Are Humans Moral?

The Times of India article - “If it’s too easy, we are likely to cheat” caught my attention today. The article discussed the results of a study conducted by University of Toronto Scarborough, to find the likelihood of people cheating. The research showed that “people will behave badly – if it doesn’t involve too much work on their part.” 

Rimma Teper the lead author of the study made these three statements :

“People are more likely to cheat and make immoral decisions when their transgressions don’t involve an explicit action,”

“If they can lie by omission, cheat without doing much legwork, or bypass a person’s request for help without expressly denying them, they are much more likely to do so.”

 “When people are confronted with actively doing the right thing or the wrong thing, there are a lot of emotions involved – such as guilt and shame – that guide them to make the moral choice. When the transgression is more passive, however, we saw more people doing the wrong thing, and we believe this is because the moral emotions in such situations are probably less intense.”

The results indicated that if human beings do not need to work hard for getting an advantage from unethical behavior, they are most likely to resort to immoral behavior. This got me thinking, if comparative mapping is done of gains achieved through hard work by ethical behavior with those achieved through unethical behavior, while ignoring risks associated with unethical behavior, people will mostly find unethical behavior to be more profitable. 

So my rambling thoughts continued. If risk of detection and punishment are the only deterrent to unethical behavior, then can we consider human beings moral?  What role does morality play in relationships and society?    

Bull in his book Moral Education (1969) explains this point thus: ‘The child is not born with a built-in moral conscience. But he is born with those natural, biologically purposive capacities that make him potentially a moral being’

He stated – “All morality consists of relationships between persons; that its three concerns are therefore, self, others and the relationship between them; and that the heart of morality is therefore respect for persons. [The child’s concept of a person] does not have to be learnt as such, [but] it does have to be built up by moral education in terms of knowledge, habits and attitudes.”

The above-mentioned two statements show that human beings need to be trained and educated in moral behavior to develop a moral conscience. This indicates that in the long-term a morally conscious human being is less likely to do unethical activities.

In my view, society is not making significant effort in raising its moral fiber. Without the required moral education, society will continuously witness lack of personal and business ethics. Under these circumstances can we blame anybody but ourselves? Is it not naïve to expect the world to behave morally when we are not willing to contribute towards building a morally conscious society?

Hence, two simple questions are how much focus is put today by parents and teachers to raise morally conscious adults? How much time and effort is spent by adults to morally educate themselves and strengthen their character?

Welcome your honest views here.  ;)