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← From the Heavens or From Nature: The Origins of Morality

From the Heavens or From Nature: The Origins of Morality - Comments

Hominidae's Avatar Comment 1 by Hominidae

8:40 into the lecture...this is going to be GREAT!!

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 00:28:00 UTC | #405808

Thurston's Avatar Comment 2 by Thurston

Andy Thomson's lectures are always informative. I particularly like the fact that he references both famous and obscure studies and urges people to read the research.

And it was beautifully filmed, as ever.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 00:47:00 UTC | #405813

A-Farr's Avatar Comment 3 by A-Farr

This was a fascinating presentation by Andy Thomson. I have listened to his talk on the evolutionary origins of religious belief several times over now, and I plan to do the same with this one. Well done, Andy, and Josh, and Richard and everyone who helps make this information available. As an atheist in Utah I'm practically drowning in religion and superstition. For me these kinds of resources are a breath of air.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 01:06:00 UTC | #405814

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 4 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Great example of confusing moral talk for morality.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 01:13:00 UTC | #405817

Hominidae's Avatar Comment 5 by Hominidae

I'd push the man.

Ok jk...I'll probably lose sleep tonight over this issue. Thank you Dr. Thompson for that.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 01:28:00 UTC | #405820

HappyPrimate's Avatar Comment 6 by HappyPrimate

Thanks Josh. Appreciate these talks being available. Most enjoyable and informative.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 02:00:00 UTC | #405823

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 7 by Carl Sai Baba

The hypothesis of psychopaths taking over should be fairly easy to test. They either have more children than normal people or they do not. Having "money" to be more appealing doesn't mean anything for evolution unless they actually out-breed us.

I also suspect that there is a sharply diminishing return on money and power after a point. A someone with $100 million is not 10 times more desirable than a someone with $10 million.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 03:48:00 UTC | #405827

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 8 by Carl Sai Baba

Since we are on the subject of psychopaths, here is a long interview with a former hit man:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5740692213665972395

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 04:00:00 UTC | #405831

keddaw's Avatar Comment 9 by keddaw

"someone with $100 million is not 10 times more desirable than a someone with $10 million. "

Yeah, but he can afford 10 times as many divorces.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 10:59:00 UTC | #405914

LWS's Avatar Comment 10 by LWS

AAI09 was fantastic especially thanks to the science based presentations hosted by RDF. Josh of course is a more than capable videographer and everyone now has the opportunity to watch/listen to the recordings of lectures.

On the way to the airport on October 2 CBC Radio One, the Current, broadcast an interview with Frans de Waal on the topic of empathy expressed by other species.

"Frans de Waal

We started this segment with a clip of legendary economist Milton Friedman at the height of his powers in 1979. And the idea that self-interest, greed and even a little ruthlessness will get you ahead is still a powerful one. But according to Frans de Waal, when you look at human beings as a species, the warm and fuzzy stuff matters ... a lot.

Frans de Waal is one of the world's leading primatologists. He's known for his ground-breaking research on what humans can learn from the power games played by chimpanzees. And now, he has turned his attention to the role that empathy plays in animal and human survival.

Frans de Waal is the Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. His latest book is The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society. He was in Toronto."

Listen to Part 2:
http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2009/200910/20091002.html

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 13:39:00 UTC | #405945

Moq's Avatar Comment 11 by Moq

Thank you for making an interesting lecture available (and the quality of the production). Origins of morality is indeed an interesting question to examine and I'm grateful for the references provided in the talk.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 14:29:00 UTC | #405955

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 12 by Sally Luxmoore

Excellent talk.

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work
by Paul Babiak (Author), Robert D. Hare (Author)

- Now on order from Amazon.co.uk.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 14:59:00 UTC | #405960

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 13 by mordacious1

Always a pleasure to hear a talk by Andy Thomson.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 15:05:00 UTC | #405961

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 14 by Enlightenme..

RWA:
"The hypothesis of psychopaths taking over should be fairly easy to test. They either have more children than normal people or they do not. Having "money" to be more appealing doesn't mean anything for evolution unless they actually out-breed us."

