To many, ethics exist as moral codes that administer our decided actions, rights and wrongs, virtues, views, and principles. Ethics are incorporated in occupational fields (accounting, trade markets, science, etc.), fields of study, political stances, as well as decisions we choose to make each and every day. It is often that we obtain ethics or moral code from our family predecessors as they tend to teach us values of the family name. They ultimately shape who we are and exist as guidelines for our choices while determining our boundaries.
Basic ethics provide us with lessons that are usually taught when we are young such as, not to murder, steal, cheat, etc. and tend to be obvious decisions for most. However, what if we are presented with a decision where the result is uncertain? Some examples may include financial benefit accompanied at the expense of others or increased social status at the expense of individual health to name a couple. These examples are the true reason why ethics are necessary when we are presented with unsure outcomes. When decisions that lie between right and wrong, ethics are usually the determining factor behind the eventual choice.
Ethics have influenced decisions for many years. They originated wherever and whenever humans developed a morality code and could differentiate between right and wrong behavior. They begun when humanity developed the finest ways to live, which is where the first moral codes were introduced. Some popular historical documents that are perceived responsible for the origination of ethics include the Code of Hammurabi, the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments, as well as Mount Sinai in the Protagoras of Plato (1).
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The Code of Hammurabi is a Babylonian code of law of early Mesopotamia, which dates to 1750 B.C. Created by the Babylonian King Hammurabi, it served as the basis for his rule and is one of the first examples of documented ethics. Over three-hundred laws made up the “code” which included “homicide, assault, divorce, debt, adoption, tradesman’s fees, agricultural practices, and even disputes regarding the brewing of beer” (2). Although these laws were groundbreaking towards the development of human ethics, they didn’t necessarily mirror what we believe is right and wrong today. For instance, “if a member of the elite blinded a commoner or broke the commoner's bone, that elite person had to pay one pound of silver as penalty. On the other hand, if a person struck someone who was of a higher social status, then that person can expect severe punishment” (2). As you may imagine, the public hearings of the Babylonian culture weren’t always fair, however the code of laws were a step toward the basis of fundamental ethics.
In an era where technology is quickly increasing in occupational fields, social life, sciences, studies etc. ethics provide a basis of rules of which we can and cannot do. For instance, in the field of Biotechnology we often face these types of decisions. Some examples include animal and human testing, stem cell research, cloning, and bioterrorism to name a few. Animal and human testing tend to be a popular political battle and a subject the public feels strongly about. However, in biotechnology, ethics give us that baseline aimed towards scientific developments along with boundaries of how we may conduct those research and experiments. It does propose the issue of not being able to complete or test scientific advances but also remains in line with most people’s moral code. These issues will continue to create controversies as we move forward in the field of biotechnology.
To conclude, we as humans are constantly faced with decisions of uncertainty. Ethics give us guidelines for making those daily choices but are also blueprints for when we find ourselves in the gray area of right and wrong. Without them, we as humans would be condensed to the behavior of animals; hunt, eat, sleep, and reproduce.
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