Week 12: Science & Morality

November 13, 2011by

This lecture examines the implications of a physical scientific worldview for ethics and how we do moral philosophy in a scientific age.

Science & Morality


The Moral of the Scientific Method


Physicist Lee Smolin argues the scientific method is less at the heart of the scientific community than a democratic moral code in which scientists are bound together by an ethic consisting of the following principles:

1. Be honest and bound by rational argument from shared evidence …. Admit Failure.
2. Argue forcefully for what we believe, but leave the last word to those who will follow us.
3. Learn the tools of the trade; to lessen error.
4. Respect and take seriously all who agree to be bound by the same ethics.
5. Leave all that we have not achieved consensus about to a realm of honest disagreement.

Here he explains his vies more fully in the context of intellectual history.

Science or Scientism?


Sam Harris argues that science ought to be an authority on ethical issues, answering classical questions of good and evil, right and wrong, and shaping our vision of what constitutes a good life. Is this an innovative application of the scientific method, or just a new spin on the old theme of scientism stretching our knowledge of the physical world beyond its proper limits?

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Extras


Michael Specter on The Danger of Science Denial [/sws_yellow_box]

Trust and Empathy in the Brain?


In this talk neuroeconomist Paul Zak shows why he believes oxytocin is “the moral molecule,” responsible for trust, empathy, and other sentiments of a moral nature. And if there is indeed some connection, what does it mena?

Behavioral Economics


Behavioral economist Dan Ariely uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive research findings to show how we’re probably not as rational or free as we think we are in our decision making.

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Extras


Dan Ariely on why we think it’s okay to lie, cheat, and steal (at least some of the time):

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