Morality May Be Genetic, Not “God-Based”

The NYTimes reports:

… Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has built on this idea to propose that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, “Moral Minds” (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind.

People are generally unaware of this process because the mind is adept at coming up with plausible rationalizations for why it arrived at a decision generated subconsciously.

Dr. Hauser presents his argument as a hypothesis to be proved, not as an established fact. But it is an idea that he roots in solid ground, including his own and others’ work with primates and in empirical results derived by moral philosophers.

The proposal, if true, would have far-reaching consequences. It implies that parents and teachers are not teaching children the rules of correct behavior from scratch but are, at best, giving shape to an innate behavior. And it suggests that religions are not the source of moral codes but, rather, social enforcers of instinctive moral behavior.…

And this makes perfect sense. So, here’s the question: What will "Yiddishkeit" do when its foolish arguments, like those proposed by Rabbi Avi Shafran, are rendered not simply foolish, but moot? The Brooklyn-Mea Shearim cabal continue to paint Judaism into a smaller and smaller corner. But, perhaps this is a good thing – the more irrelevant these people make themselves, the better.

[Hat tip: Sheyna Rofeh-Filosof.]

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7 Comments

Filed under Haredim, Religion

7 responses to “Morality May Be Genetic, Not “God-Based”

  1. D

    What will “Yiddishkeit” do when its foolish arguments, like those proposed by Rabbi Avi Shafran, are rendered not simply foolish, but moot?

    Hopefully we will finally admit what we should have all along; that there is nothing inherently superior about Torah-oriented halachic behavior other than it being what G-d wants of us. The behaviors, laws, customs, folkways, etc. could just as easily have been derived from secular thinking without any Divine input. IOW, “Thou shalt not kill!” may not originate with the Torah but the Torah makes adherence into a Divine service.

  2. People have innate tracking abilities to catch moving objects, but we still do better by training. People have innate abilities to do simple math, but mathematicians can explore areas closed to almost all untrained minds. I see no problem with the idea that we all have an innate sense of morality but (some) religious training can make help us express that sense more fully.

  3. Paul Freedman

    I can no longer give support to this smarty-pants superficiality by posting comments to this blog which is doomed.

  4. Yochanan Lavie

    Confucius was probably an agnostic, but he saw social value in preserving the rites. Jefferson was a Deist, but he also saw social utility in religion, as did Plato, who was an unconventional believer. Some may agree with early Lennon, who Imagined a world at peace, w/o religion. (“Nothing to kill or die for,” nothing to live for, too?) I prefer later Lennon who said “Whatever gets you through the night is alright.” Or Gandhi, who said all religions are true.

  5. Yochanan Lavie

    PS: (Sorry for being so long-winded.) Religion gives a genetic advantage. Europe’s population is imploding, because the nominally Christian secularists are not reproducing. Who is? Muslim immigrants. In the US, Bible belt Christians and Orthodox Jews reproduce more than Mainline Protestants and non-Ortho Jews. Secularism seems to be a poor adaptive/reproductive srategy. Some scientists say we are hardwired to believe (a “Godd gene”).

    That does not address the veracity of the existence of God, of course. But as the Vorlon observed in Deep Space Nine, that is exactly what a god would do.

  6. Yochanan Lavie

    PS: (Sorry for being so long-winded.) Religion gives a genetic advantage. Europe’s population is imploding, because the nominally Christian secularists are not reproducing. Who is? Muslim immigrants. In the US, Bible belt Christians and Orthodox Jews reproduce more than Mainline Protestants and non-Ortho Jews. Secularism seems to be a poor adaptive/reproductive srategy. Some scientists say we are hardwired to believe (a “Godd gene”).

    That does not address the veracity of the existence of God, of course. But as the Vorlon observed in Deep Space Nine, that is exactly what a god would do.

  7. No clue.

    Empirical results derived by moral philosophers?

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