Posted by: Mark Waser | Nov 16, 2010

Introductory Reading List for Morality of Science

Someone at BICA ’10 asked me for a short-list of good, internet-accessible introductory material.

What have I missed (particularly if none of these resources lead to it)?


  1. Interesting that Sam Harris is mentioned more than once. I think he’s a showboat myself, but time will tell.

    “Can science shape human values?” There’s a loaded question. Of course it can. We can give everybody Valium (R) and nobody will give a damn. Be careful what you wish for — and what you mean by the question.

    Same observation on “reshaping our moral sense” which implies genetic engineering (into or out of) human responses to specific situations, rather than just drugging us not to care. Perhaps we can re-engineer the entire human race for compassion — but is that really a practicable, doable thing? By the end of this century, there will be 10 billion human beings. The task would be monumental. What shall we inoculate against? Stupidity?

    Yet there ARE many things science might be able to say ABOUT morality. Is it built into the brain/limbic system? Or is it entirely cultural? Does every (normal) human recoil at the sight of suffering in others? Questions of this type are empirical and can be answered. But how can science answer a question such as “is democracy the optimal political form for human beings?” The further we explore into “preference” questions (what should we like, vs what do we like), the further we get from scientifically answerable questions.

    So I think you’re missing a lot.

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