Science of morality

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For the comparative study of moral systems across cultures or species, see moral psychology and evolution of morality.

The science of morality refers to various forms of ethical naturalism, which bases morality on rational and empirical consideration of the natural world.[1] Although it has gained some support, the idea that it is possible to found morality on natural impulses has not seen widespread acceptance by the scientific community, has been disputed by philosophers, and continues to generate public controversy.


In its weakest form, the science of morality is the idea that we do not need divine authority to be critical of any so-called 'moral system' that causes unreasonable suffering. A stronger form is the idea that "morality" can be appropriately defined on the basis of fundamental premises necessary for any empirical, secular, and philosophical discussion[2] and that societies can use the methods of science to provide answers to moral questions. One way to do so is to identify the values and norms (e.g. free speech versus government censorship) most likely to maximize the well-being of all conscious creatures.[citation needed]

Moral science may refer to the consideration of what constitutes flourishing for, and how to maximize the flourishing of, either particular individuals[3] or all conscious creatures[4][5]. If an issue does not in any way concern conscious creatures, then it is devoid of moral relevance: in a universe full of nothing but rocks and dirt there would be no moral issues.

In sum, from the perspective of neuroscience and brain evolution, the routine rejection of scientific approaches to moral behavior based on Hume’s warning against deriving ought from is seems unfortunate, especially as the warning is limited to deductive inferences. The dictum can be set aside for a deeper, albeit programmatic, neurobiological perspective on what reasoning and problem-solving are, how social navigation works, how evaluation is accomplished by nervous systems, and how mammalian brains make decisions.

-Patricia Churchland in her book Braintrust (emphasis added)

The norms advocated by moral scientists (e.g. rights to abortion, euthanasia, and drug liberalization under certain circumstances) would be founded upon the shifting and growing collection of human understanding.[6] Even with science's admitted degree of ignorance, and the various semantic issues, moral scientists can meaningfully discuss things as being almost certainly "better" or "worse" for promoting flourishing.[7]


In philosophy[edit]

Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham discussed some of the ways moral investigations are a science.[8] He criticizes deontological ethics for failing to recognize that it needed to make the same presumptions as his science of morality to really work – whilst pursuing rules that were to be obeyed in every situation (something that worried Bentham). John Dewey maintains that overly theoretical moral systems are not useful in real life. He suggested that moral considerations must make use of facts about everything from what the individual desires, what others desire, human nature, and concrete data about likely outcomes of behaviours.[9]

W.V.O. Quine advocated naturalizing epistemology by looking to natural sciences like psychology for a full explanation of knowledge. His work contributed to a resurgence of moral naturalism in the last half of the 20th century. Paul Kurtz, who believes that the careful, secular pursuit of normative rules is vital to society, coined the term eupraxophy to refer to his approach to normative ethics. Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, and Peter Singer believe that we learn what is right and wrong through reason and empirical methodology. [10][11]

Maria Ossowska used the methods of science to understand the origins of moral norms.

Maria Ossowska, Polish sociologist and philosopher, thought that sociology was inextricably related to philosophical reflections on morality, including normative ethics. She proposed that science analyze: (a) existing social norms and their history, (b) the psychology of morality, and the way that individuals interact with moral matters and prescriptions, and (c) the sociology of morality.[12]

Popular literature[edit]

The theory and methods of a normative science of morality are explicitly discussed in Joseph Daleiden's The Science of Morality: The Individual, Community, and Future Generations (1998). Daleiden's book, in contrast to Harris, extensively discusses the relevant philosophical literature. In The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, Sam Harris's goal is to show how moral truth can be backed by "science", or more specifically, empirical knowledge, critical thinking, philosophy, but most controversially, the scientific method.

Patricia Churchland offers that, accepting Hume's is-ought problem, the use of induction from premises and definitions remains a valid way of reasoning in life and science.[11]

Our moral behavior, while more complex than the social behavior of other animals, is similar in that it represents our attempt to manage well in the existing social ecology....from the perspective of neuroscience and brain evolution, the routine rejection of scientific approaches to moral behavior based on Hume's warning against deriving ought from is seems unfortunate, especially as the warning is limited to deductive inferences....The truth seems to be that values rooted in the circuitry for caring—for well-being of self, offspring, mates, kin, and others—shape social reasoning about many issues: conflict resolutions, keeping the peace, defense, trade, resource distribution, and many other aspects of social life in all its vast richness.[13]

