Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Implications of the New Science of Infant Morality

5/9/2010—C.S. Lewis wrote that the fact that “taking your turn” is universal among cultures shows that there is an objective morality in the universe. If we ever encounter alien intelligence, they will know about taking your turn.

Today, scientific evidence is emerging that infants have an innate, though flawed sense of right and wrong—infants reward altruism and punish selfishness, for example, though they greatly favor their own kind. (Paul Bloom, “The Moral Lives of Babies,” The New York Times Magazine, May 9, 2010, 44). This evidence would come as no surprise to C.S. Lewis, who would have said it just shows the kind of things we are and the kind of thing the universe is. In other words, it is evidence of objective morality.

This field or research holds the promise of refuting the claims of subjectivism, relativism and nihilism. Years ago, Arthur Leff, the noted Yale Law Professor, wrote an agonized poem in which the assertion that the Holocaust was wrong was met by the skeptic’s question, “Sez who?” Perhaps one day we will answer simply, “the babies, that’s who.”

Here is the poem, from Arthur Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,” Duke Law Journal 1979 (1979): 1249:

As things now stand, everything is up for grabs.
Napalming babies is bad.
Starving the poor is wicked.
Buying and selling each other is depraved.
Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and Pol Pot—and General Custer too—have earned salvation.
Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.
There is in the world such a thing as evil.
[All together now:] Sez who?
God help us.


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