"Living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good we can." - Peter Singer
"Common sense is not so common." - Voltaire
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Disgust made us human

By Kathleen McAuliffe
Aeon
Originally posted June 6, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

If you’re skeptical that parasites have any bearing on your principles, consider this: our values actually change when there are infectious agents in our vicinity. In an experiment by Simone Schnall, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge, students were asked to ponder morally questionable behaviour such as lying on a résumé, not returning a stolen wallet or, far more fraught, turning to cannibalism to survive a plane crash. Subjects seated at desks with food stains and chewed-up pens typically judged these transgressions as more egregious than students at spotless desks. Numerous other studies – using, unbeknown to the participants, imaginative disgust elicitors such as fart spray or the scent of vomit – have reported similar findings. Premarital sex, bribery, pornography, unethical journalism, marriage between first cousins: all become more reprehensible when subjects were disgusted.

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From this point in human social development, it took a bit more rejiggering of the same circuitry to bring our species to a momentous place: we became disgusted by people who behaved immorally. This development, Curtis argues, is central to understanding how we became an extraordinarily social and cooperative species, capable of putting our minds together to solve problems, create new inventions, exploit natural resources with unprecedented efficiency and, ultimately, lay the foundations for civilisation.

The article is here.

Editor's note: Please, if you can make it past the dog rape example in the beginning of the article, it is a thought provoking article.  Go to the "comments" section to see what readers have to say about that example.
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