Morality - A Radio Lab Podcast

Hey There,

Here is the link to Radio Lab’s outstanding program on the origins of morality. I downloaded it to my Ipod and enjoyed it this fine, sunny morning on my walk down snowcovered, Vermont backroads.

The program begins with a moral conundrum.

You’re working with a crew doing track repairs (presumably, using heavy equipment such that you can’t hear much else) when you happen to look up to see a locomotive rushing towards five of your buddies who are working on the tracks. But just as quickly you realize that you’re standing next to a rail-switch which you could use to divert the train to a second track on which only one of your workmates is standing.

Should you throw the switch?

Ninety percent of a great-many people who’ve been polled say they would throw the switch.

The next scenerio has you and a coworker (a very large fellow) working on a footbridge above the tracks. Again, you look to see the locomotive bearing down upon five of your friends who are working on the tracks. You quickly realize that the only way you can stop the train is to push the big guy standing next to you off the footbridge, whereupon his massive body will stop the train (yes, I know, but just go with it).

Should you push your coworker in front of the locomotive?

Ninety percent of a great-many people polled say they would not push the man in front of the train, even if by doing so they could save the other five men.

I also enjoyed the segment with Frans de Waal, where he declares that morality arises from empathy (I say, compassion). Um…I’ve also spent the rest of the day humming Jack’s little tune. But then, I suffer to some degree, from “Stuck-Song-Syndrome.”

Sun in the sky; shine, shine, shine.
Sun in the sky; shine, shine, shine.
Sun in the sky; shine, shine, shine.
Help me with my garden.


Ty for the link - I’ll try to listen at some point.

As soon as I read the line “morality arises from empathy” I made a plan to reply saying that the source is actually compassion, but glory be, you got in there and did it yourself! :smiley:

For what it’s worth, I’ve got a two-word disproof of the notion that empathy is the basis of morality → Sadists empathise.

Hey Michael,

Someone used this fabricated scenario to justify abortion in Sabrina’s abortion thread. I find the exercise of deciding whether or not to pull the switch frivolous entertainment and a sign of our desperate times. From my point of view that life is a reaction to the void, I suggest that if life matters, our time would be better spent discussing the reasons we collectively put someone in the position of having to choose and then begin eliminating the cause of moral dilemmas.