September 16th, 2010
11:04 AM ET

Opinion: Our moral code is out of date

Editor's note: Yaron Brook is president of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights and a columnist at Forbes.com; Onkar Ghate is a senior fellow at the center. Brook is one of the speakers at The Economist's "Ideas Economy: Human Potential" conference in New York.

Consider how just two fundamental ideas have ushered in the modern world. Rewind a scant 600 years, and modern science doesn't yet exist.

Men and women live and die in squalor and filth, largely ignorant of the germs that ravage their bodies and of the natural laws that govern the universe, instead imploring an alleged supernatural force to help them navigate this vale of tears.

But thanks to minds such as Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur and Charles Darwin, this is not how we face the world today. They taught us our method of knowing: careful, mathematically precise observation, step-by-step inference and generalization, and systematic, evidence-based theory building.

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- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Business • Culture & Science • Ethics • Money & Faith • Science • Technology

soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. j


    November 21, 2010 at 2:19 am |
  2. Muneef

    Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin
    Let the Islamic center be built and become a lighthouse for planting respect and.peace among faiths and followers?

    September 26, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  3. Muneef

    It is not moral code only outdated but as well very much corrupted and since being the largest country and on the lead of nations that has lead today that all nations are suffering the same diseases they cought from you. So suggest if you manage to cure yours automatically whole nations will be cured since you being on the top of the lead you set examples to all nations!?

    September 26, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  4. DianeS

    @Kate Your most welcomed! You have given me laughs on days when I really needed them..may you always keep that special gift you have! 🙂

    Back Atcha Just Praisin!

    September 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  5. @Peace2All from DianeS

    I would like to say, that although it gets perplexing at times, to read what it said , against Christianity, there is one I admire and respect much on these blogs. Since I am a Christian, I felt I wanted to share some positive thought.

    Peace2All, you are a very kind person, and in your worse moments,lol, still you handle yourself in fine fashion. If I ever want to get bashed, I would choose to hand you the club,lol. J/k

    In all seriousness, I admire you and you are a strong person to be able to debate and not be vicious. I also enjoy Kate's great sense of humor. If it wasn't for you two, these blogs would be most boring!
    Even though you are an unbeliever, you have a good heart, and it shows. Hats off to Kate and Peace2All!!

    September 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • Kate


      Aww thanks!

      I think. I'm not sure if being told I haz a sense of humor on these blogs is a good thing, or I'll have hordes of fundies baying for my blood on the grounds humor is like dancing and I'm not nearly as cute as Lori SInger in Footloose.

      But that's OK, I don't have to run faster than the fundies – I just have to run faster than David Johnson 🙂

      Just amusin'

      September 22, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  6. Harley Waybill

    Heh. Yaron Brooks is a pro at this nut-head stuff. They just adore him over at that bastion of goodness and reason, the Wall Street Journal. Since the fall of 2008 when the problems of "greed is good" "philosophy" were sort of unmasked with Greenspan saying "oopsie", I've tried to make up for my own wallowing in Objectivist "philosophy" as a teenager. Greed is not good. Greed is a driver, and a powerful one. So is lust, so is the hunger for power. These are primitive engines of human nature that civilization locks in a web of sturdy checks and balances, and exploits. They aren't virtues. They are drivers, and unchecked, or admired, they are vices. I just regret the harm that Ayn Rand has enabled for the last fifty years or so.

    September 17, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  7. markwickens

    Thanks to CNN for having the courage to post this excellent piece. For those who are interested in more on the new conception of morality hinted at in this article, see this brilliant essay by Ayn Rand: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_the_objectivist_ethics

    September 17, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
  8. ex-Randian

    The article has a false premise. Look at the start of the 7th to last paragraph. "if morality is judgment to discern the truth and courage to act on it and make something of and for your own life...". False premise. Morality is more than that. Yes, we admire scientists for their great discoveries and their determination and their success. But that's natural self-preservation and self-interest. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but morality attempts to go beyond what's natural to address how people should treat each other. Should you help people even if there is no payoff to yourself, or would that be immoral, unnatural? For some people, it is unnatural, but they can learn and mature. Rand got a few things right, but she was a simplistic thinker, unable to deal with complexity or multiple factors. To her, there was only one, most important factor to any issue. The U.S. is in serious danger of going down the tubes, and it's partly because of Rand. She was intellectually dishonest and unfortunately quite influential. Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?..." Now that is a morality we should all heed. BTW, Yaron Brook is a climate change denier. Is that any way to respect the conclusions of the world's leading climate scientists?

    September 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • SomeTruth


      "Should you help people even if there is no payoff to yourself..."

      It seems to me that there is *always* some kind of payoff to oneself... even if it is merely a good feeling.

      September 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  9. Selfish Gene

    This article is stupid. The author is ridiculous and makes no founded claims.
    I want my 5 minutes back.

    September 17, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
  10. Frogist

    So the author is basically saying, if I am richer than you then I am a better human being and better for the world... Alrighty then.
    I think the problem with this article is equating the pursuit of knowledge through science with the businesses that we make out of that knowledge. The two are not the same. When Newton observed and theorised about gravity, he was not doing so to create a gravity-based business. He was just looking for a way to understand his world. As far as I see there is no monetary reward for that.
    The article is setting up that same old argument about having the knowledge to split the atom vs creating an atomic bomb. While the short-sighted on one side will villify science for creating a horror, the same number of short-sighted on the other will praise science only for the innovation. But it is not science which we should praise or put down. Science is morally neutral. It is how we put that science to use that is where the moral factor is needed. That goes for any kind of knowledge from religion to history to public-speaking etc etc. It is not limited to one area of study. So to me equating looking for answers about how our universe works with the ability of businesses to profit off science is the same as equating philosophical introspection with the unscrupulous business of those who will invoke Jesus only to pad themselves with money from their followers. By the author's measure, the charlatans who make money of those seeking spiritual comfort are acting in an overtly moral manner, especially since they don't actually give their profits away.

    September 17, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • peace2all


      Again...as always... well said..


      September 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  11. Sanity Check

    Here is the link again: Philosophy of Teachings of a Islam

    September 17, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  12. Sanity Check

    Words like antiquated, old, archaic, historic were used frequently in this article. In a way, the author drove at the point that there are no new prophets or religious leaders which can apply ethics to the new world (as in America and the Western civilization). This is true for the most part. Why should one continue to believe only in the legends of yore. Why is an all powerful God incapable or repeating those miracles and raising someone to lead mankind to morality today? Why can't the morality be interpreted to apply to us today by a man of God who lives what he preaches?

    Secondly, the author seems to paint a black and white world where on one side there is religion/ethics/morality and scientific discovery and technological advances on the other and never the twain shall meet. Did Galileo not believe in ethics (based on the Bible) himself? How about other scientists finding inspiration from God? Does all scripture denounce science? Is morality found in scriptures based on anything but reason? From this article it appears that author is writing from the vantage point of someone who has incomplete historical and contemporary world knowledge. It is akin to observing that most cars are white in one's neighborhood and then claiming that majority of cars throughout history and the world are white and goes on to recommend that people should switch to white cars.

    Interestingly, a conference of all religions was held earlier in the 19th century. Religious leaders came together to show the superiority of the moral values of their respective religions as given in their scriptures. One of the participants claimed that God has vouchsafed to him that his presentation will win over all others. Guess who won?

    Here is that presentation for those interested: http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf

    September 17, 2010 at 9:54 am |
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