“The Moral Instinct” by Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker argues about the innate moral instincts we possess using his research on brain activity and evolutionary psychology. He believes that different cultures possess different moral mindsets based on variations of the five universal moral spheres- harm, fairness, community, authority and purity. Pinker defends statements that say we act based on our “different weightings of the spheres.” However, he points out that our moral sense is vulnerable to illusions, just as illusions in our other senses. His argument about the shudder test discusses these very illusions. In the shudder test people quickly “hit the moralization button and look for villains rather than bug fixes.” People all too often confuse “practical problems as moral crusades.” He notes that experts say our initial repugnance “may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity.” These experts advise us to “go with our gut” on such controversies like human cloning or other biomedical technologies. Pinker, however, argues that this would be cause faulty reasoning, because there are many “good reasons to regulate human cloning” that we simply disregard on account of our moral senses. He brings up a valid point that “People have shuddered at all kind of morally irrelevant violations of purity in their culture…and if our ancestors’ repugnance had carried the day, we never would have had autopsies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, artificial insemination, organ transplants, and in viro fertilization, all of which were denounced as immoral when they were new.” So, many of our medical advances would have never occurred because moral rationalizations would have gotten in the way. Steven Pinker rationalizes that “Our habit of moralizing problems, merging them with intuitions of purity and contamination, and resting content when we feel the right feelings, can get in the way of doing the right thing.” He proposes...
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