illusion. The truth is that from the standpoint of morality, like many other standpoints, we are hardly adapted to the world in which we live.
It’s the numbers that are to blame. The foragers’ sense of justice was structured to cope with dilemmas of small numbers. Dilemmas relating to the lives of a few dozen people in an area of a few dozen square kilometers across a few decades. When we try to comprehend relations between millions of people in entire continents across whole generations, our morality is overwhelmed.Read MoreClose