- O.-Introduction, a Few Remarks and Other Ideas.
- 1.- Review Partial Explicit Norms.
- 2.- Advancing the Idea of Humanity
- 3.- A World Authority
- 4.- The model of World Society
- 5.- Population. Density and Quality of Life.
- 6.- Sexuality, the Family and Procreation.
- 7.- Human ecology.
- 8.- Genetic and Environmental Engineering
- 9.- Social engineering
- 10.- Educational Policies
- 11.- Economic and Social Policies
- 12.- Caring for the Marginalized
- 13.- Religions and Other Creators of Specific Ethics
- 14.- Nationalisms and Other Idiosyncrasies
- 15.- Crimes and Misdemeanors Against Humanity
- 16.- Universal Virtues and Values
- 17.- Individual Ethics
In order for us to more clearly perceive the possible scope of the basic idea, I will try to use the universal principle of ethics as the basis for several cases of applied ethics, but first I should advise my readers of a certain fact.
The few times that I have spoken with others of these ideas, the person or persons with whom I was speaking have diverted the conversation to one of today’s specific ethical issues, attempting to apply my new ethic to their previously conceived beliefs. We can divide these people into three groups: believers, atheists and agnostics (regardless of whether they are practicing or not).
Note: According to Cardinal Ratzinger: “Even if I theoretically agreed with agnosticism, in practice I am obliged to choose between the alternative of living as if God did not exist, or living as if He did exist.” –El Cristiano en la crisis de Europa (Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures). Joseph Ratzinger. Ediciones Cristiandad 2005, pg. 81. End of note.
I would therefore request of my readers that in order to form an opinion on the contents of this section, they try to set aside the parts of their belief system that explain or determine the existence or lack thereof of a God who created and sustains us. Believers can continue to believe that God exists and that he pronounced natural law, which he allows to function under his control, intervening only when he wishes to become apparent through miracles, and atheist evolutionists can continue to focus on their scientifically proven theories, but they must set aside any idea that is not sufficiently proven and verified. And in particular, they must set aside any antagonistic sentiments they may have towards religion. Agnostics tend to be more neutral.
Returning to the texts cited by Cardinal Ratzinger, I shall try –like the intellectuals of the Enlightenment– (pg. 47) to understand and apply the moral norms of "... etsi Deus non daretur" and at the same time, "...veluti si Deus Daretur" believe that neither the Enlightened nor the Church have been successful in defining a common universal ethic because they are focusing on the individual, rather than on the species, and are actually conceiving of individuals of differing nature as directed by their beliefs.
For intellectuals of the Enlightenment and nonbelieving scientists today, man is simply a living being like any other, elegant animals, according to Ortega. They do not accept that we can be or have anything that is supernatural in nature, and this non-scientific issue becomes their warhorse. In other words, rather than trying to agree on what to do based on what is empirically and scientifically known, they debate about the what and the how of who should do it, attempting to arrive at this what to do by means of the nature of the subject. This nature is not yet known scientifically, which is where they become misled, and this misconception is heightened in this case because the subject is not the individual, but rather the species.
The Church, on the other hand, elevates individuals, endowing them with an immortal soul, and according to classical criteria, it also considers them to be the sole subjects of a potential universal ethic. Regardless, I do not feel that the Church today would dismiss the idea of the primary vital imperative in Homo sapiens species as a living being, and would likewise admit the human species as a subject of the natural law dictated by a God who is both creator and sustainer.
We needn’t turn to God, however, to either accept my idea or to reject it. In order to judge each case according to the new ethic, I will apply what I have called the natural universal principle of ethics, and I would ask my readers to attempt to follow these same principles, disregarding previous beliefs and prejudices that would complicate or distort this criteria. It would be interesting for the reader to later consider if the resulting judgment after applying the new ethic coincides or not with their previously held code of ethics.
I must insist here in my ineptitude, and forewarn the reader of a potentially similar circumstance in their own case, to judge the examples I am going to put forward. I use them as an example of what it could mean to assume this ethic as true. If the tenet of these ideas were to be accepted, one of the first steps would be to designate who should develop and apply them, both in general and for specific cases, which would undoubtedly present certain difficulties. But dictating partial ethics is a separate issue, and a longstanding predicament.
I should also advise that I am simply going to mention and summarize each case, without examining them in detail. Each case is complex and all have been the object of polemic and heated debate. I ask the reader, therefore, to focus on the primary point of interest without going into partial aspects or marginal or local facets related to the moment and the setting. The detailed application of the new ethic to nearly all of these cases would give rise to numerous books and films, both realistic and science fiction, and in fact I put forth this suggestion to possible agents.
I will re-state that the basic purpose is the survival of the species, with the greatest degree of well-being of its individuals as the primary element, applying altruism/ love –for its effectiveness and efficiency– in all that is done to achieve the basic purpose.
