To understand morality, a baseline must be established. Humans in their natural state are neither good nor evil, but that doesn’t mean that “regular humans” wouldn’t perceive some of those neutral actions as ‘evil’. For example, a toddler in kindergarten who has not been taught manners will take toys from another child without asking, as this is the way of the wild. People would interpret the action of “stealing” the toy as evil, but that is just because they have already been conditioned by society. The alpha-wolf gets to eat first because it is stronger. It is capable of taking the food from the weaker wolves. Toddlers are, in a way, animals. If left to their own devices without intervention from authority figures, toddlers will eventually form a hierarchy of sorts, the strongest child having all the toys and food it wants. On another hand, primates kept in captivity have shown signs of humanity after being surrounded by “properly conditioned”, normal humans. Wolves are not evil for asserting dominance based on strength, nor can unconditioned humans be considered so. Upbringing is the conditioning humans go through. During the upbringing, basic moral grounds are set. The conscience is brought about, and children are taught fundamental differences between right and wrong. Studies have shown that the conscience and all moral thought is cemented before the age of five. If a child is not taught the fundamental differences between right and wrong during that time, they will be generally considered evil by society.
How, then, can one truly tell what is good and just? Steve Taylor, Ph.D. defines it as “‘a lack of self-centeredness. It means the ability to empathize with other people, to feel compassion for them, and to put their needs before your own. It means, if necessary, sacrificing your own wellbeing for the sake of others’. It means benevolence, altruism and selflessness, and self-sacrifice towards a greater cause – all qualities which stem from a sense of empathy. It means being able to see beyond the superficial difference of race, gender, or nationality and relate to a common human essence beneath them.” (Taylor) Continuing on Dr. Taylor’s train of thought, the character known as the Doctor from the TV series Doctor Who recently said, “hate is always foolish, and love is always wise.” (Moffat)