Objectivists consider Life as the objective standard of morality, the basis of ethical judgment. Anything which harms life is evil, anything which is beneficial to life is good. Now by “Life” objectivists do not mean the mere mechanical perpetuation of existence, but a particular kind of life, a fulfilling Aristotlean Eudaemonic life proper to rational beings living in the real world in voluntary co-operation with other rational beings. Those beings must have goals, values, and engage in a productive course in life to achieve that which they value and not be co-dependant or exploitative. Someone who values their mechanical existence over their ‘good life’ will find himself quickly betraying those things that make life enjoyable for the sake of things that allow him to exist, leading in a perpetual spiral toward a less meaningful existence. Rand clarifies this as ‘Life qua Man’ that is, the thing’s proper to life in the context of an individual’s values and Man’s nature.
Nihilistic skeptics, atheists, and philosophers throughout the ages have insisted that there is no such thing as an ‘objective’ morality. Theists will make a claim that the word of god handed down as moral commandments are in fact an ‘objective’ basis for morality, and in their case they use ‘objective’ to mean something like ‘absolute’ and ‘irrefutable’ in this their use of the term objective has infiltrated the skeptical philosophers, like Michael Shermer, using the religious definition of objective also insists there is no ‘objective’ basis for morality and justifies this by saying how can you say this or that is right or wrong, according to what? Shermer misunderstands ‘objective morality’ when he uses this a criticism of Objectivism, as if Objectivism has identified through revelation the one true morality, instead of identifying the only one proper to rational beings in the real world.
But when theists use ‘objective’ morality they hijack the concept of truth and deliberation through reason and usurp it with revealed dogma. To them, ‘objective’ morality is something that demands obedience no matter what and achieves it only through an omniscient omnipotent being as revealed through an elite aristocratic few only possible to those few. But skeptics are wrong to use this as the idea for ‘objective’ morality. We do not say that the ‘objective’ mass of 1 cubic centimeter of water is 1 g because it is announced by the fabric of space-time or decreed by an omniscient being and revealed through divination. They are ‘objective’ because they are the product of reason, logic, and observation. Objective in the context of science is something that is strived for that is removed from subjective interpretation and bias. An “Objective” morality is not something ingrained into the fabric of the universe in the sense that it can be deduced through Newton’s laws of motion or quantum mechanics, as skeptics seem to think is a requirement for morality to be objective, (in doing so rendering the very concept of objective pointless) but it is objective in the sense that it is removed from subjective interpretation or bias, it is objective because it is the natural logical consequence of the laws of physics and the nature of rational beings that exist in a real universe.
Liberals are still confused about this, theists have it easy, they look it up in their book, argue a little about interpretation, then decree something as ‘objectively’ immoral. But nothing that only an elite few have access to who provide official interpretations is ‘objective’, it is not something discernable by any person using their mind, reason, and observation - as anything that is called ‘objective’ should by definition be. Liberals aren’t sure where to go, they know that, for instance, killing someone is wrong, but not sure if it is right to say someone in another country is wrong to kill someone else when their culture makes it ok, such as ‘honor killing’, the inhumane treatment of the ‘untouchables’ in India, etc. Richard Dawkins wrestles with this contradiction in ‘the God Delusion’ where he associates religious indoctrination with child abuse, but then is a little confused about what that demands of him morally, if one is witnessing child abuse, expending a reasonable amount of energy to stop it is moral to him, so if a country is indoctrinating children with a hate filled ideology, abusing them essentially, it should be morally defensible to remove from power the tyrants of that nation. But this get’s in the way of the moral relativism, ‘tolerance’ and ‘multi-culturalism’ liberals profess so strongly (but rarely extend to inhabitants of their own nation who hold different opinions!)
