The Moral Naturalists

The Moral Naturalists

Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

July 26th, 2010, 3:09 pm #1

The Moral Naturalists
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: July 22, 2010

Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Most people think it is a gift from God, who revealed His laws and elevates us with His love. A smaller number think that we figure the rules out for ourselves, using our capacity to reason and choosing a philosophical system to live by.

Moral naturalists, on the other hand, believe that we have moral sentiments that have emerged from a long history of relationships. To learn about morality, you don't rely upon revelation or metaphysics; you observe people as they live.

This week a group of moral naturalists gathered in Connecticut at a conference organized by the Edge Foundation. One of the participants, Marc Hauser of Harvard, began his career studying primates, and for moral naturalists the story of our morality begins back in the evolutionary past. It begins with the way insects, rats and monkeys learned to cooperate.

By the time humans came around, evolution had forged a pretty firm foundation for a moral sense. Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia argues that this moral sense is like our sense of taste. We have natural receptors that help us pick up sweetness and saltiness. In the same way, we have natural receptors that help us recognize fairness and cruelty. Just as a few universal tastes can grow into many different cuisines, a few moral senses can grow into many different moral cultures.

Paul Bloom of Yale noted that this moral sense can be observed early in life. Bloom and his colleagues conducted an experiment in which they showed babies a scene featuring one figure struggling to climb a hill, another figure trying to help it, and a third trying to hinder it.

At as early as six months, the babies showed a preference for the helper over the hinderer. In some plays, there is a second act. The hindering figure is either punished or rewarded. In this case, 8-month-olds preferred a character who was punishing the hinderer over ones being nice to it.

This illustrates, Bloom says, that people have a rudimentary sense of justice from a very early age. This doesn't make people naturally good. If you give a 3-year-old two pieces of candy and ask him if he wants to share one of them, he will almost certainly say no. It's not until age 7 or 8 that even half the children are willing to share. But it does mean that social norms fall upon prepared ground. We come equipped to learn fairness and other virtues.

These moral faculties structure the way we perceive and respond to the world. If you ask for donations with the photo and name of one sick child, you are likely to get twice as much money than if you had asked for donations with a photo and the names of eight children. Our minds respond more powerfully to the plight of an individual than the plight of a group.

These moral faculties rely upon emotional, intuitive processes, for good and ill. If you are in a bad mood you will make harsher moral judgments than if you're in a good mood or have just seen a comedy. As Elizabeth Phelps of New York University points out, feelings of disgust will evoke a desire to expel things, even those things unrelated to your original mood. General fear makes people risk-averse. Anger makes them risk-seeking.

People who behave morally don't generally do it because they have greater knowledge; they do it because they have a greater sensitivity to other people's points of view. Hauser reported on research showing that bullies are surprisingly sophisticated at reading other people's intentions, but they're not good at anticipating and feeling other people's pain.

The moral naturalists differ over what role reason plays in moral judgments. Some, like Haidt, believe that we make moral judgments intuitively and then construct justifications after the fact. Others, like Joshua Greene of Harvard, liken moral thinking to a camera. Most of the time we rely on the automatic point-and-shoot process, but occasionally we use deliberation to override the quick and easy method. We certainly tell stories and have conversations to spread and refine moral beliefs.

For people wary of abstract theorizing, it's nice to see people investigating morality in ways that are concrete and empirical. But their approach does have certain implicit tendencies.

They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority. At this conference, they barely mentioned the yearning for transcendence and the sacred, which plays such a major role in every human society.

Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great.
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Joined: September 30th, 2009, 7:55 pm

July 26th, 2010, 3:12 pm #2

Certainly shoots holes in the supernaturalist claim that you can't be a good, moral person without believing in absurdities.

-----------------------------------------------
"I am not absolutely positive there is no god. Only in the sense that I'm not absolutely positive there is no large china teapot in orbit in the solar system." -- Richard Dawkins
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Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

July 26th, 2010, 3:13 pm #3

The Moral Naturalists
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: July 22, 2010

Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Most people think it is a gift from God, who revealed His laws and elevates us with His love. A smaller number think that we figure the rules out for ourselves, using our capacity to reason and choosing a philosophical system to live by.

