Reddit Reddit reviews The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

We found 46 Reddit comments about The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.

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The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
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46 Reddit comments about The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values:

u/flabbergasted1 · 120 pointsr/IAmA

Question 1 [asked by redditor Prom_STar]: What are your thoughts on Sam Harris' idea that we can eventually use neuroscience to quantify human well-being and use that information to empirically evaluate ethics?

Response. Sam Harris has written a new book, a very interesting book, called The Moral Landscape. And he takes on the almost cliché philosophy that science has nothing to say about morality; science can tell us the how of things, science cannot tell us what's good and what's bad. Well, I think maybe Sam's got a point – Sam thinks that you can. And he thinks that neuroscience can actually be used to tell when people are really, really suffering. You do have to make the assumption that what matters is suffering. You do have to make the assumption that the goal of morality is something like to reduce the total amount of suffering; to reduce the amount of suffering in either humans or sentient beings. But once you've done that, once you've accepted that that's your goal in your morality, then science, especially neuroscience, really can tell you when people suffer, when creatures suffer. And so I think he's good a very good point and I strongly recommend the book, The Moral Landscape.

tl;dr. Dawkins believes Sam Harris has a very good point, working under certain assumptions.

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u/[deleted] · 28 pointsr/philosophy

Sam Harris's argument is two-fold, and neither fold requires that his articulation of moral language follow from a body of empirical study.

He construes moral language as only possibly referring to the well-being of conscious creatures. This is not an empirical adventure, it is a matter of conceptual analysis. To be brief, imagine a universe without minds, without any intelligent or intentional agents whatsoever: just rocks, say. What moral facts might there be about such a universe? What morally salient transactions might therein occur? Harris infers from the obvious "none" answers to these questions that morality must only be about conscious creatures. That it is about the "well-being" of such creatures is nothing more than ordinary language philosophy applied to conceptual analysis, which is the dominant paradigm of analytic philosophy on such questions.

(I disagree with him on the first fold- I think the real invalid inference is from the absence of moral facts about dead universes to moral facts only being about live critters. Moral rules could be like the laws of physics- just as the laws of gravity still hold in totally empty space insofar as if that space were occupied, whatever occupies that space would obey those laws, so could moral rules be true even where they have no instances. But I digress.)

The second fold is I think an almost banal statement about science, which is that, given that moral language is only about the well-being of conscience creatures, science is very, very good at both figuring out what affects our well-being, as well as finding ways to improve it- and therefore science has some salience on moral questions. I think that no rational mind could disagree with his second fold given his first premise.

Does that help?

u/NukeThePope · 16 pointsr/atheism

Because your question is hard to discern from a troll of the same wording ;) you are getting some very flippant answers here. Let me try to offer a sensible one!

> Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.
— Kurt Vonnegut

First of all, the majority of my morals are "built in" to me by evolution. Studies show that chimpanzees, bonobos and human children respond very similarly to a large variety of moral situations. If there were once, in our family tree, social animals with tendencies to wantonly murder, to steal or to cheat, those species have died out, because strategies based on what you'd call "morals" work better for the survival of social animals.

For example, I'd find it very difficult to kill another human, even in self defense. 40 years ago, I unthinkingly poured some acid on a snail's back (I was religious at the time, but that obviously didn't provide me with foolproof moral sense) and was very unhappy to see it obviously suffering; I still regret doing that today. I shoplifted a time or two, again as a child, but I stopped when I realized I was not just harming some big nameless "the store" but the clerks and shopkeepers who might be made accountable for the losses I caused.

A couple of years ago I met with some customers from the Balkan, and remarked that they would cheerfully break any law that wasn't enforced. I explained to them that I don't park in handicapped spaces, not for fear of getting a relatively cheap ticket, but because I didn't want to put some poor handicapped bastard through additional hassle; and so as not to encourage other people to do the same.

On the other hand, I will withhold details about my sexual behavior, for fear of giving you a coronary. There are religious proscriptions against all kinds of normal, healthy and very fun activities between consenting adults which I consider completely bogus. Voluntary abstinence is not the kind of behavior which would have evolved in humans. From an evolutionary standpoint, that would be pretty stupid.

Just to annoy you, I once financed an abortion for an ex-girlfriend. I consider that a moral deed because her life would have been badly negatively impacted if she had been forced to have the baby. Do I worry about the embryo? No, it was barely at the "fish" stage (with gills and a tail) and far from being conscious as a human being.

Do I lust? Every chance I get. Do I covet? You bet. It's un-American not to covet, that's what keeps Capitalism going! Do I keep the Sabbath? No, and I bitch when I find stores and facilities closed on Sundays. Speaking of: Do I blaspheme? Hell yeah, I curse like a goddamn motherfucker. Do I honor my parents? Yes and no: My father was an asshole who made life much harder than necessary for my mother and self, mostly with religious motives, thank you.

I believe in fair exchanges. I will not try to cheat others, and I will not tolerate being cheated. I believe in altruism and generosity. Doing good makes me feel good too. I believe in helping the needy and defending the weak, though I'm not much of a hero.

How, though, do I deal with temptation? Easy opportunities that would hurt my integrity. Do I pray to nobody about them? No. I passed by an open Ferrari with keys in the ignition because... well, I happen to live in a country with laws and police and stuff. People make mistakes, some people are desperate, and some people (psychopaths) really have no morals. What keeps most of those people on the straight and narrow is a reasonably efficient but fair legal system.

A few weeks ago I got my copy of The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. He argues that a very well working system of morals can and indeed should be established on a very simple basis: "The well-being of sentient beings." There's a remarkable variety of cases where moral decisions become no-brainers. "Are people going to suffer if I drop bricks off the bridge? Well, then don't do that!" "Will people's lives improve if I donate to DWB? OK, here's my contribution." I don't want some poor cows to spend their lives in prison-like farms, so I cut down a lot on eating meat.

Harris says a society that forces women to wear garbage bags and stones them for getting raped is morally worse than one where this doesn't happen. And a society where gays are persecuted and bullied is worse than one where they're given all civil rights. Hey, this stuff is pretty easy!

There are more difficult moral decisions that TML doesn't offer handy advice for. But it offers a very useful basis for discussion about them.

Anyway, as you may have gathered, I approve of Harris' approach to morality. And I believe the Christian approach of absolute morals handed down in a book written by slave-keeping, children-stoning Bronze age barbarians... sucks donkey balls.

EDIT: Highlights. And a typo.

u/krunk7 · 12 pointsr/worldnews

If NAMBLA set up on a island and established a culture of raping 3 year olds in the ass and then eating them alive while they were awake would you step back and say "Hey, hey, hey. It's their culture who are you to say raping children in the ass is bad and dismembering them for the purpose of a good goulash is immoral?"

I'm just trying to figure out what your line of reasoning is.

edit
If you're just trying to pose the question of which metric is most valid, without asserting that all moral behavior is relativistic and cannibalism of conscious persons, child rape, torture, etc. are, in fact, moral within a given context then this method is probably a good start.

u/babney · 7 pointsr/atheism

Because morality is not determined by the existence or nonexistence of a god. http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211

u/lanemik · 6 pointsr/DebateAnAtheist
  1. Morality must be based on something. The real life effects that moral decisions have on beings that are conscious enough to understand those effects is as close to an objective standard as we can get. For more, read The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris.

    Kudos to Sam Harris, but as it turns out, my interest level in debating the merits of utilitarianism is much lower than I suspected it might be. All I can say is that Harris fully recognizes that it is a problem that the only people who are absolutely certain of their morals are those who are the most zealous about their religious convictions. And, of course, due to the mutually exclusive nature of religion, not all religious convictions can be right so most moral absolutists must be wrong. A good counter-question might be, "what makes you think that your version of absolute morality might be right?" I suspect that would be labeled as "dancing around the question" so I'll simply make that a rhetorical and move on.

  2. Laura Mersini suggests that there is in fact good reason to think that other universes do exist. Her hypothesis makes novel predictions that have since been observed and, unlike any other hypothesis (if memory serves), her theory explains the blue shift we see in our universe as the interaction of an external universe. Do some research into Mersini's idea of the universe as a wave function on the landscape multiverse.

    I think I've answered your questions directly, though not in a great deal of depth. Sadly, I'm a long way away from being a philosopher and I'm even farther from being a theoretical physicist so the best I can do is to point you towards those who have answers (even if just preliminary or as yet unproven answers) to your questions.

    I'm interested to see your thoughts particularly about Dr. Mersini's hypothesis.
u/Rodeopants · 6 pointsr/atheism

Sam Harris talks about this a lot; he wrote a book called The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values , and also did a TED Talk about the subject.

u/sakodak · 5 pointsr/atheism
u/alassus · 5 pointsr/DebateAnAtheist

Read Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape. And for a primer on the topic you can also watch his TED talk.

EDIT: This TED talk on oxytocin in regard to morality is also interesting.

u/lucilletwo · 5 pointsr/pics

I normally avoid discussion religion and atheism outside of /r/atheism, but I wanted to respond to your comment because I think it's missing the point of why atheists tend to make these statements.

The point the atheists are trying to make when they bring up certain passages is not to deny that there is good content mixed in with the bad, or to argue about whether the bible on the whole has more good vs bad content. The real argument is that if you read the bible you find plenty of both, and that when people try to claim it is an infallibly good book, it simply isn't true. Atheists do not believe the bible is the divine word of God, and pointing out the many contradictions in the bible (various facts, historical inconsistencies and contradicting moral directives) is just one way of providing evidence of this. When we hear people claiming that other people should "read and follow the bible", we ask "which part?" as a way of reminding them of the problems inherent to their suggestion.

We recognize there is plenty of good in the bible, but that there is obviously bad stuff too. We do not believe it is the inspired divine word of God, rather we generally think it is just a very interesting collection of ideas and stories put together by ancient authors. If the original 'good book' was really just written by ancient men as an attempt to provide a moral guide for their people, why shouldn't we as modern men come up with new versions of morality to live by today; ones that aren't internally and externally inconsistent, and which reflect the vast amount of knowledge we've gained in the interim? Ones that remove ideas about sexism, racism, and homophobia?

To sum up, when it comes to morality, many atheists are in the secular humanist camp - basically the idea is that as modern, self-reflecting, philosophical, intelligent humans we should define what is moral in a modern context, rather than relying on cultural traditions forged in ancient history, from a book that clearly has a large number of moral and factual contradictions throughout it. If you're at all interested to see one view of what this modern reanalysis of morals might look like, I'd highly recommend The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris.

u/TouchedByAnAnvil · 3 pointsr/atheism

quickly googles for Sam Harris new book - here it is: The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

But it says it will be available in October 2010 :(

u/haleym · 3 pointsr/atheism

In case anyone else committed the blasphemous sin of forgetting one of the Four Horsemen's first names like I did (it's Sam, btw) or are just too lazy to Google the book:

http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211

u/websnarf · 3 pointsr/atheism

Atheism asserts no absolutes. Fail.

Morality is an interesting topic, upon which theists are uniquely unqualified (ref: crusades, adolph hitler, the current pedophilia scandals, telling Africans not to use condoms, opposing civil rights, opposing feminism, opposing gay rights, opposing emancipation). A well known atheist named Sam Harris has written a whole book about this called The Moral Landscape which addresses the question better than any theist ever has. (Though I don't claim its a complete answer.) These are actually not matters of logic at all, but are currently in the philosophical or early cognitive science phase.

I assure you I don't need to learn anything about philosophy. Though you might need a little remedial on logic.

u/tikael · 3 pointsr/atheism

>For instance, nobody desires to be a true sociopath (ie: physically and chemically cannot feel good or evil), and those who are true sociopaths... well... many do not function well in society. Like it or not, what God defines as good... really is good

That is not a sociopath. Sociopaths lack empathy, but they may be acutely aware of societal norms. Jon Ronson just wrote a book about socio/psychopaths. I would suggest you read up on the Euthyphro dilemma. We can debate all day about the meaning of "good", but the god in the bible is not it. Condoning rape, commanding genocide, condemning though crime, those are the acts of the god of the bible. Those are not in any way good. If you want to know a little more about modern views of morality you should read up on the evolutionary causes of morality. Sam Harris wrote a very good book about it recently

>How much evil should God get rid of divinely?

Well, none of it according to the bible. Isiah 45:6-7 (Young's literal translation but you can look it up in whichever version you like)

>So that they know from the rising of the sun, And from the west, that there is none besides Me, I [am] Jehovah, and there is none else, Forming light, and preparing darkness, Making peace, and preparing evil, I [am] Jehovah, doing all these things.'

u/MoonPoint · 2 pointsr/atheism

Because the book mentioned relates to the topic being discussed by technothrasher and ojfrown. It is not uncommon for one person on Reddit to recommend a book he himself, or herself, has found relevant to a topic being discussed and feels the other person might find interesting as well.

Since you appear to think Sam Harris is just "some random guy", I'll add a little biographical material:

>Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Moral Landscape. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction.
>
>Mr. Harris' writing has been published in over fifteen languages. He and his work have been discussed in Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times, Scientific American, Nature, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.
>
>Mr. Harris is a Co-Founder and CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

Should you wish to learn more about the book, see The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.

Some people are willing to read the works of authors who might have opinions that differ from their own.

u/ElectricRebel · 2 pointsr/atheism

Another FYI:

This is the book he was referring to:

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

u/idono · 2 pointsr/science

For more on this, I suggest reading his book: The Moral Landscape

u/Airazz · 2 pointsr/DebateAChristian

>Since there is no objective morality without god

That's what Christians say. Mind you, many things they say turn out to be bullshit.

Your sense of morality arrives from what your parents taught, from your own experiences in school, with your friends, etc.


Sam Harris wrote a good book about that.

u/jamabake · 2 pointsr/atheism

No ... Read The Moral Landscape by Harris. It might not convince you to side with Harris, but it will certainly make you think.

u/AlterdCarbon · 2 pointsr/atheism

Don't forget Sam Harris' ideas on morality, which actually helped shape Dawkins' beliefs (see his review of Harris' book on Amazon).

u/heretoforthwith · 2 pointsr/atheism
u/ozonesonde · 2 pointsr/askscience

Sam Harris talks about it in length in his book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

u/ritmusic2k · 2 pointsr/askscience

While we're on Sam Harris, his book The Moral Landscape is an in-depth extension of the ideas he brings up in this talk. It's a fascinating read, in that it is likely to change your mind on a lot of beliefs you have probably held without consideration for much of your life.

u/Vollholler · 2 pointsr/atheism

If the threat of hell is the only thing that keeps you from shooting and raping people, then you probably aren't a very good person to begin with.

By the way, you should read this:
http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211

u/ontherez · 2 pointsr/atheism

He definitely believes in objective morality. See here.

u/PornoWizard · 1 pointr/atheism

You might want to have a look at Sam Harris' new book : http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211

I have not read it nor had I read anything by Sam Harris, but I have heard good things about the book and will likely read it in the future. It seems to in line with the topic at hand.

Edit : On the prisoner's dilemma. You might want to read up on evolutionary stable strategies : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionarily_stable_strategy

An ESS is more or less the prisoner's dilemma expanded to explain behaviours within a population.

u/aradil · 1 pointr/books

Currently reading The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris.

Very good read so far, although it's mostly focused on morality and not so much God. Definitely a thumbs up and recommended though.

u/schoofer · 1 pointr/atheism

>I have to imagine you're angry that I have equated your moral realism to christian fundamentalism, but as I keep pointing out, there is a reason for that.

I'm not angry about that. I'm angry I wasted so much time on you. You espouse nothing but poor reasoning. You're an apologist. You've chosen that position and it's an ugly one.

>The only reason you think it is universally wrong is because you believe in your morals blindly—with FAITH.

My morals are quite measured and I do not follow them blindly, with faith. I quoted this because this is all you do. You make stupid and baseless attacks because you have no defense.

>Of course, but that doesn't make those commonalities universally necessary, and certainly not universally moral.

You don't get it. I'm done. I'll leave you with this, because I don't think I've talked to someone who needs to read it more than you:

http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211

u/bullhead2007 · 1 pointr/SubredditDrama

I am not really qualified to represent a scientific explanation of altruism. However, I have read books and some research done. We take care of disabled people because humans have evolved empathy and sympathy. This fits into our evolution as a social species. Our species was stronger with these traits and it benefited our over all survival, or it probably would have evolved away. Sure a blind man may not be useful for physical jobs and required care and attention, however they tend to have usefulness anyways in some cases. Blind people can still teach for example. Evolution doesn't have anything that contradicts taking care of cripples or people who would seem to put a disadvantage to our resources.

The moral landscape goes into good lengths to apply science to moral values.

u/ahopstad · 1 pointr/funny

Read The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. His basic thesis is that there are scientific methods that can determine what is positive or negative for society, and that reason should determine how to view actions that are traditionally vague or "relative" because of religion, tolerance for other cultures, etc. instead of saying, "oh, well those people are different than I am, and no matter their opinion they have a right to live their life as they choose". A moral relativist might say that stoning a woman for adultery in a different culture, although they might disagree, shouldn't be condemned because it's a part of their society and not ours.

*edited, we are actually discussing "moral relativism", rather than "cultural relativism" - cultural relativism is a more positive anthropological methodology that says basically "my art/food/music isn't better than yours"

u/CtrlCthenV · 1 pointr/atheism
u/StapleGun · 1 pointr/atheism

Yes, I don't believe however that moral-good is any sort of divine or supernatural concept, but merely a set of constructs by which we can minimize human suffering and maximize happiness.

What do you think?

Edit: The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris describes pretty much what I am describing but in much greater detail and clarity.

u/imgonnacallyouretard · 1 pointr/worldnews

Thanks for the reply. If you liked that essay, you may find Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape interesting. Also, the author of the essay has a number of other writings(on diverse topics) available on his homepage: http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/

u/MercuryChaos · 1 pointr/lgbt

>Ultimately laws that are seemingly based on morals are based on the concept of protecting innocent civilians

The idea that protecting innocent civilians is a good thing, and that murder, rape, and theft are bad things are all moral judgements, about whether those things are right or wrong. The difference is that these judgements can be justified on the grounds that they promote human well-being. The judgement that same-sex relationships are immoral can only be justified on religious grounds – you can't defend it with any objective facts or observations of the physical world.

You're right that morals vary across cultures, and of course anyone can say that their morals are the correct ones because they said so. But I don't think that it has to end there. I think that it's possible for someone to make a better argument than that to support their system of morality – and that if all they have to support themselves is "because I said so" (or "because the [religious text] says so") then their system of morality is probably not going to promote objective human well-being.

You should check out Sam Harris' TED talk about morality, and (if you're really interested) his book on the same topic. He makes a very persuasive case against the idea that morals are purely subjective. At one time I would have agreed that we shouldn't legislate morality, for the exact same reasons that you gave, but listening to what he had to say changed the way I think about the whole topic of morality.

u/killgriffithvol2 · 1 pointr/unpopularopinion

http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211

They do. At least broad and general claims about morality can be measured and made. We can make observations about human fufilment and human suffering that are undeniable.

u/ZeroBugBounce · 1 pointr/atheism

I wonder what Penn does/would think of The Moral Landscape.

Also this:

> you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right

I love Penn and I don't know how rigorous he was intending to be when writing this, but this point is obviously false in at least some circumstances as long as we can read "moral credit" as "being moral". Clearly, using coercive or violent force to stop a murderer from killing your toddler-aged child IS an unambiguous, unassailable example of "moral credit" to you.

u/QuothHe · 1 pointr/Christianity

> Q: How could science guide us on the moral landscape?

> Harris: Insofar as we can understand human wellbeing, we will understand the conditions that best secure it. Some are obvious, of course. Positive social emotions like compassion and empathy are generally good for us, and we want to encourage them. But do we know how to most reliably raise children to care about the suffering of other people? I’m not sure we do. Are there genes that make certain people more compassionate than others? What social systems and institutions could maximize our sense of connectedness to the rest of humanity? These questions have answers, and only a science of morality could deliver them.
-- Sam Harris

u/SaltyBabe · 1 pointr/worldnews

You''re trying to equate someones personal respect (in my case) for other people to me being forced to do something for a religion... that's not the case. There is no Muslim morality when you get down to it, Sam Harris might be able to explain it better to you than I can.

Frankly I think nudity laws are stupid, and repressive. I think it's silly a man can be topless and a woman cannot, if some African ladies told me it was repressive I couldn't walk around topless I would agree with them. However if I wanted to walk around topless, there are cities and places I can go to where the law is actually ok with me walking around topless/nude. You better bet that if these Muslim women tried to walk around not in full body cover anywhere there would be a shit storm coming right at them.

I think that like most things there is a time and a place for everything, and if they chose to wear these full body and face covering clothes that would even be ok, if it wasn't in conjunction with all the other things that oppress these women. If it was "These women are treated as equal but out of respect for their religion wear these garments" fine, but any religion that is based around keeping women down and glorifying men is clearly not acting in the women best interest, and anything stemming from it is going to be put in a negative light regardless.

u/akcampbell · 1 pointr/philosophy

I haven't read any of these, but there is a Listmania! list on Amazon of experimental philosophy books.

I'm going to try and read Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape sometime over the break, and that might also be up your brother's alley.

u/ThinkRationally · 1 pointr/atheism

You are saying that there are circumstances where these things aren't wrong, and I disagree. No matter what "yardstick" you use, some things should always be wrong.

You are, however, echoing the sentiment that has been popular for most people, including the scientific community, for quite some time. I mentioned Sam Harris, as he makes some very good arguments against this:

Check out his book.

Definitely worth a read. At the risk of failing miserably to properly convey his point, he is suggesting that our "yardstick" should be, and can only be, the well-being of conscious beings. If we agree on this, then it can be surmised that there are answers to questions of morality that are definitely right and answers that are definitely wrong.

Basically, he is taking the notion that has been common for so long, "it is impossible to have a universal standpoint on morality," and rejecting it. And he makes some damn good arguments. Moral relativism is a way for us to excuse the inexcusable.

u/curtains · 0 pointsr/philosophy
u/wolffml · 0 pointsr/DebateAChristian

>It is scientifically impossible to prove moral values.

I don't agree. References:

The Moral Landscape

Evolution of Morality

>The argument of "if you dont like X, than do it" clearly is fallacious.

It was more of a soundbite than an argument. My apologies. The fact is that you have to present very good reasons when you take away someone else's right. We've decided to do this in the case of Drunk Driving because the behavior presents a clear danger to others within our society.

It is not illegal to join a gang. It is illegal to commit crimes often associated with gang membership.

Not everyone pays federal income taxes but everyone is required to pay their fair share as defined by the federal and state legislatures.

The real concern regarding gay marriage is that it is victimless. The LGBT community is simply asking for equal rights, not greater rights or rights to impinge on the rights of others in the society.

The best analogy is the historical laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Interracial marriage is now almost universally accepted. There is no longer a question of it being morally wrong.

History will also judge your prejudiced viewpoint unfavorably. It is an assault on human dignity.