The applications and ideas I am going to mention, as well as many others, are currently being performed locally, on a group level, and globally as well. Nearly all have existed for some time, and will continue to exist in one form or another as long as our species exists. We can thus apply the new specific ethic in two ways: Reactively, i.e. responding to the partial doubts that may exist regarding what is currently being done, and actively, by considering new global or partial actions or enhancing current positive actions. All of this is focused on achieving the basic purpose of the survival of the species with the greatest possible measure of wellbeing
The most obvious partial goal to achieve as a means of fulfilling the basic purpose is adaptability, i.e. the capacity of the species to survive despite changes in the environment. This is the continuing ambition of all species.
Note: What I am doing at this moment is an adaptive activity of the species, performed by one of its members. The activity of writing down these ideas is an attempt to improve the adaptability of my species and an endeavor for my readers to work in a positive direction in this sense, or at least to not choose a negative heading. End of note.
Returning to the issue at hand, it seems that someone should compile a list of risks to which the species is exposed, i.e. a list of detrimental natural and human phenomena that could lead to the extinction of all or much of mankind, and at the same time, a list of positive factors that enhance our capacity for survival and well-being.
It would seem that such lists could act as a guideline for applying the new ethical foundation to current activities and future politics and policies. As an example, I will suggest four lists of possible phenomena, both positive and negative, to bear in mind for this process of adaptation:
. Negative natural phenomena: Massive earthquakes, meteorites, glaciations, global warming, noxious gases... We have extensive knowledge of natural phenomena to date, and the tools exist to formulate such a list. I imagine that this list exists and provisions have been made regarding the best course of action to guarantee the survival of the greatest possible number of people in the event that one of these catastrophes were to occur.
. Negative human phenomena: Weapons of mass destruction, pollution, consumerism, overpopulation, and the oft overlooked material and spiritual phenomena of individual and group selfishness and egocentricity, evil, hate, war, and all other sins against humanity and nature.
. Positive natural phenomena: The Earth’s and the Universe’s capacity to endure, and the capacity of life to continue to sustain itself and evolve, which can be generally foreseen through time.
. Positive human phenomena:Humankind’s many material and spiritual capacities, both on an individual and group level, altruism/love, all well-executed virtues and knowledge, a growing sentiment of brotherhood and humanity, good ecology, diversity in race and customs, varying geographical settlements, science and technology, good religion...
These lists are incomplete and poorly organized. Creating a solid, updated and operative set of lists is one of the tasks of humankind and its authorities, both religious and lay. Based on these lists and the viewpoint of each sector, we must determine a set of possible norms to be applied in each case and in partial situations. Taken all together, we are looking at the applied global ethic, using the perennial and new universal ethic, now explicit, and its primary basic vital principles.
These are some of the ideas to bear in mind in addressing the cases described below.
1.- Review Partial Explicit Norms.
If the basic idea is accurate, the universal principle of ethics has been and is implicit in all human beings, and the norms derived therefrom have ruled human behavior through time. These moral norms comprise the constituent ethics of the species and its groups and individuals, and in turn, these constituent ethics –universal, group and individual– may or may not be or have been suitable for reaching the primary vital purpose, which is the survival of the species. Mankind has either used or failed to use broad altruism as the primary element of our decisions and actions.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether moral norms, or implicit ethics, are purely a product of biological evolution, of cultural evolution, or of both (Ayala: 2006, Wilson: 2012, Ruse: 2007). But this discussion is inherently biased by the entrenched divergence of opinion between believers and nonbelievers on the possible existence of an external Lawgiver, as well as by a more recent dissension between biologists and philosophers (or materialists and spiritualists) on whether man is more than purely organized matter. Additionally, we find the controversy between believers and atheists on whether in man’s abiding nature we can find something of the likeness of a God creator.
For me, and I believe the same can be said of the majority of non-biased experts, the constituent or implicit ethics that guide the conscience of the individuals of our species are the sum and interaction of both biological and cultural factors, incumbent on the different settings and circumstances of our ancestors (both species and groups), as well as those of each individual. This idea is not determined by whether man is more or less material or spiritual, nor how or by whom he was made. I am referring to the ethical norms of man as a living being, as a creature, as regards that which man holds in common with all other living beings, in whole or in part.
Partial explicit ethics. For as long as human beings have socialized, explicit moral norms have existed to guide and direct the behavior of individuals and groups. The sum of these norms comprise what we could call the explicit global ethic, or set of articulated moral norms that guide human conduct.
Such norms, when dictated with intelligence and good will, are generally goodboth for the partial implicit ethics with which they have been dictated and in the light of the universal principle of ethics that has inspired them.
Note: I should like to point out that my concept of explicit or external ethics may not coincide with some of the uses that have generally been conferred on moral heteronomy. Explicit ethics, when fitting, should be neither imposed nor differ greatly from what is dictated by the moral autonomy of the individual. The concept of implicit ethics is of course similar to what is generally referred to as moral autonomy. At any rate, I believe that the terms “implicit” and “explicit” used to define “internal” and “external” norms are clear enough for the use we are putting them to.