Moral naturalists, on the other hand, believe that we have moral sentiments that have emerged from a long history of relationships. To learn about morality, you don't rely upon revelation or metaphysics; you observe people as they live.

This week a group of moral naturalists gathered in Connecticut at a conference organized by the Edge Foundation. One of the participants, Marc Hauser of Harvard, began his career studying primates, and for moral naturalists the story of our morality begins back in the evolutionary past. It begins with the way insects, rats and monkeys learned to cooperate.

By the time humans came around, evolution had forged a pretty firm foundation for a moral sense. Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia argues that this moral sense is like our sense of taste. We have natural receptors that help us pick up sweetness and saltiness. In the same way, we have natural receptors that help us recognize fairness and cruelty. Just as a few universal tastes can grow into many different cuisines, a few moral senses can grow into many different moral cultures.

Paul Bloom of Yale noted that this moral sense can be observed early in life. Bloom and his colleagues conducted an experiment in which they showed babies a scene featuring one figure struggling to climb a hill, another figure trying to help it, and a third trying to hinder it.

At as early as six months, the babies showed a preference for the helper over the hinderer. In some plays, there is a second act. The hindering figure is either punished or rewarded. In this case, 8-month-olds preferred a character who was punishing the hinderer over ones being nice to it.

This illustrates, Bloom says, that people have a rudimentary sense of justice from a very early age. This doesn't make people naturally good. If you give a 3-year-old two pieces of candy and ask him if he wants to share one of them, he will almost certainly say no. It's not until age 7 or 8 that even half the children are willing to share. But it does mean that social norms fall upon prepared ground. We come equipped to learn fairness and other virtues.

These moral faculties structure the way we perceive and respond to the world. If you ask for donations with the photo and name of one sick child, you are likely to get twice as much money than if you had asked for donations with a photo and the names of eight children. Our minds respond more powerfully to the plight of an individual than the plight of a group.

These moral faculties rely upon emotional, intuitive processes, for good and ill. If you are in a bad mood you will make harsher moral judgments than if you're in a good mood or have just seen a comedy. As Elizabeth Phelps of New York University points out, feelings of disgust will evoke a desire to expel things, even those things unrelated to your original mood. General fear makes people risk-averse. Anger makes them risk-seeking.

People who behave morally don't generally do it because they have greater knowledge; they do it because they have a greater sensitivity to other people's points of view. Hauser reported on research showing that bullies are surprisingly sophisticated at reading other people's intentions, but they're not good at anticipating and feeling other people's pain.

The moral naturalists differ over what role reason plays in moral judgments. Some, like Haidt, believe that we make moral judgments intuitively and then construct justifications after the fact. Others, like Joshua Greene of Harvard, liken moral thinking to a camera. Most of the time we rely on the automatic point-and-shoot process, but occasionally we use deliberation to override the quick and easy method. We certainly tell stories and have conversations to spread and refine moral beliefs.

For people wary of abstract theorizing, it's nice to see people investigating morality in ways that are concrete and empirical. But their approach does have certain implicit tendencies.

They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority. At this conference, they barely mentioned the yearning for transcendence and the sacred, which plays such a major role in every human society.

Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great.
http://edge.org/3rd_culture/morality10/ ... index.html

Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking about thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in evolutionary biology, physics, information technology, genetics, neurobiology, psychology, engineering, the chemistry of materials: all are questions of critical importance with respect to what it means to be human. For the first time, we have the tools and the will to undertake the scientific study of human nature.

This began in the early seventies, when, as a graduate student at Harvard, evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers wrote five papers that set forth an agenda for a new field: the scientific study of human nature. In the past thirty-five years this work has spawned thousands of scientific experiments, new and important evidence, and exciting new ideas about who and what we are presented in books by scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Edward O. Wilson among many others.

In 1975, Wilson, a colleague of Trivers at Harvard, predicted that ethics would someday be taken out of the hands of philosophers and incorporated into the "new synthesis" of evolutionary and biological thinking. He was right.

