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Does the mere thought of science trigger morality?

Nature is touting a UCal Santa Barbara study to the effect that “Just thinking about science triggers moral behavior, ”:

Public opinion towards science has made headlines over the past several years for a variety of reasons — mostly negative. High profile cases of academic dishonesty and disputes over funding have left many questioning the integrity and societal value of basic science, while accusations of politically motivated research fly from left and right. There is little doubt that science is value-laden. Allegiances to theories and ideologies can skew the kinds of hypotheses tested and the methods used to test them. These, however, are errors in the application of the method, not the method itself. …

Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara set out to test this possibility. They hypothesized that there is a deep-seated perception of science as a moral pursuit — its emphasis on truth-seeking, impartiality and rationality privileges collective well-being above all else. Their new study, published in the journal PLOSOne, argues that the association between science and morality is so ingrained that merely thinking about it can trigger more moral behavior.

This sounds so like a religious group struggling with the wake of a scandal: The people who sin are not applying our belief system correctly. And if people only knew the good our group does …

All granted, and where does that leave us except with the conclusion that belief systems of any type are by themselves not reliably able to produce good behaviour. The people who engage in citation stacking schemes are undoubtedly thinking a lot about science. As are those who are comfortable with double standards or engage in active persecution of dissenters in their fields.

Virtue comes from above, and the pursuit of virtue is quite different from the pursuit of knowledge, status, or power. No need to do study on that, as it happens; the evidence is everywhere.

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One Response to Does the mere thought of science trigger morality?

  1. Ask Dr Mengele. Oops! He’s otherwise engaged. He appears to be holding a shovel of some kind.

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