There may also be doubts as to whether external norms are of a moral nature, or other: legal, corporate, technical, etc. For our purposes, the vast majority of external norms of any type can influence the goal of survival. They generally regulate activities related to the vital purpose, and should therefore be considered as moral norms. End of note.
As we can gather from the term explicit global ethic, we are dealing with a very broad concept. It includes all group uses and customs and all express concepts of justice, peace, dignity... Every definition of sin and virtue... Commands and precepts of every religion and creed... All of the laws, regulations and statutes of every People, nation, sporting club, organization, homeowners’ association, NGO... Professional norms and codes... The moral and ethical values and imperatives prescribed by schools of philosophy... Political and government programs and policies... Corporate codes of ethics and values... The organisms that regulate such corporations... Statements made by opinion leaders and politicians... Norms and values held by the media, educators, promoters of cultural and entertainment...
This leads us to the following point: if we assume the universal principle of ethics to be the cornerstone of a universal ethic, we must apply it to both current and future partial explicit ethics. This would lead to a change in the biocultural ethical norms of individuals by means of the mechanisms of evolution, and with it, a change in the implicit global ethic of the species. And we would continue in this way, iterative and interactively, until the end of the species, or the end of days.
This rational and conscious application would also be natural, as the fruit of a human survival strategy within the evolutionary process of natural laws and norms. It could lead to the regression of some behaviors that have proven to be erroneous due to over-confidence in the exercise of the acquired technical capacity and to the high degree of freedom, or that may have been unbalanced due to a slower evolution of moral norms as compared to technical capabilities, and this imbalance may in turn be due to the predominance of the individual and the group over the species itself.
2.- Advancing the Idea of Humanity
Humans are social beings that have lived together in increasingly larger groups, from primitive families and clans to what we now know as the global village. We can currently speak of numerous groups within our species, both vertical (families, clans, tribes, regions, nations, states, unions) and horizontal or transversal (races, civilizations, religions, ideologies, political parties, associations). Embracing all of these subgroups is the species, the global group of human beings, humanity.
The rational idea of humanity as a unit of the species is recent. It began with the latest geographical discoveries and continued to develop with different theories of evolution, and only recently have we begun to have a broader awareness of it, midway through the last century with the end of the Second World War and the appearance of mass media: film, television, the Internet. The risk of another world war and the idea that there exists a global interrelation has led to the creation and development of world organizations, ecological movements, political parties, manifestos from political and religious leaders and intellectuals, etc.
The communication and acknowledgment of a universal principle of ethics may contribute to reinforcing the idea of brotherhood, fraternal solidarity and of the human race, as well as the need and responsibility of caring for each other and for our surroundings and our environment.
I believe this idea is easy to transmit and accept because it is in our nature, and can explain the increasing emergence of green and ecological movements, among others. We should also bear in mind the enormous potential for altruism/love that exists in good religions, missionaries, civic movements, NGOs and the like, as well as in the power of many good and intelligent leaders who see that not only is this idea a good one, but it is profitable and popular as well.
The idea improves on the efforts that have been made up to now by some believers and non-believers to try to justify and sell the idea of fraternal love and responsibility. It is not the Church or the civil authorities or philosophers who instruct us to be good by following the vital imperative and the universal code of ethics, but rather ourselves. It is a permanent, internal order which was neither clear nor explicit to us, but which exists inside each of us even before we are born. If we follow it, we will be happy, and if we do not, it goes against our very being, against our human nature – divine for believers.
3.- A World Authority
This is an old idea developed quite thoroughly in the 1860 edition of Krause’s Das Urbild der Menschheit, with an introduction and comments by Sanz del Rio (Krause-Sanz del Rio: 2002). I have also seen it in documents written by our two most recent Popes, and it seems that there are various groups of diverse tendencies that support this idea as well. On the other hand, however, we find detractors who fear an excessive dirigisme, as well as possible errors, abuse and partisan bias, also on a global scale.
So we must ask ourselves, in the light of a new ethic, is a World Authority a positive or a negative concept?
In principle, it should be positive, and this is of course the first idea that would occur to anyone: if the human species has the primary obligation to try to survive, it seems that once we are rationally aware of this imperative, there must be someone who will rationally take on the responsibility of overseeing this process. Without global oversight, the process will continue to be managed on a group level by increasingly powerful yet partial entities (nations, blocs, alliances) in pursuit of their own ends, which may or may not coincide with the global purpose. And if these partial entities or groups follow the patterns of natural selection and fight amongst themselves, they may end up destroying the entire species, or at the very least make individuals miserable, both from the winning and the losing side.
While there are currently no global conflicts or struggles, we are witnessing partial wars which do not seem good for the survival of the species, as these situations consume both energy and resources. In former (and not-so-former) times, war was a suitable means for controlling the population of a territory and for improving the species through technical progress and natural selection. It would seem, however, that what we are attempting to do now –at least I am– is to substitute some of the negative group norms for positive norms based on a consideration of the species as a whole as both actor and beneficiary of our survival, with the minimum cost and the greatest well-being possible.
