Recently author and prominent skeptic Michael Shermer contributed to Edge.org’s collection of essays on the question, “What Should We Be Worried About?”

Shermer’s answer: “The Is-Ought Fallacy of Science and Morality.” 

That article prompted philosopher of science (and friend) Massimo Pigliucci to respond with an essay of his own, in which he explains why Shermer’s position on the relationship between science and morality is unsupportable. 

And now Pigliucci’s response has prompted Shermer to pen a response of his own in which he seeks to “restate (his) argument for a scientific foundation of moral principles with new definitions and examples.” For example: 

But what is the foundation for why we should care about the feelings of potentially affected moral agents? To answer this question I turn to science and evolutionary theory.

Given that moral principles must be founded on something natural instead of supernatural, and that science is the best tool we have devised for understanding the natural world, applying evolutionary theory to not only the origins of morality but to its ultimate foundation as well, it seems to me that the individual is a reasonable starting point because, (1) the individual is the primary target of natural selection in evolution, and (2) it is the individual who is most effected by moral and immoral acts. Thus:

The survival and flourishing of the individual is the foundation for establishing values and morals, and so determining the conditions by which humans best survive and flourish ought to be the goal of a science of morality.

Here we find a smooth transition from the way natureis(the individual struggling to survive and flourish in an evolutionary context) to the way itought to be(given a choice, it is more moral to act in a way that enhances the survival and flourishing of other individuals).

I am told Pigliucci will have another response up next week. Round four, here we come.

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