Ten Non-Commandments – John Palmer

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  1. michaelimison says:

    John Palmer’s list is an illustration of a point I have often made in talking about humanist morality; the moment you express a “commandment”, however benign, you immediately have to start qualifying it. There can be no meaningful set of rules for human behaviour. My own approach is “evidence based ethics”. In every problem of how to behave you need to look at the probable consequences and decide which will do the least harm to those upon whom it impinges. I suggest we don’t need to be told what is harmful. Our own built-in empathy tells us about pain and loss. (People lacking empathy are sick – like most criminals) If the problem is still difficult to assess we cannot do better than ask our fellow humans. It is for this reason I advocate the setting up of “ethical juries” similar to the ethical committees that already exist in science and medicine. These would examine the issue in as much detail as possible and select a course by majority vote which would be binding on the applicant but which would not seek to establish a principle. A society which adopted this approach would in my view virtually eliminate bad behaviour.

    Michael Imison

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