Friday, January 07, 2011

Children: Do babies know the difference between right and wrong?

Yes they do, according to Paul Bloom at Yale University. David Derbyshire reports:
Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said: 'A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.

'With the help of well designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life.

'Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones.'
What Dr. Bloom means to say, of course, is that morality is encoded in the genes and owes little or nothing to reason.

But other researchers are skeptical:
Dr Nadja Reissland, of Durham University, said babies started to learn the difference between good and bad from birth.

'Everything hinges on who decides what is normal,' she said. 'By saying pushing the ball up the hill is helpful, the researchers are making a moral judgement. The babies might just prefer to see things go up rather than down.
By “learn,” she means that the babies begin to apply concepts; Good vs.evil are not hardwired.

I think the most reasonable explanation of the experiments described is that babies prefer happy faces to sad or angry ones, etc., but good and evil are a bit more complex than that.

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