The Small Town Song and Human Morality, and other topics

  • More thoughts about that Small Town song, in that it reflects one stage (stage 3 of 6, actually) in a hierarchy of human morality;
  • Facebook posts about religious claims, and Brian Cox’s take on the UFO hearings;
  • And Republican plans to dismantle all climate change mitigations, leading me to wonder if they are alien agents bent on bringing about the end of the human race.
– – –


This is my own thought, not something I’ve read — well, indirectly it’s about things I’ve read, but not concerning this song.

There’s a core of truth in the song’s justification of small town justice. It reflects one stage in the hierarchy of morality I discussed in this post from June 2020, concerning Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. I’ll quote my own paraphrase of E.O. Wilson’s paraphrase of Kohlberg:

  1. Simple obedience to rules and authority to avoid punishment. [e.g. Biblical threats of hell for disobedience to The Rules];
  2. Self-interest orientation (what’s in it for me?); conformity to group behavior to obtain rewards and exchange favors;
  3. Interpersonal accord and conformity; social norms; good-boy orientation, conformity to avoid dislike and rejection by others;
  4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation: law and order morality;
  5. Social contract orientation; laws are recognized as social contracts for the common good rather than universal rules;
  6. Universal ethical principles; principled conscience [e.g. Kant’s categorical imperative]; [Wilson:] primary allegiance to principles of choice, which can overrule law in cases the law is judged to do more harm than good. [Thus, protesters, who are not lawbreakers, throughout time.]

Biblical fundamentalists, I mentioned then, stop at stage 1. Small town vigilantes, per Jason Aldean’s song, are stuck at stage 3. And that might be appropriate for small towns, where everyone knows everyone; and it’s reflective of what I’ve been calling the Savannah morality, the basic primitive morality that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years among humans in Africa.

But humanity has expanded and is now virtually a global society. It cannot get along, let alone survive, living at stage 1 or stage 3. Social laws and regulations arose precisely to organize people living in larger larger groups, like cities, then nations. In a global society, “good-boy orientation” will not work. Not in our modern world, facing existential threats.

– – –


Next, several items seen on various Facebook Groups, or my usual feed, in the past week.


“If there is no God, what is the purpose of life?”

is like asking
“If there is no master, whose slave will I be?”

(attributed to Dan Barker)


THEIST: Atheists have nothing to live for and can’t experience wonder.

ATHEIST: You live in a universe that is only 6,000 years old and claim the answers to everything are containing within one book written by semi-literate shepherds 2,000 years ago. I live in a universe that is 13.4 billion years old, is quite possibly infinite and with endless possibilities for knowledge and discovery. I submit to you that we atheists have much to live for and that it is not MY universe which leaves no room for wonder, but in fact, YOURS.

(attributed to The Scottish Atheist)

Comment: People like Isaac Asimov and Steven Pinker have made similar points, about how the religious are satisfied with such a tiny conception of reality, all based on the thoughts of people thousands of years ago who knew relatively nothing. But they prefer that because that worldview places themselves at the center of everything. And they are very simple.


Writer and NASA researcher Geoffrey A. Landis commenting on a post by British astrophysicist Brian Cox, about those recent UFO hearings before Congress:

Landis: The main event was a guy saying “I’ve never seen crashed ufos or aliens myself but there’s this other guy that I won’t give you the name of who says there’s a secret government program studying them.”

Brian Cox: I keep being asked what I make of the UFO thing in Congress yesterday, so here it is: I watched a few clips and saw some people who seemed to believe stuff saying extraordinary things without presenting extraordinary evidence. Therefore I have nothing more to say, other than: It would be great if true — it would take a bit of pressure off our civilisation if we weren’t the only means within the Milky Way by which the Universe understands itself. Sadly, as of today, I still feel that pressure, so can we perhaps focus on not messing our world up rather than hoping that, to paraphrase Sagan, someone will float down to save us from ourselves.

The UFO craze is about wishful thinking, I think, and the lack of imagination to realize how utterly unlike real aliens are likely to be compared to us, and how utterly unimaginative of people to think they would fly around in spaceships the way we fly around in jet aircraft.

Actually it’s analogous to the people who cling to the primitive Biblical worldview, because understanding how much humanity has learned about the universe in the past couple thousand years is too difficult, and doesn’t matter for daily life.

– – –


In light of Cox’s comment about “messing our world up,” this:

Politico, Scott Waldman, 28 Jul 2023: Conservatives have already written a climate plan for Trump’s second term, subtitled “Hundreds of conservative operatives outlined a plan that Donald Trump, or any Republican, could use to purge climate action from the federal government.”

Conservative groups have crafted a plan for demolishing the federal government’s efforts to counter climate change — and it wouldn’t stop with President Joe Biden’s policies.

The 920-page blueprint, whose hundreds of authors include former Trump administration officials, would go far beyond past GOP efforts to slash environmental agencies’ budgets or oust “deep state” employees.

Called Project 2025, it would block the expansion of the electrical grid for wind and solar energy; slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice office; shutter the Energy Department’s renewable energy offices; prevent states from adopting California’s car pollution standards; and delegate more regulation of polluting industries to Republican state officials.

If enacted, it could decimate the federal government’s climate work, stymie the transition to clean energy and shift agencies toward nurturing the fossil fuel industry rather than regulating it. It’s designed to be implemented on the first day of a Republican presidency.

Are these people monumentally selfish (because they want to maintain existing business interests in fossil fuels, and don’t care what happens after the few more decades they might have until they die), monumentally stupid (do they not see what’s going on in the world, and connect it to the continued use of fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases), or are they alien agents who’ve infiltrated humanity for the purpose of driving our species to extinction? I’d take the third option as soon as I’d believe the UFO “evidence” about them being alien spacecraft.

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