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Thread: Morality and Magnets: Are we just born with morality, instead of "gifted" with it?

  1. #1
    Catnip fiend. Steve's Avatar
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    Default Morality and Magnets: Are we just born with morality, instead of "gifted" with it?

    Came across this today while listening to NPR. It piqued my interest considering that I do have some reservations about the universe we live in being entirely able to be explained scientifically. Looks like I have more to consider now that scientists have shown that a simple magnetic pulse applied to the right area of the brain can instantly change our "morals."

    Now I do believe that morality is something that is learned from our environment and culture, but I have also held onto the idea that it could also be something "special" inside of us that gives us this ability to tell right from wrong, bad intentions from good, an evil person from a kind one...

    Well, this may not be the case, after all.

    Morality Study Narrows Gap Between Mind And Brain

    Scientists have found a surprising link between magnets and morality. A person's moral judgments can be changed almost instantly by delivering a magnetic pulse to an area of the brain near the right ear, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    People in the study read stories designed to produce moral judgments. One such story begins with a woman named Grace putting powder in her friend's coffee. After that, the story can go in several different directions.

    In one version, Grace believes she's putting sugar in her friend's coffee. But it turns out to be poison and her friend dies. In another version, Grace believes she's putting poison in the coffee but it turns out to be sugar and her friend is fine.

    People who hear these stories generally forgive Grace for unwittingly poisoning her friend, says Liane Young, a researcher in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And, she says, they usually condemn Grace for the failed attempt to do harm.

    "We judge people not just for what they do, but what they're thinking at the time of their action, what they're intending," Young says. But, she says, a brief magnetic pulse was able to change that.

    Back To Childhood Morality

    Young and her colleagues used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to temporarily decrease activity in an area of the brain called the right temporoparietal junction. It's near the surface of the brain, above and behind the right ear, and it seems to helps us decipher another person's beliefs.

    Twenty volunteers got TMS before or during the time they were listening to stories like the one about Grace and the coffee. The stimulation caused people to pay less attention to Grace's intention and more attention to the outcome, Young says.

    "If no harm was done, then subjects would judge [Grace's behavior] as OK," she says, even if the story made it clear Grace was trying to poison her friend. That's the sort of moral judgment you often see in kids who are 3 or 4 years old, Young says.

    Studies show that at this age, children will usually say a child who breaks five teacups accidentally is naughtier than a child who breaks one teacup on purpose, she says. That's probably because their brains are still developing the ability to understand the intentions of other people.

    Moral Judgment: 'Just A Brain Process'?

    The fact that scientists can adjust morality with a magnet may be disconcerting to people who view morality as a lofty and immutable human trait, says Joshua Greene, psychologist at Harvard University. But that view isn't accurate, he says.

    "Moral judgment is just a brain process," he says. "That's precisely why it's possible for these researchers to influence it using electromagnetic pulses on the surface of the brain."

    The new study is really part of a much larger effort by scientists to explain how the brain creates moral judgments, Greene says. The scientists are trying to take concepts such as morality, which philosophers once attributed to the human soul, and "break it down in mechanical terms."

    If something as complex as morality has a mechanical explanation, Green says, it will be hard to argue that people have, or need, a soul.

    -------------------------------

    Link.

    Thoughts? I'm open to all points of debate: religious/spiritual, scientific, or spaghetti monster/etc.
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  2. #2
    Registered Member HappyOldGuy's Avatar
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    First question would be whether the same stimulus messes with other complex reasoning, and if so which.
    I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I sit in front of this computer, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the gym, he gets stronger


  3. #3
    If I die before I wake.. Cullion's Avatar
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    You can also stop a person moving by cutting their brainstem, or affect their moral judgement by getting them to drink a bottle of vodka. So, umm, physiological impact on observed behaviour wasn't exactly news thousands of years ago.

    But I'm glad srs science has shown that we can fuck with people's minds using magnets too.

    BTW, who's funding this creep's research into modifying human judgements and moral perceptions with electromagnetic fields?
    Last edited by Cullion; 29th March 10 at 06:43 PM.
    ONE SOUL AT A TIME

    Quote Originally Posted by Danno
    i got nothing, you win again.
    Quote Originally Posted by resolve
    I trust God more than I trust you. And that will never change. I've always viewed you as kind of a snake. No biblical connotations need apply, just the regular ones. You're wise. You're really intelligent. But you're also conniving and have this way of getting what you want when you want it. The sickness I was talking about was your propensity to kind of reach in and grasp on to something to define someone here. You harangue them about it and manipulate it in to conversations. You do that with every single poster here. You do this until they see things your way. The "correct way". It's vile.