— Patricia Churchland, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality

Scientific methods[edit]

Dewey notes that "We test scientific hypotheses by bringing about their antecedents and seeing if the results are as they predicted. Similarly, we test value judgments by acting on them and seeing if we value the consequences in the way the judgment predicted."[9]

Daleiden warns that science is probabilistic, and that certainty is not possible. One should therefore expect that moral prescriptions will change as humans gain understanding.[14] The psychologist Leonard Carmichael discussed this idea as well.[note 1] Harris and Daleiden maintain that "science" should not be so narrowly defined as to exclude important roles for any academic disciplines which base their conclusions on the weight of empirical evidence.[note 2]

Defining morality[edit]

Disputed terms in science[edit]

Academics often establish and agree on clear working definitions (the focus is to avoid debating words beyond necessity).[17] The usefulness of these scientific constructs can be subjected to tests of construct validity. This is one sense in which some definitions can be better than others.

Meta ethical foundation[edit]

Daleiden notes that only conscious beings can determine what is of value for themselves.[18] He calls the focus on conscious flourishing a cosmically arbitrary starting premise for science of morality, and says ethical systems that do not grant that premise have always suffered from "cosmic irrelevance".[19]

Carrier attempts to counter accusations of arbitrary meta-ethics, and establish one foundation of morality as diffinitively correct.[20]

Harris says, about morality, science, and rationality in general, in all of these things- "a person can always play the trump card, 'What is that to me?' – and if we don't find it compelling elsewhere, I don't see why it must have special force on questions of good and evil".[21]

Jonathan Meddings, a writer for the Young Australian Skeptics, argues that:

Ronald Lindsay, President of the Center for Inquiry, argued that scientists and skeptics should use the word "morality" because of the important connotations it still has with many people when it comes to motivating action.[23]

Moral facts[edit]

Harris argues that there may be multiple peaks on the moral landscape of optimized human societies, but even more ways for a society not to be on a peak

It may be important to get clearer on the sorts of moral facts to expect from a science of morality.[note 3]

Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson says that, even though philosophers often highlight and discuss some of the most challenging moral situations, there are still many more "moral no brainers". Compared with morally grey issues, clearer cases of immorality can be more urgent and important to resolve.[25] Michael Shermer opines that "It doesn't take rocket science – or religion" to deem the average acid attack to be wrong.[26][note 4] As philosopher Alonzo Fyfe points out, if one intends to cause a great deal of harm to many people, it is easy enough to guess which actions are likely to do the most damage (i.e. be the most immoral).[28]

Harris believes that identifying "moral peaks" would necessarily mean identifying the more obviously sub-optimal ethical systems (and maybe some re-occurring obstacles to flourishing in societies). Moreover, some religious and private intuitions about what is right may be vindicated by science; this can happen whether or not the beliefs were held for justified reasons in the first place.[4][29][unreliable source?]

It is unlikely that humans will create a moral code that can answer all moral questions. The complexity of situations where flourishing is at stake does not lend itself to simple, unconditional rules (the field of law demonstrates how complex these issues can get at the ground level). Balancing the flourishing of multiple conscious creatures is difficult, but it can even be a challenge to balance the flourishing of a single conscious creature – across different times (what psychologist George Ainslie describes as a sort of 'community of selves in competition').[30] Dewey refuses to provide supreme principles or laws of morality because he believes real life is too dynamic.[9] Daleiden says that moral absolutism is a defunct pursuit; science of morality instead tentatively advocates general values (like high degrees of free speech) or rules of thumb (like the Golden Rule).

Any conclusions reached using science and regarding moral norms would not be absolute.[31] Even a rule like "never cut open a child's stomach against their will" may find exception in certain cases such as emergency appendectomy. Likewise, it may sometimes be as practically impossible to determine the more moral route as it is to determine the number of birds in flight around the earth.[29][unreliable source?] The moral norms identified by science of morality will always be subject to revision in light of new evidence.

To the extent that there are moral facts, individuals or groups can be mistaken about these facts (instances of the illusion of introspection) whereas others may become moral experts (e.g. the Dalai Lama). For instance, over-emphasizing a value like submission might lead to more suffering than other values. Thus some groups or individuals, like the Taliban, may have as little a place in serious discussions about morality as they do in discussions about string theory. Harris argues, "just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality."[21]

Personism argues that we must include non-humans, to some extent, in any conception of a moral society. This is because conscious creatures exist along a large spectrum, at different ranges of "personhood".[32][33][34]

Causes of flourishing[edit]

Training to promote good behaviour[edit]

Another main goal of the science of morality is therefore to discover the best ways to motivate and shape individuals.

