103: Moral Relativity

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Moral Relativity
It's science!
Title text: It's science!


Simple explanation: It's easier to commit a crime when you can get away with it.

Scientific explanation: The chance of someone catching you while doing something illegal is equal to the time it takes to do that and put you in a position to deny doing that. Deduction: while it makes moral sense to not steal an expensive watch from a jeweller, chances are you are likely less prohibited when that stealing takes only 0.001 second, rendering you invisible from security cameras and the jeweller itself. Therefore, any crime that reaches an execution time equal to C (which is light speed, or zero execution time over small distances) is likely to put your moral compass at risk.

Alternate explanation: the main joke in this comic is its interpretation of moral relativity along the same lines as the Theory of Relativity. In the field of Ethics moral relativity holds that moral judgements are not absolute, but rather relative to the group of people involved. The Theory of Relativity predicts (among other things) that physical properties of an object change the closer to the speed of light it travels—length contracts, observed time slows down, etc. Thus it's humorous that the ethics of a situation would be relative the same way physical properties change as the speed of light is approached.


[A graph, rationalization as a function of speed, increasing exponentially with an asymptote at c]

Related to moral relativism, it states that ethics become subjective only when you approach the speed of light.

That is, it's okay to be self-serving, steal, and murder as long as you're going really, really fast.

(Note: This is why rap sounds better on the highway at 90 mph)

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The issue date might be off. All files since #101 have been created on April 11th, 2006. Anyone with an actual issue date?

I've verified that the date is now correct. lcarsos (talk) 21:42, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Guys, there is actually such a thing as Moral relativism, which is "the positive or descriptive position that there exist, in fact, fundamental disagreements about the right course of action even when the same facts hold true and the same consequences seem likely to arise". e.g. oh... maybe whether a government should pay a ransom to some group for a kidnapped citizen? There's probably a far better example.

But, anyway, this also maps well to the whole "two observers moving in differing frames of reference cannot agree on various facts" form of the Space-Time relativism. (As referenced in 265 and 514, amongst others.) 21:56, 23 June 2013 (UTC)