I’ve been told that our discussion of science and morality at the BBC’s “Moral Maze” show is now online here. I haven’t yet listened to it, but I wasn’t all that satisfied with how things went with the panel and witnesses. There was a lot of confusion about what “science” was: most panelists assumed that this meant “brain science,” construed as sticking electrodes in our skulls or doing brain imaging. (I suppose they were influenced here by Sam Harris’s book.) There are, of course, other ways for science to inform morality, or even to see if there is a common thread underlying moral judgments, which I think is an extremely important enterprise—and a scientific one in terms of being tractable to empirical study.
I don’t think that religion should have been part of this discussion, for that’s an entirely separate issue. (But at least one panelist—Clifford Longley, I think—dealt with the Euthyphro problem by admitting that God’s dictates aren’t moral by virtue of coming from God, but that there is a “higher” source of morality.) And—to my mind the biggest problem—until the very end there was almost no discussion about where morality comes from. Surely that has to play a role in discussing science’s role in moral judgment. I was prepared to talk about a combination of evolution and reason, but that issue didn’t arise.