Dewey advocated the use of various methods and the development of good habits to make it easier for people to behave morally, recognizing that some situations make it more challenging than others.[9] Methods to accomplish this include instilling explicit virtues, building character strengths, and forming mental associations. These generally requires some level of practical reason. James Rest suggested that abstract reasoning is also a factor in making moral judgments[35] and emphasized that moral judgements alone do not predict moral behaviour: “Moral judgement may be closely related to advocacy behaviour, which in turn influences social institutions, which in turn creates a system of norms and sanctions that influences people’s behaviour.”[35] Daleiden suggested that religions instill a practical sense of virtue and justice, right and wrong. They also effectively use art and myths to educate people about moral situations.[36]

The role of government[edit]

Harris argues that moral science does not imply an "Orwellian future" with "scientists at every door". Instead, Harris imagines data about normative moral issues being shared in the same way as other sciences (e.g. peer-reviewed journals on medicine).[37]

Daleiden specifies that government, like any organization, should have limited power. He says "centralization of power irrevocably in the hands of one person or an elite has always ultimately led to great evil for the human race. It was the novel experiment of democracy – a clear break with tradition – that ended the long tradition of tyranny.”[38] He is also explicit that government should only use law to enforce the most basic, reasonable, evidence and widely supported moral norms. In other words, there are a great many moral norms that should never be the task of the government to enforce.[39]

The role of punishment[edit]

One author has argued that to attain a society where people are motivated by conditioned self-interest, punishment must go hand-in-hand with reward.[40] For instance, in this line of reasoning, prison remains necessary for many perpetrators of crimes. This is so, even if libertarian free will is false. This is because punishment can still serve its purposes: it deters others from committing their own crimes, educates and reminds everyone about what the society stands for, incapacitates the criminal from doing more harm, goes some way to relieving or repaying the victim, and corrects the criminal (also see recidivism). This author argues that, at least, any prison system should be pursuing those goals, and that it is an empirical question as to what sorts of punishment realize these goals most effectively, and how well various prison systems actually serve these purposes.[41]

Evaluative diversity[edit]

Main article: Evaluative diversity

According to Tim Dean, moral diversity likely evolved through frequency-dependent selection because different moral approaches are vulnerable to different sets of situations which threatened our ancestors.[42] The need for modern teams to be competitive, supportive, stable, and innovative suggests that maximal human flourishing continues to rely upon evaluative diversity. Christopher Santos-Lang has therefore argued that management of morality should, like the management of ecosystems, preserve diversity.[43] He advocated for adaptive management, warning that early efforts of scientists to manage ecosystems backfired.[44]


The brain areas that are consistently involved when humans reason about moral issues have been investigated.[45] The neural network underlying moral decisions overlaps with the network pertaining to representing others' intentions (i.e., theory of mind) and the network pertaining to representing others' (vicariously experienced) emotional states (i.e., empathy). This supports the notion that moral reasoning is related to both seeing things from other persons’ points of view and to grasping others’ feelings. These results provide evidence that the neural network underlying moral decisions is probably domain-global (i.e., there might be no such things as a "moral module" in the human brain) and might be dissociable into cognitive and affective sub-systems.

Other implications[edit]

In assessing specific measures of well-being, Daleiden disputes the usefulness of the common economic measure gross domestic product (GDP) as a meaningful indicator.[46] His criticisms are in line with supporters using a more eclectic measure such as gross domestic happiness (GDH).

Daleiden provides examples of how science can use empirical evidence to assess the effect that specific behaviors can have on the well-being of individuals and society with regard to various moral issues. He argues that science supports decriminalization and regulation of drugs, euthanasia under some circumstances, and the permission of sexual behaviors that are not tolerated in some cultures (he cites homosexuality as an example). Daleiden further argues that in seeking to reduce human suffering, abortion should not only be permissible, but at times a moral obligation (as in the case of a mother of a potential child who would faces the probability of much suffering). Like all moral claims in his book, however, Daleiden is adamant that these decisions remain grounded in, and contingent on empirical evidence.[6][note 5]

The ideas of cultural relativity, to Daleiden, do offer some lessons: investigators must be careful not to judge a person's behaviour without understanding the environmental context. An action may be necessary and more moral once we are aware of circumstances.[47] However, Daleiden emphasizes that this does not mean all ethical norms or systems are equally effective at promoting flourishing[47] and he often offers the equal treatment of women as a reliably superior norm, wherever it is practiced.

