Jonathan Hait introduced the five foundations of morality, see Ethics Defined.

  • Harm/Care
  • Fairness/Reciprocity
  • Authority/Respect
  • In-group/Loyalty
  • Purity/Sanctity

He claims that successful civilizations have used all five, and that Liberal morality is insufficient for our civilization because Liberals value only the first two.

  In his TED talk Jonathan Haidt points out that one thing in common with every successful civilization through history is that all five tenants of morality as he defines them have been present.  These successful civilizations seem “to use every tool in the tool box”.

I see Liberal Morality changing to meet the realities of the Anthropocene Era. In particular I think we are beginning to define Loyalty as Loyalty to the human species and Disloyalty as placing the short term advancement of an In-group, such as the 1%, over survival of humanity in the long term. I also embrace a secular Sanctity, "Is it green?" "Does this destroy the planet for future generations?"

Purity/Sanctity is rooted in the emotion of disgust, tied to evolved responses to avoid disease contagion. It's disgusting the way Climate Destabilization is changing our fresh water supply and the oceans.

Harmful cyanobacteria benefit from global warming

Professor Hans Paerl of the University of North Carolina (USA) and professor Jef Huisman of the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) conclude on the basis of several recent studies that the worldwide proliferation of harmful cyanobacterial blooms is linked to climate change.

Just touching water with toxic cyanobcteria is dangerous as the poisons penetrate skin. Toxins also spread through the air near contaminated lakes and ponds.

I was impressed by the story of a man whose dog ran into a contaminated lake. Taking the dog home, he washed him immediately. The dog died and the man was hospitalized from absorbing the poison through the skin while he washed his dog.

In the same way I'm disgusted by fracking, where companies inject poisons directly into the water table to extract natural gas. Nobody should have tap water that burns.

I'm also disgusted when I see tour buses and tractor trailers running their motors for hours, parked in lots, in order to heat or cool the interior. Designing such dependence and purchasing vehicles with this design flaw aren't just unwise. It's revolting. It's not just the plumes of exhaust which billow out surrounding large immobile "dirty" vehicles, in terms of fuel efficiency and pollutants emitted. It's the obvious carbon footprint that accompanies those noxious fumes. The operators are forced to kill future generations and pollute their immediate surroundings just to avoid freezing or baking to death.

Why aren't we articulating and promoting secular versions of loyalty and sanctity?

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Thanks Ruth for these excellent articles on toxicity of water, causes and effects. Very valuable information and something that needs to be attended. 

Your statement says it all: 

"We can't grow trade and grow transport and grow productivity and grow energy and grow technology enough to sustain a global economy of 7 billion plus."

The old paradigm cannot be sustained and a new way of viewing people and resources requires new vision. 


Touching on need for intelligence during an era of "dumbing down USA" will surely result in backlash. Challenging those who believe a "spirit" will rescue the sanctified, and a "new earth" will emerge is like a red flag before the proverbial bull. I have already been accused of elitism by questioning how religious-right thinkers perceive problems and solutions. 

Well, I don't exist to be blind, deaf, and dumb; Being called "elitist" is not so bad as being burned at the stake. The good news, I welcome the challenge. 

There a lot of different subjects being touched on here which really are separate discussions. Just a few comments though.

You use the word 'destabilization' as if we are in a Goldilocks scenario where everything is in 'just right' balance. There is nothing particularly sacred about our current climate (or CO2 level) just as there was nothing sacred about previous climatic conditions. The level of CO2 200 years ago was historic accident, like many parameters in our world. Part of the problem with the panic driven reaction is cut back, hurry cut back, put things the way they were before. [This has been seen in historic religious societies when problem situations occurred there is a powerful movement to get back to the old gods, the old ways]. But things change and you can't extrapolate the future from the present. There is significantly more woodland in the US than there was a century ago, we have actually have less need for wood now. Food production has continued to grow, we're producing more fool from less land] What the doomsayers often miss is that human development goes in ways that simply cannot be predicted. And just panicking and going back to an 18 century lifestyle (with all the horrible conditions that would result) is simply the wrong way to go about it. (Historically the world was 'about to end' for several thousand years now)

Huge directed efforts driven off panic are at best likely to fail, and at worst will prevent the synergistic developments that occur as knowledge in various fields coalesces. A humorous but insightful example is the news article in the 1890s that declared that cities would be impossible by 1950 because the horse manure would be an unmanageable problem.

But powerful solutions take time. As different pieces of the puzzle come together the combinations come to life.

Much of this is driven by energy. For thousands of years humans have been restricted to their own energy level (limited by food and biology) and animal energy (a bit stronger similarly limited). Starting with Watt and his initial steam engines which allowed efficient coal mining, which got to be more and faster when portions of that product were used to mine more and to transport that product elsewhere for use. Suddenly farming, construction, transport were no longer restricted. Capability increased by orders of magnitude. Life changed. As mechanization developed so did the power of humans to accomplish things. A single backhoe operator can accomplish the brutal backbreaking (literally) work of 30 or 40 men.

In the colonial US, more than 90% of human labor was involved in food production. That left less than 10% for shelter, clothing, art, science, or to accomplish other things. The vast majority of labor was just getting enough food to survive (and if there were local bad conditions, there was little option for getting food from elsewhere). Marginal survival and starvation were the order of the day. Now we have ample food supply form about 3% of the population. While we are relatively wealthy in US, even in much of the world, other than the parts untouched by technology or the parts crippled by war, food is incredibly more available both locally grown and transported in. That huge growth in available labor outside the food chain is much of what has made modern medicine and science possible. And underneath it all is energy from completely outside our bodies, and more recently a similar multiplying effect has occurred as computational power has multiplied what our minds can accomplish just as coal freed our backs.

Not sure what we'll see in the future, but we damned sure should not be frightened into going backward.

jay, a level headed and educated response. Thanks.


My use of destabilization does imply that we’ve been in a Goldilocks zone of global climate. In particular, we’ve been lucky to experience close to equilibrium conditions both in terms of temperature - neither an ice age nor runaway greenhouse effect - and in terms of maintaining aerobic chemistry rather than anaerobic chemistry. Temperature isn’t entirely independent of chemistry.


Sacred isn’t the issue, it’s live-ability. It seems that once certain threshold parameters are exceeded, feedback effects kick in which accelerate change. Water vapor, for example, is a greenhouse gas. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which raises air temperature, which holds more water vapor, etc. Melting methane hydrate increases the greenhouse gas methane, temporarily, until that changes into CO2. Increasing CO2 increases ocean acidity which hampers foramnifers and other aquatic organisms that use calcium carbonate, upon which we’ve depended to sequester CO2. There are so many feedbacks and they overwhelmingly push toward a hotter world.


As ocean temperature increases oxygen dissolves less, expanding anaerobic events and zones, which can begin to support biotic communities incompatible with us. The Earth has no inherent “preference” for aerobic chemistry; it’s been anaerobic/reducing instead of aerobic/oxidizing before. Taking Earth’s history into account, the Goldilocks zone we take for granted isn’t a magical default. It’s one strange attractor in a complex system. We have been pushing the planet toward the thresholds where regimes can switch more easily, where small additional changes might lead to large consequences. Here's  simplified way to visualize that.

I'm not one of those romantics that imagines returning to human muscle power instead of mechanical work equals a happier simple lifestyle. I realize that energy is the foundation of our civilization.

My personal view on where we'd have to go is that we'd have to face the elephant in the room, overpopulation. I think we need to balance reproduction with growth by some fair means - based on global justice as opposed to genocide. We just can't keep making babies as if the planet has unlimited capacity. Today nobody dares even discuss population limits outside of China. After we face up to the ecological corner we've painted ourselves into, perhaps voluntary population limits will be on the table.

There is a difference between fear and understanding trends, anticipating problems, and finding ways to ameliorate hardship and suffering.

Current Population Clock

U.S. 313,906,345
World 7,025,035,915
02:25 UTC (EST+5) Jul 09, 2012
Going back is out of the question. That would be like driving a car down a steep mountain road with a raging river below and using the rear view mirror to determine how you will drive. 


When you wrote “There is significantly more woodland in the US than there was a century ago,“ can you show me where you got your evidence? If we are looking at virgin forest, which we are not, according to “Woodland in the USA, Virgin Forest in the U.S.: Years 1620, 1850, 1920, and Today”


If you write about historic trends, “U.S. Forest Facts and Historical Trends, Land and Forest Area”

It is estimated at the beginning of European settlement in forestland:


1630 423 million hectares or 46 % of the total land area;

1907 307 million hectares or 34 % of the total land area;

1997 302 million hectares or 33 % of the total land area;


“Today’s forestland area amounts to about 70 percent of the area that was forested in 1630.

“Since 1630, about 120 million hectares of forestland have been converted to other uses, mainly agricultural.

“More than 75 percent of the net conversion to other uses occurred in the 19th century.”


I realize only 302 million hectares or 33% of total land area was cut in 90 years, and if the trend continues, how long will it take to grow timber for building? I realize most timber is used to make composites and so small, young growth can be used. If we run out of building timber, aluminum and steel substitute for wood. 

No longer will we see such sights as in my part of the world.

Old growth timber stump

The word, "loyalty" causes me concern. It is like patriotism in that it can lead to blind following and submitting to some unworthy cause. Loyalty and patriotism that requires submission and obedience without critical thinking offers the risk of despotism. 

I have trouble with the word, "sanctity".

1: holiness of life and character : godliness
2: a: the quality or state of being holy or sacred : inviolability
    b: plural : sacred objects, obligations, or rights

Examples of SANCTITY

<the sanctity of the elderly nun shone through in her every word and gesture>
Origin of SANCTITY

Middle English saunctite, from Anglo-French sainteté, from Latin sanctitat-, sanctitas, from sanctus sacred
First Known Use: 14th century
Related to SANCTITY

Synonyms: blessedness, devoutness, godliness, piety, piousness, sainthood, saintliness, saintship, holiness

When one uses a word that implies sacred, it has a history of meaning religiously sanctified. I would like a word that does not have that baggage, something about a sense of wonder and awe, of gratitude and appreciation without suggesting creationism. 

I listen to the language of Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jonathan Hait, and so far, no words have emerged. Hope you can think of good replacements. 

I should have said, "Hope we can think of good replacements. 

Joan Denoo:"The word, "loyalty" causes me concern. It is like patriotism in that it can lead to blind following and submitting to some unworthy cause. Loyalty and patriotism that requires submission and obedience without critical thinking offers the risk of despotism. "

Haidt is not arguing as to whether these traits are good or bad, or true or false (in many cases the belief systems do indeed appear irrational). He is pointing out motivators that are hard wired into our social structure, as born out by extensive testing.. Quite likely our ancestors would not have survived without a loyalty component. Indeed loyalty (to something) is a powerful component of our behavior. Traitors are instintively (and universally) more hated than enemies.

I know Haidt is not looking for good or bad, or true or false, but I am. He appears to me to be a concessionist and accommodationist, which is appropriate when the issues are not important. However,

when preventing women's right to make decisions about their own bodies,

when prohibiting couples from planning their families,

when restricting the use of condoms for whatever reason,

when interferring with homosexuals' right to marry and have children, 

when barring people's right to death with dignity,  

when intruding on people's right to death with dignity,

when attempting to put creationism and intelligent design in our public school science departments,   

they are going too far.  

OK, we will disagree on these points, but that doesn't mean I will allow others to make these decisions for others. 



If we are truly dealing with a strange attractor, then mathematical modelling (of the kind that is going on in a number of places, and the basis for some of the scary headlines is useless. You cannot, by definition, effectively model a strange attractor.

Of course, we don't really (at this point) know that it's strange (unlikely in my view because if it were strange, there would have been numerous flips over the course of history)..

Your point on population is something similar to what I have said: If you really want to do something about CO2 or the environment in general, don't waste you time with a high efficiency car, walking more, recycling .. that's just trivia... If you want to really make a difference, don't have kids.

Doesn't go over well.

So you have a problem. Enough people are unlikely to voluntarily terminate their genetic line (biology is stronger than ideology) .. so who gets to reproduce? who gets to choose? Hello eugenics.

Uneducated, untrained for a living wage job, poverty, and obscene income gaps make it necessary for men and women to have many children in order to feed, house, and clothe themselves. Many poor can't afford to provide education or health care because of costs.

To change poverty conditions, train people for living wage jobs and provide work for all who are able and willing to work. People don't have children if they can afford not to. Furthermore, the jobs we now use to increase employment are warring with every little nation who has something we want. War does not produce goods and services of a lasting nature. Build a bomb and bullets and pay some poor bloke to drop the bomb and pull the trigger, destroy lives and villages and what do we get for our investment? Rich war mongers, poor young men and women risking their lives to protect property interests. 




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