The New (Scientist's) Morality

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A friend in London (Steve Clark) has alerted me to this week's New Scientist which is running a feature with a series of articles about morality, interviewing various 'luminaries' about its roots and developments (neuroscientists, philosophers, social anthropologists and the like).

The main premise is that morality used to be the domain of philosophers and theologians but now science has something to say about morals.

Steve's initial impression is that there is a lot of confusion about agents and mechanisms ('if we explain how something happens, that gives us information about who does or doesn't do it'). This is tantamount to saying 'My washing machine takes in dirty, dry clothes and produces clean, wet ones through a series of spin, wash and rinse actions, thus
no one built the washing machine and no one switched it on in the first place!'. The articles seem to be interesting nonetheless - at least opening a discussion about morality, and in particular, the idea of absolute morality.

Particularly interesting is one article by Sam Harris (promoting his new book), considering morality and what its purpose is evolutionarily. He ends with this quote:

'When we realise that morality relates to questions of human and animal wellbeing, we can see that the Catholic church is as confused about morality as it is about cosmology. It is not offering an alternative moral framework; it is offering a false one.'

Should open up some interesting discussion!

Posted October 20, 2010 @ 8:33 AM by Liam Goligher
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