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Old 02-24-2008, 10:41 PM   #1
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there's a lot of shit science around

quote:

Human evolution

Moral thinking
Feb 21st 2008 | BOSTON
From The Economist print edition

Biology invades a field philosophers thought was safely theirs

WHENCE morality? That is a question which has troubled philosophers since their subject was invented. Two and a half millennia of debate have, however, failed to produce a satisfactory answer. So now it is time for someone else to have a go. And at a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, a group of biologists did just that.

Mark Hauser, of Harvard University, opened the batting by asking whether morality is more than just the refined application of the emotions. He thinks that it is. Human brains, he believes, have a separate morality module. Brain-scanning experiments show that when a volunteer is faced with a moral dilemma (such as a runaway railway trolley approaching a set of points, with dire consequences whichever way he throws those points) his emotional centres are not involved in the decision. Such “trolleyology”, as it has waggishly been dubbed, also suggests that reason is not part of the process. Different ways of killing the same number of people with a runaway trolley produce systematically different answers.

That does not mean all moral decisions have to be the same in everyone (though in trolleyology they often are). Instead, Dr Hauser uses the analogy of language. All healthy humans have, in the words of his Harvard colleague Steven Pinker, a “language instinct” which incorporates the idea of nouns, verbs, adjectives and how these all fit together. Exactly which language you learn, though, depends on your upbringing.

David Sloan Wilson, of Binghamton University, in New York state, agrees with that point, but reckons the actual moral sense an individual acquires is not arbitrary, as a language is, but is functionally adapted to circumstances. He and his colleague Ingrid Storm looked at liberals and conservatives (in the American senses of the words). Each group has a package of values it sees as moral, while viewing many of the beliefs of the other side as immoral. Dr Wilson and Dr Storm restricted their study to white, Protestant teenagers, in order to eliminate confounding variables. However, their volunteers came from two different traditions—Pentecostal, which tends to the conservative, and Episcopalian, which tends to the liberal.

The researchers conducted the study by giving each volunteer a beeper that went off every two hours or so. When it beeped, the volunteer answered a questionnaire about what he was doing at that moment, and how he felt about it.

Dr Wilson and Dr Storm found several unexpected differences between the groups. Liberal teenagers always felt more stress than conservatives, but were particularly stressed if they could not decide for themselves whom they spent time with. Such choice, or the lack of it, did not change conservative stress levels. Liberals were also loners, spending a quarter of their time on their own. Conservatives were alone for a sixth of the time. That may have been related to the fact that liberals were equally bored by their own company and that of others. Conservatives were far less bored when with other people. They also preferred the company of relatives to non-relatives. Liberals were indifferent. Perhaps most intriguingly, the more religious a liberal teenager claimed to be, the more he was willing to confront his parents with dissenting beliefs. The opposite was true for conservatives.

Dr Wilson suspects that the liberal package of individualism and confrontation is the appropriate response to survival in a stable environment in which there is leisure for learning and reflection, and the consequences for a group's stability of such dissent are low. The conservative package of collectivism and conformity, by contrast, works in an unstable environment where joint action, and thus obedience to their group, are at a premium. It is an interesting suggestion, and it is one that plays into the question of how morality actually evolved.

That was addressed by Samuel Bowles, of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. An important feature of moral behaviour is altruism. Normally, biologists explain this as being either nepotism or you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours. But Dr Bowles believes people do perform acts which cost them more than they gain. To explain this, he invokes an idea that went out of fashion in the 1960s: group selection. This says that the winnowing of the gene pool, which drives evolution, can favour or destroy entire social groups as single entities, as well as working at the level of individual organisms.

No one ever claimed group selection is impossible, but it looks mathematically unlikely. Dr Bowles, however, thinks that the virtues of human collaboration are so great that groups composed of genuine, self-sacrificing altruists would outcompete others.

His best example of such self-sacrifice is warfare, an activity in which morality and immorality intersect in ways that have always been puzzling—and where liberals and conservatives often draw opposite conclusions about what is right and wrong. Paradoxically, that clash of views suggests that Dr Bowles and Dr Wilson really are on to something with the idea of functional morality. Perhaps they and their colleagues can eventually do what philosophers have never managed, and explain moral behaviour in an intellectually satisfying way.


