This Week in Science and Morality – 3/30/15

This Week in Science and Morality – 3/30/15

Why Do People Do Bad (and Good) Things? That’s the fall focus of the Sinai and Synapses Discussion Forum. Each week, we’ll gather some of the most interesting articles on the topic from across the online world. We hope they make you think—and share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Once and Future Sins

Stefan Klein and Stephen Cave: In 2115, when our descendants look back at our society, what will they condemn as our greatest moral failing? (Aeon)

Stanford Research Shows That Moral Stigma Spreads Down From the Top in Organizations

Moral suspicion trickles down social hierarchies, making a top leader’s ethical transgressions especially damaging for the careers and reputations of colleagues and subordinates, according to new Stanford research. (Clifton B. Parker, Stanford Report)

Did Belief in Ghosts Help Kick-Start Civilization?

Joseph Watts, at the University of New Zealand, and colleagues took 96 cultures that have been most heavily studied and coded them according to whether they worshipped moralizing high gods or spirits who could hand out punishment but weren’t particularly interested in being kind and generous. … What they found was that complex societies did indeed tend to also believe in Moralising High Gods, but that it was highly unlikely that the god belief came first. In fact, in all six societies in which such beliefs emerged, it seems to have arisen independently and relatively recently.” (Tom Rees, Patheos)

The Troubling Implications of Believing Our Rights Don’t Come From God

Without an absolute law that transcends the whims of man, the very concept of “rights” metastasizes into a definition having more to do with the current and often capricious preference of the majority. Oppressed minorities have long found comfort (and, in fact, seized the moral high ground) by pointing out that there is a greater law, a universal sense of right and wrong, that transcends the will of the majority. (Matt K. Lewis, The Week)

The Twisted Morality of Climate Denial: How Religion and American Exceptionalism Are Undermining Our Future

Edward L. Rubin: Response to climate change affects people’s personal beliefs and lifestyles. It is not simply a political position, like controlling air pollution or saving the blue whale, but an issue that reaches deep inside our patterns of thought and behavior. (Salon)

How Can Children’s Imaginative Play Develop Character?

Thalia Goldstein: Imaginative play offers a space for children to try on emotions, to think about mental states, and to practice making moral decisions. (Big Questions Online)



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