Ethics are the laws of nature, not the innovation of mankind

Jan Polack - Adam and Eve in Paradise (one of four panels)
The knowledge of good and evil - the ethics - are the laws of the nature and are coming from the nature like the apple

What are ethics? By the definition of Wikipedia “ethics… …is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct”. Ethics is also called moral philosophy. The moral varies through the human societies because they live in very different circumstances. These differences result varieties in daily customs and of course in moral. This induces the opinion that not only the morals but the ethics behind them are also highly different, and are the creations of the societies. But as we will see, the basics are the same, and are also incorporated in the laws of nature. Mankind only imports these ethics as we are also a part of the nature. The different views about the possible origins of ethics are summarized here in Britannica. Here we would like to show that ethics are the laws of the nature and not the innovation of mankind.

Many of us think that ethics is something, what is very human, because this believe is embedded in our culture. In the Judeo-Christian civilisation one can learn that Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, therefore, humans and none of the (other) animals have the knowledge of right and wrong. But after Adam and Eve had eaten the apple, what happened with the stump? Probably the animals in the paradise ate it. Even our dog likes apple 🙂 Some bees, ants and termites surely have eaten from it – I mean that they have the knowledge of good and evil.

Species with ethics

The evidence of it is that they live in well organised societies. and they are submitting themselves to the rules of it. The rules which tell every ant what is good and what is evil. So, the knowledge of good and Evil is not the specific of human race. In Hinduism and Buddhism – and in many other religions – humans do not have so prominent role among other creatures as in the Abrahamic religions. The time has come to realize that our planet is limited. If mankind wants to survive then it has to respect other creatures. As we cannot digest the stones, cannot eat the air or the sunshine, we have to rely on the other organisms like fungus, plants or animals – just to mention the well-known ones.

Ethics: the principle of forming a superorganism

While we are about to find the essence of ethics, we should keep in mind the natural organisation of living entities. There are different levels of organization of the life: The first level on Earth is the unicellular prokaryote organisms. A higher level is the multicellular organisms including as important examples as insects and apes. A multicellular organism is created by the cooperation of a mass of unicellular. A next level of the life is, what Wilson and Hölldobler call superorganism, and the best examples of it are the insect societies. [Hölldobler and Wilson 2009] Such a superorganism is created by the cooperation of multicellular organisms.

The cooperation on any level is advantageous for the specie of which individuals do cooperate, because cooperation provides the individuals with benefits comparing to the solitary existence. So, the average welfare of the specie is higher in a cooperating organism or society than in the herd of individuals. On this way cooperation ensures the competitiveness of the specie.

Cooperation is not a human virtue rather a universal law of enhancement. The life evolved by the cooperation and reaches higher and higher levels. Ethics defines the rules of cooperation: how to reach higher and higher levels of life, how to form superorganisms. The roots of the ethics are very natural. This is why the cooperation, the mutual respect and support are considered as good in every religion and by every nation. If we observe the behaviour of social insects, we can state that they also consider these virtues as good. And this is why envy, jealousy and anger – which are against cooperation – are considered as evil. So, let’s take a look at the human society as a possible superorganism!

A new level of existence

The superorganism has to provide the individual with advantages comparing to the solitary existence. But to achieve these advantages the individual has to submit to the rules of the superorganism. The advantages are not simply the better life conditions, but rather the advantages in natural selection. The rules increase the average well-being of the society, but in certain situations require altruism or even self-sacrificing from the individual. This is why such altruist races like social insects are so successful on earth (Wilson 2012).

Inside the superorganism the rules that help the superorganism to achieve advantages in natural selection are called ethics by the members. Therefore, ethics can be considered as the natural rules of forming a superorganism. Ethics are not the innovation of the mankind rather absolute values of nature. The way of cooperation aims at the forming of a superorganism: this is ethics. The ethical behaviour at least takes into account the interests of the other individuals but it rather takes into account the interests of the superorganism.

The goal is the welfare of the society

The individual is important as a component of the superorganism. The individual must have a higher welfare in the superorganism than solitary. On the other hand the superorganism must have the primacy over the individual, because it represents lots of individuals in the present and in the future as well. The lifespan of the superorganism is always longer than the lifespan of an individual. Therefore, the ethical behaviour is much more than respecting each other. It also requires the respect of the future generations and also requires the respect of the organising rules. The respect of the future generations manifests the respect of the superorganism because it is thinking on the time scale of the superorganism. The respect to the rules must be implemented by the advocacy of the rules. Individuals must be committed to keeping of the rules and have to make others to keep them as well.

On this way ethics are universal, they are the laws of the nature: how to form a superorganism. (Or how to form an organism – the rule is the same.) It is not the innovation of the mankind but applicable to every living organism. It is not the result of socialization. Only the implementation of it, the moral can vary in different organisms or societies. However the basic rule, the cooperation is the same everywhere. Cooperate, and you have better chance to survive!

The definition of ethical behaviour

The ethical behaviour is, which favours the society (superorganism) over the individual itself.

The theft is a crime. But not because it damages your neighbour as we think. From the society’s point of view it doesn’t matter who has more and who has less, until everybody survives. Also from the individual’s point of view it is hard to decide which case is better, who is right. One has more and the other has less by the same amount, where is the truth? The theft is a crime because it undermines the trust and on this way undermines the cooperation. The end of cooperation means the death of the superorganism, the death of the society. And at the end of the day it is worse for every individual.

This is why the self-judgement is also a crime. The individual can not restore the trust between the members of the society. Only the supremacy – or the representative of the supremacy – can restore it.

Theory gives the same result as experiment

Few thousand years ago the mankind did not know anything about the cells of our body and the levels of life. There was no scientific evidence of the advantages of the cooperation and was no evidence of the evolution which definitely demonstrates these advantages. But humanity did feel that there is an organising rule, and if individuals submit themselves to this rule that will serve the benefit of the whole tribe (or clan or city or country).

As these rules of how to form a superorganism were not clear, an empirical method was used to experiment the rules of cooperation. Inside the superorganism the superorganism itself and/or the forming rules are often called “God” by the members. The most well-known expression of it is St. Paul’ simile [1 Corinthians 12:12-26] when he says that the unity in Christ means that we are the parts of one body.