Gullible’s Travels.

David Brooks is somewhat gullible.

Today, he prints one of those columns designed to portray himself as wise,  fact based, shrewd and discerning. But he proves the opposite.

Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Most people think it is a gift from God, who revealed His laws and elevates us with His love. A smaller number think that we figure the rules out for ourselves, using our capacity to reason and choosing a philosophical system to live by.

I’m not sure things are so simple as that. He posits the newspaperman’s false choice between one thing and another – that is not necessarily opposed. It is slightly stupid to say that people think that morals come from God. Most people would more accurately state that morals arise from within ourselves, and from the rude  stamping our societies imprint on us. The question only gets to God when you ask why we have these moral instincts. And, how to improve upon the very rudimentary set we naturally have.

So Brooks is off kilter from the start.

Moral naturalists, on the other hand, believe that we have moral sentiments that have emerged from a long history of relationships. To learn about morality, you don’t rely upon revelation or metaphysics; you observe people as they live.

Well, most people go to church, or have some kind of religious training in their formative years. It is difficult if not impossible to separate “how people live” from how they were brought up. And their parents of course, had this duel mixture imprinted on them. As did the generation before that.

This week a group of moral naturalists gathered in Connecticut at a conference organized by the Edge Foundation. One of the participants, Marc Hauser of Harvard, began his career studying primates, and for moral naturalists the story of our morality begins back in the evolutionary past. It begins with the way insects, rats and monkeys learned to cooperate.

Quirk Alert! Someone from  Harvard (alarms go off) has done a study ( alarms go off) and he got his start studying monkeys (alarms go off). They gathered at a conference (alarms go off) organized by some foundation (alarms go off)

So right away, we are not dealing with science. To be a scientist at a modern university, especially one of the supposedly fine universities, you must adhere to a code that strictly limits all free thought. You must produce studies that the university culture wants to see, or you will be driven out. Far from being a place of intellectual freedom and honesty, these are now places of the most rigid orthodoxy since the Inquisition. To be blunt, their “studies” are almost entirely political.

Brooks gets into the rather implausible arguments for a moral sense evolving in every living thing.

By the time humans came around, evolution had forged a pretty firm foundation for a moral sense. Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia argues that this moral sense is like our sense of taste. We have natural receptors that help us pick up sweetness and saltiness. In the same way, we have natural receptors that help us recognize fairness and cruelty. Just as a few universal tastes can grow into many different cuisines, a few moral senses can grow into many different moral cultures.

And it goes on and on. We have heard this kind of simplified thinking before, in the global warming controversy. Take an incredibly complex thing, reduce it to a couple of simple variables, politicize it, and there you go. “Scientists” tell us how our politics should be arranged.

There’s only one flaw with their whole thesis. It describes relationships among family, friends and others that belong to the same society. It describes relationships within a small tribe, for example.

Much more difficult is explaining why we feel the need to treat people from outside the tribe with fairness, etc. And, in the typical tribal society, they don’t. The people within the tribe are considered “people” in the full sense of the term, while those from other tribes can be treated badly, even killed at will. Those from outside the group are a potential threat.

Certainly there is a certain degree of humanity shown to those from other tribes, but it is extremely limited. When push comes to shove, “kill them” is the general rule.

So, where then did we suddenly get this idea that all men are brothers? That you owe the same degree of humanity to someone you have never seen before, and even to someone who might be your enemy? That you might even put his interests before your own?

That idea came from the world’s great religions.

Note to university professors: When you start letting conservatives in, and make your universities open places where freedom of thought is really practiced, we will start believing you again.

Until then, it can safely be assumed that you produce politicized garbage, safe within your hyper-political communities.

No one need listen to you.


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