Many ideas exist regarding the structure, functions and responsibilities of this possible Global Authority, and it could be a quite interesting task to consider these notions in the light of the new ethic, so we have a pending task to tackle. One easy way would be to transform the United Nations. It would be good to include the participation of the wisest and most saintly individuals, both lay and religious, in this task.
I feel, though, that the first complexity lies in the task of actually proposing this concept and beginning to discuss it in earnest. It is my thought that this moment will arrive of its own accord as we further develop the concepts of brotherly Humanity, of caring for each other and for the environment, and in general of all that serves to sustain the species in one way or another. It will come about even if the basic idea is never specified and man acts purely out of the sense of responsibility preached by Hans Jonas and held as truth by many groups and individuals, as well as out of the fraternity and love encouraged by good religions and groups. It will come about when it can politically profit those who propose the concept and wish to exercise their power or influence as members of this Global Authority.
Or it may be forced into existence in the event of a major natural disaster or global catastrophe: a crack in the earth’s crust, a giant meteorite, massive climate change, floods, thaws, torrential rains, methane ice... or man-made cataclysms brought about by an improper use of the means and resources within our reach.
The bottom line is that a good World Authority can be beneficial for the primary vital purpose, and simply assuming the purpose should aid in its creation or transformation.
4.- The model of World Society
Another significant ethical issue to resolve is the type of world society we wish to create and maintain – if possible, effective and efficient and sustainable in the long term in order to fulfill the dual purpose of the survival of the species and the greatest degree of individual and global well-being.
This is an oft-interpreted idea as well, although I have never seen it explained in depth with this dual purpose. Of what I have read, the model that perhaps most closely resembles this idea is the society described in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which is now technically plausible, but possibly not desirable, at least not from the viewpoint of today’s world. Island, also by Huxley, and Utopia, by Thomas More, posit models which may seem more advantageous, but they describe smaller societies. Robert H. Benson’s model in Lord of the World seems equally undesirable.
feel that the previous paragraph will serve as a model of the issue we are dealing with. It is of colossal importance, as we are referring to every single activity the world over. I shall try and summarize.
. Our species exists today according to a model that has been established through group actions and ethics. I will not describe it here because it is well known. But we should examine whether this is the best possible model for fulfilling our basic purpose, and analyze, in any case, in which direction we should be focusing our efforts, both on a global level and as regards the actions of all groups and individuals. Nearly everything we do, or fail to do, influences both the current and future model of a society, in particular the actions of great nations, political trends, religions, multinational companies, opinion groups and so forth, as well as what each individual does or fails to do.
. We can apply many different models, but I should like to remind the reader that our current model is looking primarily to cover partial group goals and the well-being of their its citizens and its sympathizers. With our basic ideas, our purposes are global, and they may or may not coincide with the group purpose. What we must do is judge the current model through the lens of the new ethic and try to channel it in the best possible direction at all times, knowing that as individuals we are group oriented, and that we need to live in groups among our peers.
This task of ethically judging and advising in these issues is a difficult one, and should be undertaken by one of the organisms of the World Authority, both for issues of great magnitude and possibly for smaller, common questions. In any case, I think that we can see, or at least intuit, the importance of the new ethic in this model of a developing world society. It can be developed expressly, conscientiously and with a universal purpose in mind, or it can be business as usual.
. I offer here an example of a possible model, quite similar to our current model, which would be easy to follow: a decentralized model divided into culturally similar groups and regions of a size that could be easily managed by the group authorities with the technologies on hand at a given moment. This model would include a single intermediate level between regions and the World Authority, and these regions would have the greatest degree of autonomy possible within the precepts of a new Human Constitution. This would allow us to maintain the diversity of group manners and customs, religion, culture, etc., under a single world flag, with a possible common world language in addition to the language of each culture, a global army that would deploy with effectiveness and efficiency, and so on. The intermediate level would be basic in structure, and it would have a geographical or technical name.
What is important is that the Human Constitution would conform to the new universal ethic, and the World Authority would also be good for overseeing and enforcing it globally.
5.- Population. Density and Quality of Life.
I will remind the reader that the basic purpose of the species, of humankind, is to survive for as long as possible with the greatest degree of well-being and the least amount of suffering for its individuals, both now and in the future.
With the vast amount of knowledge we currently possess, it would seem that our earth should have the capacity to feed more inhabitants than were foreseen in the times of Malthus, yet it is clear that a countless number of people are living poorly. We also have the ecological problem, which will worsen as the population grows and we demand a consistently higher quality of living, which is justified in many cases, but not so in others. But the whole global demand is high and growing.
It seems clear that our existing resources and systems are unable to ecologically satisfy the total demand of goods and services, either currently or in the medium term. It is plain to see, therefore, that in addition to action to save our resources through heightened science and technology in production and improvements in distribution, we must try to reduce or re-adapt demand.
Demand can be reduced in one of two ways: a lower demand from existing consumers, or fewer consumers. Many existing consumers could demand less, but it is unlikely that they will do so of their own accord. Many others cannot demand less, and actually need more to subsist with dignity. And still others can subsist with what they have, yet demand more and more as long as there are others who have more than they do.
