I thought I’d take two minutes (I’ll add a footnote telling how long this really took to write) out of my uneventful morning to answer a question I just found in my WordPress feed: “Does studying science make you a better person?”
The answer is no. That might sound weird coming from me, as I often promote Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape, a book with the subtitle “How Science Can Determine Human Values”. But science is not a moral indicator. Given to the wrong person, science leads to neurotoxins, nuclear bombs, chemical warfare, gas chambers and—a real possibility in our future—synthesised viruses that attack according to our genetics. Someone trained in anatomy and physiology might use that to harvest organs of living people for a profit, or find and cut a person’s jugular quickly.
But the answer is also yes, or at least it can. I invite you to look at studies on the intelligence of animals: their empathy, their capacity for language, their love for their family, their enforcement of honesty (in the cases of many monkeys), their culture (elephants have a basic culture that includes mourning the dead); then come to me and say animals don’t have rights. It is a very emotionally difficult thing to do. The more I have studied about the universe, particularly the things living on earth, the more I realise that things have a worth we should protect. If you are already a good person, studying science will make you a better person.
Science can inform us; and it can determine the effects of an action; and it can help us direct our own values; it can even help us to demonstrate the suffering and the pain, the happiness and the pleasure we cause. But it cannot make you a good person.
(This took 12 minutes to write)
Does Science Make You a Better Person? – Salon.com – The post that inspired me to write the above post doesn’t actually share any content with what I have written. It is interesting.
Evidence for Objective (secular) Morality – I have no issues with self-promotion. This is something I wrote to explain how, although science does not have to make us better people, it certainly can tell us when we are being immoral.
Skeptic Michael Shermer says science better than religion or philosophy at determining morality – Not the catchiest title in the world, and I never know how I feel about Michael Shermer: sometimes he is insightful and wonderful. Sometimes he employs rather childish arguments. This interview, however, is one of the delightful times.
(Adding in hyperlinks and further reading took a further 14 minutes)
(Adding tags took another 4 minutes)