Tuesday, December 7, 2010

290: The Brain and Morality 1

The doctor plans to execute experiments on one of Jeff's children, but he wants Jeff to choose on which child should be experimented. Jeff has 24 hours to bring one of his children to the laboratory. If he refuses to bring one of the children to the laboratory the doctor will execute experiments on both children.

A moral dilemma. The question you now get is:
Jeff brings on of his children to the laboratory is 1) forbidden, 2) permissible or 3) madatory.

This is an example of the moral dilemmas you have to decide on when you participate in "The Moral Sense Test" of The Cognitive Evolution Laboratory, which is a department of Harvard University.
Main investigator of this project is professor Marc D. Hauser.

Maybe you want to try it yourself. At the end of the lecture I'll give you the URL. Answering 32 questions takes about 30 minutes.

This research project is still online and continuing, but there are already some tentative observations. It seems that moral intuition, according to Hauser, is uniform all over the world.

Men and women of 13 to 70, people who say that they are deeply religious and others who say to be atheist or just not religious, high educated people, people with minimal education,

non of these factors seem to have an influence on the answer to the question when people find it morally acceptable to do harm to other people.

Most interesting fact that came forward is the fact that a religious background has no influence on the choices people make in the test.

In parts of Europe it may be different, but in the US it is generally believed that morality simply originates and stays because of religion.

Here in the US the myth exists that we would be completely amoral without religion, Hauser says. And next he tries to show that education and culture have no influence on moral decision making.

Of course there are differences in everyday morals among different cultures, but this research project indicates that there are certain categories of moral intuitions that could be universal.

It appears that from our birth on we posses a series of universal principles. These are very basic principles. For instance, the Intention-principle:

most of the time people regard harm that is done on purpose morally worse than when the harm is a by-product of an action that had another intention.

The action- principle: Damage is morally more reprehensible when it is inflicted because of acting actively than when it is inflicted because you refrained from taking action.

The contact-principle: Harm caused by direct contact with the victim is morally worse than the same harm inflicted without direct contact with the victim.

These are tentative observations based on the results of The Moral Sense test. On the site there are not yet final results published. This all is very recent and new research.

There is a parallel of ideas here with the ideas of Avram Noam Chomsky (1928 - ), who studied the linguistic development of the human being.

Chomsky simply observed that while a human baby and a kitten are both capable of inductive reasoning, if they are exposed to exactly the same linguistic data, the human child will always acquire the ability to understand and produce language, while the kitten will never acquire either ability.

Chomsky labeled whatever the relevant capacity the human has which the cat lacks the "language acquisition device" (LAD) and suggested that one of the tasks for linguistics should be to figure out

what the LAD is and what constraints it puts on the range of possible human languages. The universal features that would result from these constraints are often termed "universal grammar" or UG.

In the same way Marc Hauser believes that the human being, based on the wiring of his brain, also possesses a kind of Moral Acquisition Device.

In the 50s Chomsky started his research in linguistics and still there is little known about the biology of language and how it is embedded in the mechanisms of the brain.

The Moral Sense test only started in 2003 and is an interesting initiative to use the internet to reach a global audience, but it isn't that easy to find universal brain features with a test, which is not free of cultural bias.
See http://www.jsecjournal.com/articles/volume1/issue3/Wierzbicka13.pdf

For the test see:

The Discussion

[13:25] herman Bergson: This for a start on this subject :-)
[13:25] herman Bergson: The floor is yours now :-)
[13:26] BALDUR Joubert: just been wondering all the time.. we have a new subject then.. no more brains.. no more understanding how things happend or could have
[13:26] herman Bergson: Ok this is not so confronting as last lecture :-)
[13:26] BALDUR Joubert: morals and brain is the subject?
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: The Contact Principle is interesting to ponder in regards to current and future drone warfare.
[13:27] herman Bergson: the main subject is the brain Baldur……and how everything we are is wired into that brain....
[13:27] BALDUR Joubert: in regards to the invention of the bow too ari?
[13:27] herman Bergson: I was thinking about that too Aristotle...
[13:28] BALDUR Joubert: ok.. morals wired in the brain? there you loose me...
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: well, to a degree yes, but a soldier can sit in the US and kill folk she does not ever see
[13:28] herman Bergson: Sending a drone with bombs over Taliban positions is almost a video game
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, exactly Herman
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: the extension of childs play
[13:28] herman Bergson: Ok Baldur...an important point.....
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: it is still terrible too many civilians killed or injured
[13:29] herman Bergson: Let's elaborate on Baldur's remark...
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: well for dchingis khan's troups it was like a video game too.. only more rl and less sl..
[13:29] herman Bergson: The brain causes the mind...
[13:29] herman Bergson: A feature of the mind is morality.....so the brain causes that we have a morality
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: true.. and there are basic wirings in the brain we don't control.. so far i agree..
[13:30] herman Bergson: well...we hardly know how this all works in the brain....
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: morality as a feature is not necessarily a basic one.. like survival -procreation.. fear.. feling well etc
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: well they are learning
[13:30] herman Bergson: I'll get to that in a next lecture
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: so much research is going on
[13:31] herman Bergson: I would say it is a basic one Baldur....
[13:31] herman Bergson: It is basic to the social relations in a group....
[13:31] BALDUR Joubert: i disagree.. you said moral intuition is uniform.. i say intuition is uniform
[13:31] herman Bergson: so it is a survival strategy to be moral
[[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: in a sense yes -but developed in a grpoup- so cultural..
[13:32] herman Bergson: what do you mean by intuition is uniform?
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: how unromantic to think the brain has a written depository of morals.....love must be just a stored bit
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. you wrote MORAL intuition is uniform
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: your words
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:33] herman Bergson: I mean that basic moral ideas that pop up in the mind seem to have a uniform character in the sense that is seems to be general human trait
[13:33] herman Bergson: That is what this Moral Sense Test tries to verify
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: hm.. i think the basic idea though acceptable as a scientific experience cannot lead us to universal conclusion-- and far from brain activity
[13:35] AristotleVon Doobie: could it possibly be that morals are psychologically inherited?
[13:35] herman Bergson: Like I referred to this Action -principle and intention-principle...
[13:35] BALDUR Joubert: you said language and cats.. but animals have a language.. they need it to survive..
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: intention.. do you understand a will there or a wiring..
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: which brings up the question of cats having minds? do they?
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: if you had one ari you would know:)
[13:36] herman Bergson: Animals have ways of communication...you hardly can call that a language...
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: I have two, if there is a more selfish animal I do not kno wof it
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: hm.. language is first of all sounds to communicate.. no matter how differeciated it is..
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well cats have minds....like chimps have too....
[13:37] herman Bergson: they have feelings...
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: one can hurt a cat's feelings ?
[13:37] herman Bergson: Descartes and many after him then till recent saw animals as machines
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: sure
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: I doubt you can
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: ok.. and homo heidelbergensis saw it as food
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well Aristotle there is a series of evolutionary levels of the brain...
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: well i think the cat is aware of something it does not like....
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: evolutionary or learning processes?
[13:38] herman Bergson: I dont think you cant hurt cat feelings..:-)
[13:39] herman Bergson: But You can hurt the feelings of certain primates, apes
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: you can.. some people study animals.. you'd be surprised
[13:39] Qwark Allen: they complain, when you are some time far from home
[13:39] herman Bergson: No evolutionary levels of development...
[13:39] Qwark Allen: ask gemma about her cats
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: OMG!!!
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: omg yes
[13:39] herman Bergson: in that our brain is the highest development level
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: cats will pretend to love you as long as they get what the want, if not they will move on
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: ys
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: evolutionary- like modifications of brain structures?
[13:40] herman Bergson: yes....
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: i know people like that too ari
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: :))
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: yes indeed
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: an animal that can pretend ari think what that means..
[13:40] BALDUR Joubert: can pretend
[13:40] herman Bergson: To give you an example how the feelings of an animal canbe hurt...
[13:40] Qwark Allen: we tend to think about some aspects of human behavior, as humans only
[13:40] herman Bergson: there is a certain species of apes...dont know the english name atm...
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: it is merely cause and effect
[13:41] herman Bergson: They did en experiment...
[13:41] Qwark Allen: and experience lately, have been proving that is not quit so
[13:41] herman Bergson: They taught the litle apes to accept a stone and then give it back to the researcher...
[13:41] Qwark Allen: there is a new book about dogs and cats about
[13:41] herman Bergson: as reward the got a piece of cucumber...
[13:41] herman Bergson: then in a next round...
[13:42] herman Bergson: number one got his piece of cucumber...
[13:42] herman Bergson: but his fellow ape he could see got a big grape.....and they are super fond of grapes...
[13:42] herman Bergson: Result...
[13:42] herman Bergson: the underpaid ape got really angry...
