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July 14–31, 2016

Join us in the summer of 2016 for a once-in-a-lifetime 17-day tour of Great Britain

Led by geologist/paleontologist/author Dr. Donald Prothero, we will explore the geology and natural history of Great Britain from the White Cliffs to the North Sea coast of Scotland. Our tour will focus on sites of scientific and skeptical interest, including famous fossil beds and geologic sites, behind-the-scenes tours of natural history museums, historic places associated with scientists such Charles Darwin, A.R. Wallace, Isaac Newton, geologist James Hutton, and skeptic philosopher David Hume, plus a boat tour of Loch Ness, a visit to Stonehenge, tours of a Cornish tin mine and a Welsh coal mine and slate quarry, guided tours of London and Edinburgh, as well as visits to castles, battlefields, and other fascinating places. Also coming on the trip and lecturing on the history of science and evolutionary theory, especially Darwin and Wallace, is Dr. Michael Shermer.

Click an image to enlarge it.
Cliffs at Lands End, Cornwall
Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock at sunset
Big Ben and Westminster Bridge
Stonehenge at sunset
White Cliffs of Dover
Ruins of Urquhart Castle near Loch Ness
Roman Baths at Avon
Lumley Castle Elizabethan Banquet Room
London Eye Ferris Wheel on the River Thames
Llechwedd Caverns, illuminated (photo https://www.flickr.com/photos/mjtmail/2939321255/ by mjtmail, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mjtmail/ used under CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Download a tour map

Itinerary
Thursday, July 14
Arrive in London. Welcoming reception at our hotel.
Friday, July 15
Morning behind-the-scenes tour of the Natural History Museum; afternoon free to explore London
Saturday, July 16
Full-day guided tour of London, including walking tours of Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London
Sunday, July 17
Kent and Sussex: tour of Darwin’s house in Downe, Sydenham dinosaurs and site of first dinosaur discovery, White Cliffs and English coast
Monday, July 18
Tours of Cambridge University (Sedgwick Museum, Cavendish lab) and Oxford University (Natural History Museum)
Tuesday, July 19
Dorset and Devonshire: Stonehenge; the Fossil Coast at Lyme Regis; tour of ammonite beds at low tide; historic Plymouth
Wednesday, July 20
Cornwall: Land’s End, the Cornish tin mines, and ancient oceanic crust at Coverack Beach
Thursday, July 21
Bath and Wales: the Roman Baths; the birthplace of stratigraphy; southern Welsh Coast (Cardiff and Swansea); overnight at Aberavon Beach Hotel
Friday, July 22
Southern Wales and Shropshire: over the Breton Beacons to Blaenavon coal mine; Darwin’s birthplace at Shrewsbury; Chester Roman amphitheatre
Saturday, July 23
Northern Wales: the Snowdonia Mountains and Llechwedd Caverns slate quarry; geologic sites on the Anglesey Peninsula
Sunday, July 24
North to Scotland, via Grantham (Isaac Newton’s home, Woolsthorpe Manor); overnight at Lumley Castle, Durham (Elizabethan banquet dinner)
Monday, July 25
Scottish Lowlands: Hadrian’s Wall and Housteads Roman fort; Hutton’s unconformities at Jedburgh and Siccar Point
Tuesday, July 26
Edinburgh: Tour of Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile; Our Dynamic Earth Museum; Hutton’s section at Salisbury Craigs and Arthur’s Seat volcano
Wednesday, July 27
Full day free to explore Edinburgh
Thursday, July 28
Stirling Castle and Doune Castle; Bannockburn battlefield; Falkirk Wheel
Friday, July 29
Scottish Highlands: over the Cairngorms to Elgin Museum; Culloden Battlefield and Inverness
Saturday, July 30
Scottish Highlands: Loch Ness cruise; Fort William; Glencoe and the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond; ending in Glasgow. Farewell dinner
Sunday, July 31
Fly home from Glasgow
Pricing
  1. DOUBLE OCCUPANCY: £3439 per person
    (ground tour only; in pounds sterling), which comes to about $300 a day in $US.
  2. SINGLE OCCUPANCY: £3984 per person
    (ground tour only, in pounds sterling).

This is cheaper than, or comparable to trips of similar length and distance offered by most tour companies.

What’s Included?

The price includes 17 nights’ lodging (including one night in a historic castle and another at a beach resort), all breakfasts, 9 lunches, and a few dinners (including an Elizabethan Banquet at the castle), motorcoach transport and tour guides, guidebook, and all admission fees.

You must book your round-trip airfare to the UK separately from your own point of origin, but our travel agent, Dreammaker Travel, Inc., will get you the best possible price.

Hurry! This trip is unique and never to be repeated. Book now, because space is very limited! There are only 35 seats!

Questions?

Email us or call 1-626-794-3119 with a credit card to secure your spot.

Download registration form


Donald Prothero
Stranger Than Fiction: A Review of the HBO documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Donald Prothero reviews an explosive new documentary film about the controversial Church of Scientology.

Read the Insight

Donald Prothero
Loch Ness Silliness

Donald Prothero expresses exasperation at press linking Nessie to a small armored fish which vanished into extinction 160 million years before dinosaurs evolved.

Read the Insight


A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia
SKEPTICALITY EPISODE 251

In this episode of Skepticality, Derek interviews Laura Miller, one of the original co-founders of the popular online site Salon.com about her first book, The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia. The book is a personal story about her experience re-reading her favorite series of books, The Chronicles of Narnia, uncovering the meanings embedded in them by C.S. Lewis, and realizing how one can still find immense joy in books, even when one does not agree with some of the messages contained with them.

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About this week’s eSkeptic
The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom (book over)

Visit the Moral Arc website for more information about the book, or click one of the following to order the book right now from Amazon, Shop Skeptic, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, iBooks, Kobo, and IndieBound.

