Science and Morality: Can Science determine what is moral?

Sam Harris, an advocate of scientific skepticism and founder of the 501(c)(3) organization Project Reason, talked this concept at the February 2010 TED conference (see his talk below).

He also continued his discussion of this idea in a posting on his organization’s website…

The historian in me can cite precedents for his argument.  Much of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people referred to the fact they were living in “enlightened times” and were not surprised to see old and traditional concepts of morality, punishment, and social obligations under go strong changes.

In the last 30 years, we have had something of a political/religious backlash to this, but science has continued to press on, expanding our understanding of human behavior, needs, motivation, and capacity for self-delusion.  It has done this because, in no small way, science never assumes it already knows the answers openly subjects itself to examination, criticism, and modification.  It’s benchmarks are how close it’s prediction it’s predictions to observed phenomena can come.  It will modify theory to fit facts, not the other way around.

To my mind,  many people who profess religious “fundamental” religious faiths or political ideologies are far too likely to alter, disregard, or even counterfeit facts to meet their beliefs (or prejudices).

But science still marches on…

Thank God!

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