Scientists engaged in the scientific study of human nature are gaining sway over the scientists and others in disciplines that rely on studying social actions and human cultures independent from their biological foundation.

No where is this more apparent than in the field of moral psychology. Using babies, psychopaths, chimpanzees, fMRI scanners, web surveys, agent-based modeling, and ultimatum games, moral psychology has become a major convergence zone for research in the behavioral sciences.

So what do we have to say? Are we moving toward consensus on some points? What are the most pressing questions for the next five years? And what do we have to offer a world in which so many global and national crises are caused or exacerbated by moral failures and moral conflicts? It seems like everyone is studying morality these days, reaching findings that complement each other more often than they clash.

http://edge.org/3rd_culture/morality10/ ... index.html
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Joined: July 1st, 2008, 11:52 pm

July 26th, 2010, 3:20 pm #4

Certainly shoots holes in the supernaturalist claim that you can't be a good, moral person without believing in absurdities.

-----------------------------------------------
"I am not absolutely positive there is no god. Only in the sense that I'm not absolutely positive there is no large china teapot in orbit in the solar system." -- Richard Dawkins
why knock those who need so called absurdities?

you are talking about the majority of the human race so how does this make you a NATURAL moralist or moral naturalist?

see how easy it is to be wrong?

and why does Dawkins come up with Spagehtti monsters and tea pots to COMPARE the human intelligence of those who believe in a higher power?

Dawkins believes in a higher power too

its called OBSERVATION via his ego, which is not as observant as he thinks
Last edited by Harpazo on July 26th, 2010, 3:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
every day is a new day to die to the old and live to the newness of life
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Joined: September 30th, 2009, 7:55 pm

July 26th, 2010, 4:23 pm #5

Yvonne said: why knock those who need so called absurdities?

I wasn't the one doing the knocking. I'm talking about people like Jack Howell here on this forum. Supernaturlists who say that one cannot be good unless one believes in HIS particular superstitions.

As I said last week, if someone wants to believe in non-existent and imaginary things that they think makes them moral, then that's fine. Whatever gets them through the day. However, a lot of us don't need superstitions to make us moral.

Yvonne said: and why does Dawkins come up with Spagehtti monsters and tea pots to COMPARE the human intelligence of those who believe in a higher power?

Dawkins didn't come up with those. My signature quote comes from a lecture that Dawkins gave at UCLA last year. He was referring to Bertrand Russell's "China teapot" argument, which I'm sure you know all about.

And the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the same type of argument as Russell's teapot.

Just because you can't prove that something doesn't exist, that doesn't make it the slightest bit possible that this this exists.

"Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor - but they have few followers now." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Yvonne said: Dawkins believes in a higher power too

its called OBSERVATION via his ego, which is not as observant as he thinks


I disagree. It's called OBSERVATION via experimentation, learned information, research, reason, and rationality.

"It really comes down to parsimony, economy of explanation. It is possible that your car engine is driven by psychokinetic energy, but if it looks like a petrol engine, smells like a petrol engine and performs exactly as well as a petrol engine, the sensible working hypothesis is that it is a petrol engine." -- Richard Dawkins

-----------------------------------------------
"I am not absolutely positive there is no god. Only in the sense that I'm not absolutely positive there is no large china teapot in orbit in the solar system." -- Richard Dawkins
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Joined: July 1st, 2008, 11:52 pm

July 26th, 2010, 4:25 pm #6


I agree that Dawkins as you say....It's called OBSERVATION via experimentation, learned information, research, reason, and rationality.


ME: he just hasn't OBSERVED, learned, done reasearch and reasoned on the WORD OF GOD from an INTERNAL ESOTERIC POINT OF VIEW

if he had, he would sing a different tune
every day is a new day to die to the old and live to the newness of life
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Joined: December 8th, 2003, 1:16 am

July 26th, 2010, 7:33 pm #7

The Moral Naturalists
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: July 22, 2010

Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Most people think it is a gift from God, who revealed His laws and elevates us with His love. A smaller number think that we figure the rules out for ourselves, using our capacity to reason and choosing a philosophical system to live by.

