A few months back, while on a road trip with my dad and brother, we began to talk about the advance of technology and got on the subject of technology in cars. Some of you may remember the day when technology was almost nonexistent in the car world. Some of you may remember 8-track players, cassette players, CD players, and now cars seem to even be doing away with the auxiliary cable!
Nevertheless, in all of the progression of technology in cars, there is a new advancement that recent years have been focusing on more heavily: autonomous, self-driving vehicles. In the design and technology of these cars, there is one main issue: the moral coding of the artificial intelligence.
You see, drivers have to make many decisions on the road that aren’t necessarily routine. For example, let us say a child runs into the street and you have no time to stop. The only option is either to try to slow down, but still run over the child, or to veer to the left, running head on into another car, filled with a family, or to veer to the right, ramming a mother walking her child in a stroller. What does the artificial intelligence do?
I say all of this to get to the point of a moral standard being what all of us not only want, but need. Just as the car needs a moral standard to follow, so do we. This moral standard, being something–or rather, someone–other than ourselves, must be God. Morals can be based on a number of things:
- Objective Standards
Though each of these provides morals, there are problems with the first three, which we will briefly examine.
The truth about culture is that culture changes. Culture shifts. If we look at the Hay’s Code of 1930, we would see the moral standards that the movie industry was to follow in that day. If we were to look at the moral coding of the industry today and compare it to the Hay’s Code of 1930, we could only conclude that culture is not a reliable arbiter of right and wrong, for culture’s understanding of right and wrong will continue to shift.
Not to pick on the homosexual community, but if we were to look at how the United States or culture views the ethics of homosexuality, we would realize the need of a standard. Al Mohler references the shift from a psychological perspective: in the early 1970s, prominent psychiatric and psychological associations held that same-sex attraction was a form of mental illness (Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent, 40-41). Over time, with the shift of culture, the conviction gave way to others and eventually the pendulum swing shifted from same-sex attraction being a mental illness, to homophobia being the new mental illness. With the great shift that culture always has, it is not a reliable standard for morals. If you ask a person in America today what is right and wrong, it will be vastly different from the answer you would have received in 1930 or even 1970.
If you ever watched Boy Meets World growing up, you would know the two brothers that lived two different lives: Shawn Hunter and Jack Hunter. Shawn grew up with his father, living a modest lifestyle, but without a mother and a less than present father. Jack grew up with a family that would be defined as living the “American Dream.” Jack’s parents had good jobs, supported him and were present at all of his events growing up. Due to these different types of life, Shawn grew up to resent family while Jack grew up to value family.
Their morals and understanding of “family” had been shaped by their experiences with family. But what is to define a good family? Obviously not experience, for experience succeeded for Jack, but failed Shawn. Experience is not a reliable standard to define morals, for it will produce different understanding of right and wrong.
“Hitler” is a name that brings many emotions. Hitler is also a man that had a belief that what he did was morally upright. As World War II was being fought for many different reasons, a large reason was the morally corrupt actions of the Nazi regime, under the command of Hitler, carrying out the detestable “holocaust.”
In this, upwards of six million Jews were brutally murdered. Why? It happened simply because Hitler believed they deserved it. His opinion and conjecture led him to make this “moral” decision. As the majority of the world did and does disagree, how are we to know which is right and which is wrong? Thus, we see the problem with conjecture being a moral arbiter.
4) Objective Standards
The beauty of a moral standard is a complete agreeance on what “moral” is. Ethics are then not up to debate. Right and wrong are set in stone. No pun intended, God did actually set in stone (literally) a set of morals for His people through the Ten Commandments, introducing the Law (Exodus 20).
American laws change, God’s laws do not. Global culture shifts, God’s culture remains. What is so great about this? From a secular perspective, if you were to group a few people together, none believing in God, from different times and places, none would be in complete agreeance on what is morally right and wrong. Ghandi would disagree with Hitler. Atilla the Hun would disagree with Alexander the Great. Aristotle would disagree with Kant. You would disagree with your friend.
To assume that you know right from wrong apart from a moral standard, is placing yourself in the position of moral arbiter of the universe.
Yet, when one has a standard to follow, they all follow in the same direction toward the same source of discerning between right and wrong. This standard, being God, is the all-powerful, all-loving, all-wonderful ruler of the universe. God does not shift (Hebrews 13:8). God does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19). God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).
Just as the cars that Google is developing need a moral standard to follow, so do we. We are created just as the cars are, and without a moral standard to follow, we will make faulty decisions with a misunderstanding of right and wrong.
I would advise you to check out the video below, further explaining the moral argument.