The Instigator
Pro (for)
1 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Morality > Nature

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/30/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,035 times Debate No: 43134
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




Nature, as of now, should be considered immoral. Even though there are good things about nature (mutualism, cooperation, etc.), certain acts (predator/prey, parasitism, etc.) are immoral and, as the only civilized species on Earth, we should try to fix it.


I'm looking forward to a great debate!


The Pro seems to be making three related claims in his opening argument. First, from the title, he claims that morality is greater than nature. Second, from this superior position, morality dictates nature to be immoral. Finally, humans as the “only civilized species” ought to try and fix it. Since the last two claims stem from the first claim, I will start by focusing on this argument in greater detail.

Upon initial observation, it may seem that everything the Pro argues is true. The nature is full of immorality: survival of the fitness; kill or be killed. As humans, we obviously know that our world is positively different: we are able to think and rationalize; we work together to form governments, cultures, and societies; arguably, we are the only species that can even recognize or determine the difference between right and wrong.

If we look closer, however, we can see a more complex picture. Symbiotic, mutual relationships exist all over the place in nature. Some animals will act in ways we humans consider to be morally correct such as protecting other creatures from harm. Many humans, meanwhile, continually act in ways we consider to be morally incorrect. As the only “civilized species” we’ve introduced uniquely human, uniquely immoral, concepts such as war, murder, rape, and other atrocities.

My point is simple: determining whether morality is greater than nature is going to be more complex than just a simple observation. I’m going to start with a look at what exactly “morality > nature” means from the standpoint of the debate, and philosophy; and then proceed with my arguments against the Pro’s claims.

A Look At “Morality > Nature”

There’s two ways to look at this statement. First, from a traditional debate standpoint, this is a claim that the Pro has a certain burden to uphold in order to win. Typically, this sort of claim is opposing the status quo: purposing a change in action or thinking from what is considered “accepted” or “normal”. Therefore, my arguments against this claim will incorporate the Pro’s burden.

Second, we can look at this statement from a philosophical standpoint, which I intended to focus on for the rest of this section. “Morality is greater than nature” is a statement comparing two things with a preference for one thing over the other. A philosophical madlib for this kind of statement would be something like, “A is greater than B”. Now, before we can begin to determine whether A is actually greater than B, a couple of conditions must be satisfied.

For one, A & B must actually be two separate things, otherwise the comparison can’t logically occur. For example, to say “a car is better than an automobile” would be illogical since, unless you’re talking about different types of cars/automobiles, “car” and “automobile” simply refer to the same object.

As well, A & B ought to be mutually independent of each other. That is to say, we encounter problems if A can only exist because of B or vice versa. To say that, “a car is better than an engine” would be rather illogical because a car (by it’s nature of being a mode of transportation) can’t exist without an engine. Therefore, that kind of statement - in trying to claim that A is better than a part of itself, because of that part - will just lead us around in some kind of quasi-vicious circle of reasoning.

Are Morality And Nature Mutually Independent?

To simplify my discussion from the previous section, consider this: in order for the Pro to even to begin to satisfy his burden of proof for “morality > nature”, this claim must meet the conditions I describe above. Otherwise, such a claim would be impossible to argue. Common knowledge tells us that his claim meets the first condition: morality is a distinct thing from nature. However, the second condition is still up in the air: are morality and nature mutually independent?

To understand the relationship between morality and nature, we can start with things that can influence our understanding of right and wrong. In philosophy, two major camps exist: moral realism and moral anti-realism. In general, moral realism argues that claims about right and wrong are influenced on objective moral properties: facts and qualities that actually exist in the real world (including nature) [1]. Moral anti-realism, on the other hand, argues that such claims are influenced by subjective moral properties: qualities that only exist in the human mind[2].

Why are these two ideas important? They can help us determine whether or not morality and nature are mutually independent: if morality is influenced by objective moral properties found in nature, then it is partly dependent on nature. If morality is influenced by subjective moral properties, then the Pro has a stronger claim that morality is independent of nature.

Arguments Against The Pro

Finally, I will conclude with my arguments against the Pro’s three claims. First, given my discussion about “morality > nature” above, we must see that it is impossible to even begin to consider this claim because it’s unlikely you can conclude morality and nature are mutually independent. For one, 56.4% of philosophers[3] support moral realist arguments, versus only 27.7% for moral anti-realist arguments. More importantly, no debate like this can possibly determine whether morality is objectively or subjectively based.