The distribution of available goods is an age-old problem, which seen through the lens of the new ethic has different solutions depending on whether we are simply trying to achieve the first goal as a priority, or if we are looking to fulfill it more through altruism/love. I think the difficulty is manifest, as is the importance of the new ethic for establishing the criteria for distribution to existing groups and individuals. Once these criteria have been established, if they are good and goodwill and political authority exist, it would not seem difficult to apply them using our current and foreseeable technical and social engineering means.
The other issue is to address the problem from the angle of the number of consumers involved in global demand. The solution seems to be similar to alternatives adopted by companies: reduce the workforce with the least possible disruption to the existing staff and to the company itself. If done properly, it can yield benefits for both. Done poorly, it may be easier but less efficient and more disruptive. This can be extrapolated to describe what has happened in the world in the case of reducible problems: war, epidemics, famine, natural disasters... But as it is generally considered positive from both an economic and a moral standpoint to increase the population, and thereby the overall demand, group techniques and policies are focused more on this path and less on preventing and avoiding negative global consequences.
I think that if we were to focus on the problem from the standpoint of our new goals, applying the new ethic, we could reap an abundance of benefits in just a few generations. For instance: to follow the criteria of responsible family and group parenting and organize migrations before the evolutionary problem gets out of hand and imposes its unrelenting laws. This should be quite easy to manage with the means of technology and communications available today and without additional suffering, adapting where possible to the beliefs and cultures of each group.
If we look in the other direction, however, and focus primarily on survival, we may feel that in the event of a natural disaster or man-made catastrophe, the greater the population and the more it is spread out in different and inhospitable habitats, the more likely it is that someone will survive. This is another point to assess, but it seems that this option would produce greater shortages and confrontations, and greater suffering in general for poor and marginal populations, which would abound. There are mixed solutions to be considered. We might also think that the primary purpose of the species is to multiply the number of individuals, as all species seem to try, but reproduction, like evolution, is merely a means for survival. There are actually species that halt their reproduction when they see that there will not be enough food to feed all of the members. Even God’s commandment in Genesis of “be fruitful and multiply, and repopulate the earth,” has its limits when the earth becomes so populated that it is impossible to care for all and survival is jeopardized.
6.- Sexuality, the Family and Procreation.
It is not my intention to try and establish the criteria to apply in each of these complex issues, but rather to stress the importance that the new ethic may have when commenting and acting on them.
We acknowledge the different types of family in social species, from the most basic comprising two individuals to the substantially large families of hymenoptera; from the briefest and most rudimentary relations of certain oviparous animals to the long and complex relationships of hominids, man in particular. It seems that the family is a success strategy for procreation and for the survival of the group and the species.
In many species, including mankind, monogamy has proved to be an effective model for procreation, particularly efficient for the well-being of the couple and of their offspring. We would therefore do well to give pause before trying to alter this model.
This monogamous and steadfast family model indeed holds many virtues, including providing a directed outlet for our sexual instincts. Fidelity affords cohesion in a larger and more lasting family group, facilitating mutual support and the care and upbringing of children, as well as their well-being. Enduring, united families have shown to be the most successful in forming more complex groups, such as clans, tribes and nations. Sexual promiscuity can lead to distortions in this model, and we should rethink this issue.
One important factor to bear in mind is decreased infant mortality and a longer life expectancy, which taken with the previous point, seems to advocate for a lower fertility rate. This can be an argument, tacit or express, for those who support separation of sexuality and family, abortion, etc.
There exists a significant risk in changing functioning systems for others that have not been conceived of from the standpoint of a universal ethic, or which have been poorly conceived. There also exists another considerable risk that individual and group hedonism may lead to irreversible changes in customs that eventually become negative and dissociative permanent goals.
There are great differences in this area if we look at groups with different standards of living, fertility trends, cultures, religions, etc., and these escalating imbalances will lead to increased problems if we do not act together with a global vision, even though it is recommendable for different groups to have different ethics and methods.
Without going into further detail, I feel that the new ethic and its accompanying principles of natural survival and altruism can help us to rethink these issues and to try to arrive at positive, effective and effectual agreements between scientists and politicians, and believers and non-believers.
7.- Human ecology.
As I was writing this section I recalled my younger years, and I have before me my old copy of Hawley’s Human Ecology, the textbook we used in first-year Sociology circa 1963. At that time it was a rather new concept. The prologue by F. Murillo began: “The word ecology may mean very little to students of the humanities, and they will most certainly need to consult a dictionary.”(Hawley: 1962)
I mention this to help us understand the reasons why there is still much to be discovered and assimilated regarding mankind’s group behavior as part of the biosphere and as a global species, which is our present thesis.
From what I have read lately, I feel there is still a certain degree of confusion. And as we can see in many other cases, the problem seems to be an ambiguous goal or purpose. There may actually be several. I can right now think of at least three ecological goals:
(1) Conservation of nature: the earth, fields, forest, water, animals. All flora and fauna. The atmosphere, minerals, and so on, organized by areas of the earth or by groups of users, or even by the species and the earth as a whole.