Jeremy Rifkin describes key moral revolutions throughout human history in The Empathic Civilization, and predicts a new revolution in which we overcome our tribe focused empathy and extend it to others we may never meet.[48]


Meta-Ethical disagreement[edit]

Many criticisms of the concept of a science of morality revolve around the implications of calling "good" what allows a society to flourish. In the past, some leaders have appealed to science dogmatically in order to justify certain moral claims. The results, like social Darwinism, have later come to be seen as undesirable, misguided, wrong or evil and this could be taken to imply that future attempts at a science of morality could very well be later seen in the same critical light. There is also the concern that a science of morality could fail to correctly identify what is good. For instance, it may identify physical pleasure with the good and fail to consider uniquely human aspects of goodness, producing an ethical system where everyone hedonistically pursues physical pleasure in an ultimately dehumanizing way, to the total exclusion of any genuine intellectual or spiritual good, as in Aldous Huxley's 1931 novel Brave New World.

The Ethics of altering the human race[edit]

C. S. Lewis predicted in his 1943 philosophy book The Abolition of Man, that a future generation of "conditioners" could change human nature "through eugenics, pre-natal conditioning, and an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology" so that all future generations will be involuntarily imprinted with its moral values (or lack thereof) which they would presumably justify through science or pseudoscience. Lewis argues that this would be the effective end of the human race. Lewis regards certain first principles in ethics shared across all major cultures (natural law) to be the essence of humanity and argues that regarding these principles as subject to modification has a dehumanizing effect; ultimately reducing persons to objects to be manipulated by scientific technique, rather than fellow persons who use scientific techniques on objects. He says, "A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery." These themes are further developed in his 1945 novel, That Hideous Strength.

Concerns about sufficient motive[edit]

Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.

-Albert Einstein

Critics might propose that science of morality fails to answer the question "even having defined good, why do it?", something that is often expected of a moral system. Even those philosophical theories that Daleiden admires most (utilitarianism and Rawlsian justice) are, in his view, incomplete, in that “neither theory seems to offer an adequate motivational basis to insure widespread acceptance."[49] He comments elsewhere that even the possession of a coherent moral system, based on reality, does not necessarily change or motivate a person's behavior.[50]

That is why Daleiden says that society should aim for its members to aspire to more than egoistic behavior, or even rational egoism. He confronts the hypothesis that everyone pursuing their own self-interest will somehow result in everyone cooperating, and calls it bunk. Instead, Daleiden advocates for "conditioned self-interest" (aka conditioned rational egoists). These are individuals who pursue their self-interest, and for various reasons, their self-interest amounts to altruistic behavior. This is important, because humans have evolved many tendencies that can be maladaptive to civilized society. A case in point: our sometimes-uncontrollable aggression (see also evolutionary psychology).[51]

Dissagreement as to whether morality can be a part of science[edit]

The idea of a normative science of morality has met with many criticisms. These critics include physicist Sean M. Carroll, who argues that morality cannot be part of science.[52] He and other critics cite the widely held "fact-value distinction", that the scientific method cannot answer "moral" questions, although it can describe the norms of different cultures. In contrast, moral scientists defend the position that such a division between values and scientific facts ("moral relativism") is not only arbitrary and illusory, but impeding progress towards taking action against documented cases of human rights violations in different cultures [53]

Sean M. Carroll maintains that, although we would like it to be, morality is not a scientific domain.[54]

There are also questions of naturalistic fallacy, where the alleged fallacy is deriving moral claims from natural facts (although the term is sometimes used very differently: to refer to the alleged fallacy of calling behaviours that are natural to humans "moral").

