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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Soon we’ll use science to make people more moral

By James J. Hughes
The Washington Post
Originally posted May 19, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

he emerging debate over the use of drugs and devices for moral enhancement has had three principal viewpoints: those who focus on boosting moral sentiments such as empathy; those who would just boost moral reasoning; and the skeptics. While the former two groups accept the goal of moral enhancement — and differ over the best method — the skeptics reject the project. They argue that moral enhancement therapies are overhyped, and that even if morality drugs were effective, they would be bad for our character to rely on them.

It is certainly true that the initial enthusiasm for certain moral enhancement therapies has been tempered by subsequent research. Dozens of studies have suggested that genes that regulate oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” affect trust and empathy, and that empathy is boosted when subjects snort oxytocin. But it now appears that the effects of boosting oxytocin were over-reported and that some of the hormone’s effects are less than cuddly — oxytocin tends to boost empathy only for people like us, increasing ethnocentric “in-group bias.”

The article is here.
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