Richard Weikart, author of The Death of Humanity And the Case for Life, reviews James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky’s new book, Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality
There are many scientific problems with this project. Hunter and Nedelisky, however, only rarely point out the empirical difficulties. (They do point out the problems with Paul Zak’s claims about a “moral molecule.”) This is likely for the sake of argument. However, their critique would have been stronger if they had asked more questions about the scientific evidence. Instead, for the most part they accept the descriptive claims.
However, they still point out a glaring problem. Many of these “moral scientists” overreach by making prescriptive claims. They express moral approval or disapproval for certain behaviors. This misleads many people into thinking they are making real moral claims. However, they have redefined morality by rejecting moral realism.
Why all this confusion? Part of the reason, I think, is that the “moral scientists” are themselves conflicted. Their naturalistic approach tells them one thing: Morality has no objective reality. However, their conscience and experiences tell them something else: Some moral positions really are superior to others.
In my book, The Death of Humanity, I provide many examples of intellectuals who dismiss morality as non-objective. However, in their real life they are fanatically committed to moral positions. Richard Weikart, “Science and the Good: Can Science Help Us Learn How to Live?” at The Stream
Actually, rejecting moral realism makes a lot of sense if people plan simply to impose morality by rigid rules and constant surveillance. Then, they can’t be questioned even if the system is suddenly reprogrammed at the drop of a hat.
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See also: Richard Weikart on the anti-Semitic burst in evolutionary psychology
The Subjectivists Are Good at Emoting; Arguing, Not So Much (Barry Arrington)