Shortly after the publication of Michael Shermer’s book The Moral Arc , Marc Hauser—the evolutionary biologist and author of Moral Minds and Evilicious, important books on the evolutionary origins and development of our moral faculty—wrote to Shermer to express his appreciation of his book and to voice a challenge to Shermer’s claim that science can determine human values, tell us right from wrong, and adjudicate moral dilemmas. Hauser’s point was well made and represents the majority view among scientists and philosophers that there is an unbridgeable barrier between Is and Ought, between the way something is and the way something ought to be. Shermer considers this an important topic and devoted a portion of the first chapter of The Moral Arc to it. Shermer thought it might be instructive if he and Marc had a dialogue about it that we would publish online for readers to comment on and contribute to in order to advance the subject through the process Karl Popper called “conjecture and refutation,” one of the key elements to the scientific method.

This piece was also published today on Shermer’s Moral Arc Blog under the same title.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, and the author of The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. His previous books include: The Believing Brain, Why People Believe Weird Things, Why Darwin Matters, The Mind of the Market, How We Believe, and The Science of Good and Evil.

Can Science Determine Moral Values?
A challenge from and dialogue with Marc Hauser about The Moral Arc

by Michael Shermer

Moral Minds (book cover) Evilicious (book cover)

Marc Hauser: The Moral Arc (TMA) is a tour de force, a celebration of our moral progress, and an inspiration for times when we see the world as dark and dangerous. But as in any tour de force, there are sections that are controversial and others that seem to provide less than the explanatory adequacy championed. I want to take up the latter, focusing in particular on the fundamental thesis that runs throughout the book, articulated succinctly on page 3 of the Prologue:

… we can trace the moral arc through science with data from many different lines of inquiry, all of which demonstrate that in general, as a species, we are becoming increasingly moral. As well, I argue that most of the moral development of the past several centuries has been the result of secular not religious forces, and that the most important of these that emerged from the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment are science and reason, terms that I use in the broadest sense to mean reasoning through a series of arguments and then confirming the conclusions are true through empirical verification.

Moral Tribes (book cover)

In brief, though I fully agree that reasoning by means of careful argumentation has and will continue to serve us well on our path to moral progress, I disagree that science and scientific evidence will settle or even help settle many of the moral challenges we face as individuals and as a species. As should be clear from the empirical work that I and many of my students and collaborators have carried out on the nature of moral judgments (see, for example, Joshua Greene’s book Moral Tribes)

I fully support scientific inquiry into morality. But I don’t believe that this work will settle key moral problems; rather, it will illuminate the nature of our moral instincts, together with the role that cultures may play in bending both our judgments and our actions. In fact, as I see it, some of the primary challenges to your thesis come from the moral dilemmas and scenarios that have been used in the scientific work of late, and that you discuss in TMA. Let me begin, therefore, close to where you begin in the book, with the famous trolley problem.

The moral philosopher Philippa Foot first introduced the trolley problem in a paper focused on abortion and the doctrine of double effect. Fantasy dilemmas such as the trolley problem are introduced in philosophy to help us think through central moral issues in the absence of our real world connection to the problem. Thus, instead of wrestling with abortion per se, Foot wrestled with the reasons why we might or might not consider the means by which we carry out an action as more or less significant than the consequences of such actions; this distinction maps on, to a first approximation, to difference between deontological as opposed to utilitarian perspectives.

The original trolley problem asks us to consider whether the driver of a runaway (no brakes) trolley should allow it to continue down the track where it will run over and kill 5 workers or steer it onto a sidetrack where it will kill 1 worker. If one focuses on consequences, the answer is easy: turn the trolley, killing 1 worker but saving the lives of 5. But there are other considerations, including: the 1 worker on the side track is safe, so by turning the trolley, the driver is deciding that his life is less valuable than any single individual on the main track; the driver doesn’t intend to kill the 1, rather, he intends to save the 5, so the 1 worker’s death is a byproduct or side-effect; and so on.

trolley problem

In response to Foot’s case, the moral philosophers Judith Thomson and Frances Kamm spun off a railroad station’s worth of cases, all designed to disentangle the factors that might be in play when we are faced with competing moral outcomes. One of the most vivid spinoffs considered the case where a runaway trolley is empty, but a bystander is standing on the side of the track next to a very heavy man. If the bystander pushes this man onto the track, his weight will stop the trolley from advancing and killing the 5 workmen, but this man will of course die. Here, though the numbers are the same as in Foot’s case – 1 vs 5 – many of us feel a substantial difference. In particular, though the consequences seem to dominate our decision-making in the original case, the means seem to dominate our decision-making in this second case: though we may feel that turning the trolley makes good moral sense in the first case, pushing the man seems morally wrong in the second case.

Much has been discussed about these cases, and many others like them (see below). But the conclusions that have been drawn, including connections to applied issues such as abortion and euthanasia (see below) derive from careful deliberation, reflection and philosophical expertise, not scientific evidence. Where science has played a role-including some of my own work, as well as the contributions of John Mikhail, Joshua Greene, and some of the remarkable students I have had the privilege to work with (Fiery Cushman, Liane Young)-is in revealing how different factors influence people’s judgments. Consider one example, one that is highly relevant to a number of issues raised in TMA. Based on responses from thousands of subjects, judging hundreds of different dilemmas (Hauser et al., 2007; Banerjee et al, 2010), judgments about right or wrong were not influenced by gender, education, political affiliation or religious background, including a contrast between atheists and all those with some kind of religious background. This kind of evidence is of interest in terms of our understanding of the factors that may or may not guide moral judgments, but they don’t enable us to decide whether we should punish those who push the heavy man or reward them because they have contributed to greater human flourishing! The debate between deontological and utilitarian reasoning rages on, and science won’t decide which wins the day.

Consider next a different set or class of moral situations: active vs. passive euthanasia and incest. Each of these issues have fascinated philosophers and scientists, and much progress has been made in thinking about them. But none of the scientific evidence provides the means for deciding which position is the more morally progressive view, or is more likely to lead to human flourishing.

Euthanasia

In many countries, including the United States, it is legally permissible to allow someone who is in pain and suffering from an incurable disease to die (passive euthanasia), but legally forbidden to cause this person to die through lethal injection (active euthanasia). Countries that allow both active and passive euthanasia, such as the Netherlands, have taken this route because of careful reasoning, including arguments from philosophers. Scientific evidence didn’t push the Netherlands in this direction, though there is scientific evidence from some of my own work (Hauser et al., 2009) comparing how Dutch and American subjects judge the moral permissibility of actions as opposed to omissions in unfamiliar cases. Interestingly, the results show that although the Dutch have explicitly decided to endorse both the action of ending someone’s life and the omission of allowing someone to die, like Americans, they see actions as morally worse than omissions when the scenarios are unfamiliar. This is interesting with respect to the nature of our moral judgments, and the relative immunity of this system to cultural influences, but it doesn’t tell us whether the Americans are backwards or progressive in terms of the legality of euthanasia.

