Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Marc Hauser Is Made of Awesome-Sauce

Further empirical verification that moral sense is innate, and independent of religion, by Marc Hauser at Harvard (who has been doing great work on this for a while) and Ilkka Pyysiäinen at the University of Helsinki. These are exactly the kinds of studies we should be doing more of. Phil Zuckerman asked the same question on a country-wide level in Society Without God. Those Danes seem to be about as nice as anyone. These questions are very to-the-point, not ubercomplicated, and deliver a clear message about how humans actually behave. Forget theory, look at what what people actually do!

The research article itself is in Trends in Cognitive Science, but special kudos to Nature for publishing an Op-Ed directly highlighting the research.

Religion is about achieving political authority over other humans with two tricks: origin stories and regulating morality. Of these, the second is far more important. The impact of religion on human behavior is the real deal, and though I'm drawn into it as much as anybody, the evolution-creation debate is a diversion. distraction - but I'm sure Ken Ham would rather have you arguing about fossils than showing him how well atheists are living (this is why it's a good idea to demand exactly how believing in descent with modification leads to bad behavior).

Much to hardcore theists' dismay, many religious people agree that atheists can lead moral lives. For those of us who live in a diverse democracy, just being able to function on a daily basis depends on your not believing that everyone outside your religion is about to commit cannibalism. And that's why addressing the morality question is a more effective approach to diminishing the hold of religion on society.

No comments: