Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Dr. Hauser of Harvard says Morality is Hard wired into everyone.

From: www.Politics in "If Humans Are 'Hard Wired' For Morality, Why Do We Need Religion?" ---post by Liberal Democrat --my comments below after his blog.

LD writes: "Harvard professor Marc Hauser says that humans and perhaps some other mammals are 'hard wired' for morality. Dr. Hauser runs the Cognitive Evolution Laboratory at Harvard and is the author of several scholarly papers as well as the book, "Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Sense of Right and Wrong."

Dr.Hauser argues that humans have a universal moral grammar, an instinctive, unconscious tool kit for constructing moral systems.

In an article in the Toronto Star, Hauser suggests:

"Morality is influenced by cultural teachings but is also so deep and universal an aspect of human existence that it is effectively "hard-wired" into the brain, much like the instinct for language. At work are principles as unconscious and yet powerful as the grammar rules we use when we speak – and the challenge to scientists is to figure out what those built-in moral rules are and how they work."

The Star article goes on to point out the 'religion' dilemma:

"A psychologist, evolutionary biologist and anthropologist, Hauser has felt students grow restless as he talks about the underpinnings of morality. One student, he says, complained, "I know where you're going: Because it's universal, it's biological, and therefore there's no role for religion." Hauser recalls responding: "I'm not saying you shouldn't derive meaning from religion. I'm just telling you that at some level, the nature of the moral judgments that you make and I make are the same, even though I don't go to church and you do.""

The New York Times article reports of Dr. Hauser's theory:

"Dr. Hauser presents his argument as a hypothesis to be proved, not as an established fact. But it is an idea that he roots in solid ground, including his own and others’ work with primates and in empirical results derived by moral philosophers.

The proposal, if true, would have far-reaching consequences. It implies that parents and teachers are not teaching children the rules of correct behavior from scratch but are, at best, giving shape to an innate behavior. And it suggests that religions are not the source of moral codes but, rather, social enforcers of instinctive moral behavior."

Thus questions arise:

• If moral judgments are immune to religious doctrine, what then is the role of religion in the morality theory?

• Are 'church folks' more moral than atheists?

• Can religious instruction actually skew the hard-wired morality already in place in the brain?

• Is some sense of 'morality' hard-wired in apes and chimps? [Photo]

In an earlier post I cited an article on the chimp known as the bonobo. Bonobos seem to live by the principle "make love, not war". They are very docile towards one another, never aggressive or murderous, and possess many of the psychological traits we value most, including altruism, compassion, empathy, kindness, patience and sensitivity. Could they, too be hard-wired for morality?
posted by liberal_dem at 10:24 AM on Mar 7, 2007

Barb said...
Of course we are hard-wired for the ability to make moral and immoral choices --especially if taught right from wrong. The Bible says that we are without excuse in our sinful choices --we know better somewhere deep in our hard wiring.

However, there are areas I think in which people don't know right from wrong --children are innately selfish--THAT seems to be hard-wired into us as well. Would we feel any guilt about our selfishness if no one told us that it was wrong? I think of that old man who kept the girls in his underground prison as sex slaves --seen recently on msnbc documentary, i believe. He seemed to lack any remorse or conscience in the matter. totally selfish--pure evil. Poor dear --what was he to do with a wife too invalid to give him sex? Imprison young girls, of course! It was logical to him.

Religion is about a relationship between Creator and Creation --He reached out to us. We respond, either choosing our own path or seeking His. Scorning rules or embracing them as guides for life which are for our own good --and the good of others he has created.

Man has invented many religions realizing through his hard wiring that there has to be somebody greater than we are behind the order and beauty of the universe and the earth and all its inhabitants--whose weather and other calamities might be avoided if we could only figure out how to appease the gods that be....

11:13 AM EST

liberal_dem said...
Hi, barb. I'm glad that this post got your righteous attention. We all are so pleased to have a woman with your fine moral character sweep up the dirt in this blog.

11:22 AM EST

microdot said...
I think that from her opening sentence, Barb shows that she has got it wrong and not really read your article.

"Of course we are hard-wired for the ability to make moral and immoral choices".

Wouldn't a simpler way of stating what she said be, we are hard wired to make choices.