Incest

Scientists such as Jonathan Haidt have carried out terrific work showing how the emotion of disgust plays a role in guiding our moral judgments, including cases of incest. In his most famous case, when you tell people about a brother and sister who decide to have protected intercourse and keep it a secret, many find this morally wrong and definitely yucky, despite the fact that it is protected sex and thus, without reproductive consequences! But the fact that you might find incest disgusting and morally wrong, whereas someone else may not, doesn’t tell us whose view is morally superior, preferred, or more likely to lead to human flourishing. In fact, given that incest among relatively distant relatives, such as second cousins, is unlikely to lead to negative consequences for the developing fetus, one might argue that we should support those who are more tolerant of incest. And tell others to just get over their disgust!

In sum, scientific evidence provides increasingly interesting information on the nature of our moral judgments and actions, including a wealth of evidence that extends from genes to behavior. But most of this work plays no role in shaping the moral conversation. Scientific evidence can illuminate how human nature and nurture shape our moral judgments to these cases, but will not provide the ballast for adjudicating between arguments.

Michael Shermer:

Thank you for taking the time to read my book carefully Marc, and for articulating so clearly what most scientists and philosophers believe about the wall separating science and values.

First, I conjecture that it is “science and reason”-not just “science” in the narrow sense of running experiments in a lab and collecting data—that have been the major drivers of moral progress because they can and have determined moral values. (I reject the “philosophy is dead” notion recently proffered by a few popular scientists, because the philosophical tradition of reason and logic underlies all of science, and scientists use reason when deducing general principles from specific observations.) Ever since the Scientific Revolution, when scientists such as Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, and Newton discovered that the world is governed by natural laws and principles that can be revealed, understood, and used to make predictions and test hypotheses, thinkers in other fields during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment sought to understand the laws and principles that govern political, economic, legal, social, and moral systems, which they then used to make predictions and test hypotheses about how best we should live. Thomas Hobbes, Charles Montesquieu, Cesare Beccaria, John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Immanuel Kant, François Quesnay, David Hume, Adam Smith, and others were all, in my reckoning, scientists who employed the best empirical and rational tools of their age. The term “scientist” didn’t exist then, so they are often referred to as philosophers or natural philosophers, but whatever terms we use my point is that they placed supreme value on reason and scientific inquiry, from which they discovered or derived such concepts as human natural rights, equal treatment under the law, individual autonomy, freedom of thought and expression, and other principles related to equality and liberty, on top of which they built a diverse, cosmopolitan worldview of Enlightenment Humanism.

Hobbes’s Leviathan, considered the most influential political treatise ever written, begins with atoms in motion and builds on observations and first principles to devise a rational- and empirical-based social system (he called himself the Galileo of civil society). In his book Esprit des Lois (The Spirit of the Laws), Montesquieu invoked Newton when he compared a well-functioning government to “the system of the universe” that includes “a power of gravitation” that “attracts” all bodies to “the center” (the monarch), and he employed the deductive method of Descartes: “I have laid down first principles and have found that the particular cases follow naturally from them.” By “spirit” Montesquieu meant “causes” from which one could derive “laws” that govern society. “Laws in their most general signification, are the necessary relations derived from the nature of things,” he wrote. Quesnay—physician to the King of France—and his followers (the French physiocrats) undertook a systematic study of the economy from which they gathered empirical evidence and derived rational principles that underlie how economies grow or shrink as a function of government policies (and from where the French term laissez faire—“leave alone”—comes). This led to the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith to compose the founding text of economic science, which everyone knows as The Wealth of Nations. Its full title, in fact, is An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. It is a scientific inquiry to discover the true nature and causes of wealth, straight out of the tradition of the scientific revolution.

Wealth Of Nations

So historically, we have already been using science to determine such moral values as the best way to structure a polity, an economy, a legal system, and a civil society, in the same way that physicians have developed improved medical science and epidemiologists have worked to build better public health science in order attenuate plagues, disease, and other scourges of humanity. If you agree that it is better that millions of people no longer die of yellow fever and smallpox, cholera and bronchitis, dysentery and diarrhea, consumption and tuberculosis, measles and mumps, gangrene and gastritis, and many other assaults on the human body, then you have offered your assent that the way somethingis(diseases such as yellow fever and smallpox kill people) means weoughtto prevent it through vaccinations and other medical and public health technologies. Analogously, if you agree that millions of lives have been saved over the past couple of centuries by a reduction in violence (war, torture, homicides, etc.) due to improved understanding of causality in these areas and the application of appropriate policies based on those causes, then you might well concur that applying the methods of the social sciences to further attenuating war, crime, and violence is also something we ought to do.

Why are these science-based policies morally good? Because they lead to the survival and flourishing of sentient beings, which is a moral starting point grounded in evolutionary biology. By survivalI mean the instinct to live, and byflourishingI mean having adequate sustenance, safety, shelter, bonding, and social relations for physical and mental health. I claim that any organism subject to natural selection will by necessity have this drive to survive and flourish. If it didn’t, it would not live long enough to reproduce and would no longer be subject to natural selection. BysentientI meanemotive, perceptive, sensitive, responsive, conscious,and therefore able to feel and to suffer.

Finally, to your point about utilitarianism and the trolley dilemma, by the “moral arc” of progress I mean an improvement in the survival and flourishing ofindividualsentient beings. I emphasize the individual (the 1 worker on the track) over the collective (the 5 workers on the track) for four reasons: (1) Natural selection operates on individual organisms, not groups. (2) It is the individual who survives and flourishes or who suffers and dies, not the group, tribe, race, gender, state, nation, empire, or society. Individual sentient beings perceive, emote, respond, love, feel, and suffer, not populations, races, genders, groups, or nations. (3) Historically, immoral abuses have been most rampant, and body counts have run the highest, when the individual is sacrificed for the good of the group. The utilitarian calculus that it is permissible to kill 1 to save 5 is too easy to ratchet up to kill 1 million to save 5 million, and that is the basis of genocide and why utilitarianism fails in certain real-world situations (as opposed to hypothetical moral dilemmas), and therefore… (4) The rights revolutions of the past two centuries have focused almost entirely on the freedom and autonomy of individuals, not collectives—on the rights ofpersons, not groups. Individuals vote, not races or genders. Individuals want to be treated equally, not races. Rights protect individuals, not groups; in fact, most rights (such as those enumerated in the Bill of Rights) protect individuals from being discriminated against as members of a group, such as by race, creed, color, gender, or—soon—sexual orientation and gender preference.

