Thursday, August 02, 2007

Are Humans Hard Wired For Moral Behavior?

Last year, scientists at the National Institutes of Health discovered that altruistic actions activate the same pleasure centers in the brain as are associated with food and sex. It therefore appears the brain is hard wired for altruism in the same way it is hard wired for eating and procreation.

Besides the National Institutes of Health study, researchers elsewhere are compiling large bodies of data on human moral behavior -- all of which seems to suggest the day when morality can be exclusively attributed to learned behavior is rapidly ending.

Of course, that doesn't mean human morality is rigid and inflexible. Look at procreation! While sexual desire is hard-wired, the range of human sexual expression is huge. So, too, is the range of human altruistic behaviors. Certainly, morality has an innate component. But it is at the same time learned behavior.

2 comments:

Brendan said...

Paul, I saw a fascinating documentary on the Independent Film Channel last night about the history of sex in film and censorship. I think you'd enjoy it very much - it covers many of the topics you write about. It's called "Indie Sex: Censored".

Read about it here:
http://www.ifc.com/static/sections/indiesex/

Sister Mary Lisa said...

It's interesting how fearful people are of leaving their religion behind, because they assume that if they do, they won't have a moral compass anymore, or their children won't be able to learn right from wrong.

Sorry, it's simply a myth. We all naturally have morality inside us.