The problem with moral realism vs. anti-realism claims is that no method of proof exists yet (if ever). Philosophers continue to struggle with the relationship between the objective and subjective for both morality and nature. Are moral properties real? Are atoms just a part of some big computer simulation? Philosophers have arguments and theories (many commonly accepted), but no complete way to rule on these matters anymore than scientists can rule on the existence of a divine presence.

The Pro can’t even begin to argue for this claim without knowing whether morality is objectively or subjectively based. If morality is based on objective moral properties found in nature, then nature itself influences what morality is. This creates a paradox for the pro’s other two claims: how can nature be immoral when it influences what is and isn’t moral? Why does it matter than humans are the “only civilized species” when morality shapes civility, and nature shapes morality?

What if morality is based on the human mind? Here too, the Pro runs into issues because a subjective morality will never provide consistent descriptive and normative claims about right and wrong. In other words, our morals become slippery. What’s moral and the right to do for one person is immoral and wrong to do for another. In this case, morality’s entire existence is simply based on human preference. Nature might be immoral to some “civilized” cultures, but what about the tribes that believe it’s right to hunt and survive in the same way as animals? Which notion of “right and wrong” should we use to “fix” nature? Which is the correct moral theory?

To summarize, my arguments are two fold: first, the Pro can’t even begin to claim that morality is greater than nature unless we can determine that morality and nature are mutually independent. Second, I argue that it’s impossible to determine since we can’t logically conclude whether morality is influenced by objective properties found in nature, or by subjective properties found in the human mind. Finally, both options present challenges to the Pro’s final two claims. We can’t “fix” and “immoral” nature if our notion of morality is either based on properties found in that nature or based on human perception that will differ on what is “right and wrong” in regards to nature.

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Debate Round No. 1


Nature- the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations

Moral- concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character

Basically, nature means anything BUT humans, and moral is JUST humans. With this in mind, it appears that nature and morality are indeed independent.

It's true that many believe nature created humans, but this does not mean they cannot be independent. Your "car-to-engine" example was good, but it does not quite represent what is going on. I would describe it as the relationship between Great Britain and America. America would not have existed if it wasn't for Great Britain. However, the American colonies exposed the injustice of Great Britain and rebelled, just like human morals expose the injustice of nature. Of course not all of nature is immoral (many acts are actually good), but there are still some spots to clean up.

Humans, not perfect themselves, have created injustices of their own (as you have mentioned). However, I believe we have the capability to get ourselves together and to establish a new world full of good traits (just like America became an independent country, full of freedom).


Humans, Nature, & Morality

Pro brings up some basic definitions of "nature" and "moral". From these definitions, the Pro concludes that because nature means anything BUT humans, and morals affect JUST humans, they are therefore independent. The problem with the given definition of nature is that it doesn't account for "humans or human creations" that are affected or shaped by nature. Architecture, art, music, human knowledge, and a whole lot more have been shaped by and rely on nature. This is the point that the Pro's rebuttal fails to account for.

Sure, morality is concerned with principles of right and wrong that shape human behavior, but the question remains: where do these principles come from? This is a question that continues to plague philosophers to this very day. Are morals derived solely out of human thought, such as what moral anti-realism claims? Or our moral principles influenced by objective moral properties that exist in nature, as what moral realism claims? As we see from my citation in round one, 56% of philosophers support moral realism - the idea that our morals are simply born out of human preference. Can we reasonably conclude that these philosophers, along with notable theories such as Natural Law and Kantian Ethics, are all misguided simply based on the definitions the Pro has provided?

Lack Of Clarity

Of course not. Currently, the Pro has provided little in terms of clarity to whether or not morality is objectively or subjectively derived. I've already demonstrated how the definitions the Pro offers doesn't address this question. For thee Pro's example of America and Great Britain, the very being of America wasn't dependent on Great Britain once America declared independence. If Great Britain magically disappeared in 1776, the US would have magically disappeared with it. It's like a child and a parent: at some point that child will become independent of the parent. But can either the parent or the child become independent of things that enable and sustain their existence, such as a heart and lungs?

More importantly, the "America & Great Britain" example doesn't even relate to my original point that my "Car & Engine" example demonstrates. Once again, "A is greater than B" type of statements have two conditions to satisfy: 1. A can't be the same as B, and 2. A & B must be mutually independent. The Pro isn't making the claim that "America is greater than Great Britain", and therefore has no link to my original point. More so, even if this claim was being made, it would satisfy these two conditions. America and Great Britain are obviously different kinds of the same thing: countries. If I were to claim, "independent countries are better than sovereign nations", then we'd run into the problem I'm highlighting with the second condition.


