Being Right About Right and Wrong
“Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another…”
Ethicists who believe in evolution are trying to figure out an evolutionary explanation for why people universally have a sense of right and wrong. This line of study is so new that it doesn’t yet have a name, although some have suggested “neuroethics” or “moral neuroscience”.
Much of this study began by looking at the theories of philosophers John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant. Mill taught that moral good is defined by those actions that do the most good for the most people, even if some individuals must suffer in the process. Kant said that moral good could be defined by pure reason. Then they add in philosopher David Hume, who taught that people consider an action to be good if it makes them feel good.
However, researchers in this field noted that even monkeys, who don’t read philosophy, have a sense of fair play. In one experiment, monkeys who had been accepting cucumbers as a reward began rejecting the cucumbers after they saw other monkeys getting much tastier grapes. At this point in this new “science”, some researchers have concluded that right and wrong are nothing more than the instinctive firing of brain neurons.
Scripture, on the other hand, says that God has written His law on our hearts. This is a much more logical explanation of Man’s universal sense of right and wrong.
I thank You, Father, for Your law, but I find comfort in the gospel of forgiveness. Amen.
Discover, 4/04, pp. 60-65, Carl Zimmer, “Whose Life Would You Save?” Photo: portrait of Immanuel Kant.