Science of morality opposes the ideas of paleontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould, who argued that science and religion occupy "non-overlapping magisteria". To Gould, science is concerned with questions of fact and theory, but not with meaning and morality – the magisteria of religion. In the same vein, Edward Teller proposed that politics decides what is right, whereas science decides what is true.[55]

During a discussion on the role that naturalism might play in professions like nursing, Philosopher Trevor Hussey calls the popular view that science is unconcerned with morality "too simplistic". Although his main focus in the paper is naturalism in nursing, he goes on to explain that science can, at very least, be interested in morality at a descriptive level. He even briefly entertains the idea that morality could itself be a scientific subject, writing that one might argue "..that moral judgements are subject to the same kinds of rational, empirical examination as the rest of the world: they are a subject for science – although a difficult one. If this could be shown to be so, morality would be contained within naturalism. However, I will not assume the truth of moral realism here." [note 6]

Concerns about cultural clash[edit]

Critics have suggested that a belief that some cultures are "wrong" or somehow less optimal could lead to paternalism. As a result, one nation may force their own culture upon another – particularly because moral realists risk becoming dogmatic in their decisions about what is "bad". On the other hand, if it is agreed that a culture is suffering unduly – it may be a good thing if the other cultures save them from themselves. Generally, this need not ever require any force at all, as persuasion and example can be far more effective. That is not to say that war is always avoidable, such as in extreme cases of fighting fascism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ To quote Carmichael: "We do not turn aside from what we know about astronomy at any time because there is still a great deal we do not know, or because so much of what we once thought we knew is no longer recognized as true. May not the same argument be accepted in our thinking about ethical and esthetic judgements?"[15]
  2. ^ Daleiden writes that “Moral issues need to be discussed in the less politically pressured form of academia. Some might argue that religions could perform this function… However, virtually all religions base their moral judgements on flawed premises such as divine revelation, natural law, and free will. They usually rely little on the methods of scientific inquiry. Therefore, it is almost serendipitous if they arrive at value judgements designed to promote human happiness. Hence it again falls to the academic community to undertake the empirical studies and analysis necessary to decide moral issues, just as for any other subject of human inquiry."[16]
  3. ^ Physicist Lawrence M. Krauss defends the position that, even if one disagreed that science can determine what is right and wrong, rejecting science is to reject any hope of moral knowledge. Krauss argues that knowing something is moral entails knowing various facts about reality. Furthermore, he says that science has already shown us that the world is very often not what we expected (e.g. made of atoms). He discusses how knowing certain facts which are most relevant to moral appraisals is impossible without science's systematic empirical investigation. Krauss uses the example of embryonic stem cell research, and suggests that various morally relevant facts have been discovered by science, and would not have otherwise been known.[24]
  4. ^ A long tradition of more nuanced philosophical discussions on the topic of morality can and should be reconciled with science of morality. Some of these issues are especially complex, however. Patricia Churchland offers a particularly intractable example: "no one has the slightest idea how to cmopare the mild headache of five-million against the broken legs of two, or the needs of one's own two children against the needs of a hundred unrelated brain-damaged children in Serbia."[27]
  5. ^ Joseph Daleiden's final word regarding his book, The Science of Morality, is that “[The study of ethics] should be included with the social sciences and be subject to as rigorous a scientific program of research as any other area of human behaviour. Lacking this scientific rigour, the moral conclusions drawn in this volume must be considered as working hypotheses, some with greater degree of evidentiary support than others. It is the process by which to assess and transmit moral norms that was the primary focus of this work, and I hope it will serve as a new way of deciding moral issues.”
  6. ^ Hussey writes "The relationship between naturalism and morality and politics is complicated, and is difficult to state in a few sentences because it involves deep philosophical issues. Only the briefest discussion is possible here. The most popular view is that science, and hence naturalism, is concerned with objective facts and not with values: with what is the case rather than what ought to be. But this is too simplistic." He gives a reason immediately: "First, at the very least, science can study morality and politics at a descriptive level and try to understand their workings within societies and in the lives of individuals, and investigate their evolutionary origins, their social propagation, and so on." Hussey then describes how scientists must adhere to certain values, but also how values guide what it is that science may investigate. His real interest in the paper is to justify naturalism as a nursing practice, yet he does eventually write: "Finally, the idea that science and morality are separate realms, one dealing with facts the other with values, is not as certain and clear-cut as it seems. Various versions of moral realism are now widely discussed among philosophers (e.g. Railton, 1986, 1996, 2003; Sayre-McCord, 1988; Dancy, 1993; Casebeer, 2003; Shafer-Landau, 2003; Baghramian, 2004; Smith, 1994, 2004). Despite their differences, moral realists generally agree on two principles. First, that our moral utterances, such as ‘Murder is morally wrong’ or ‘We ought to be honest’ are genuine statements and hence they are capable of being either true or false. Second, what makes them either true or false are aspects of the real world, open to objective examination. It can be argued that it is an implication of this thesis that moral judgements are subject to the same kinds of rational, empirical examination as the rest of the world: they are a subject for science – although a difficult one." He continues "If this could be shown to be so, morality would be contained within naturalism. However, I will not assume the truth of moral realism here. It is sufficient to say that it has at least as much credibility as any theory claiming a supernatural or divine foundation for morality: views which, while popular among the general public, do not have widespread support among moral philosophers – for what that is worth." Hussey thus directs discussion back towards Naturalism in nursing because his main point in all this was, in the end, to prove that naturalistic moralities are not necessarily less credible than supernatural ones, and may even be more credible.[56]


