|I couldn't bring myself to use the image of Tom and Spike|
included in this unsettling gallery.
Haidt asks us to ponder mysteries of the following sort:It's a nice bite out of Haidt's claim, such as it is, but it's not quite a kill. Moral questions may be in principle amenable to scientific investigation (in the broadest, most cross-disciplinary sense), but this only implies that somewhere, in some corner of structured inquiry, there lurks an answer.
[I]f morality is about how we treat each other, then why did so many ancient texts devote so much space to rules about menstruation, who can eat what, and who can have sex with whom? [link]Interesting question. Are these the same ancient texts that view slavery as morally unproblematic? ... Or, following Haidt's logic, why not ask, "if physics is just a system of laws that explains the structure of the universe in terms of mass and energy, why do so many ancient texts devote so much space to immaterial influences and miraculous acts of God?" Why indeed.
... A majority of Americans believe that the Bible provides an accurate account of the ancient world. Many millions of Americans also believe that a principal cause of cancer is "repressed anger." Happily, we do not allow these opinions to anchor us when it comes time to have serious discussions about history and oncology. It seems abundantly clear that many people are simply wrong about morality -- just as many people are wrong about physics, biology, history, and everything else worth understanding.
Many of Peter Singer's conclusions about animal welfare, which begin by placing a high moral priority on consciousness and suffering, can be seen as examples of practical successes in science-grounded morals. If Singer and Harris are right, it follows that people are simply wrong to blithely accept the eating of animals, as wrong as they would be if they denied plate tectonics or evolution. At the same time, this is a free society, and this extends rather fundamentally to questions of food intake.
If all questions of value reduce to science, and if science is not a democracy, then what follows for politics and personal autonomy seems obvious. If they are considerably more restricted than we presently take them to be, then that's the sober fact of the matter, but it's not a happy-sounding conclusion.