Hardwired for Morality?

Howdy, again!  Here’s the article I mentioned in my last post: “Scientists Draw Link Between Morality And Brain’s Wiring” — from the Friday (5/11/2007) print edition of the Wall Street Journal.  (Link may require subscription.)

The article starts off addressing the concept of “righteous certainty” and the “intuitive sense of right or wrong” humans often feel that is “hard to ignore yet difficult to articulate.”  From the article:

“A provocative medical experiment conducted recently by neuroscientists at Harvard, Caltech and the University of Southern California strongly suggests these impulsive convictions come not from conscious principles but from the brain trying to make its emotional judgment felt.”

Neuroscientists are aware of an area of the brain that seems to link logical thinking to emotional thinking and the study suggests that when this link is damaged or removed by whatever circumstances, “pure reason is set free” (in the words of Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist at USC).  The scientists have apparently concluded that without that link we all would turn into Mr. Spock — the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, and all that.

Now, I’m sure that some religious folks would be bothered by such suggestions, but personally I find it remarkable.  No, I do not believe that we are simply a net of neurons firing away, providing an illusion of life, consciousness, and free will.  (For some of my thoughts on that regard, you might read my 1/19/2007 post on the subject, for which you can click here.)  However, I do believe that God has designed the human brain to be able to interact in some way with the human spirit, and it only makes sense that we should expect to see its form follow its function.  When you build a computer (a PC, that is; Macs apparently just drop out of the sky preformed), the motherboard has a socket specifically designed for the appropriate processor, and I would think that — in some way — the human brain has to be designed to be the right “socket” for the human mind and spirit.

Perhaps these findings (yet to be confirmed, I should add) are related to Paul’s statement about the Gentiles’ doing “by nature” the things in the law (Romans 2:14).  While I would be the last to say that the fullness of God’s beautiful law can be deduced by examining our neural wiring, I can see the possibility of a certain amount of basic moral reasoning being “hardwired” into our brains by our merciful Creator.

Regardless, the article is here presented for your consideration.

[EXTRA CREDIT:  I just came across an article that is equally fascinating…  Scientists in Switzerland are attempting to create an artificial brain by creating an analogous digital structure: around 10,000 computer chips that are meant to act like real nerve cells.  I’ve wondered before why nobody has tried this, and I’m very interested in what comes of it!  Read it for yourself: Growing a Brain in Switzerland.  Apparently it is an old Der Spiegel article (from February 16, 2007).  [Credit where credit is due: To the best of my knowledge the article was first highlighted on WordPress on the “Travelling Through the Wire” blog.]

3 thoughts on “Hardwired for Morality?

  1. Deano

    I would agree with the statement you made,

    “While I would be the last to say that the fullness of God’s beautiful law can be deduced by examining our neural wiring, I can see the possibility of a certain amount of basic moral reasoning being “hardwired” into our brains by our merciful Creator.”

    It seems logical because of the fact that breaking God’s law has consequences sometimes that only directly effect the one who broke that law which then effects other people – kind of like shock waves.

    Even people who have no problem stealing know enough to want to not get caught.

    Plus, as it says in Genesis 1, “God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. …”

    I’m tired so I don’t know if that made any sense or not … anyways …

  2. Damok Tieg

    Thanks for publishing that link to the Growing A Brain article. Should be interesting to follow.

  3. Pingback: Debunking the Brain/Computer Connection « Thoughts En Route

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