Legal systems have evolved to follow this line of reasoning and historical development. Analogous to the trolley problem, if a surgeon has 1 healthy person in her waiting room and 5 patients in operating rooms each dying of an organ failure that the harvesting of the 1 will save the 5, if she were to carry out the surgeries resulting in the death of the 1 healthy person to save the 5, she would go to jail for murder. The moral arc has bent, in part, because our legal system has followed our intuition that the intentional harm or murder of an individual against their will feels wrong, and your own research confirms that most people would not push 1 man off a bridge onto the track to stop the trolley from killing 5 workers. Natural rights theory trumps utilitarianism based on my moral starting point of the survival and flourishing of individual sentient beings.

As for your real-world examples, euthanasia is resolvable by natural rights theory (which I consider to be science-based): as long as the individual consents to allowing herself to die or instructs someone to initiate an assisted suicide (here videotaped consent should be mandatory to prevent abuse of the law), it is morally acceptable regardless of whether or not it leads to the greatest good for the greatest number. Incest, in part, follows natural rights theory because the incest taboo, which anthropologists have shown is a human universal, was selected for because of the genetic harm from too much inbreeding, and from modern psychological research showing that incestuous relationships between, for example, fathers and daughters, can be severely damaging to the child. Of course, if you alter the conditions such that the incestuous relationship is consensual, between distant cousins, and does no one harm, then it may be considered morally acceptable. But here the problem is that the exceptions are mostly in the realm of philosophical thought experiments designed to nudge our intuitions to come into conflict with our reasoning. In conclusion, science and reason can and have helped us determine moral values.

Marc Hauser:

I started off my comments by noting a distinction between reason and scientific evidence.I specifically said that reason, rational discourse, etc., has been essential to moving our discussions of morality. I also noted that science has informed important aspects of how humans judge moral situations and how we act, and what can lead to universality as opposed to cross-cultural variation; the latter can be important as knowing human biases can inform policies, as Kaplow and Shavell have argued in their legal treatise comparing fairness as opposed to individual welfare discussions.My worry is that I don’t feel as though you engaged with the core part of my comment which is that scientific evidence can’t adjudicate between different moral perspectives when different moral perspectives have validity on their own. In other words, if you are a utilitarian you put more weight on consequences than means, and if you take on a deontological perspective, you see the means as more important than the consequences; you see the world through a lens of well reasoned “reasons.” So reasoning yes.But the key part of the quote from your book is that we determine that our moral “conclusions are true through empirical verification.” But evidence wouldn’t convert a utilitarian over to the dark side of deontology, and vice versa.A good counter-example would convert some, especially if it led to a slippery slope dragging in other cases.So it is not that I reject reasoning, and it is not that I reject the role of science in some cases. For example, if you can show that a vaccine saves thousands of lives-the evidence-then it should be possible to argue based on this that people ought to take the vaccine. And yet, even here, if your culture promotes a perspective of using only traditional medicine, as opposed to artificial chemicals, but you do so knowing the risks, could we mandate this as policy?But toward the end of your commentaries, when you engage in my cases, your response is couched in terms of good reasons, but not in terms of evidence from scientific observations and experiments that could adjudicate between the options. A smart open minded utilitarian could be convinced to change as a function of a good logical argument, but if you showed him evidence that, say, significantly more people consider the means over the consequences, I doubt this would have any impact. I raise this latter point, because this is precisely the response I received from many distinguished philosophers in response to my empirical work. In fact, Frances Kamm, the distinguished Harvard ethicist told me in a seminar on my work that she didn’t really care if 5 million people voiced a different judgment from her own on a particular trolley problem, because her own reasons were principled and considered in the context of a broader view of right and wrong. In brief, the evidence was irrelevant.

The challenge, in brief, is for you to point to work in either your book, or elsewhere, or even in principle, that could flip things around.This is the challenge that I posed to Sam Harris as he was writing his book, and I don’t feel that it has been addressed.

Michael Shermer:
The Moral Landscape (book cover)

I think a lot of moral thought experiments along the lines of the trolley problem, or the “lifeboat ethics” dilemmas given to students to suss out the various moral problems inherent in any ethical system, may not be ultimately resolvable through science, in the sense you are using the term to mean empirical evidence.To come at this in a slightly different manner, given the diversity of human interests and moral foundations it may be that there are, as Sam Harris articulated it in his book The Moral Landscape, “multiple peaks on the moral landscape.” For example, in my public debates with John Lott over gun control (he wants almost none and I want some), it became clear to me that there are a lot of Americans who simply don’t care how many people die from gun violence each year (tens of thousands), they cherish their freedom to own a gun over the carnage that piles up as a result. What a science-and-reason based society has done is allow us to establish a system that can be changed in response to these differing values so that there are multiple peaks from which to choose. Science may help you choose which one is best for you, and science may help society design its moral systems to be as optimal as possible for these differing peaks.

Marc Hauser:

I think the core issue, or difference between us, boils down to this. I think your sense of science, and what it can contribute, boils down to reason, even though you explicitly stated that from reason we decide with “empirical verification.” For me the challenge has always been whether science, in terms of evidence, experiments, observations, and modeling can decide between competing moral views in the hard cases we have been discussing.I don’t think it can, and so far, you haven’t provided any cases where it has, or walked through some plausible scenarios for how it might. When philosophers get in your grill, or Sam’s, or mine and Josh Greene, it is about the strong version of the claim: science and its evidence, not the role of reason. Sam’s multiple peaks don’t help. Sure there are multiple peaks, and this is what philosophers and other great minds have considered for a long time.I don’t think that is new.