(2) Mankind, as users and beneficiaries of nature, so they can eat and clothe themselves, and live comfortably. Both current and future generations.
- The survival of the human species: our purpose, with our ethic of altruism/love towards mankind and towards our circumstances.
This third goal encapsulates the other two, although it undoubtedly adds nuances that become apparent if we think a bit. As our most recent Popes (Francis: 2015) and good ecologists have pointed out, caring for nature means caring for Man as well, so mankind is both actively responsible for and a beneficiary of the natural environment and themselves. But, I would add, we must heed our basic purpose.
It seems that we should therefore establish a universal set of priorities based on the survival of the species that would lead to the creation of a set of human ecological norms. Such norms, being human, should be natural, conservationist, global, and mandatory, unlike our current norms which are very approximate and variable, depending on the extent to which a nation has developed and the political power of states and groups.
8.- Genetic and Environmental Engineering
It seems that by living, all species influence and modify their environment, and some have even developed specific engineering methods that allow them to use other plant and animal species to their benefit. A very well-known example is that of farmer ants.
Our own species, comprised for centuries of family agricultural and farming units, is now capable of modifying living organisms to extremes unimaginable until very recently. Every day new techniques with increasing possibilities are discovered, and we are able to act upon our own species.
These capacities lead to ethical dilemmas regarding many of their potential applications, both in defensive engineering for the prevention and cure of health conditions, and in proactive engineering, as well as in some of the research methods and practical uses related to both.
The possibilities of these techniques to modify and influence other living beings as well as members of our own species makes it imperative to establish a set of common, universal ethical norms, which should likewise be based on the primary purpose of the survival and well-being of the species, with adaptability as a significant partial goal.
I feel that where we can most clearly see the need for and urgency of applying the basic principles is in the field of genetic and environmental engineering, both for responding to the questions mentioned here and for addressing the issues that continually present themselves as these sciences and techniques advance and our need grows.
These aspects of engineering may also be some of the primary tools we can use to proactively attempt to achieve our basic purpose. In fact, they are already serving this purpose, provided they are used in a Good way. We should assess current applications and projects in the light of these goals.
There are presently scientists who say that we will never be able to manufacture humans in a laboratory, but there are apparently many other possibilities for adapting certain groups of humans to possible shifts in the environment, or to inhabit other planets or space stations.
We will find many theses regarding these possibilities, and we should consider them as vehicles for achieving the primary purpose of survival and wellbeing. And still remain human. ".
9.- Social engineering
This expression has been used of late to refer to bad practice in the use of online media, where users are manipulated into purchasing products or engaging in undesirable activity for the benefit of the engineers.
Logically, I am not referring to this type of social engineering; rather, I use the term as defined by Popper, which includes“...social activities, private as well as public, which, in order to realize some aim or end, consciously utilize all available technological knowledge.”(Popper: 2008,79)
I ask of the reader, therefore, to ignore any negative connotations this expression may have acquired due to improper use in referring to dictatorial regimes, misuse of advertising, manipulation of the masses for undesirable ends, etc. I take social engineering to mean any activity aimed at influencing and modifying the behavior of individuals and groups with the purpose of producing the effects, whether positive or negative, desired by those performing these acts of engineering.
As Popper states, piecemeal social engineering assumes that the ends lie “beyond the province of technology,” and here I must agree, but I would also add that the method does indeed lie within the field of technology and social engineering.
In order to clarify my ideas on these concepts, it is my view that social engineering is present in education, advertising, television programming, the slant given to the news published in the papers, political statements, religious liturgy and preaching, film, literature, the arts... All of these activities are socially engineered to a greater or lesser extent depending on their ends and on the number of individuals or groups they are able to influence.
For our purposes, these activities can be seen from two perspectives:
(1) From time immemorial, and depending on the existing cultures and means of the moment for different groups of people, these activities generally pursue the goals of those who perform them; these goals may or may not be realized. And such activities may have been positive or negative for the implicit and permanent goal of the survival of the species, whether or not the actors were actually aware of this: engineers, leaders and target groups.
Now, gradually and explicitly, the agents of piecemeal social engineering must consider the primary purposes of the survival of the species and global well-being when planning and carrying out these actions, either before or concurrently with their own designs. Naturally, and based on the universal ethic, it seems positive that there should exist ethical codes adapted to the different types of social engineering that prevail at the moment, giving the greatest coverage possible, particularly to the most influential types of engineering: the major religions, the UN, important nations and blocs of nations... which would in turn transmit the message to the smaller groups and organizations within their area of influence.