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not exactly new stuff is it "Functional morality"...how can they justify the funding on this crap?
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Old 02-25-2008, 05:42 AM   #2
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One of the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected....That they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly.
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Old 02-25-2008, 06:26 AM   #3
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:03 AM   #4
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Interesting study. What exactly is the problem you have with it Cun... ehm, Pussy?

Wait just a minute-You expect me to believe-That all this misbehaving-Grew from one enchanted tree? And helpless to fight it-We should all be satisfied-With this magical explanation-For why the living die-And why it's hard to be a decent human being - David Bazan
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:06 AM   #5
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shh...we're sleeping....



One of the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected....That they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly.
H. L. Mencken
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:23 AM   #6
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:33 AM   #7
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Y'all get your tired asses up and give Pussy some play. You know you want to.

Pussy, darlin', now I know you can troll better than this. You trot out this study and all you've got to say about it is it's crap and it shouldn't be funded?

You start the ball rolling, dear. What exactly is your beef with biology invading the sacred realm of philosophy? Why is this not a valid endeavor? Is it because philosophy can't penetrate the mechanics of biology and, thus, the two should be mutually exclusive courses of study?

Give us something with which to work.

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:37 AM   #8
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I once saw a study on whether puff volume or puff duration was the principle factor in getting you stoned. If you can get funding for that, you can get anything.

As a psychologist, I certainly see a biological study of morality as interesting. I see the survey based stuff as tenuous, but without examining the actual paper I would hold off on it. I've seen too many friend's research distorted to trust journalists to report science accurately.

Edit: By the way, Phil, it's volume that matters most.
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
mmfwmc wrote View Post
Edit: By the way, Phil, it's volume that matters most.
Isn't that kind of like giving Derek Jeter tips on how to play baseball?

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:40 AM   #10
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Isn't that what everyone does anyway?
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Old 02-26-2008, 12:55 PM   #11
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Old 02-26-2008, 01:03 PM   #12
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One of the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected....That they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly.
H. L. Mencken
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Old 02-26-2008, 04:48 PM   #13
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reminds me of how wee little kiddies act ...holds breath, puts hands over ears.....
twins hey - a pigeon pair?...
second thoughts it could be the start of 'atheist shunning' ritual? hehehe..

...(Cunt is a purrrfect term) lick it harder mate - probably the only thing that works on ya head is your tongue.

Quote:
What exactly is your beef with biology invading the sacred realm of philosophy? Why is this not a valid endeavor? Is it because philosophy can't penetrate the mechanics of biology and, thus, the two should be mutually exclusive courses of study?
WhAT?..is that it? ....
... reactions to a beeper - great "biology"? Fuckinghell..


Don't ya'll know how to critically examine a piece of research?
....what has the 'study' accomplished ? Who knows what the intention of the study might be?
It says that people of different backgrounds have a different view of 'morality'.
Big deal.
..The paper is not anymore 'scientific' than a newspaper survey but you can't blame it on 'journalistic distortion'. Its pure sensationalist stuff in any regard.

... the only group represented are 'white protestant teenagers'
however its pushing the idea that 'conservatives' ( a blatant political ideology) have 'stronger' morals..than 'liberal minded people".

And how do 'morals' have strength?



anyway....



Here's another clue....?
Doesn't anyone think its NOT a coincidence.. that this kind of 'study' comes out of the US universities regularly (as regularly as the old red vs blue )......? Yep..its volume /quota - a fair load of this shit is turned over. Its part of the uni employees contract to produce a certain amount of publishable 'research' - extra points if it gets in the popular press.


Yeah...some "science" is very slutty


It would be unexpected and a refreshing change to get a few reasonably thoughtful responses to this bit of research...but i'll understand if ya can't be bothered reading so much at one time.
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:05 PM   #14
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deep.
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:09 PM   #15
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