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    Registered Member Supporting Member bob's Avatar
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    They've been playing these kinds of games with magnetic pulses for a while. I remember one where they improved someone's math ability by zapping a certain area.

    In terms of morality, it would be interesting to see if they did a follow up a few hours or a day later to see how people actually remember what happened and if there was a lasting effect.

  5. #5
    If I die before I wake.. Cullion's Avatar
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    um.. guys. This is a retarded point. We've known for thousands of years that we can mess with people's moral judgements physiologically. It's obvious from the effects of alcohol and other common intoxicants.

    Anybody who is amazed, today, that chemicals or electrical fields can effect how you think really hasn't been paying attention.

    I'm more interested in who's funding this research programme to screw with human reasoning and moral judgements using electromagnetic fields.
    Last edited by Cullion; 29th March 10 at 06:48 PM.
    ONE SOUL AT A TIME

    Quote Originally Posted by Danno
    i got nothing, you win again.
    Quote Originally Posted by resolve
    I trust God more than I trust you. And that will never change. I've always viewed you as kind of a snake. No biblical connotations need apply, just the regular ones. You're wise. You're really intelligent. But you're also conniving and have this way of getting what you want when you want it. The sickness I was talking about was your propensity to kind of reach in and grasp on to something to define someone here. You harangue them about it and manipulate it in to conversations. You do that with every single poster here. You do this until they see things your way. The "correct way". It's vile.

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    Tyrsmann's Avatar
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    Not to nutride Cullion but yeah this really doesn't seem that surprising to me either. Also while I can see this might have impact on religious debate I don't really see this as stating anything that significantly contradicts anything that is claimed by any major religion. If a religion belives morality is innate then why the hell would it need a holy book to teach people it's morality.

  7. #7
    If I die before I wake.. Cullion's Avatar
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    This has as much impact on religious debate as 'did you notice that ingesting enough ethanol can make people impulsive and sometimes aggressive' ?
    ONE SOUL AT A TIME

    Quote Originally Posted by Danno
    i got nothing, you win again.
    Quote Originally Posted by resolve
    I trust God more than I trust you. And that will never change. I've always viewed you as kind of a snake. No biblical connotations need apply, just the regular ones. You're wise. You're really intelligent. But you're also conniving and have this way of getting what you want when you want it. The sickness I was talking about was your propensity to kind of reach in and grasp on to something to define someone here. You harangue them about it and manipulate it in to conversations. You do that with every single poster here. You do this until they see things your way. The "correct way". It's vile.

  8. #8
    Catnip fiend. Steve's Avatar
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    Cullion, you can harp on and on about being intoxicated on whatever substances. This is just about how it affects someones morals, not whether they would suddenly think they could fly, logic function doesn't seem to be an issue (though I probably would have been just as entertained if they said the pulses made people act like drunken jackasses). Also, the effects are instentaneous, something that should be considered as well.

    I added the religious line due to the mentioning of souls in the article. I know your views on organized religion, I was hoping there might be someone who would have a counterpoint for the hell of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiko
    Steve wasn't in CTC but he's one of us in spirit. I can't explain it.
    <3

    SHARK FARTS!

  9. #9
    Tyrsmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cullion
    'did you notice that ingesting enough ethanol can make people impulsive and sometimes aggressive' ?
    Dude ethanol-chugging rednecks are fucking batshit insane. But their funny to watch if their not to violent.

  10. #10
    If I die before I wake.. Cullion's Avatar
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    It's not a fundamentally different question just because the means of physiologically interfering with your thought processes are different. Lobotomising somebody is pretty instantaneous too. As is ECT. They've both been around a while, as have hallucinagens and more subtle psychotropics.

    'I can affect the way somebody thinks by physically interfering with their brain' is a very old observation. If you didn't think that those things disproved the existence of a soul, there wouldn't be any real reason to think this did, and visa versa.
    Last edited by Cullion; 29th March 10 at 07:20 PM.
    ONE SOUL AT A TIME

    Quote Originally Posted by Danno
    i got nothing, you win again.
    Quote Originally Posted by resolve
    I trust God more than I trust you. And that will never change. I've always viewed you as kind of a snake. No biblical connotations need apply, just the regular ones. You're wise. You're really intelligent. But you're also conniving and have this way of getting what you want when you want it. The sickness I was talking about was your propensity to kind of reach in and grasp on to something to define someone here. You harangue them about it and manipulate it in to conversations. You do that with every single poster here. You do this until they see things your way. The "correct way". It's vile.

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