(2) As proactive means to achieve the basic purposes. The idea is clear. To the extent that someone capable of engaging in social engineering is able to assume the primary purpose, they can help to achieve that purpose in at least three ways:
- As exclusive goals of all or some of their actions: laws, communication, preaching, etc.;
- As a complementary goal of other partial goals: the conservation of the natural world, the pursuit of peace, and other social aims;
- By avoiding negative results for the basic purpose while carrying out the actions aimed at achieving their own partial goals. For instance: to not create aversion, hate or division while preaching religion, or when looking to bring together and rule a group, nation or race.
In general, all actions that in one way or another fall within the category we have referred to as social engineering are essential, both as a reactive field of application of the new ethic and for their global proactive application. These applications should occur gradually, not in the Utopian sense referred to by Popper, and as a means, not an end.
10.- Educational Policies
Here I am referring not to the technical content, which should be tailored to reflect changes in the economy and society, customs, and demand of goods and services, but rather to educational policies as originators of morality and opinion. We are not merely creating the educational subject of theoretical and applied universal ethics, but also revising the content of all school subjects to bring them into line with the principles of this common universal ethic based on survival and altruism/ love. Naturally, we should also keep these goals in mind in the course of all educational activities and in the learning environment, in line with the existing norms and values of each culture and era, provided
11.- Economic and Social Policies
Economic and social policies are likewise important aspects that affect the ideas and actions of politicians, religions and opinion groups.
The Global Authority and the individuals, societies, nations and groups that explicitly assume these basic ideas should revise their economic and social policies in the light of these goals. Many partial policies already consider the basic aims, whether in whole or in part, and whether or not they are aware of it, but others do not.
Regardless, I feel that the explicit acceptance and application of these goals can be done gradually: by countries, products and services, raw materials, production and distribution methods, financial systems, etc. The specification and application of these ideas can be done effectively and efficiently, and can be both economically and politically profitable for those who apply them if done with discernment, love and good judgment.
12.- Caring for the Marginalized
I use the word marginalized to refer to individuals and groups that are excluded from current ethical norms or from receiving the benefits of various environments. Within the family we could be referring to a drugaddicted child or a family member who has been long unemployed. In a city, we have the poor and neglected, the homeless, etc. In a state, we refer to members of radical movements, advocates of hate, the unemployed. On a global level, the marginalized are the poorest groups or nations, those that generate conflict, hate and violence, etc.
If the current structures of the United Nations and other large blocs of countries were to assume the basic precepts, I feel we could advance quite a bit towards solving some of the problems that currently exist among marginalized groups and nations by working directly with them and with their environment. The same could be said of smaller areas, such as cities or specific marginalized groups.
Accepting the goal of the survival of the species and altruism/love as a vehicle can justify and encourage actions which are currently not carried out by following more subjective, relativistic or conceivable group ethics.
I have mentioned in my previous writings that altruism/love is not related to weakness or negligence. Before we can have rights, we have a series of obligations to fulfill, and loving –altruism– should be reciprocal as far as each person is able.
13.- Religions and Other Creators of Specific Ethics
It is also clear that religions, movements and doctrines that beget moral norms are of utmost importance.
In general, good religions and Humanists preach a code of ethics that is in line with the basic ideas, as should be expected, and this code is practiced as each group or individual sees fit.
The clearest example is to be found in the religions based on the Good Book, where in the Book of Genesis God commands all living beings to survive by being fruitful and multiplying. And he commands man to care for the creatures of the earth and to be altruistic. It is the basic idea and the goal of survival, which was practiced before Jesus in groups, families, tribes, kingdoms and by the chosen people. And there were good people and bad people.
Jesus upholds the basic precept and the partial norms that seem good to him, but he also establishes humankind as the subject, so there are no longer “good” and “bad” people. We are all good, or are at least capable of being so. And he confirms a second precept, which is the path we should follow if we are to continue to grow and survive: transforming group altruism into universal brotherly love. This anticipates science, which recently and still not fully, is realizing that altruism/love is an effective and efficient method to try to attain our goals of survival and progress, which are likewise the goals of the scientific evolutionary process.
It is possible that the Catholic Church might have to adapt some of their contingent aspects and customs, but the Church is used to this. And from what I have read over the past few years, our most recent Popes have actively sought out scientific truths and common ethical norms.
Humanistic and scientific movements, including believers, agnostics and atheists, should also modify some of the details of their theories, maintaining the doctrines that are considered to be true in each of their specialties and recognizing that we are a species that still has much to learn, in particular as concerns the spirit and moral behavior.
14.- Nationalisms and Other Idiosyncrasies
The basic idea, by definition, stands in opposition to anything that draws mankind apart as a species – everything that stands in the way of universal brotherhood, anything that creates conflict and hate. If we must separate from each other, it should be as brothers that support the other, not as enemies that hate each other, and we must avoid collateral damage.
The basic ideas do not stand in opposition to differences. In fact, I feel that the existence of many different cultures and types of people is beneficial for greater adaptation and individual well-being, and because in the event of a natural disaster, epidemic or other act of force majeure, there is a greater probability that other groups not affected by the pandemic, or that live in areas not hit by earthquakes, tidal waves, noxious gases or heavy freezes would survive.
