The purpose of this group is to discuss morality from all points of view: biological, evolutionary, philosophical. Specific moral questions are encouraged: if you have a moral question for us atheists, feel free to post it here.
Latest Activity: Jul 28, 2020
We atheists are pretty tired of hearing that without religion, there would be no morality. It is offensive to us atheists, since this implies we cannot possibly be moral, or if we are in fact, moral, it is because we were raised in a culture in which morality was initially acquired, and still perpetuated, by religion.
While it is indeed possible that some people may need religion in order to be moral, this is a scary thought: their morality has not been reasoned or felt in their gut, it was "ordered" from above.
Human beings have had moral laws and codes for thousands and thousands of years before religion was ever invented, at least in an organized form. Human beings around the globe, from many religious backgrounds, have pretty much the same basic set of rules, starting with the Golden Rule. Why? Because our moral sense comes from the evolution of our brains and the need to live as a social species, avoiding conflict and increasing cooperation. Our moral sense is based on our emotions: it feels good to help others, and it feels bad to harm others.
The scientific study of human nature has naturally lead to the scientific study of human morality. A good start if you're new to this fascinating and important subject is The New Science of Morality, from Edge.org.
Useful links or articles:
The Moral Instinct- great long article in the NYT by Steven Pinker
The communication of emotions and the possibility of empathy in animals, by Stephanie Preston and Frans de Waal (book chapter)
The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience- Scholarly article by Harvard philosopher Selim Berker (hat tip to Julia Galef) who argues that we can never derive normative implications from neural facts about how we reach moral decisions. Opposite point of view to Peter Singer and Joshua Greene. Not sure I agree completely but it's good to challenge ourselves with opposing views in any field.
Moral psychology: The depths of disgust
Is there wisdom to be found in repugnance? Or is disgust 'the nastiest of all emotions', offering nothing but support to prejudice? Dan Jones looks at the repellent side of human nature.
Recent evidence suggests that moral judgment is more a matter of emotion and affective intuition than deliberate reasoning. Psychology and cognitive neuroscience studies point to the importance of affect, although reasoning can play a restricted but significant role in moral judgment. A preliminary account of the functional neuroanatomy of moral judgment is presented, according to which many brain areas make important contributions to moral judgment although none is devoted specifically to it.
We will be adding recurrent threads that people keep adding new material to, for reference or because the subject is a tidbit that does not warrant its own separate discussion:
The Moral Treasure Chest
Moral Dilemmas- this is a thread for moral dilemmas (a part of applied ethics), feel free to post your favorite moral dilemma, real of made up, and what you would do and why (coming up soon).
Online tests: These are academic tests designed to probe our moral sense, moral cognition, and what drives our moral decisions and judgments. They are fun, they will tell you a lot about yourself, and you'll be helping researchers add to their current data.
YourMorals.org (Jonathan Haidt's group and collaborators).
The Moral Sense Test (Joshua Greene-Harvard University)
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