20 October 2006

Moral choices

Are there principles in life that teach us how to differentiate between good and evil? If there are such principles, are they evolutionary – genetically programmed in us – and remain common for all of us on this planet? Or, do they change from one culture to another?

Some sociologists, psychologists, evolutionary biologists and anthropologists – like Harvard professor Marc Hauser – believe there is a universal ‘moral grammar’ underlying all specific moral norms that different cultures embrace. For example, everywhere, people recognise universal values such as fairness, responsibility and gratitude – and oppose cruelty, unfairness and oppression. This ‘moral grammar’ is programmed into our brains as a part of our evolutionary process.

Moral choices depend on how each culture uses this basic ‘moral grammar’. If we reward those brains that mean well for our culture and us, we are likely to create civilisations which promise a bright and peaceful future.

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