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Moral Creationism: The Science of Morality and the Mutiny of Romantic Relativism

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Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of scientific research into the nature of our moral psychology that demonstrates that human morality is fully grounded in the natural world and, thus, part of our evolved nature. Yet, many, if not most, scholars in the social sciences and humanities remain sceptical or pessimistic. Looking at a number of these recurrent concerns, I identify the source of this resistance as ‘moral creationism’: a set of beliefs, grounded in relativism and romanticism, about morality as irreducibly complex, holistic and non-decomposable, and that, therefore, implicates the scientific approach to morality as irrelevant, misguided, or in the extreme, itself somehow taboo or unethical. I demonstrate that moral creationism is intellectually unfounded by examining evidence on moral diversity and universality, moral and conventional norms, emotion and reasoning in moral judgment, moral conflict, moral progress and religion and morality. I argue that rejecting moral creationism not only prevents an inaccurate view of our moral psychology, but also has implications for the plausibility and justification of various normative theories, for reforming the practice of moral philosophy and can inform applied ethical areas. Without the protective strategy of moral creationism as a default position, humanists as well as scientists will both benefit as already fruitful inquiry, constructive engagement, collaboration and incorporation of novel investigative methods across disciplines can continue to grow.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Harvard University Cambridge, MA USA


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