Some Liberals though, I realized, do have an objective basis for morality, which they seemingly adopt whole heartedly, that of environmentalism. In the way that Life qua Man is the objective standard of morality to Objectivists, some vague platonic ideal abstraction of a pure and pristine environment is the objective standard of morality to liberal environmentalists. Whatever nation, culture, or creed, regardless of multi-culturalism and ‘tolerance’, if you’re burning down trees, killing cuddly animals, or dumping trash in rivers, all that bottled up moral rage and condemnation that liberals have been holding comes billowing forth. Now, you could be killing people because of their ethnicity, holding the people in your nation as literal hostages and running it like a prison camp, etc, but moral condemnation is sparse. They just say “who are we to say they are wrong” or “That’s just their culture” But if you’re burning coal, forget it! You are the incarnate of all that is evil!
This falls right into line with the growing criticism that environmentalism is just filling the psychological void of religious thought that secularism in the west has left gaping wide open. It has their garden of Eden – “Sustainability”, the fall of man from that where everyone lived in blissful harmony with nature (and not the painful disgusting short brutish lives they actually lived), it’s emotional disregard for facts, it’s original sin, and now, it’s ‘objective’ basis for morality.
One might try to argue that environmental degradation affects everyone and that’s why it’s morally objectionable to everyone everywhere, but this argument fails for two reasons. First it implies that unless something directly affects ME then I make no moral judgment on it, so what if you’re raping my next door neighbor! In fact an assault on any person on the planet is an assault on everyone’s rights because leaving it alone promulgates a world where that kind of thing is ok, where rights in general are not respected. It is always in your best interest to oppose the assault and infringement on rights any where in the world, because when you do not it will always, eventually, come back to bite you. Which leads to the second, the harm which comes from the promulgation of murderous tyranny, which is so often ignored because of ‘multi-culturalism’ and things like ‘self determination’ (as if a small group of thugs getting hundreds of billions in weapons from an expansionistic murderous tyranny like the Soviet Union and using that to enslave and force to war an entire nation, such as was the case of Vietnam, was anything remotely like ‘self determination’) is far more detrimental to your average person’s well being than coal power is. While it is true that these kinds of nations, the most unjust when life is your standard of morality, are also the worst polluters, it is also very true that they are the source and primary fuel for aggression, democide, famines, wars, terrorism, and pandemics.
At the end of WWI, Winston Churchill insisted that British Troops assist the Czars in defending themselves against the revolution which brought Lenin and communism to power, but the war weary west labeled him a war monger. Less than a thousand troops took the Czars with little resistance. It is said that in the making of a movie some years later glorifying the revolution more people were injured than in the actual revolution itself. A little opposition may have gone a long way, but instead what rose to power was the most murderous tyranny in the history of humanity. At the end of WWII, Winston Churchill again warned that we should move on the Soviet Union, while it is now at it’s weakest, and they again called him a war monger, and so we were thrust into an existential prisoners dilemma game with a murderous expansionistic tyranny that brought the entire world to the brink of complete nuclear annihilation.
It was not the Soviet Union’s dirty coal plants or poorly designed nuclear power plants that killed 60 million people this century (more than twice as many as were killed in World War II) and motivated the invasion of 1/3rd of the nations on the planet, thrusting dozens into civil wars and perpetual slavery. It was not the emissions of the crematoriums in Auschwitz that did not meet EPA guidelines that enabled Hitler to kill 20 million Jews, Gypsies, ‘unfits’ and homosexuals (incidentally, Stalin killed more Jews than Hitler did, but he just killed them along with other people, so it was not ‘genocide’ in the eyes of the semantically obsessed morally confused west) It was not raping the earth for steel that started the most dreadful war in all of humanity, it was the alliance of two militaristic tyrannical xenophobic megalomaniacal cultures and one merely power hungry expansionist culture. It was appeasement, indifference, moral relativism, isolationism, and utopian wishful thinking that ignored these murderous tyrannies and every reasonable warning sign until too late that wreaked this havoc upon humanity and the inhabitants of the world, and it will be those same characteristics that will wreak havoc upon humanity and indeed all life on earth in the future.