If there wasn’t a God, who’s to say that Hitler was evil?

If there isn’t a God, we are the ones to say that Hitler is evil. How do we know? We are born with a conscience. Yale psychology professor, Paul Bloom conducts experiments on infants to discover what morals if any, babies are born with.

Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. And the center puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the left . . . who would run away with it. Then the two puppets on the ends were brought down from the stage and set before the toddler. Each was placed next to a pile of treats. At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet. Like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the “naughty” one. But this punishment wasn’t enough — he then leaned over and smacked the puppet in the head.

(Taken from The Moral Life of Babies)

Based on his own cross-cultural research into adult morality, moral foundations theorist, Jonathan Haidt describes six categories of morals that were found in every culture he and his colleagues studied:

  1. Care/harm: cherishing and protecting others.

  2. Fairness/cheating: rendering justice according to shared rules. (Alternate name: Proportionality)

  3. Liberty/oppression: the loathing of tyranny.

  4. Loyalty/betrayal: standing with your group, family, nation. (Alternate name: Ingroup)

  5. Authority/subversion: obeying tradition and legitimate authority. (Alternate name: Respect.)

  6. Sanctity/degradation: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions. (Alternate name: Purity.)

(Taken from Moral Foundations Theory)

From Bloom’s research, he hypothesizes that we are born with a rough draft of the six moral foundations above. Experiments haven’t yet been performed to test Haidt’s hypothesis, however it makes sense to this old agnostic, secular Buddhist.

I recommend Haidt’s book. It’s a fascinating read.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion: Jonathan Haidt: 9780307455772: Amazon.com: Books

You can take tests and learn about your morals and how they influence your politics at Haidt’s website: YourMorals.Org

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Photo: moral foundations theorist, Jonathan Haidt

5 thoughts on “If there wasn’t a God, who’s to say that Hitler was evil?

  1. By the time you’re one you’re already mimicking a great deal of what you see around you, so I don’t know if this really proves it honestly. Kids are sponges, they start sponging up their environment even before they’re born.
    That being said I believe there are things that don’t need to be taught.
    Did anyone tell you not to sleep with your parents? Probably not. Yet the majority of people would find it downright repulsive to even consider, with good reason.
    I might be wrong, but sometimes it’s just a gut feeling, an intuition.


    1. I believe that gut response is our inborn conscience. Sure kids mimic bad behaviors they see and can lose their way. When you chastise them they usually know they have done wrong (as long as the concept isn’t too advanced for them at their stage of development).

      The conscious is a guide and it competes with desires and aversions. I think this is where parents come in. They help the child pay more attention to their conscience.

      1. They also mimic good behavior. People always think about the bad behavior first, but if you watch kids carefully they’re mimicking close to your every move (scary right?), you nurture, they nurture, even at one, which is really sweet to watch.
        Although at this point they might not have a clue what they’re doing.


      2. I think the example parents give is more important than the rules they set. My mom set a good example and I minded her. My father set a bad example and I rebelled against him.

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