Babies have Morals Even Before They can Crawl!
Dr. Paul Bloom of the Infant Cognition Center at Yale University published an amazing article in the New York Times Magazine–all about how babies show signs of innate morality–even at 5-8 months of age. Before discussing the article in more detail, let me point out that my granddaughter, at eight months old, could sit, blow bubbles, and did a mean shout. She also thought it just fine to bite Mommy and Daddy to help with teething pain and giggled when Mommy objected. Hmm, not much moral sense there. But of course, this is anecdotal, not scientific, evidence. Actually, it is much like Charles Darwin’s written observation that his six-month old son felt sad when his nurse pretended to cry. Also anecdotal.
But, what of the scientific evidence? Dr. Bloom’s team’s studies seem to indicate that children appear to have a “prewired understanding of what to pay attention to and what generalizations to make” and have an inborn sense of right and wrong–moral ideas that are more than empathy in that there is an awareness that people can choose to obey the inner urge to do what is right–or not. In fact, the studies show that babies understand 1) that helping is good and hindering is bad and 2) good should be rewarded and bad should be punished.
The question then was asked, where does this innate moral insight, which is both general and universal, come from? Some have suggested that conscience can only be explained by reference to a godly force. Others say that it is a result of evolution–if we are kind to relatives, then our DNA is more likely to be passed on. Of course, this does not in any way explain the baby behavior–since they were not related to the puppets that the scientists were showing them, nor does it explain the fact that we consider altruism towards a stranger as a higher moral good than that towards a family member.
Well, Dr. Bloom has a lot more arguments, but you can read them for yourself–and in the true spirit of scientific integrity, make up your own mind!