What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

The Biological Basis of Moral Relativism

August 8, 2013, 6:09 PM

I look at human morality as a system that we develop in our society through discussion and debate and sometimes religion and sometimes cultural characteristics that we have. 

The specifics of morality are not given by biology.  What biology offers us is certain tendencies such as a sense of fairness, empathy, caring for others, helping others, following rules, punishing individuals who don’t follow the rules – all of these tendencies can be observed in other primates and I think these are the ingredients that we use to build a moral society. 

But the specific rules that we apply – and that’s why they are not universal in the human species - every society has a different kind of morality.  

The specific rules are not necessarily given by biology.  They are decided by us in our society.  That’s also why moral rules evolve over time. 

So, for example, we now have debates about abortion, about the death penalty, about gay marriage.  All of these discussions we have and in 20 years from now we will believe different things in moral terms than we do now.  All of these changes take place because we debate our moral system constantly and we shift in our opinions. 

And so biology gives us the general moral sense and the general ability to develop a moral system but the specific rules that we apply in our society are not necessarily given by biology.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


The Biological Basis of Mor...

Newsletter: Share: