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Laws need to change to keep up with our more developed human minds

December 18, 2012 | By Abraham | 16 comments

Thomas Jefferson made this historically and ethically obvious yet incredibly important observation in a letter to Samuel Kercheval dated July 12, 1816. The above inscription is from the southeast quadrant of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

(via Will Zone, Quotations Book)

16 Comments

  1. Tina says:

    Laws are made by men and are made for men; men change, and so will their laws.

    Morality, on the other hand, is not made by man. It is founded in truth, which is not defined by men but rather discovered by them.

    Man has evolved in intelligence and technology, but I’m afraid we are as barbaric as we have always been. No improvement of the laws of men will ever make us into better human beings.

    1. CP says:

      So what’s the difference between “better human beings” (which you say can’t exist) and people who have discovered more morality (which you imply can exist)? If those aren’t the same thing, the difference seems semantic rather than practical.

      1. Tina says:

        Knowing and doing are two very different things. All of the laws human beings can come up with have been summed up by Christ: to love God with all of one’s being and actions, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

        While nearly everyone would agree to a morality based upon this truth, human beings (myself included) are regrettably incapable of adhering to it. It is equally unfortunate that more laws or even “better” laws will not prevent people from doing evil.

        I can imagine that you could guess where the conversation goes from here, so I won’t bore you. :-) I’m a Christian, after all. These are interesting things to reflect on near Christmas.

      2. nik says:

        From the Christian perspective: better human beings do not exist- we are all fallen, and sinful, creatures. we are capable of no good apart from God. Jefferson says “New truths are discovered” not “people who have discovered more morality.” there is no such thing as more morality, from a Christian perspective. all morality that exists for us, is already set forth in the Bible. We do discover new truths- truths about how we can make electricity work for us, truths about how the universe is created. and when we discover these things, they necessitate new laws to govern how we interact with them.

        1. arron says:

          Does Christianity necessitate the qualifier “from a Christian perspective”?
          .. God claims absolute authority over everything everywhere, not just those who acknowledge him.

        2. blueangel says:

          I’m so glad I don’t have to believe that way anymore! It’s very freeing. My point is that morality is by far not about sex, or what drugs you do, or what gender the person that you sleep with at night is, and all about the way you treat your fellow man. To call names like that (fallen, sinful creatures) is what I would consider to be immoral. It’s bullying at it’s finest. In christianity, you believe that one person should suffer and die for the “sins” of all. You believe that someone else should suffer your consequences. You believe that that is what your God did. I’m so glad that I don’t have to be subjected to that horrible God anymore.

          1. Clint says:

            Blueangel, I’m sorry you were subjected to a horrible god. But it certainly wasn’t the God of Jesus.

    2. ED... says:

      +1
      Belief in progress, especially moral progress, generally augurs a new dark age of one kind or another. History may not repeat itself, but it generally rhymes on this point.

  2. arron says:

    The following is from a work of fiction (_Serenity_), but it still applies:

    [After finding millions of bodies from a government program that accidentally killed them while trying to make them peaceful,]

    “This report is maybe twelve years old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried ’til River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear, ’cause there’s a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it too. They’re gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people.

    “Y’all got on this boat for different reasons, but y’all are come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. ‘Cause as sure as I know anything I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground, swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people… better. And I do not hold to that.”

    -Captain Malcolm Reynolds (from _Serenity_)

    … All that to say, progress is good up to a point. But past some unmarked line, progress becomes rot. And that’s when conservatives are right – when they are trying to keep things from rotting. I don’t know where that line is, but it definitely exists. And some societies are probably past it already.

    1. Chris says:

      A very interesting observation….particularly in light of recent debate about 2nd amendment rights….. What would they think about how their words are being used ?????

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