If, as you say, it is about how individuals decide what is best for them, then we are not in the game of morality but about individual choice.If individuals within a society recognize the significance of a finding, and decide to follow its implications, then that would be different. But if I decide for myself what pieces of evidence are worth picking and what pieces I can ignore, and I base my morality on such selective picking, we won’t have a system of morality that can operate with others.

Now, imagine that we find scientific evidence that determines, without doubt, that some animals not only feel pain, but can think about their future selves, understand what it is like for another to feel pain, and act on the basis of it. They have, in essence, some of the critical ingredients of sentience as well as moral agency (as opposed to moral patience).I understand this evidence and I decide that since these animals are like my children, I can neither support eating them nor carrying out experiments. You, on the other hand, also understand this evidence, but decide that it is irrelevant to your moral decisions because they are not humans.In essence, you decide that humans have the moral right to control other animals, including hunting them and using them, because the core issue is our well being.Someone else decides that the evidence is important, but insufficient. That for another species to count as a moral agent, they would need to understand, or at least come to understand (as in human babies) the moral issues in play.The evidence can’t decide who is morally right because there are different standards.Three peaks? If so, fine, but science isn’t going to adjudicate.

So, I guess it boils down to this for me.If the moral arc is guided by reason, as opposed to gut feelings and appeal to the supernatural, I am totally on board, and I can’t imagine a philosopher on the planet who wouldn’t be.On the other hand, if you want to take the stronger position that all aspects of the moral arc have been and will be guided by scientific evidence, of the kind that biologists, chemists, physicists, etc., collect in their daily lives, then I don’t think you have shown this, either in terms of prior work or in principle work.

Michael Shermer:

Perhaps not all aspects of the moral arc have been bent by science. But what has happened is that in the same way that Galileo and Newton discovered physical laws and principles about the natural world that really are out there, so too have social scientists discovered moral laws and principles about human nature and society that really do exist. Just as it was inevitable that Kepler would discover that planets have elliptical orbits-given that he was making accurate astronomical measurements, and given that planets really do travel in elliptical orbits, he could not have discovered anything else-scientists studying political, economic, social, and moral subjects will discover certain things that are true in these realms. For example, that democracies are better than autocracies, that market economies are superior to command economies, that slaves don’t like being enslaved and oppressed, that torture and the death penalty do not curb crime, that burning women as witches is a fallacious idea, that Jews did not cause the Black Death, that blacks are not intellectually inferior to whites, or that women are not too weak and emotional to run companies or countries.

My view is that ever since the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment the idea that individual sentient beings have natural rights has outcompeted other ideas that place the group, tribe, nation, race, gender, or religion above the rights of the individual. These rights have expanded around the globe because individual sentient beings want them, and they want them because it is part of their nature to want them-it is instinctive-and a proper scientific understanding of human nature has revealed this fact. Knowing that, we then have a moral obligation to expand those rights where we can, and to help people whose rights are being violated.

Jonathan Haidt’s six moral foundations (described in his book The Righteous Mind) are an interesting test case because, as he argues, they are part of our nature, evolved features of our minds as social primates.

the_Righteous_Mind
  1. Liberty/oppression, related to our desire for freedom and autonomy and our resentment of bullies and oppressors who try to restrict our liberty.
  2. Harm/care, related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. This foundation underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
  3. Fairness/reciprocity, related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. This foundation generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.
  4. In-group/loyalty, related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. This foundation underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group.
  5. Authority/respect, shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. This foundation underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
  6. Purity/sanctity, shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. This foundation underlies religious notion that the body is a temple that can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants.

As Haidt’s data shows, liberals tend to emphasize the first three, conservatives tend to value the second three, and libertarians focus more on the first foundation over all others. I am prepared to argue that one of the drivers of moral progress as I have defined it is that the second three foundations that have been the backbone of groups, tribes, nations, and religions are being outcompeted by the first three that are the central core of the rights revolutions of the past two centuries. The reason for their success is that the worldview of Enlightenment Humanism and Classical Liberalism that embraces liberty, care, and fairness over in-group loyalty, authority, and purity is more likely to lead to the survival and flourishing of individual sentient beings.

Exceptions such as ISIS, al Qaeda, and others who want to return to a 7th century Caliphate built on Sharia prove the generalization: they reject the Enlightenment values of science, reason, openness, tolerance, and individualism. I claim that these moral foundations-these truths about our moral nature-are discoverable by science, and once discovered can be used in the service of the betterment of humanity. It is in this sense that rights theory trumps utilitarian theory, at least in these cases and others I document in The Moral Arc. END


OUR NEXT DISTINGUISHED LECTURER:
DR. PHIL ZUCKERMAN

Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions

Sun., Apr. 19, 2015 at 2 pm
Baxter Hall, Caltech

Dr. Phil Zuckerman

OVER THE LAST 25 YEARS, “no religion” has become the fastest-growing religion in America. Around the world, hundreds of millions of people have turned away from the traditional faiths of the past and embraced a moral yet nonreligious—or secular—life, generating societies vastly less religious than at any other time in human history. Drawing on innovative sociological research, Dr. Zuckerman—a Pitzer College professor who founded a Department of Secular Studies, the first of its kind—illuminates this demographic shift with the moral convictions that govern secular individuals, offering crucial information for the religious and nonreligious alike. Living the Secular Life reveals that, despite opinions to the contrary, nonreligious Americans possess a unique moral code that allows them to effectively navigate the complexities of modern life. Zuckerman discovered that despite the entrenched negative beliefs about nonreligious people, American secular culture is grounded in deep morality and proactive citizenship—indeed, some of the very best that the country has to offer.

A book signing will follow the lecture. We will have copies of the book, Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions, available for purchase. Can’t attend the lecture? Order Living the Secular Life online.

TICKETS are available first come, first served at the door. Seating is limited. $10 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $15 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses.