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: of course
[13:43] herman Bergson: threw the cucumber at the researcher....refused to cooperate etc
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: smart
[13:43] Qwark Allen: good thing
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: :) sounds like my children
[13:43] Qwark Allen: eheheh
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: soi- experience and cognitive understanding. do that with 2 5 year old kids and they react the same
[13:43] herman Bergson: These were real emotions reflecting a sense of justice
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: that is true
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: emotions yes.. but needs cognitive
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes BAldur..but the point was..have animal feelings....yes some have
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: I have a hunch primates maybe different from the rest of the annimals
[13:44] herman Bergson: They are of course
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: whales are very smart also
[13:44] herman Bergson: They
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: that goes not only for primates ari.. we are far from knowing all
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: whales and dolphins too, yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: True...
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: studies are made on mammals usually.. beyond its difficult
[13:45] herman Bergson: Some animals have a sense of a self....of identity...
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: that is true, BALDUR.....even vegetables may have feelings
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: that's the mirror test herman
[13:45] herman Bergson: They have a dolphin look in a mirror....
[13:45] herman Bergson: then they paint a dot on his nose...
[13:45] herman Bergson: Dolphin looks again...
[13:46] herman Bergson: recognizes himself and tries to wash off the dot
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:46] herman Bergson: Even an elephant does that!
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:47] Qwark Allen: i wonder about primitive man, if he does not the same first time he sees one mirror, anyway
[13:47] herman Bergson: SO the brain comes through the species in all kinds of evolutionary flavors
[13:47] herman Bergson: He must have seen his face mirrored in the water
[13:47] Qwark Allen: that is different to see a mirror
[13:48] herman Bergson: When a cat looks in a mirror is sees an opponent
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: right. but the decisive factor was the possibility to communicate not only survival patterns but abstracts-concepts
[13:48] herman Bergson: yes that is a specific feature of language....animals dont have that ability
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: that's the main difference between man and animal..
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: I can understand the motivation there, evolution has brought them to that stage and been successful in survival, instinctly they would resist rapid changes in their appearance
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: and for that we need no morals
[13:49] herman Bergson: We need morals be live socially together Baldur
[13:49] BALDUR Joubert: and communication was a major evolutionary advantage for the survival..
[13:50] herman Bergson: Yes but that applies to almost all species
[13:50] herman Bergson: they all communicate.....warn for danger etc.
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: wolves-- in contradiction to hobbes- don't kill their children.. give food to the weaker and so on.. so
[13:50] herman Bergson: true....
[13:50] herman Bergson: we'll get to the subject of altruism in nature too
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: we do need morals for society, but I think the morallity is not a collective decision
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: and they have -like many other higher developed animals a social live better than ours :)
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: i would like to do the survey
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: as you talked about elephants.. read about their social behavior
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: don't forget the url
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: I think he listed it already
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: how did morals come into our human world..
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: oh maybe when i crashed
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: I sorry..
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: I'm Sorry!
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: yes prob
[13:52] herman Bergson: Elephants experience compassion with each other for instance, yes
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:52] herman Bergson: Morals came into the human world by evolution Baldur...
[13:52] BALDUR Joubert: that would be morals ,wouldn't it?
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: empathy is the seed of a moral code
[13:52] herman Bergson: it is the result of millions of years of evolution
[13:52] BALDUR Joubert: you say evolution.. i say by culture
[13:52] herman Bergson: That cant be Baldur…
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: interesting
[13:53] herman Bergson: There first is the brain....then the culture
[13:53] BALDUR Joubert: what we have in common with elephants and others is the survival evolutionary intuitions..
[13:53] BALDUR Joubert: they have brains:)
[13:53] BALDUR Joubert: but i agree.. no morals as we understand it
[13:53] herman Bergson: yes...and they show...depending on the species similar behavior as humans...
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: have to go
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: or the humans similar behavbiors tou animals?
[13:54] Qwark Allen: i see your point hermaan
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: herman
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Gemma
[13:54] bergfrau Apfelbaum: unfortunately I must to my job! I wish you an immoral evening: -) - see Tuesday
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: see you tuesday if I can
[13:54] bergfrau Apfelbaum:
[13:54] bergfrau Apfelbaum: .,¡i|¹i¡¡i¹|i¡,. .,¡i|¹i¡¡i¹|i¡,.
[13:54] bergfrau Apfelbaum: `'¹li¡|¡|¡il¹'` `'¹li¡|¡|¡il¹'`
[13:54] bergfrau Apfelbaum:
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: bergie!
[13:54] herman Bergson: here...duty calls...
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: hope you make it back hom,e through the snow berfrau:)
[13:54] Qwark Allen: l ☺ ☻ ☺ l
[13:54] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ok
[13:54] Beertje Beaumont: bye Gemma
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Bye ! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[13:54] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:55] herman Bergson: Bye Qwark
[13:55] Qwark Allen: hopefully i`ll come on time , next time
[13:55] herman Bergson: You are excuses Qwark
[13:55] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Bye ! •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜ ㋡
[13:55] Qwark Allen: beerje, ari man, baldur, ciska
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: so ciska.. did herman scare you so you didn't say a word tonight?
[13:55] Beertje Beaumont: bye kwark
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: nope... ,)
[13:55] Qwark Allen: not really, today i slept a bit after work, that is why, i was late
[13:56] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. good..
[13:56] Qwark Allen: been long days
[13:56] herman Bergson: Thank you all…We'll continue the debate next Tuesday….Class dismissed ^_^

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