Scientists have published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which they use a high-powered magnetic field to suppress brain activity in the right temporoparietal junction in their participants, using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, and discovered the participants exhibited impaired moral judgement abilities. The study involved reading a story about a woman who either accidentally poisoned her friend, or intended to poison her friend but failed, and found that the participants exposed to the magnetic stimulation considered the accidental poisoning to be more morally wrong than the intended but failed poisoning. In other words, our ability to empathize and to recognize other people’s mental states and intentions is entirely dependent on the function of a section of your brain.
Raise your hands if you’re surprised that morality comes from your brain.
The fact that scientists can adjust morality with a magnet may be disconcerting to people who view morality as a lofty and immutable human trait, says Joshua Greene, psychologist at Harvard University. But that view isn’t accurate, he says.
“Moral judgment is just a brain process,” he says. “That’s precisely why it’s possible for these researchers to influence it using electromagnetic pulses on the surface of the brain.”
It’s also disconcerting to people who think that morality is imposed by a higher power, I should think. That morality is a function of your brain is self-evident to anyone who has studied mental function. And anyone who’s heard of Phineas Gage probably already figured it, though this is the course of science — to suss out evidence for what is seemingly self-evident, so as to slap said evidence onto the window and mouth “whaddaya think of them apples?” to the creationists clinging to their fallacious beliefs on the other side.