about the site

The Good Delusion is dedicated to scientific discoveries and debates that shape our understanding of morality, focusing in particular on the questions: Do moral truths exist?  And if so, can scientific methods be used to discover them?

The title of the site is a rather obvious play on Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion. It suggests a skeptical view of moral truth claims, akin to skepticism regarding religious claims.  Both types of claims involve powerful internal convictions that may have functional (even beneficial) properties for the organization of our lives.  However, since they are delusions, clinging to a belief in their external reality (something true for everyone else) may blind us to facts about the world in which we live.

Common symptoms of the good delusion include beliefs that…
  1. moral feelings of "good" and "bad" represent objective facts about the external world
  2. humans (due to common ancestry) share a common set of moral beliefs or expectations
  3. objective moral "progress" is possible, and defined by convergence to specific moral rules
  4. the longterm success or failure of humanity rests on our convergence to specific moral rules
Such claims are often found in the writings of so-called moral realists, as they champion their preferred set of moral rules.  But these claims seem incongruous with the overwhelming evidence of moral diversity among humans, and unparalleled success for our species despite this diversity. 

Perhaps not surprising, I happen to believe universal moral truths do not exist, and that science cannot be used to generate normative moral statements.  To my mind, science can inform our personal moral choices, and help us understand the moral positions others hold, but that is largely a descriptive enterprise. 

In contrast to the beliefs listed above, I would argue that…
  1. moral feelings of "good" and "bad" represent objective facts about internal mental states that hold no (necessary) validity beyond the confines of one's brain
  2. humans (despite common ancestry) likely will not share a common set of moral beliefs or expectations
  3. only subjective moral "progress" is possible, defined by popularization of one's desired moral expectations
  4. the longterm success or failure of humanity could just as easily rest on extensive moral diversity rather than unity
This is not to argue that moral judgements aren't real.  People make them all the time.  Nor am I arguing that moral judgments are meaningless or without purpose.  They help define our character and shape our actions.  And finally, I am not arguing that all moral beliefs result in equal outcomes or should be equally desirable. A moral belief that all strangers are evil and must be killed, will generate very different outcomes than a belief all strangers are good and must be welcomed like royalty.  Clearly, anyone wanting to travel or trade with people outside their own community should welcome a spread in popularity of the latter moral norm!

That said, I could be wrong about everything.  Hence the site.