Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Yuk-Factor

This is an interesting quiz (thanks to MarginalRevolution for the pointer). I took it and got the following scores:

Your Moralising Quotient is: 0.40.
Your Interference Factor is: 0.00.
Your Universalising Factor is: 1.00.

Take it yourself and then come back here.

Ok. So you're back. Here's the thing that I wanted to comment on. After the quiz, they gave you some of what they're trying to get to and their rationale for the quiz. This I found interesting:
Nevertheless, it is probably right that we are suspicious of moral judgements which are rooted in the "yuk-factor". Steve Pinker, in The Blank Slate, puts it like this: "The difference between a defensible moral position and an atavistic gut feeling is that with the former we can give reasons why our conviction is valid. We can explain why torture and murder and rape are wrong, or why we should oppose discrimination and injustice. On the other hand, no good reasons can be produced to show why homosexuality should be suppressed or why the races should be segregated. And the good reasons for a moral position are not pulled out of thin air: they always have to do with what makes people better off or worse off, and are grounded in the logic that we have to treat other people in the way that we demand they treat us."
I find it interesting, because I think you could put forth the argument that says that everything, including those things listed, all fall back on some feeling of "Yuk, that's bad." CS Lewis made this argument in "Mere Christianity" when he tried to define the "Law of Human Nature". Even if we say that "harm is caused", on what basis of reason do we say that harm is inherently wrong? Don't we just feel that it's wrong? Perhaps it leads to uncomfortable consequences if pursued, but what makes uncomfortable any more inherently wrong than comfortable? They rely on the golden rule; what makes it any more inherently right than it's opposite?

Ultimately, I fall on the side of "there is unverisal right and wrong", which is demonstrated in my score. Our "feeling" of something being wrong, is part of our innate ability to sense those universal truths. That feeling is no less of a sense (IMHO) than the sense of touch or smell. And as such, I have little doubt that we can be confused by what we're sensing, and that we can perceive things individually that others cannot. That means that responding to that sense is no more or less rational than responding to something smelling bad or responding to being poked by someone else. It doesn't matter that no one else smelled that thing or felt the poke; responding to it is rational. In the same way, responding to the sense of "yuk, that's wrong" can be seen as equally rational.

In fact, it *should* be seen as rational. One of the lessons of Christianity is that much of the evil in the world is a result of our sense of wrong being dulled by sin. In other words, its the fact that we have irrationally ignored that sense that has lead to more wrong and more evil.

Count me on the side of the "Yuk-Factor".

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