Evolution and morality

02Nov06

I love this theory. Worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the abridged version:

Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has built on this idea to propose that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, Moral Minds (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind.

Both atheists and people belonging to a wide range of faiths make the same moral judgments, Dr. Hauser writes, implying that the system that unconsciously generates moral judgments is immune to religious doctrine. Dr. Hauser argues that the moral grammar operates in much the same way as the universal grammar proposed by the linguist Noam Chomsky as the innate neural machinery for language. The universal grammar is a system of rules for generating syntax and vocabulary but does not specify any particular language. That is supplied by the culture in which a child grows up.

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