Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ewwwwwwwww! - The Boston Globe

This is interesting:
a significant slice of morality can be explained by our innate feelings of disgust. A growing number of provocative and clever studies appear to show that disgust has the power to shape our moral judgments. Research has shown that people who are more easily disgusted by bugs are more likely to see gay marriage and abortion as wrong. Putting people in a foul-smelling room makes them stricter judges of a controversial film or of a person who doesn’t return a lost wallet. Washing their hands makes people feel less guilty about their own moral transgressions, and hypnotically priming them to feel disgust reliably induces them to see wrongdoing in utterly innocuous stories.
It is interesting to think of morality as an evolved reaction to the unfamiliar, a survival instinct, and a social cue. It could very well be something that predates language and agriculture rather than coming to us directly from God. In other words, the notion that someone without strong religious beliefs would automatically become a mass murderer is bunk. Our religions, ethics, and social institutions are all abstractions founded on the human experience of hunter-gatherer disgust. It's just like instructions for a toddler: don't eat that, don't touch that, it's nasty.