Notwithstanding, if we live with a global and universal awareness we will eventually reach a more efficient and rational model than the one we know today, one that creates much less suffering. The world seems already to be moving in that direction, but it would also seem that any partial attempt to force or accelerate this change with a view to obtaining personal or group benefit would be detrimental due to the moral, or even physical violence that might accompany such an undertaking, as well as to the social and economic inefficiencies it would produce and the physical and moral damage it would do to the affected groups and individuals. At some point I thought about the possibility of trying to fulfill the vital imperative from a group perspective, through a given race, continent, large nation or coalition. Attempts have been made, although perhaps the actors were not fully aware of the situation. I think that if we consider the possibility from today’s standpoint, the process would be both difficult and painful, as tends to be the case when one group tries to control another. I think we must take into consideration all currently existing individuals and groups, and their successors. In short, all of Humanity.
15.- Crimes and Misdemeanors Against Humanity
There are currently a number of crimes that are classified as crimes against humanity. They are serious crimes committed against individuals or groups, and they are considered to be “against humanity” when they are committed by states or political organizations against civilians, as part of a systematic plan. All are deplorable, without doubt, but in principle do not affect the survival of the species any more than other similar crimes.
I think that the new ethic must establish a list of crimes and offenses against humanity that would punish acts that go against the new ethic, i.e. acts against the survival of the species and against altruism, even if they are less serious and are punished with a mere reprimand, or by inclusion in a list of law-breakers. The idea is to raise awareness of bad practices. This list of crimes and offenses should be compiled by the local authorities in each culture, with the guidance and supervision of world legislators in such a case. I imagine, in fact, that deliberately starting a forest fire or poisoning a river are offenses that could be considered as part of this list of offenses against humanity, or universal offenses.
In addition to reprimanding and punishing hateful and immoral acts, a graded list of universally evil individuals and groups could be compiled; a sort of ranking, if you will.
16.- Universal Virtues and Values
On the other end of the spectrum, a list of universal human virtues and values could be created with the aim of encouraging and promoting such qualities, compiling a second ranking of those groups and individuals who do good and rewarding those who act with moral righteousness, including both single acts and ongoing ethical conduct. Account could be taken of individuals from childhood, and continue throughout their lives.
The subjects we would designate as “good”, or reward for their actions, could be individuals or groups of different size and nature, from groups of homeowners to entire cities or nations.
There currently exist awards and ratings for different virtues, from citizenship awards at elementary schools to the title of exemplary citizen, the key to the city, man of the year, awards from different academies and organizations and so on. These should be reviewed to ensure that none stands in opposition to the new ethic, and we should confirm, encourage and create more which favor our basic purpose. One virtue that should be rewarded, and which is not considered nowadays, could be individual and group austerity – temperance. Waste, in particular if it is publicly known, not only sets a poor example but corrupts our coexistence.
Included in the various lists of social virtues and values I have consulted, love, solidarity, responsibility and honesty invariably appear. I am sure it would not be too difficult a task to create and advocate a universal scale of values, rewarding those who encourage such values: educators, filmmakers, television broadcasters... and reprimanding those who promote otherwise.
It is possible that some reader may think that these ideas restrict the freedom of man and that they would try to direct and manipulate their consciences. So is. For if the validly established universal virtues are not promoted, or the universally bad acts are not said to be evil, sins will be promoted and the virtues will be hidden according to the partial interests of individuals or groups. Like now.
Included in the various lists of social virtues and values I have consulted, love, solidarity, responsibility and honesty invariably appear. I am sure it would not be too difficult a task to create and advocate a universal scale of values, rewarding those who encourage such values: educators, filmmakers, television broadcasters... and reprimanding those who promote otherwise. Note for the majority of the ideas expressed above: Some readers may feel that these ideas limit our freedom and aim to govern and manipulate our conscience. Indeed, that is the case, because if we do not encourage legitimately established universal values and condemn universally reprehensible acts, we will find that bad conduct is exalted and virtues devalued depending on the partial interests of groups and individuals, as we see now. Notwithstanding, these are merely examples and ideas to give shape to what the acceptance and application of a universal ethical foundation could represent.
17.- Individual Ethics
As we are aware, each individual has his own unwritten personal ethic, which includes the unvarying universal principle of ethics, together with the ethics inherited from his kin and those which each of us has acquired over our lifetime through our relationship with our environment. We should also consider the explicit ethics (mandates, laws, uses and customs etc…) of the groups to which each individual pertains.
I think that at this moment there are plenty of people who have the awareness, to varying degrees, of belonging to humanity, and many exercise human brotherhood with the rest of the species in one way or another, whether or not they are aware of doing so. As this feeling of humanity grows and develops, the universal ethic that is implicit in each one of us will become more well-founded, and will become stronger with each universal act of good.
Here end my examples. When we become fully aware of this new ethic and it is accepted and put it into practice, we will find that this ethic acts in circular causality with the implicit ethic. The surviving members of Humankind will continue roving down the path towards what is Best, which is what we all – believers and non-believers– have been searching for a very long time.