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14 Comments »

14 Comments

  1. Anthony cusano says:

    Morality cannot possibly be determined by science because the evidence is in; morality in the universe defined by science is irrelevant, as are sentient beings. The moral arc is a singularity of the human condition on earth, not a natural truth. When viewed from sufficient scientific distance. Humans are not individuals, they are embedded in a dynamic network of biological and cultural interactions. We may feel like individuals, but we are not, and we may wish to achieve immortality by shaping our world, but we cannot. Science is about solving the illusions created by the way we perceive the world we wake to each day. It can do nothing to allow us to transcend the context it places us in. Once we are honest about what science really tells us about the universe, we must leave science behind to decide which unsolvable illusion we will ignore; the one that suggests utter meaninglessness of the universe, or the one that suggests the possibility of something we cannot measure or calculate which imparts meaning into our lives.

  2. Adrian says:

    Michael, I love some points that you make in your writings but disagree with others. This is one of the latter. You say: “If you agree that it is better that millions of people no longer die of yellow fever and smallpox [and many others]… means weought to prevent it through vaccinations and other medical and public health technologies.” You are “cheating” when you try to build the bridge between “is” and “ought.” You artificailly build the bridge in your assumption and then you claim in your conclusion that you crossed it. Your first assumption is that it is *better* to save people than to let them die. That’s already an ethical statement, it’s already an unwarranted jump from “is” to “ought.” You wuold need to prove using ‘science and reason’ why it is better to save people rather than let natural selection run its course and cull the population. Without such a proof you made no progress in proving your thesis but just a circular argument. Your “unproved” answer that it’s better to save the people (as opposed to, let’s say, let natural selection evolve humans to overcome such deseases, for example malaria and sickle cell or else make room for another species) – piggybacks religiuos ethics.

    You say “Why are these science-based policies morally good? Because they lead to the survival and flourishing of sentient beings, which is a moral starting point grounded in evolutionary biology.” You failed to make the connection here. It seems you think that “survival of the fittest” principle supports this. However, as Darwin points out, there is much more culling than survival. Survival of the fittest wouldn’t make sense without the culling of the unfit. You assume that quantity (saving of the people) is *better* than quality (when natural selection lets only the best and fittest to survive) – may I remind you that eugenics was scientifically supported? You have no grounds for this assumption and you cannot possibly have any grounds (if you think you do search further and you’ll just find other assumptions).

    Going further, even if it was “supported” by evolutionary biology that support would not be of a moral nature unless you prove that the survival of the fittest is moral. Otherwise, the survival of the fittest is just what “is” and not necessarily what “ought to be” – and therefore the bridge between “is” and “ought” is not crossed. One may point out that there are good reasons for which Dawkins called one of his books “The Selfish Gene” and although it may lead to what might be called as altruism, it is after all inescapably selfish, far from what “ought to be.”

    Going even further, evolutionary biology support you are referring to fails in another way. One question that needs to be answered is “the survival of who or what?” The survival of the all life? Most environmentalists would say yes but evolution doesn’t support that. It necessarily requires species and sub-species to be culled for the advancement of the better fitted ones. The survival of my own bigger taxon? It may very well be that closely related species compete for the same resources (food, space, etc.) and often evolution entails a competition between them instead of a cooperation of a larger taxon. Then further, is it the species, the group, the extended or close family, the individual, the individual gene (as Dawkins says in his book)? Depending on what your answer is to “the survival of what?” you often end up with different actions as being “moral” and “imoral.” Depending to where you draw the line and define “one’s own” (is it everybody? is it my kind? is it my family?) you will have different “moralities” as there is often a conflict of interests between a smaller and larger grouping. What’s best for the group may not be the best for me or my family. Even in evolutionary biology, group evolution has not been an easy subject. The “morality” you are deriving from evolutionary biology would be something like this: 1) you ought to protect and save “your own” (or even some “better” group) and 2) it is acceptable to sacrifice those who are not your own. One can define “one’s own” in different ways and arrive to different moralities and how could science decide which definition is better. One could define “one’s own” as the healty individuals with a good gene pool and promote eugenics. The same one might find the selective breeding of dogs (which significantly deteriorates gene quality and introduces many genetic deceases for the sake of aesthetics and utilitarism) as imoral while a dog enthusias may disagree while both could adamantly claim they love dogs. Therefore when you state that morality can be determined by science (plus reason) and give evolutionary biology as support – this support fails in multiple ways.

    When you say something is “better” there are 2 possibilities – either it is qualified (better *for* something, not better for something else) or unqualified or self-qualified (it just is). A qualified judgement on “better” (let’s call it better-judgement) derives its morality or value (this is not restricted to moral values) from what it leads to. For example “medicines are good (or better than lack thereof) because they save lives.” This only pushes the moral or value question one step further. Why is “saving lives” better than all the alternatives? You either run into an infinite better-because–better-because series or you come to an unqualified moral statement that you can only accept can never “prove.” The religious would say it is God given or represents God’s character. You would just have to say that it just is and have no clue why.

    Any “first” statement about “better” (or value in general) is like a “first cause” – you can go no further to answer a further ‘why?’ question. It is like the “first” words in a dictionary that you cannot define without running into circular definition (such as “to be” defined as “to exist” which is defiend as “to be”). They are like the origin on an axis in math – once you have the origin and a measurement unit you can tell where each point is but you cannot “prove” or “deduce” the origin from something prior. See also Godel’s theorem. Such “originating entities” “just are” – say “thanks” that they do and move on, it’s pointless to try to prove them or deduce them.

    In conclusion, science did not discover the moral foundations (as you claim) – you assumed them without realizing. You cannot prove that your morality is better than that of ISIS without making further unprovable assumptions. You assumed what is (natural selection) to be the foundation of what ought to be (which fails per Hume’s criticism). You preferentially selected the “survival” part and disregarded the “culling” part of natural selection – and by doing this you automatically smuggled in moral assumptions. You failed to prove why the “survival” (which you take as supporing your morality) is better than the “culling” (which doesn’t support your morality). You ignored that the survival can be at differen levels of “one’s own” which leads to different moralities and you failed to prove which definition of “one’s own” is better and more moral. The only solution is to admit that some moral principles just are – same as you admit that some words in the dictionary cannot be properly defined (without avoiding circular definition) but must be admited to be given.

    • Adrian says:

      An additional comment regarding your statement: “These rights have expanded around the globe because individual sentient beings want them, and they want them because it is part of their nature to want them-it is instinctive-and a proper scientific understanding of human nature has revealed this fact. Knowing that, we then have a moral obligation to expand those rights where we can, and to help people whose rights are being violated.

