Inherent or Learned?

60 Minutes last night had an interesting and important segment on morality. The age old question of whether morals are something inherent in human beings or learned though social experience is now being tested, on babies. Considering infants are a blank canvas they are the most ideal testing group, but not until recently were researchers able to put together proper tests to determine their mood and responses to such important questions.

What seems to be surprising, and counter intuitive to most people and ages of social science, is that to some extent humans are born with some sense of morality and ability to detect good and bad. What is more interesting is that babies in addition to having a sense of morality, also understand and have the capacity, to act on bias. This ability to be biased illustrates a common defensive human trait of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ where people become possessive of their group and band together agaisnt outsiders.

This research has been published in academic journals and has been growing for years. Many social scientist are now putting together this work and are coming up with a field dedicated to evolutionary morality. Just as natural selection has helped the humanity survive, adapt and evolve, it would be remarkable if morality as an emotional and cognitive aspect of humanity also has a part in our evolution. Just as cells have a DNA framework and organisms form, the ability of morality to be a part of our evolution is an interesting and exciting prospect which illustrates yet another aspect in the miracle and wonder of what makes us human.


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