Moral naturalists, on the other hand, believe that we have moral sentiments that have emerged from a long history of relationships. To learn about morality, you don't rely upon revelation or metaphysics; you observe people as they live.

This week a group of moral naturalists gathered in Connecticut at a conference organized by the Edge Foundation. One of the participants, Marc Hauser of Harvard, began his career studying primates, and for moral naturalists the story of our morality begins back in the evolutionary past. It begins with the way insects, rats and monkeys learned to cooperate.

By the time humans came around, evolution had forged a pretty firm foundation for a moral sense. Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia argues that this moral sense is like our sense of taste. We have natural receptors that help us pick up sweetness and saltiness. In the same way, we have natural receptors that help us recognize fairness and cruelty. Just as a few universal tastes can grow into many different cuisines, a few moral senses can grow into many different moral cultures.

Paul Bloom of Yale noted that this moral sense can be observed early in life. Bloom and his colleagues conducted an experiment in which they showed babies a scene featuring one figure struggling to climb a hill, another figure trying to help it, and a third trying to hinder it.

At as early as six months, the babies showed a preference for the helper over the hinderer. In some plays, there is a second act. The hindering figure is either punished or rewarded. In this case, 8-month-olds preferred a character who was punishing the hinderer over ones being nice to it.

This illustrates, Bloom says, that people have a rudimentary sense of justice from a very early age. This doesn't make people naturally good. If you give a 3-year-old two pieces of candy and ask him if he wants to share one of them, he will almost certainly say no. It's not until age 7 or 8 that even half the children are willing to share. But it does mean that social norms fall upon prepared ground. We come equipped to learn fairness and other virtues.

These moral faculties structure the way we perceive and respond to the world. If you ask for donations with the photo and name of one sick child, you are likely to get twice as much money than if you had asked for donations with a photo and the names of eight children. Our minds respond more powerfully to the plight of an individual than the plight of a group.

These moral faculties rely upon emotional, intuitive processes, for good and ill. If you are in a bad mood you will make harsher moral judgments than if you're in a good mood or have just seen a comedy. As Elizabeth Phelps of New York University points out, feelings of disgust will evoke a desire to expel things, even those things unrelated to your original mood. General fear makes people risk-averse. Anger makes them risk-seeking.

People who behave morally don't generally do it because they have greater knowledge; they do it because they have a greater sensitivity to other people's points of view. Hauser reported on research showing that bullies are surprisingly sophisticated at reading other people's intentions, but they're not good at anticipating and feeling other people's pain.

The moral naturalists differ over what role reason plays in moral judgments. Some, like Haidt, believe that we make moral judgments intuitively and then construct justifications after the fact. Others, like Joshua Greene of Harvard, liken moral thinking to a camera. Most of the time we rely on the automatic point-and-shoot process, but occasionally we use deliberation to override the quick and easy method. We certainly tell stories and have conversations to spread and refine moral beliefs.

For people wary of abstract theorizing, it's nice to see people investigating morality in ways that are concrete and empirical. But their approach does have certain implicit tendencies.

They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority. At this conference, they barely mentioned the yearning for transcendence and the sacred, which plays such a major role in every human society.

Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great.
Morality is the golden rule. People know damm well how they themselves like to be treated. All they need to do is PROJECT that same "need" onto others, to see what is fair and desirable and good for everyone. (That's where laws come from).

Now, it's kind of strange that animals don't seem to have any such sense of morality. If you punish (get mad at, yell, lecture etc.) one animal for hogging another animal's food dish, the other animal won't sit there smiling self-righteously; they'll get as upset as the animal being scolded. I find that pretty amazing, really.

How do animals decide their own morality? It might be good to study that, think about it and apply some of that to human attitude.

-Vince
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Arthur Dent
Arthur Dent

July 27th, 2010, 12:35 am #8

I agree that Dawkins as you say....It's called OBSERVATION via experimentation, learned information, research, reason, and rationality.


ME: he just hasn't OBSERVED, learned, done reasearch and reasoned on the WORD OF GOD from an INTERNAL ESOTERIC POINT OF VIEW

if he had, he would sing a different tune
I was under the impression that there is nothing to observe in faith, nothing rational about blind loyalty from any point of view.