      1) Well, this doesn’t follow. Even if wanting some natural rights is instinctive and even if science confirmed that – it doesn’t prove that’s how it should be but it would just prove how it is. The gap between “is” and “ought” is still not crossed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is%E2%80%93ought_problem and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-question_argument).

      2) On the other hand, there are universal instincts that, by themselves, easily could lead to actions that are considered immoral by most. So, which instincts do you choose for morality? The latest ones with most consensus?

      3) Your implied assumption is that evolution can be applied to ideas (or “memes”) and the latest and most spread idea on morality must be the most moral one. The fact proved by history that some ideas come in vogue cyclically disproves this assumption of always evolution or progress towards a better morality (which reminds me of the communist teaching that I got in school about the inevitable and irreversible progress from capitalism to socialism to communism). You could say that these instincts have the most consensus today but couldn’t say that they are the most moral ones.

      4) Individual vs. group: You say “individual sentient beings have natural rights has outcompeted other ideas that place the group, tribe, nation, race, gender, or religion above the rights of the individual.” This idea that it’s the individual not the group is not so clear cut as you seem to think. The individual doesn’t live in isolation. I bet you treat your individual friends differently than you individual foes. One doesn’t treat the individuals in his own family differently than the rest or one’s competition differently than one’s helpers. Most governments do not want individuals from other poorer countries to immigrate and work for less and take away jobs of the citizens and take measures against that. The emphasis on the individual in the absence of defining the individual’s group or groups (one’s own) is misguided. It’s not just myself but it’s my family, my gender, my race, my nationality, my political party, my religion, my side, my team, my/our country, my/our planet, etc. You yourself implicitly define a preferred group as “those sentient.” Those outside the group can be killed and eaten but those inside the group cannot. You failed to prove (scientifically or by reason) why this definition of one’s group is better (or, more moral) than others such as defining the group as those that feel pain (as animal activists do) or one’s family (as almost everybody does). It is universally accepted (so, based on your statements it would be a “morally evolved idea”) that one owes more to one’s own than to “strangers” or “outsiders.” A strict emphasis on the individual excludes that and the unanswered questions which generally spread and accepted ideas are “morally evolved/outcompeting” and “right” and which not. If, on the other hand, you allow the preferential treatment of one’s own then the unanswered (and scientifically unanswereable) question is which groupings are right and which are wrong?

      5) Another problem with your “sentient” grouping is this: if you do a wrong action to an animal that is not aware it’s being wronged – does that make it right? Many would say that cheating someone that doesn’t know that he’s been cheated it’s still wrong. Then another problem: if an individual is not sentient then can you do anything to it? Is it OK to bring a species to extinction? Is it OK to abort an unborn baby or kill a recently born baby? Is it OK to harm future generations that don’t exist yet? Being sentient doesn’t solve the morality riddle. It works just because it fits one of the many groupings we operate on as individuals (one sentient is one like us, our own group). But it provides no scientific and reasonable answer why one should favor one criteria of grouping over another and why showing favoritism to one’s own group is morally better than showing favoritism to the outsiders in the first place. Science can attest and confirm that individuals show preference for their own group (the “is”) but couldn’t ultimately prove that it should be that way (the “ought”).

      6) Even if science and reason would point to some morality that doesn’t necessarily prove that you are not pointing out the obvious – something that was *given* that one would just know without any science or much reasoning about. As a matter of fact the six moral foundations that Haidt “recently” discovered have been taught by religion for a long time without involving any science or even much philosophy.

      Either there are at least some absolute, given, unprovable and un-deducible moral values or morality becomes meaningless as any moral statement becomes arbitrary. It may be practical that one acts within what happens to be socially acceptable at that time and place and within government enforceable rules but that is irrespective of what one believes about morality and it only applies if one fancies practicality. If one fancies rebellion or disdains being ordinary and unremarkable, one might choose to act in discordance with the social or governmental norms. In the end proving your point hinges on someone agreeing with your premise/assumption. You say: “If you agree that it is better that millions of people no longer die … if you agree that millions of lives have been saved…” Yes, science and reasoning can prove that X leads to Y, for example, vaccination saves lives. Savings lives may very well be obviously moral, the “ought-to” thing to do but you cannot prove that by science or reasoning – if you think you can, you haven’t done it so far and I challenge you to take a shot at it in a next post. Yes, it’s easy to get people to agree that saving lives is the moral “ought-to” – few would disagree as that appears obvious. After one agrees it’s easy to use science and reason to determine how to go about it and save lives. But the morality of saving lives being obvious is really independent of science and reason. Since it’s obvious, you take it for granted but being obvious does not prove that it’s scientifically provable or logically deducible. Concepts like “better” and “right vs. wrong” are so entrenched in our minds that it’s extremely hard to question them altogether (to question an ultimate better/good/right). If we do, a lot of our views fall out of place. But how did we come to know such moral statements (like saving lives is good)? Not by science and reason! And you cannot deduce them using science and reason (as any deduction would require one more assumption and would take you one step further: X is good because it leads to Y but why is Y good? because it leads to Z and why is Z good? and so on). You can only say that either 1) some ultimate moral values just exist or 2) morality is meaningless/arbitrary. If 1) is true then either 1a) there is no explanation why they exist – they just are or 1b) they are God given or God describing (and then there is no explanation why God exists, he just is). Now none of these are acceptable to you so you make up a morality story that helps you avoid any of these conclusions and give you intellectual comfort. It fits with your paradigm and its emphasis on science so that science plays a significant role in your morality story. You have some great skepticism writing on how mind works. You should read them to yourself and try to apply them to yourself (which may be hard to do as they are meant to criticize the others). It is not only the mind of those supporting pseudoscience for example that is making up stories and believe what it wants and is blinded to what it doesn’t want and doesn’t fit its paradigm. That happens to the mind of the best scientists as well (an example is Einstein’s opposition to quantum mechanics) and neither you or me are spared. This is why it’s essential to be self critical and not be quick to dismiss opponents’ criticism.

  3. Eric says:

    Many claims without much to back them up, by Hauser (IMO). And, at times I did not follow what exactly he was driving at. For example in the case of the “trolley problem,” I did not follow his “other moral concerns.” Overall, I found his arguments muddled and unconvincing.

