Are babies moral or amoral?
Posted on January 25, 2012
Are humans born as “blank slates”? Are babies amoral animals who depend on parents, friends, and society to learn how to be civilized agents?
This is the view held by many, but modern science has refuted it convincingly — or so says Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom. For an in-depth look at Bloom’s thoughts, check out this essay in the New York Times.
A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone. Which is not to say that parents are wrong to concern themselves with moral development or that their interactions with their children are a waste of time. Socialization is critically important. But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of right and wrong; it’s because the sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be.