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Joined: July 1st, 2008, 11:52 pm

July 27th, 2010, 1:09 pm #9

spiritual observation is the ability to PERCEIVE what is happening within you at the PRIMORDIAL LEVEL, beyond what your physical eyes and ears can perceive:

now, for most of you scientific minds, it doesn't seem strange that you would have to go to a doctor and a lab to find out how even crude nature works within you, but to UNDERSTAND that which MOVES THE CRUDE nature, now that is a HELL OF A LOT OF PERCEPTION

it takes INNER EYES and INNER EARS, almost like those of "HONEY, who shrunk the Kids" a disney movie back in the 80's:

you have to SEE and HEAR reality at the level of physics...like entering your own cells and watching REALITY from an inside view

thats what CHRIST brings you to


the TRUTH that sets you free because YOU WILL PERCEIVE that what you call death is just a SHADOW of your soul and the EXPERIENCE of being REBOOTED is a hoot as well as the most frightening thing you will ever experience, so frightening that it almost physically kills you to see from that level:


now, again, spiritual observation is OBSERVING YOUR OWN INNER DIMENSION that you can't see with physical eyes.......observing it even deeper than the guys with the white coats who look at these workings under a micrsocope and other fine tuned machinery:
every day is a new day to die to the old and live to the newness of life
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Joined: August 8th, 2009, 11:19 pm

July 28th, 2010, 9:16 pm #10

You claimed that spiritual thinking is observation at a deeper level than than eyes can see.

Well scientific thinking sees beyond that for sure, dont know about "spiritual sight". Medical researchers can see down to a level that spiritual experts never guess at for all their sight. Yes, sure they can talk about what insights they have AFTER they get told about it by scientists, and sure they can mimic scientific terminology when they talk about their energy flows, but their obvious ignorance does tend to make them mish mash the concepts, even as they say they understand.

As to whether spiritualists understand anything of the whys, little own more, should be provable but for some reason fails to be. I suspect its just a state of mind that spiritualists come up with a hypothesis of what they are doing but dont know how to prove it to themselves except by the same method religious people think their faith equates to knowledge. That which supports their ideas becomes a proof.


If a spiritual/religious person actually saw deeper or clearer there are ways to test that by putting their observations to the test by getting them to predict more accurately what is going on inside a persons body.

But, they make their claims, and within the bounds of statistical hit and miss are shown to be guessing. Guessing, another name faith goes by.

Medical science actually does spot the cancers, sees a lot more than faith does. Spiritualism gives it self the liberty of saying "god moves in mysterious ways, sometimes we win and sometimes we dont, (just like science) but at least science does successfully make predictions that prove to be true, rather than guesses. The difference between the two philosophies is that science can make predictions that can be used to improve the future, to drive better outcomes... spirituality just says "oh we knew that", but its ALWAYS after the fact. Spiritualists seem to have a disregard for the need to be able to prove things by repeatable tests which will work in the future on demand.

Claims are easy, backing it up with material, reliable facts only happens with science, never with gods, or crystal power. Its the material world where we insist on these things working. The spiritual word is untestable, even by the crystal power people evidently.





_______________________________________________________
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
Richard Dawkins

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.
Richard Dawkins

What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?
Richard Dawkins
____________________________________________

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lzq0p ... o1_500.jpg






Zombie Jesus who sort of came back from the dead...

<i>Away in a graveyard, a stone overhead
The zombie lord Jesus is raised from the dead
The bones and the corpses are at his command
And rise like their master to swarm o'er the land!
The women are screaming, then running away
Poor Mary and Martha are gnawed where they lay
I fear thee, lord Jesus, your curséd undeath
With worms in your bowels and rot on your breath.
Have mercy, lord Jesus, don't eat me today
Next year I'll be bigger, I promise! I pray
Some shaman or rabbi or priestess or such
Will stake you and save us from your deadly touch.</i>

___________________________________

I know Bible literalists apologists have their explanations, but they are ultimately just <b><i>band aids over bull sh!t.</b></i>

Biblical Pitfalls .http://www.network54.com/Forum/660399/
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