-----------

One of the points being made I think is that they wouldn't necessarily have to outbreed us to 'take over' - rather that, even as a relatively static component of the genepool (in such a deterministic paradigm), they may be better equipped to attain either power, or death row! (survival of the fittest)

Of course the other way of looking at things is that Capitalism and other power structures are unfortunately warped to benefit the inherent efficiencies bound up in psycopathology's clear conscience.

I'm certainly intrigued to read the books by Hare (and others on the 'amazon also recommends' page for snakes in motherfucking suits)

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 15:09:00 UTC | #405962

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 15 by Enlightenme..

Have also downloaded the Tetlock 2002 paper.

Tetlock, P. E. (2002). Social-functionalist metaphors for judgment and
choice: The Intuitive politician, theologian, and prosecutor.

(Intrigued by the theologian bit, obviously!)

------
I shall now read this and see if I can understand!
Before I get that far, can I ask whether biasing Intuit-pol (maintain positive identities with multiple constituencies) is more likely to make you sympathetic to accommodationism?
..and the correlate - Is my strident militant neo-atheism because I'm biasing my Intuit-prosecutor?

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 15:22:00 UTC | #405967

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 16 by Enlightenme..

Why is RD so baffled by Collins' choice?

It seems clear to me that Collins simply considers that the absence of 'the Moral Law' is not a good place for lesser mortals to dwell in, (without God everything is permitted) and that society needs godfear of the divine lawgiver. (notwithstanding the unfortunate consequences of some hacked off clitori)

But maybe I am giving Collins too much credit, and he is motivated by baser things - after all - his profession of Christian belief has done him no harm in achieving the position of head of the NIH

..and ditto for Obama achieving the position of POTUS.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 15:41:00 UTC | #405971

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 17 by Enlightenme..

Hominidae:
"I'd push the man."

..and ask questions (self-justify) later!

------------

Very interesting about the New Orleans stuff, I'd thought he was going a bit far at the start of the talk with seemingly tentative suggestions that euthanasia decisions had been made - little did I know.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 16:41:00 UTC | #405982

ANTIcarrot's Avatar Comment 18 by ANTIcarrot

"Take a step back. It's exactly the same problem."

That has to be one tof the stupidest things I have ever heard. It's not a question of morality. It's basic highschool physics.

Throwing the switch can realistically be expected to have an effect on the train. Pushing a 300 pound mass (of anything!) in front of a train that probably weights at least TEN THOUSAND pounds and may be going at 20 or 40 mph will not realistically affect the train.

One has a hope of success. The other doesn't. Even if the fat man coudl somehow magically stop the train I still wouldn't push him because I wouldn't and couldn't know the fat man's death could magically break the laws of physics and actually stop the train.

Expending further (based on the *end* of the video...)

Dr Thompson contradicts himself. At the start he says (paraphrasing) "This is what your brain goes through, providing you've never seen this scenario before." Then later he says (paraphrasing) "Your brain always does this. Anything else you think your brain is doing is simply a justifacation masquerading as an alternative process."

One of these statements has to be wrong. And I think it's the second. If he asks the same audience the same question, I think at least some of their brains will be mentally lazy and pull the answer out of memmory rather than bothering to think about it. (In fact it's possible they'd still do this after you resolve their objection, but that's a well known behaviour.)

I'm an aerospace engineer. I have also been involved in a serious car accident where someone was killed. Therefore I know a lot about the mechanical forces involved in large meavy moving objects, and the practical limits of the human body. Is it possible that my personal experience is contaminating my 'virgin' exposure to this scenario - and hence I'm making a decision based upon that personal experience, rather than the moral process he presents here?

I think it's a possibility at least worth considdering. And it's one that is certainly not disproven by the evidence he presents here.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 17:22:00 UTC | #405993

sara g's Avatar Comment 19 by sara g

When I've done these thought experiments, they've always been derailed by the certainty that by the time I decided what was feasible and what was moral, the train would already have gone throught and everyone would be dead.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 19:06:00 UTC | #406042

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 20 by Carl Sai Baba

ANTIcarrot:

I also think he is wrong on that, at least a little bit. Maybe we are odd ducks.

My skeptical reaction to the unworkable hypothetical body-drop (and similar proposals) is instant, often before the proposing speaker even finishes their sentence. I have the same reaction to a lot of these thought experiments.