  1. ^ Lenman, James (2008). Edward N. Zalta, ed. "Moral Naturalism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 ed.). 
  2. ^ Joseph Daleiden The Science of Morality: The Individual, Community, and Future Generations; Sam Harris The Moral Landscape, 2010; and Richard Carrier Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)
  3. ^ Carrier
  4. ^ a b, "Sam Harris: Science Can Answer Moral Questions."
  5. ^ Harris, The Moral Landscape, pp. 39ff
  6. ^ a b Daleiden, Joseph (1998). Chapter 20: Summary and conclusions. Pages 485–500
  7. ^ Sam Harris (2010), page 183: "Much of the skepticism I encounter when speaking about these issues comes from people who think "happiness" is a superficial state of mind and that there are far more important things in life than "being happy." Some reasers may think that concepts like "well-being" and "flourishing" are similarly effete. However, I don't know of any better terms with which to signify the most positive states of being to which we can aspire. One of the virtues of thinking about a moral landscape, the heights of which remain to be discovered, is that it frees us from these semantic difficulties. Generally speaking, we need only worry about what it will mean to move "up" as opposed to "down".
  8. ^ Deontology, or The Science of Morality
  9. ^ a b c d Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Dewey's Moral Philosophy"
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b At 11:25 in the video debate at
  12. ^ Marcin T. Zdrenka. (2006). "Moral philosopher or sociologist of morals?". Journal of Classical Sociology.
  13. ^ Churchland, Patricia Smith (2011). Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality. Princeton University Press. pp. 7–9. ISBN 978-0-691-13703-2. LCCN 2010043584. 
  14. ^ p502, Daleiden (1998)
  15. ^ Leaonard Carmichael, the chapter "Absolutes, Relativism and the Scientific Psychology of Human Nature", H. Schoeck and J. Wiggins (eds), in the book "Relativism and the Study of Man, Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand, 1961, page 16
  16. ^ Daleiden (1998) page 191.
  17. ^ Stanovich, K. E. (2007). How to Think Straight About Psychology. Boston: Pearson Education.
  18. ^ 90, Daleiden (1998)
  19. ^ Daleiden (1998)
  20. ^ Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)
  21. ^ a b Sam Harris (May 7, 2010). "Toward a Science of Morality". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-06-14. In February, I spoke at the 2010 TED conference, where I briefly argued that morality should be considered an undeveloped branch of science. 
  22. ^ Meddings, Jonathan. "In Defense of the Science of Morality". Young Australian Skeptics. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ The science network, the great debate, Part 2 with Lawrence Kraus
  25. ^ Center Stage podcast, "Why secularism and humanism need evolutionary theory", with David Sloan Wilson
  26. ^
  27. ^ The Moral Landscape (2010), on page 68
  28. ^ Podcast: Morality in the Real World, Alonzo Fyfe, Episode 9, 4 minutes 25 seconds
  29. ^ a b The Center for Inquiry, Sam Harris talks "the Moral Landscape" in NYC
  30. ^ The Moral Landscape (2010), on page 211, note 51, referring to George Ainslie's "Breakdown of Will"
  31. ^ 110, Daleiden (1998), quote: “Although specific norms must change to meet changing human needs, and a norm itself is only a guideline that must be judged in light of the specific circumstances, there may be overall principles that are useful in setting norms.”
  32. ^
  33. ^ Bioethics: an anthology By Helga Kuhse, Peter Singer
  34. ^ Applied ethics: a non-consequentialist approach By David S. Oderberg
  35. ^ a b James R. Rest, Development in Judging Moral Issues. (1979). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  36. ^ 323, 326, Daleiden (1998)
  37. ^ Asked "Let's say scientists do end up discovering moral truths. How are they supposed to enforce their findings? Would they become something like policemen or priests?" Harris writes "They wouldn’t necessarily enforce them any more than they enforce their knowledge about human health. What are scientists doing with the knowledge that smoking causes cancer or obesity is bad for your health, or that the common cold is spread by not washing your hands? We’re not living in some Orwellian world where we have scientists in lab coats at every door. Imagine we discovered that there is a best way to teach your children to be compassionate, or to defer short-term gratification in the service of a long-term goal. What if it turns out to be true that calcium intake in the first two years of life has a significant effect on a child’s emotional life? If we learn that, what parent wouldn’t want that knowledge? The fear of a "Brave New World" component to this argument is unfounded."
