New Issue of THE FUTURIST Looks at the Emerging Science of Morality

December 04, 2008 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
In the January-February 2009 issue of THE FUTURIST, senior editor Patrick Tucker talks with Harvard researcher Marc Hauser (author of Moral Minds) and neuroscientist David Poeppel about how the brain and culture combine to construct moral impulse. They offer insights on what neuroscience might mean for society's understanding of good and evil.

"A mature individual's moral grammar enables him to unconsciously generate and comprehend a limitless range of permissible and obligatory actions within the native culture, to recognize violations when they arise, and to generate intuitions about punishable violations," says Hauser. "Once an individual acquires his specific moral grammar, other moral grammars may be as incomprehensible to him as Chinese is to a native English speaker."

In the years ahead, Internet surveys distributed across cultures and neuroscience could provide a very different window into the moral-decision making process, argues the article.

Even though neuroscience is still in its infancy, it's already yielding insights into moral issues, such as race bias. According to Poeppel, studies have shown that "people make decisions that reflect race biases even when they're aware of what they're doing." Race bias is a reaction that rises from lived experience. What MEG, fMRI, and other neuro-imaging techniques give us is a picture for how those experiences change the physical brain and how the physical brain recreates, reimagines, recomputes them all the time.

"Does this reflect very deeply imbedded mechanisms of decision making? If you're aware of it, can you neutralize it, can you override it and reeducate the system? Of course you can," says Poeppel. "The brain is plastic. It changes all the time. That's what learning is. But we still don't have a real explanatory theory for how that works…. It's an area where we will see progress in the years ahead."

The article is available for free from the Web site of the World Future Society, . Individuals can also pick up the January-February 2009 issue of THE FUTURIST for $5.95 at bookstores and newsstands, or write the World Future Society, 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814. Order online at

THE FUTURIST is a bimonthly magazine focused on innovation, creative thinking, and emerging social, economic, environmental, and technological trends.

Among the thinkers and experts who have contributed to THE FUTURIST are Gene Roddenberry, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, Richard Lamm, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Buckminster Fuller, Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, Vaclav Havel, Hazel Henderson, Margaret Mead, Robert McNamara, Betty Friedan, Nicholas Negroponte, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Lester R. Brown, Arthur C. Clarke, Douglas Rushkoff, Joel Garreau, William J. Mitchell, and U.S. Comptroller David M. Walker.

Editors: To request a review copy of THE FUTURIST magazine, contact director of communications Patrick Tucker, 301-656-8274 (ext. 116), or More information about the World Future Society may be obtained from the Society's Web site, .

Patrick Tucker
World Future Society
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