Saturday, June 2, 2007

If It Feels Good to Be Good, It Might Be Only Natural

"One experiment found that if each time a rat is given food, its neighbor receives an electric shock, the first rat will eventually forgo eating.


In another experiment published in March, University of Southern California neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio and his colleagues showed that patients with damage to an area of the brain known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lack the ability to feel their way to moral answers.
When confronted with moral dilemmas, the brain-damaged patients coldly came up with "end-justifies-the-means" answers. Damasio said the point was not that they reached immoral conclusions, but that when confronted by a difficult issue -- such as whether to shoot down a passenger plane hijacked by terrorists before it hits a major city -- these patients appear to reach decisions without the anguish that afflicts those with normally functioning brains.


Morality, he said, is not a brain function elevated above our baser impulses. Greene said it is not "handed down" by philosophers and clergy, but "handed up," an outgrowth of the brain's basic propensities."

Washington Post, May 28, 2007
I see more and more articles on the subject, but this article was quite enlightening! I certainly will agree with this article, but I still think there is room for moral philosophy (in whatever shape) in that it asks us to think things through before we end up in a difficult situation. I mean, yes, we have a moral instinct, but we also have as instincts to eat quite a lot if we can, but no-one will say that "If I feel like eating, then eating is good". We are willing to let us be influenced by opinions if we think they are sound. So while I think this research is an excellent way to undermine religious morals as the "be all end all" of morality it will still not undermine religions (or any other moral philosophy) as a way of shaping our morals.
But at least, it will shut up the evangelicals and moral fascists.

1 comment:

Yvette said...

Very enlightening and interesting post, I'll link :)