I’ve [relatively] recently come across some very interesting pieces of information regarding morality and the brain:
Philosphy Bites Podcast: Morality and the Brain (mp3)
TED Talk: Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions
Pedophilic urges caused by brain tumor (scientific paper referred to on this link)
The more we study the brain, the more we understand how and why people make the decisions they do. As incredible as it may seem, it’s beginning to look like mankind could conceivably achieve moral perfection through technology. It might be possible to cure things like pedophilia via brain surgery, or maybe genetically engineer people to be less apt to behave in certain ways that are harmful to society. One day we might be able to simply engineer evil out of human nature.
As mentioned in Sam Harris’ TED Talk above, I think such a step would have to be predicated on a global mutual agreement on what is right and what is wrong. While that may seem an insurmountable task, it’s possible that such an agreement could eventually come about as a natural consequence of technology. By this I mean the connecting of people throughout the world via whatever the internet ends up evolving into.
Instantaneous, long-distance communication — most notably its current apex epitomized by the internet — has connected humanity in a way that was likely never even conceived of before the invention of the earliest telegraphy devices. But what if further advances in technology start to connect us all to a more intimate degree. Instead of just communicating through text, pictures, voice, and video, what if our understanding of neurobiology eventually leads us to learn how to build devices which enable us communicate to each other via thought? How cavalier would we be about starting wars when, instead of some poor faceless statistic in some foreign nation arbitrarily labelled as an “axis of evil”, our enemy’s thoughts and reasons for his behavior and beliefs could be understood on a level more personal than speech?
And perhaps the whole world would not need to come to an agreement on what constitutes right and wrong. What if it only takes “enough” people to make such an agreement and engineer morally perfect progeny? Likely a society of people so perfectly able to work as a group (and what is immorality but the antithesis of a functioning group dynamic?) would simply out-compete other cultures, in an evolutionary sense, and eventually dominate the planet.
And what would the future hold for a humanity engineered to be perfectly moral and able to do the right thing whenever realistically possible; a humanity perfectly able to work together in harmony? What would be beyond its grasp?
One more video on the science of morality: The second annual God Debate features atheist neuroscientist Sam Harris and Evangelical Christian apologist William Lane Craig as they debate the topic: “Is Good From God?”