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.
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:
Care/harm: cherishing and protecting others.
Fairness/cheating: rendering justice according to shared rules. (Alternate name: Proportionality)
Liberty/oppression: the loathing of tyranny.
Loyalty/betrayal: standing with your group, family, nation. (Alternate name: Ingroup)
Authority/subversion: obeying tradition and legitimate authority. (Alternate name: Respect.)
Sanctity/degradation: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions. (Alternate name: Purity.)
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.
You can take tests and learn about your morals and how they influence your politics at Haidt’s website:
©2016 Stephen L. Martin
Photo: moral foundations theorist, Jonathan Haidt