At this point, we still lack the necessary clarity on whether moral principles are derived from objective or subjective properties. The Pro's rebuttal offers no reasoning as to who morality is solely born from and influenced by human preference, and looking back to my first attack on the Pro in round one, it's extremely unlikely that we will get any definitive proof or reasoning. Whether morality is influenced by moral properties that exist in nature, or just in the human mind, is matter of continuing contention for philosophers, scientists, theologians theologians and debate students alike.

Without this necessary clarity, we can't even begin to determine whether morality is greater than nature, when the possibility remains that nature itself contributes to what our very morals are. The Pro provides no answer for how we can "fix" the very thing that influences our morals, if morality is dependent on nature. If nature needs "fixing", wouldn't that suggest that our morals also need "fixing"?

The Pro has also provided no answer as to how we can pin down "slippery" morals if morality is only influenced by human preference. Once again, if morality is created solely out of human thought, how do we decide which is the correct moral theory to "fix" nature with? Morality and ethics are diverse subjects. Many cultures have different concepts of right and wrong. Even different individuals live by different moral codes. Which moral code should we use to judge and fix nature with? How can we insure that nature will remain "fixed" when our moral codes are capable of changing as quickly as the human mind?

Ultimately, we still lack the clarity necessary to determine whether objective or subjective properties shape our moral principles. The Pro provides no answer to this issue nor to the challenges I brought up at the end of the last round (and summarized at the end of this round). Without these answers, Pro can neither satisfy the burden of proof, nor demonstrate how morality can be used to "fix" nature if our moral codes are at the whim of human preference.
Debate Round No. 2


I would think that the idea of morals being created by nature contracts itself. Morality (or at least ones that the majority of humans can agree on) is telling us one thing, while what we see in the current natural world says another. For example, a person may know in his heart (technically, his brain) that killing humans is wrong. Then he turns as sees a predator attack one and eat it. As basic morality and what and what we see in nature contradicts each other so much, I think it is unlikely that morality is set by nature. However, if this is the case, than that means nature itself is falling out of control, and that the most intelligent species it has created (humans) should try to get it back on track.

If morality is a system created by humans themselves, then it appears to me that the system we have created works better the original. This is because while nature keeps only the strongest individual alive, a world under the foundation of human morality would benefit all. It is also true that, under this assumption, nature created the human brain, which came up with the morality system. However, I still believe that the morality system, so different to the natural system, is independent.

There's also a dark possibility that nature is right, and our minds are delusional and we have created a messed-up moral system. If this is the case, then most of our thinking and logic would go down the drain and we really can't do anything about it (since our minds are wrong). Hopefully, this is not the case.

I would like to clarify what I mean by "fixing" and "adjusting" nature. We, humans, would plan ways, build products, and establish order that would turn the world we know it into a new one. One founded of the moral system of man. Just throwing this in, without technology, this would be a hard task (not that it isn't a hard task to begin with).

Let me state that our moral system is most likely not perfect (which is why there is so much disagreements, change in moral codes, etc.). But it is a next step forward towards a Utopian universe.

-Thanks for the wonderful debate, and good luck on your final statement. :)


Moral Contradictions

The Pro brings up an interesting point in that the idea of morals being created by nature contradicts itself. When we see morality saying one thing, and yet nature exhibiting acts that seem to contradict these morals, how can nature have any influence over morality? It's important to realize two things: first, the relationship between nature and our morality that I've discussed doesn't necessarily mean that our morals are created from nature. The point is that the moral properties we base our claims of right and wrong on are either derived from objective or subjective moral properties. Essentially, either nature or human preference plays a role in shaping our moral principles, but none of this removes the hand that direct human reasoning plays in creating moral theory. None of this suggests that something like Utilitarianism comes from the trees.

Second, it's easy to claim that "basic morality and nature contradicts each other so much", but once again let's now jump to hasty generalizations. Again, much of what the Pro claims about nature can be said tenfold for humanity. Regardless of whether morality is derived from objective or subjective properties, we as a species aren't exactly making nature or our own existence a better place. What plant has turned the science of atomic fission into a nuclear weapon? What animal has slaughtered countless millions just because of physiological differences? How can it be that nature itself is falling out of control, when humanity is changing the very shape of the world (both positively and negatively) just by our very existence?

Closing Remarks

Two points are worth concluding on. First, within the context of this debate I argue that the Pro has not satisfied his burden for his primary claim that "morality is greater than nature". On my first attack about the conditions of this kind of statement, the Pro offered definitions of nature and morality, as well as a condradiction to "nature creating morals", but as I've demonstrated, neither of these rubbutals bring the clarity required as to whether morality isn't, in some way, influenced by real moral properties that exist in nature. Furthermore, the Pro admits that there is a "dark possibility that nature is right", which shows that even the Pro can't rule out that nature has some influence over morality... even if it's a negative influence in the Pro's eyes. Even the Pro recognizee that humans stem from nature.

Given that we can't even determine with certainty what influence nature has over morality, a statement like "morality is greater than nature" can't adequately be addressed, which leaves the Pro's burden unfufilled. Furthermore, my challenges against a "slippery" morality created from human preference also remains. Even the Pro agreed that our morality (by not being perfect) is often disputed and changed. Many questions go unanswered. The Pro speaks of the next step in turn our world into a new one, but how can our morality be a guide to this Utopian universe if morality itself is only relative and never consistent? How do we choose which moral or cultural beliefs are the correct moral codes to lead us into this new era?

This leads me to my second and final point: too many ambiguities still exist to even begin to consider morality as a guide of fix nature. Whether nature needs this fixing is questionable itself. Whether humanity is qualified to fix nature is also questionable. Most importantly, our understanding and concept of morality is still too diverse to use as an ideal model to fix nature. Personally, I'd argue that humanity has a lot more to learn from nature than vice versa, but the point remains: clarity on these issues is required before the Pro has any hope of satisfying the burden necessary to claim morality is greater than nature.

To summarize, I argue that the Pro hasn't met the challenge of showing that "morality > nature" is in fact a statement that can be considered without the knowledge of whether morality and nature are mutually independent (see my logic in round one for details). Second, the Pro hasn't addressed the issues I set forth in regards to the Pro's final two claims (1. nature is immoral & 2. humans ought to fix nature) if A. morality is influenced by natural moral properties and B. morality is influenced by subjective moral properties. These issues include how nature can be immoral if our notions of morality are influenced by nature, and how humans can "fix" nature if morals are in constant flux based on human perception. Regardless of whether nature requires fixing, these points establish the case for a vote for Con.

Thank you to my opponent for a great debate! Happy New Years! Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Sagey 5 years ago
LOL, Slipped a Con into where I meant Pro in my vote statement. Oops.
Found this one a little confusing.
Morality exists in many species of creatures, such as some apes, prairy dogs, meerkats, in fact when you put human morality under the spotlight, we are not that moral. Some ape colonies appear more moral than humans in that respect, as far a predator/prey scenarios go, humans are the biggest random killing predator on the planet. Most animals only kill for food or to protect themselves or the group.
Humans kill for many reasons.
What humans have that other species do not have is not morals, but "Ethics", or the philosophical and rational consideration of morality.
Yet, as neurological studies have shown, most often, ethical decisions do not play out in human morality, as most of the time we make moral decisions based on primitive responses and Ethics ends up being ignored and our higher intelligence gets absorbed in making excuses for our primitive response.
Posted by Bakatakume 5 years ago
Let's have the first round be a case
Posted by Concade 5 years ago
I'll give a wack at advocating natural law. Do you want first round to be acceptance or the case?
Posted by philochristos 5 years ago
It would be interesting to have a natural law advocate debate you on this topic.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by InfiniteBears 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro kept his arguments short, I cant sit here and read all of this. So I give conduct to pro and the rest is tied
Vote Placed by Sagey 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Apart from the Debate title being a little obscure, Pro was taking too many leaps of faith and wishful thinking rather than making a convincing argument with statements containing; "I hope", "I believe", "I would think", instead of finding reliable sources, Pro's argument was actually confusing. So most of what Pro produced was Con's own concepts without any support from external sources. Pro could have likely found support from religious sources who believe morals came from a deity, instead of the truth that morals evolved, as there are many species that have similar morals to our own, they basically evolved from group survival and nurture of young. Though I can't think of any other sources Pro could have used. Con showed a little more understanding of the term 'morals', as well as provided sources that highlighted Con's case.