@reiver

A Moral Sense In Humans

[T]here are reasons to believe that [...] a moral sense [...] evolved in our species rather than having to be deduced from scratch by each of us [...] 4 Children as young as a year and a half spontaneously give toys, proffer help, and try to comfort adults or other children who are visibly distressed.5 People in all cultures distinguish right from wrong, have a sense of fairness, help one another, impose rights and obligations, believe that wrongs should be redressed and proscribe rape, murder, and some kinds of violence.6 These normal sentiments are conspicuous by their absence in the aberrant individuals we call psychopaths.7

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4. Cummins, 1996; Trivers, 1971; Wright, 1994.
5. Zahn-Wexler et al., 1992.
6. Brown, 1991.
7. Hare, 1993; Lykken, 1995; Mealey, 1995; Rice, 1997.

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Brown, D.E. 1991. Human universals. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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Cummins, D. D. 1996. Evidence for the innateness of deontic reasoning. Mind and Language, 11, 160-190.

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Hare, R. D. 1993. Without conscience: The disturbing world of the psychopaths around us. New York: Guilford Press.

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Lykken, D. T. 1995. The antisocial personalities. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.

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Mealey, L. 1995. The sociobiology of sociopathy: An integrated evolutionary model. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 18, 523-541.

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Rice, M. 1997. Violent offender research and implications for the criminal justice system. American Psychologist, 52, 414-423.

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Trivers, R. 1971. The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 35-57.

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Wright, R. 1994. The moral animal: Evolutionary psychology and everyday life. New York: Pantheon.

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Zahn-Wexler, C., Radke-Yarrow, M., Wagner, E., & Chapman, M. 1992. Development of concern for others. Developmental Psychology, 28, 126-136.

-- Steven Arthur Pinker

from "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature"

Quoted on Sat Feb 11th, 2012