Harvard psychologist Marc Hauser's new theory says evolution hardwired us to know right from wrong. But here’s the confusing part: It also gave us a lot of wiggle room.
A healthy man walks into a hospital where five patients are awaiting organ transplants. Is it morally acceptable to kill the man in order to harvest his organs to save the lives of five others? If you instantly answered no, you share a near-universal response to the dilemma, one offered by peoples and cultures all over the globe.
But how did you reach this conclusion? Was it a rational decision learned in childhood, or was it—as Harvard evolutionary biologist and cognitive neuroscientist Marc Hauser claims—based on instincts encoded in our brains by evolution?
Hauser argues that millions of years of natural selection have molded a universal moral grammar within our brains that enables us to make rapid decisions about ethical dilemmas.
To arrive at this radical notion, Hauser draws on his own research in social cooperation, neuroscience, and primate behavior, as well as on the musings of philosophers, cognitive psychologists, and most important, the theories of MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, who in the 1950s proposed that all humans are equipped with a universal linguistic grammar, a set of instinctive rules that underlie all languages.
Hauser himself, a professor of psychology, human evolutionary biology, and organismic at Harvard has analyzed the antics of tamarins, vervet monkeys, macaques, and starlings in captivity, as well as rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees in the wild.
Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)