Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Morals: Some now claim that the government fixing our brains is the only solution


In “Moral Enhancement” (Philosophy Now, July-August 2012), Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson argue that “artificial moral enhancement is now essential if humanity is to avoid catastrophe.”

Modern technology provides us with many means to cause our downfall, and our natural moral psychology does not provide us with the means to prevent it. The moral enhancement of humankind is necessary for there to be a way out of this predicament. If we are to avoid catastrophe by misguided employment of our power, we need to be morally motivated to a higher degree (as well as adequately informed about relevant facts). A stronger focus on moral education could go some way to achieving this, but as already remarked, this method has had only modest success during the last couple of millennia. Our growing knowledge of biology, especially genetics and neurobiology, could deliver additional moral enhancement, such as drugs or genetic modifications, or devices to augment moral education.

The development and application of such techniques is risky – it is after all humans in their current morally-inept state who must apply them – but we think that our present situation is so desperate that this course of action must be investigated.

Note this in particular:

Biomedical means of moral enhancement may turn out to be
no more effective than traditional means of moral education or social reform, but they should not be rejected out of hand.

Oh yes they should be! If they may be no more effective than pulpit-bashing, but – quite obviously – risk an additional suite of evils, that is a perfectly good reason for rejecting them out of hand.

By the way, our learned philosophers don’t directly say “the government,” but everything about their project sounds like just the thing a certain sort of government would be interested in. (The sort that goes to the guillotine every now and then, but we do digress.)

See also: It doesn’t matter whether you like David Brooks’ “Social Animal”; your moral and intellectual superiors do

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose

Ignorance is not so damnable as humbug, but when it prescribes pills it may happen to do more harm. George Eliot Erdman
I guess genetically dictating morality would solve many arguments. After all, if it had been available in the 1920s and 1930s, those retrogressives who were squeamish about eradicating the inferior races wouldn't have held up the enlightened eugenics endeavour by opposing Mr Hitler. If it had been available a century earlier, those troublemakers arguing for universal franchise could have been kept in line and Right Order maintained. And genetic morality back in the 16th century would have prevented those Protestants tearing the seamless robe of Christendom and causing all that upset. Won't it be good to know that correct morality is forever fixed in our genes because of those few guys in the 21st century who at last, after all the centuries of darkness, had become perfect judges of morality. Jon Garvey
Blue: Dead right. Cf Plato for a 2350 year old warning the materialist objectors consistently duck. KF kairosfocus
Who is going to "fix" the brains of those who set out to govern us, first? And who is going to "fix" THEIR brains before that . . . ? {And so, to reduction to absurdity.) kairosfocus
If we have no free will because we're just chemicals at the mercy of physics (no more free will than a bowl of sugar according to atheists) then how is ANYTHING immoral as opposed to just "nature?" Is lightning immoral if it kills a person? It has no free will and is just chemicals at the mercy of physics..what's the difference atheists? A lion kills a human, we call it "nature"...a human kills a human, we call it immoral. What's the difference atheists? It's claimed rape is an evolutionary trait like the leopard's spots and giraffe's neck...how is rape immoral atheists? Especially if the poor rapist has no choice but to rape because of his DNA? Atheism - literally a dead end. Blue_Savannah
Very good, very good. I'm off to do some drink-driving then. It's not a crime, it's pedagogy and practical validation of artificial morality. Maus
Someone once wrote that man is hopelessly evil. Somehow, I doubt that he was referring to the human brain. After all, immorality cannot possibly be a property of physical matter. Mapou
Slippery slope this nonsense! We all have morals and ethics, we "choose" to ignore them. Perhaps we could start with corrupt officials, scientists and medical professionals etc? If it works on them it'll work on anyone. humbled
And who is going to fix the government? Well at least we are beyond shock therapy and lobotomies- we are beyond those, aren't we? But anyway is the the gnu eugenics? Joe

Leave a Reply