The origins of morality

by Greg Mayer One of the curious things in Francis Collins’ The Language of God is his claim that there are no, or scarcely any, antecedents of moral behavior in animals.  He writes (p. 23): As best I can tell, this law [the “Moral Law” or “‘the law of right behavior’”] appears to apply peculiarly […]

Responses to creationist piece in Boston Globe

Last week Discovery Institute resident creationist Stephen Meyer managed to get a pro-intelligent-design letter piece published in the Boston Globe. It was the usual nonsense, with the added fillip that Meyer quoted Jefferson’s “design” view against evolution, though Jefferson died decades before Darwin published The Origin. Yesterday there were two responses, one by Harvard linguist/psychologist/evolutionist […]

Steven Pinker on Francis Collins

Some newspapers and science journals have called atheist-scientists this week, asking for opinions on Francis Collins’s appointment as head of the National Institutes of Health.  In lieu of a phone interview,  Steve Pinker wrote the following to a reporter from one such journal  (copy slightly edited for web publication).  Thanks to Steve for permission to […]

Chimps throwing stones

by Greg Mayer My local newspaper, along with many other news outlets, had a story this morning about a chimp at a zoo in Sweden who collects and stores rocks that he later uses for throwing at zoo visitors.  The major point of the article was that the chimp made plans for something he was […]

Sympathy for the human: further consideration of my cat Peyton

by Greg Mayer I gave a public lecture yesterday at my university entitled “Is There a Moral Instinct?”  Part of what I did was to elaborate on the theme of Steve Pinker’s rudimentary moral sentiments– sympathy, trust, retribution, gratitude, guilt– and how I see them exemplified in the behavior of my cat, Peyton.  I showed […]

Do animals have morality? A response: “For I will consider my cat Peyton”

A moral cat? An alert reader, my friend and colleague Dr. Greg Mayer from The University of Wisconsin, Parkside, read Steven Pinker’s thoughts on the evolution of morality (posted below) and informed me that he saw the rudiments of morality in his cat Peyton (pictured above). I asked him why, and he responded with an […]

Steven Pinker’s take on the material mind

I sent Simon Conway Morris’s attack on the Darwinian evolution of human mind and consciousness to my colleague Steven Pinker at Harvard (for those of you who have been in Ulan Bator for the last two decades, he’s an eminent psychologist and linguist who has written extensively on the mind, language, and evolution).  Steve had […]

The science/religion compatibility debate continues. . . .

Over on Edge, scientists continue to weigh in on my New Republic piece on the compatibility of science and faith. Steve Pinker and Sam Harris have just contributed, both taking the “non-accommodationist” stance.  Sam’s article,  a brilliant piece of sarcasm, has been widely misunderstood on the web, with many thinking he has seen the light […]