  38. ^ 219, Daleiden (1998)
  39. ^ 273–274, Daleiden (1998)
  40. ^ 77, Daleiden (1998), quote “We use rewards and punishments, praise and blame, in training any animal. The human species is only different in degree in this regard, not in kind.”
  41. ^ 289, Daleiden (1998)
  42. ^ Dean, Tim (2012). "Evolution and moral diversity". Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication 7. 
  43. ^ Santos-Lang, Christopher (2014). "Our responsibility to manage evaluative diversity". ACM SIGCAS Computers & Society 44 (2): 16–19. doi:10.1145/2656870.2656874. ISSN 0095-2737. 
  44. ^ Santos-Lang, Christopher (2014). "Moral Ecology Approaches to Machine Ethics". In van Rysewyk, Simon; Pontier, Matthijs. Machine Medical Ethics (PDF). Switzerland: Springer. pp. 111–127. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-08108-3_8. 
  45. ^ "Bzdok, D. et al. Parsing the neural correlates of moral cognition: ALE meta-analysis on morality, theory of mind, and empathy. Brain Struct Funct, 2011."
  46. ^ 225, Daleiden (1998)
  47. ^ a b 100, Daleiden
  48. ^
  49. ^ 150, Daleiden (1998)
  50. ^ 150, Daleiden (1998), quote: : “It is insufficient just to present moral knowledge as information; to effect changes in behaviour, it must strongly affect a person’s sense of empathy or, better still, hold out the promise of rewards or punishment.”
  51. ^ 176, Daleiden (1998), quote “…many of our genetically endowed coping mechanisms may be “obsolete” in the context of present society. Earlier I discussed one such obsolete instinctual response-aggression. In a nuclear age, unless we learn to curb this instinct, which may have been essential to our prehistoric ancestors’ survival, it may lead to our eventual demise as a species.”
  52. ^ Sean Carroll (2010-05-04). "Science And Morality: You Can’t Derive 'Ought' From 'Is'". NPR. Retrieved 2010-06-14. Casting morality as a maximization problem might seem overly restrictive at first glance, but the procedure can potentially account for a wide variety of approaches. A libertarian might want to maximize a feeling of personal freedom, while a traditional utilitarian might want to maximize some version of happiness. The point is simply that the goal of morality should be to create certain conditions that are, in principle, directly measurable by empirical means. ...Nevertheless, I want to argue that this program is simply not possible. ... Morality is not part of science, however much we would like it to be. There are a large number of arguments one could advance for in support of this claim, but I'll stick to three. 
  53. ^ Sam Harris (2010-03-29). "Moral confusion in the name of “science”". PROJECT REASON. Retrieved 2014-12-06. There are also very practical, moral concerns that follow from the glib idea that anyone is free to value anything—the most consequential being that it is precisely what allows highly educated, secular, and otherwise well-intentioned people to pause thoughtfully, and often interminably, before condemning practices like compulsory veiling, genital excision, bride-burning, forced marriage, and the other cheerful products of alternative “morality” found elsewhere in the world. Fanciers of Hume’s is/ought distinction never seem to realize what the stakes are, and they do not see what an abject failure of compassion their intellectual “tolerance” of moral difference amounts to. While much of this debate must be had in academic terms, this is not merely an academic debate. There are women and girls getting their faces burned off with acid at this moment for daring to learn to read, or for not consenting to marry men they have never met, or even for the crime of getting raped. 
  54. ^
  55. ^ Essays on Science and Society. "Science and Morality".
  56. ^ Naturalistic nursing, Trevor Hussey (2011), Nursing Philosophy, Vol 12, Pg.45–52.

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