There’s only so much science can tell us about human morality

Howard Gardner in Slate:

Logo2 A thought experiment. You walk into a bookstore and see three stacks of books. The books are titled Born To Be Good, Born To Be Bad, and Born To Be Good or Bad. Which one do you pick up first? Fast forward. You have now scanned the tables of contents of the three books. The first book has chapters called “Smile,” “Love,” and “Compassion”; the second features chapters titled “Anger,” “Jealousy,” and “Spite”; the third has chapters on “Love vs. Hate,” “Altruism vs. Selfishness,” and “Honesty vs. “Deceit.” Which book do you buy? Which are you apt to believe?”

Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the Greater Good Science Center there, is banking on an interest in a Rousseauian rather than Hobbesian view of human nature. In Born To Be Good, he argues that we are born as miniature angels, rather than marked by original sin. But presuming that readers have no patience for romantic mush, his subtitle—The Science of a Meaningful Life—promises hardheadedness, not faith or folklore.

More here.