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If It Feels Good to Be Good, It Might Be Only Natural
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Emotions; Research; Psychology; Neurosciences; Morality
Author: Shankar Vedantam - Washington Post Staff Writer
Date: May 28, 2007
Start Page: A.1
Section: A SECTION

"Eventually, you are bound to get into areas that for thousands of years we have preferred to keep mystical," said [Jordan Grafman], the chief cognitive neuroscientist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Some of the questions that are important are not just of intellectual interest, but challenging and frightening to the ways we ground our lives. We need to step very carefully."

Joshua D. Greene, a Harvard neuroscientist and philosopher, said multiple experiments suggest that morality arises from basic brain activities. Morality, he said, is not a brain function elevated above our baser impulses. Greene said it is not "handed down" by philosophers and clergy, but "handed up," an outgrowth of the brain's basic propensities.

"We evolved in a world where people in trouble right in front of you existed, so our emotions were tuned to them, whereas we didn't face the other kind of situation," Greene said. "It is comforting to think your moral intuitions are reliable and you can trust them. But if my analysis is right, your intuitions are not trustworthy. Once you realize why you have the intuitions you have, it puts a burden on you" to think about morality differently.

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