On March 19, 2019, I launched a thought experiment poll in Google forms. I wanted to see how people perceived objective moral values and duties. For me, this was a test of 2 things:
- Do people understand what objective moral values are?
- Do people sense that some (if not all) moral values and duties are objective rather than subjective? Do they sense a true difference between good and evil?
One commonly cited example of an act that is wrong in any situation is rape, so the thought experiment included a dilemma that could potentially justify rape to save the human species.
I posted an invitation to this poll on my Facebook page, and on Reasonable Faith’s page. The latter is a common hangout for both devout Christians and devout atheists. Whether the link was shared to third parties, I do not know. All respondents would obviously be in a population that has Internet access and that understands written English. Thirty-eight people completed the poll.
The questions and results follow. I’ve included 7a and 7b with their original results, but will also show a “clean” version of the data since a few people didn’t quite follow the instructions to only answer 7a OR 7b based on their answer to question 6. You’ll see this if you add up the responses to each question.
(The 7.9% group in the first chart refers to the “Something else” response, not “Jewish.” The colors were similar in Google’s results.)
Clean results for 7a and 7b.
7a. Of those that believed that objective moral values exist:
- 67.7% believe their source is God
- 16.1% believe their source is evolution or Mother Nature
- 16.1% answered “something else”
7b. Of those that believe that morality is subjective:
- 71.4% (5 people) believe morals come from local norms and customs
- 14.3% (1 person) said that whatever he thought was right in a given situation, regardless of what others thought, was moral
- The last person (14.3%) answered “something else”
- 82% of respondents said that there are objective moral values. 95% said that rape is inherently evil. How can an act be inherently evil if morality is subjective, and changes based on circumstances and environment? If a property is inherent, the observer’s opinion of it is irrelevant. Five people of the thirty-eight that responded do not understand inherent properties and the concept of objective moral values. That may be part of the problem.
- Of the two that claimed they did not believe that rape was inherently evil, one identified as “something else” in terms of religious belief, and the other identified as an atheist. Both of these results appeared after the second time I posted an invitation to Reasonable Faith’s Facebook.
- As cited in the clean results for 7b, 5 people, or 13% of total respondents believe that morality comes from local norms and customs. For this 13%…is eating people if you’re among a cannibal tribe moral? When Nazis ruled Germany, was killing Jews moral? If you’re comfortable with that, we don’t have enough common ground to have a discussion.
- At least a majority–arguable at 82% or 95% based on 1 above–believe that objective morality is a thing. That is the other thing I wanted to test, and this poll confirmed my hunch that people are, as a majority, aware of objective morals and duties.