Despite the legal emphasis our society places on individual responsibility, moral codes are actually formed by entire communities, says science writer Michael Shermer. Despite the convictions we hold of our own moral correctness, we are easily brought under the influence of group morals, i.e. our behavior is motivated by our desire to be faithful to a group, not out of allegiance to our own concept of justice. Therefore, when an immoral act occurs, we may be wisest to look at the community from which the agent came rather than his or access to particular piece of machinery that directly facilitated the wrongdoing.
What’s the Big Idea?
“As a social primate species, we modulate our morals with signals from family, friends and social groups with whom we identify because in our evolutionary past those attributes helped individuals to survive and reproduce. We do not just blindly concede control to authorities; instead we follow the cues provided by our moral communities on how best to behave.” In his book on the motivation of soldiers to follow orders On Killing, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman reveals that a soldier’s primary motivation is not politics and ideology but devotion to his band of brothers.