Thursday, August 29, 2013

Godless Morality

The most common, and self-negating, trope that religionists toss at atheists is that without god (and, of course, only theirs, among the thousands from which to choose) and without the good book (only theirs, among many from which to choose and within which they tend to pick and choose like a kid with a plate of veggies) there's no morality. As I've written many times, I think it's the opposite: doing "good" because of fear of punishment or expectation of reward is no good at all. Doing so simply because it's obviously the right thing, based on observation and empathy, with no expectations at all, is the highest morality. To me, anyway. And, evidently, according to science.
... Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara set out to test this possibility. They hypothesized that there is a deep-seated perception of science as a moral pursuit — its emphasis on truth-seeking, impartiality and rationality privileges collective well-being above all else. Their new study, published in the journal PLOSOne, argues that the association between science and morality is so ingrained that merely thinking about it can trigger more moral behavior. 
The researchers conducted four separate studies to test this. The first sought to establish a simple correlation between the degree to which individuals believed in science and their likelihood of enforcing moral norms when presented with a hypothetical violation. Participants read a vignette of a date-rape and were asked to rate the “wrongness” of the offense before answering a questionnaire measuring their belief in science. Indeed, those reporting greater belief in science condemned the act more harshly...
I find this to be an altogether unsurprising result. I'll leave it to others to determine whether the study (behavioral studies are always a little suspect, to me) can be considered authoritative. But why would anyone expect a different result?

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