And it definitely isn't post-decision rationalizing in my case, because I am in the minority of people who just might push the fat bastard. While it is interesting that 80% of all people answered in a contradicting way, it shouldn't be forgotten that 20% did not.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 19:32:00 UTC | #406059

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 21 by Richard Dawkins

"Take a step back. It's exactly the same problem."

That has to be one tof the stupidest things I have ever heard. It's not a question of morality. It's basic highschool physics.

Throwing the switch can realistically be expected to have an effect on the train. Pushing a 300 pound mass (of anything!) in front of a train that probably weights at least TEN THOUSAND pounds and may be going at 20 or 40 mph will not realistically affect the train.


For goodness sake, it's a THOUGHT EXPERIMENT! You might as well say Einstein was wrong because trains can't travel near the speed of light.

Richard

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 22:28:00 UTC | #406099

keddaw's Avatar Comment 22 by keddaw

I was rationalising after the fact for a long time when I first heard of this problem trying to work out why my brain reacted differently to pushing the man and pulling the switch. Part of me knew they were morally the same, yet I also knew my gut reaction was different. I eventually got it down to the idea that the problem was the idea of perfect knowledge and that was what was throwing my morality and so I'd throw the fat man if I knew it would stop the trolley. I am so glad to have seen this video though, as I have thought for a long time that we have various individual processing units in our head and our so-called consciousness is only slightly aware of them individually and takes a kind of straw poll to decide what we will do. This shows it perfectly.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 23:28:00 UTC | #406107

Quine's Avatar Comment 23 by Quine

<!-- -->First, I want to say that I enjoyed Dr. Thompson's presentation at AAI very much and thought he was a great choice for that gathering. As a result, I am glad Josh has this up so soon so I can send the link to people that I know in the psychological sciences for discussion. As for the thought experiment, yes, it loses its value if you over think it. You have to take the parameters as given.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 00:59:00 UTC | #406116

NakedCelt's Avatar Comment 24 by NakedCelt

My brain reacts in much the same way to both versions of the trolley problem: I can't bring myself to choose either option in either case. I can report, as a fact that may or may not say anything about my personality, that the only response I am able to contemplate is "Screw the parameters of the question, go yell a warning to the workers or something. Save everybody. Don't let anyone die."

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 01:05:00 UTC | #406117

Sciros's Avatar Comment 25 by Sciros

Are we talking about the thought experiment where you have to choose between pushing a fat guy in front of a train to derail it or let the train hit a school bus (or whatever)? Well yeah you have to kind of abstract away the "details" and just look at the premise -- can you sacrifice one life to save more than one?

Sure, yeah, assuming no emotional attachments to that one life.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 01:26:00 UTC | #406122

NakedCelt's Avatar Comment 26 by NakedCelt

It would help if you watched the video, Sciros... the top one.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 02:42:00 UTC | #406137

Sciros's Avatar Comment 27 by Sciros

Watching it now... ok yeah it is indeed that problem. He is getting at more interesting points bringing the idea up, though.

Long video, but interesting. I like thinking about morality even though most of the time it seems to me like a pointless exercise unless I go crazy and take an ethics course even though I'm not in university anymore.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 03:14:00 UTC | #406142

Corylus's Avatar Comment 28 by Corylus

Very interesting.

The demonstration that moral judgements are formulated and then second-order judged by different parts of the brain was very useful.

An argument for a god given moral law appears intuitively to demand a monolithic 'morality centre' in the brain, instead we have bits and bobs all over the place - and bits that can that can be individually damaged, diseased or underdeveloped at that.

While this is not killer evidence against the "god put morality in our heads" line, it is at least cause for a "hang on a mo..."

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 09:35:00 UTC | #406192

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 29 by the great teapot

The killer evidence that god didn't put morality in our heads is the fact that non of us can agree on what that morality should be.Unless he put different morality into different heads. Which is equally as possible and equally as horseshit.

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 14:23:00 UTC | #406227

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 30 by the great teapot

Whatever decision is made I know that all of the victims will be looking down on us at their funeral with a smile on their face.
Anyway, how are you?

Sat, 17 Oct 2009 14:33:00 UTC | #406228