I actually think that positive useful behaviour and "morality" is
part a healthy brain. We make good choices for survival and survival as a human means the ability to coexist peacefully with each other.
That simple statements dictates the entire range of behaviour and interaction with each other.
If an individual has made "immoral" behavioural choices, then there are problems that are greater than a simple dose of old time reliigion would cure.
If it was just as simple as acepting reliigion, then the morally righteous government leaders we have who all profess to be fervent Deists wouldn't let wounded soldiers suffer the conditions we have been learning about in the last week. Moral, upright relgious men wouldn't have started an insane bloody conflict for an insane plan to dominate the worlds petro chemical resources.
The majority of humans living on this planet want to do so in peace and harmony and would do so if the psychotic power crazed god fearing leaders would let them.

12:31 PM EST

liberal_dem said...
I think that from her opening sentence, Barb shows that she has got it wrong and not really read your article.

She has 5 or 6 canned statements which she randomly posts regardless of the subject of the thread.

2:32 PM EST

Barb said...
Some truths bear repeating, LD. As Jesus put it, "Let he who has ears, HEAR!"

If Hauser is right, then Hitler and Stalin and all their disciples were what? They missed out on the "Hard wiring for morality"? they were standing behind the door when this "hard wiring" took place?

Isn't he saying that we are all moral because it is better for our self-preservation? or is it NOT always to our personal, short-range advantage to be moral? Don't we see story after story --some true --about people who considered that the immoral choice was to their advantage? OF COURSE. Being moral is not about advantaging yourself --except in the eternal run. The guy who throws himself on a grenade to protect others is moral --and at the same time, truly not self-seeking. Same way with the guy who threw himself over another person to save him from the subway train.

Such heroic acts are not hard-wired in everyone. Nor is morality hard-wired, such that both the religious and the irreligious will make the moral choices over the immoral.

The fact that some DO make moral choices without being religious is because this country DOES have a Judeo-Christian sense of right and wrong. Chances are good that the irreligious moral person had parents who taught him well what was right and what was wrong and whether they realized it or admitted it or not, the source was Judeo-Christian -Biblical philosophy of life --that sacrifice for others is noble --that unselfishness is better than selfishness --that we should do unto others as we'd like done to ourselves. that we should choose to be compassionate, forgiving, loving.

"Getting even" is the moral code of most of the world --eye for an eye. And while that IS the standard for justice, it is not a prescription from Christianity for how we should live. Jesus added the forgiveness factor. Forgiveness is absolutely the only path to peace.

Obviously, the teen killers at Columbine H.S. weren't hard wired to be moral --nor was the jealous female astronaut --nor was the old man who imprisoned the sex slaves -nor the school teachers taking up with students or Laci's husband throwing her overboard for another woman-nor were all the people who fill our prisons for murder, rape and theft, etc. And some of them ARE believers on the surface --but their temptations to do wrong outweighed their hard-wired preference for morality we all are supposed to have, according to Hauser.

The Bible says that we are hard-wired with a bent to sinning --because of original sin with the first couple. We are willing to be deceived into thinking that immorality is moral and good and for our advantage. But the Bible, as I asserted in my first comment, also says we are without excuse when we DO choose disobedience over obedience, immorality over morality--because hardwired also in us, is a knowledge of good and evil --as from the tree in the garden.

someone once posed a question --if you were in a dark place at night and a group of young men approached --would you be relieved to learn they were just coming from a Bible study instead of a bar?

I think so --religion sharpens the conscience and fortifies the will to do right. It tells us we are accountable for our behavior to someone who is watching --who wants us to do right instead of wrong. Mood enhancers and lack of moral education and lack of religious instruction can dull judgment and can reduce us to indulge our most base and selfish inclinations.

Hard-wired for a sense of morality? yes --for a knowledge of right and wrong even when we aren't religious? --perhaps, but knowledge of morality alone doesn't help us choose morality if we think it is to our advantage to be immoral.

C.S. Lewis said we may not agree about the specifics of what is fair or not --but we all appeal to a standard of fairness --saying over and over again, "That's not right --that's not fair --there oughtta be a law!" He says this universal sense of "oughtness" is evidence of God's existance --lending credibility to the Biblical account of Creator and Created. As he put it, we may not agree how many wives a man can have, but most all cultures/religions would agree that a man can't just have any and every woman he wants.

Hauser probably had some religious AND moral ancestors --who passed down through their parenting (not their genes) his sense of morality which resembles that of the religious. But without the bedrock of the Word of God, he can find excuse for immoral choices --as our whole culture is doing today.

As the Bible says, we have each become a law unto ourselves.

4:48 PM EST

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