Why We Have Moral Rules, But Don't Follow Them
From New Scientist
WHY do we sometimes wrestle with moral dilemmas? A
twist on a classic psychology experiment suggests that our minds have
two parallel moral systems, and they don't always agree.
In the trolley experiment,
participants are told that a runaway tram trolley could kill five people
on the tracks. They must decide whether to divert it onto a second
track with only one person on it. Almost everyone diverts it, sacrificing one to save five.
But if instead you have to push one
person off a bridge onto the track to stop the trolley, most people
demur. That suggests most of us have a strict rule against killing
people directly, even for the greater good.
How are such rules formed? Although
moral codes appear to rule out the act of killing in the bridge
experiment, most moral behaviour in animals appears focused on outcomes -
the death of an individual, say - rather than the act that brought it
about. When an animal experiences harm to help a relative, evolutionary
biologists view this as increasing the chances that copies of the
animal's genes will survive. Many psychologists think that human moral
rules are an extension of this "kin selection".
Read the article.
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.