Sam Harris, author and vehement secularist, argues that science can create a moral code as effectively as religion can:
It’s often thought that there’s no description of the way the world is that can tell us how the world ought to be. I think this is quite clearly untrue. Values are a certain kind of fact. They are facts about the well being of conscious creatures. Why is it that we don’t have ethical obligations toward rocks? Why don’t we feel compassion for rocks? It’s because we don’t think rocks can suffer. And if we’re more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we are, it’s because we think they’re exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering.
Now the crucial thing to notice here is that this is a factual claim. This is something we could be right or wrong about. If we’ve misconstrued the relationship between biological complexity and the possibilities of experience, well then we could be wrong about the inner lives of insects. There is no notion, no version, of human morality and human values, that I’ve ever come across, that is not at some point reducible to a concern about conscious experience, and its possible changes.
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