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Friday, May 25, 2007

Evolutionary psychology: The very latest on the origins of morality

It turns out that you can’t help behaving badly because it is programmed into your genes. According to Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia,
"Putting these three principles together forces us to re-evaluate many of our most cherished notions about ourselves," says Haidt, whose own research demonstrates that people generally follow their gut feelings and make up moral reasons afterwards. "Since the time of the Enlightenment," Haidt says, "many philosophers have celebrated the power and virtue of cool, dispassionate reasoning. Unfortunately, few people other than philosophers can engage in such cool, honest reasoning when moral issues are at stake. The rest of us behave more like lawyers, using any arguments we can find to make our case, rather than like judges or scientists searching for the truth. This doesn't mean we are doomed to be immoral; it just means that we should look for the roots of our considerable virtue elsewhere -- in the emotions and intuitions that make us so generally decent and cooperative, yet also sometimes willing to hurt or kill in defense of a principle, a person or a place."

Well then, what is the origin of those emotions or intuitions and why should we heed them? Either they come from a reliable source or they are - as materialists are constrained to believe - the accidental firings of neurons.

This sort of things helps us understand why reasoned religion is catching on on campus.

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