Well you're right that utility is all subjective, in principle
But in some broad sense at least you can say things about an objective morality
This position is well-defended in the following TED Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww
...and I direct you to it because it's a better argument than I could easily make
Now, I gave greed as an example of an undesirable character trait earlier. I accept your point about relativity in some sense, but I don't think you'd want to be the victim of someone's greed and callousness though would you? Would you want to drink from and bathe in water like this? Water that got this way because someone's money was too precious to clean up after the petroleum byproducts they left behind
This scene, though very tragic, is not at all exceptional. It's a regular occurrence. It's a fact of life ... it's almost a law
of society, in the sense of "a law of physics", that you wouldn't want to be in between someone and a commodity they've got their eyes on. It shouldn't be though. Why is it that way?
I am currently reading Origin of Mind
, a book which aims to investigate the evolutionary basis of human intelligence and behavior. And, if correct, it bears out the idea I have that favoritism towards oneself or an in-group has an evolutionary basis. If so, it is at least partly heritable. And if greed is somehow heritable, then at least part of this character defect, among others, could be nipped right in the bud. I've had some success finding out about the genetic / neural bases of personality traits, desirable and undesirable ... not quite as much as I'd like
but I'm sure more is out there to be found.
By the way, I'm not claiming something so absurdly reductionist as there being a "gene for [complex behavioral trait]"; genes in themselves only encode RNA and, indirectly, polypeptide products. I am claiming, however, that manipulating genes involved in behavior with due regard to environmental factors and the complexity of neurobiology itself would have a profound effect on society. This point is uncontroversial; whether it should
be done isn't
And my overarching point is that I don't think 21st century technology and Pleistocene-era people are at all a safe mixture. If it is reasonable to assume that human genetic engineering could enhance societal welfare considerably (and I think it is), what kind of people would we be to hold back and let society go to ****?