That’s the title of a new op-ed by David Brooks in today’s New York Times. Basically, he’s surveying some of the empirical evidence on how people make judgments and combining it with evolutionary psychology theory to say that morality is simply emotion and has no true connection with reason. I.e. we evolved moral sentiments because in-group cooperative behavior was naturally selected.
So, theory junkies, what about it? I’m going to say nuh-uh. For one, if we all managed to evolve to have similar physical structures, why don’t we see more similarity in ethical views? Put another way, how can this theory account for moral disagreement? Secondly, my experience is that snap judgments often tend not to be great decisions – I have to employ reason to achieve a superior outcome. Relatedly, there is some work in the political psychology field which has shown that if you expose people to an argument, they will sometimes change their views. How could this theory possibly account for persuasion?