  4. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    I found this discussion, between Hauser & Schermer, most interesting! Thank you for sharing it with us. A long time ago a professor remarked offhandedly in class, “Whether you have a persistent disagreement it usually boils to down either inadequate data, a matter of taste, or language usage.”

    I think this debate suffers from a dearth of data and less than useful definitions of terms. Admittedly, I am not an expert in this field, but it appears to this not-so-humble lay person that people who work in this field have a habit of defining terms to fit their experiments rather than designing experiments applicable to the conventional (popular) understanding of these terms. So when they ‘demonstrate’ that morality is such-and-such it is meaningless to common folk who do not define morality that way.

    For example, Dr Schermer defines morality, in essence, as That Which Increases Freedom. It is a handy definition for purposes of his investigation but most folks do not see it that way. Since his book has come out I’ve asked (educated) friends what words they think of in association with morality – no one mentioned freedom. They used words like happiness, good, right & wrong, etc. Sure, this is anecdotal evidence, but maybe someone with the means can do a formal study to determine what lay persons think ‘morality’ means. It could be that much of the disagreement over Schermer’s book is language-based.

    Another issue is the lack of actual, applicable data. Sure, there are many studies of the Trolley dilemma and the prisoner’s dilemma and all sorts of games. But these ‘games’ lack significant consequence to the agents being tested so may not be applicable to real moral situations. It is like studying the behavior of a caged animal and extrapolating that to its behavior in the wild… only worse.

    Since we do not have freedometers, and moralgraphs we are mainly speculating on these things and if we can call this ‘science’ at all – it is a nascent science. It may very well turn out that the ‘science of morality’ has the same future as the ‘science of ESP.’

  5. Bob Pease says:

    It is important to discuss the style of expression of belief.

    But we need to be reminded that there is a WAR ON SCIENCE
    afoot and the Anti-science folks appear to be winning .

    I don’t seem to be able to function in “Liberal”
    Circles without at least tacit “Tolerance” of outrageous forms
    of “NEWAGE flapdoodle “
    ( Newage” stuff is worthy of tolerance but should not trump other
    Ideologies as the “REALTROOTH”)

    I don’t know any people who can define “Energy”
    Any better than “Positive or negative force that flows”

    I get goofiness like
    “magic positive force flowing through the chakras”
    Or
    “ How could Ding Yoo Gong work as well as it does if the Chakras had not been proved scientifically ??’

    I am afraid that this is a reflection of the widespread ignorance
    Of the basics of Science even among the “Upper Middle Class”,
    ( Which comprise an overwhelming majority of groups like Unitarians )
    I am a member of a Unitarian group but won’t
    Join the Church because of stuff like this (among other reasons )

    I would advocate the correct definition of energy as a qualifying condition to be allowed to take the final of any High Scool or College Physics 101 or equivalent

    Better still is
    How about them Broncos!!??

    Dr. S

    • gewisn says:

      I will consider it a moral victory when my conversations cause a change in others’ verbal content such that there is no longer any cause for me to identify their “newage flapdoodle,” though I may well continue using the term just because it brings me joy.

      • Bob Pease says:

        My experience is that “Newagers” will regard you as (and me) as
        “Close” (sic) minded” ( english translation: “Closed-minded”)
        and will regard you as impossible to talk to at all
        because you won’t engage in or bother with their Orwellian “NEWSPEAK”

        in my form of Meta-:Oldspeak this used to be called “Uncool”

        Dr. S.

  6. Chris says:

    I’ve been reading a great deal about decision making for my dissertation. The assumption that humans make rational decisions regularly seems unsupported, especially when the decisions must be made quickly. Instead of the classic, rational decision theories that rely on a more scientific, analytical decision process, I’ve become a fan of Fishbein and Ajzen’s Reasoned Action Approach. What does the eSkeptic team think of this approach to decision-making?

  7. Sam Ariaee says:

    I completely disagree that science cannot provide moral guidance. For example, scientifically speaking we know that incest is disadvantageous to us humans because of the complications that could occur to the fetus. So it would make sense for us to find this morally unacceptable. If science could prove that it is a 100% safe for a brother and sister to conceive (ewww), than there would be people who had no moral issues with it.
    IMO this is science helping us make/making moral decisions based on reason and evidence. I lose a lot of respect for people who claim science cannot help us make moral decisions and/or science has not room in the moral playground.

    • Bob Pease says:

      Sam sez
      “I completely disagree that science cannot provide moral guidance”

      ****************************
      I don’t think that anyone here is suggesting that Science cannot be relied on to
      HELP make moral judgments.

      The question is
      “can Science be relied on as the SOLE CRITERION for making moral judgments?”.

      To me, it is ovbious a particular belief or trust in soi-disant definitions of what “Science” is… if used as the sole criterion for morality, can be used lead to despotism of Unprecedected proportions .

      RJ Pease

  8. Dr. Strangelove says:

    I agree with Hauser. Hard core science is not morality. Reason and scientific method can guide moral choices. But choices are “ought” and science is “is” Prescriptive vs. descriptive. Hume is correct. You cannot derive “ought” from “is”

    Shermer is commended for using reason and scientific method in making informed choices, moral or not.

    • RickH says:

      ‘…You cannot derive “ought” from “is”’.

      And, presumably that’s that!

      Thank you for clarifying it for all of us.

  9. John C. Hodge says:

    The scientific approach to morality is to define the parameter, define a measure, and do the measurement.
    I agree survival is the measure. Therefore, the test is the survival of the family and society with the hypothesized moral value compared to another with a different moral value. The democracy of Athens was short-lived and was conquered by Sparta. Sparta’s moral system and organization existed before and after Athens democracy. What was it about these two systems that gave this result? Could it be the government of the masses is a poor idea?
    Tainter (“The Collapse of Complex Societies”, 1988, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York) studied the collapse of several civilizations. Many of the characteristics of collapse he describes have been present for several decades in the US. Could it be the new morals of the progressive left are causing the collapse of the US?
    I’m unsure about either of these propositions. But the data are the data and some explanation should be made.
    If the scientific study of societies yields suggestions for greater survival potential, then science can and should advance morals.

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