The next time you hear a monotheist tell a non-believer that morals come from the Bible or that moral reasoning cannot provide an ethical code of conduct, point them to the body of Medical Ethics. :)
I find Medical Ethics to be so fascinating because we are required to implement our moral reasoning in order to discover the best course of action in a difficult situation. Physicians are bound by the Hippocratic oath, dating back to the late 5th century BCE. The original oath was sworn to the Greek gods, including Apollo, and the oath served to guide the practice of healers and bind them to the doctrine of "do no harm". Ethics was of immense importance to the Hellenistic world, in fact, Plato and Aristotle were the first great philosophers to study and write about ethics in detail.
In contrast, Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe morals and ethics are only derived from their specific holy books. Therefore, how do monotheists explain the refined set of medical ethics we have today? What does the Bible have to say about the therapeutic privilege exception to informed consent, doctor-patient confidentiality, sexual relationships with former patients, and accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies?
Ancient scrolls written many thousands of years ago could never hope predict all the moral and ethical dilemmas future societies would face. The Bible cannot speak to modern-day medical ethics just as it says nothing about insider trading, sexual harassment in the work place, or the ethical obligation of lawyers to defend clients known to be guilty.
I find it truly amazing at the same the ancient Greeks were refining a code of ethics by which to conduct the practice of medicine, the Hebrews were cursing Babylon and threatening to seize Babylonian infants and violently dash them against rocks (Psalm 137:9). These two groups actually coexisted, and you could not hope to find a better example of two morally polarized theistic belief systems in the ancient world.
There is a major disconnect between what the Bible considers morally acceptable, and the ethical standards of practice of physicians, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and the public at large. Our modern-day understanding of ethics can only be derived from moral reasoning. The Bible simply did not have the foresight nor the capacity to speak on modern-day ethical dilemmas, and in some cases, such as those of slavery and infanticide, the Bible is totally devoid of ethics, compassion, and the doctrine of "do no harm".
As we can see by the sheer variety of ethical dilemmas that doctors and other health care providers must face, there is no way the authors of the Bible, Aristotle, Hippocrates, or any other ancient text could predict the way ethical conduct would be practiced by future civilizations. Indeed, the body of medicine is continually growing and shows no signs of relenting. In one hundred, five hundred, or even a thousands years the novel problems the future of medicine will encounter will be entirely different than our own.
There is no conceivable way to predict the kinds of bio-ethical dilemmas our descendants will face, and only a strong ethical foundation and the ability to morally reason will allow them to continue to refine their ethical codes of conduct. However, what can be certain of, is that the foundations of ethics will never change. "Do no harm" was the under-riding principle of medical ethics over 25 centuries ago, and it will continue to be 25 centuries from now. But unfortunately for monotheists, the same kind of comparison cannot be made with their historical documents regarding moral and ethical conduct.
Intro: "Happy-Go-Lively" - Ren and Stimpy soundtrack
"When it Falls" - Zero 7
"Deb Cries" - Dexter Soundrack
Practice questions taken from USMLE review material such as "First Aid" and "Kaplan".