The Moral Sciences Are Back

Moral sciences are back. Natural laws of ethics, envisioned early in the Enlightenment, can now be objectively studied. Game Theory is reteaching scientists and “rationalists” old wisdoms, while suggesting a “Golden Punishment Rule,” and a Naturalistic Fallacy reform (via "negative telos").

Natural laws of ethics, envisioned early in the Enlightenment, can now be objectively studied. Game Theory is reviving old wisdoms, while suggesting a “Golden Punishment Rule,” and a Naturalistic Fallacy reform (via “negative telos”).

1. Humans, being social, can’t thrive without rules. Certain rules work better than others. Game theory provides “behavioral telescopes” to study this.

2. The naturalistic fallacy says nature provides no ethical lessons. But without seeking good and evil in nature, we can compare the viability and productivity of behavioral rules. And we can map negative ethical spaces that are counterproductive or self-undermining.

3. Comparing how ethical traditions perform in Prisoner’s Dilemmas, against Tit-For-Tat, the best current strategy, shows: Rationalists do worse than the Golden Ruled. And Jewish norms beat Christian ethics.

4. So-called rationalists, dominated by dire untrusting logic, produce no cooperation. Golden Ruled players cooperate, thus beating rationalists. But Christian turning-the-other-cheek is exploitable (as Machiavelli and Nietzsche complained). Old Testament eye-for-an-eye is more Tit-For-Tat-like, provided forgiveness follows (however divine, forgiveness can be evolutionarily adaptive).

5. A Tit-For-Tat-like “Golden Punishment Rule” enables cooperation by preventing viable exploitation (likely applying to any game structure). But punishment that prevents profitable cheating must also avoid escalating revenge (e.g., hunter gatherers avoid kin feuds by delegating executions to relatives).

6. Darwin, being un-Darwinian, believed “social instincts … naturally lead to the golden rule.” Game theory shows how such “evolutionarily stable” cooperative rules can emerge. Indeed, evolution is nature’s game theorist, endlessly testing behavioral strategies and naturally selecting the more productive.

7. Social species' behavioral patterns can be self-maximizing or co-maximizing. In Prisoner’s Dilemmas, that’s the lower-productivity “rationalist” approach vs. the higher-productivity Tit-For-Tat (Golden Punishment Ruled) cooperation. Let’s not forget we’re the most self-deficient, most other-dependent, species alive.

8. Co-maximization defines a win-win evolutionary space that can outperform “pure” short-term self-maximizing (see Dawkins' selfishness vs. altruism error).

9. Life might not have a “telos,” (a grand purpose), but it has a kind of “negative telos.” Nature eliminates behavioral patterns that damage what they depend on. That’s a yet unnamed natural principle (I’ve suggested calling it needism), which even “survival of the fittest” must yield to.

We’d better adjust what’s deemed rationalto prevent self-maximization from becoming self-undermining (in economics, and politics).



Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

7 most valuable college majors for the future

The most valuable college majors will prepare students for a world right out a science fiction novel.

Harvard University
Technology & Innovation
  • The future of work is going to require a range of skills learned that take into account cutting edge advancements in technology and science.
  • The most valuable college majors in the future will prepare students for new economies and areas of commerce.
  • Mathematics, engineering and science related educational majors will become an ubiqitous feature of the new job market.
Keep reading Show less

The real numbers behind abortions in the United States

How many abortions are actually performed? Numbers reveal the complexity in the raging debate.

Getty Images.
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The American society is close to split on the legality of abortions.
  • 45,789,558 abortions were carried out in the U.S. between 1970 and 2015.
  • The abortion numbers are at an all-time low now, trending almost half of what they were.
Keep reading Show less