Moral hard-wiring and moral enhancement
Persson I., Savulescu J.
© 2017 The Authors Bioethics Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. We have argued for an urgent need for moral bioenhancement; that human moral psychology is limited in its ability to address current existential threats due to the evolutionary function of morality to maximize cooperation in small groups. We address here Powell and Buchanan’s novel objection that there is an ‘inclusivist anomaly’: humans have the capacity to care beyond in-groups. They propose that ‘exclusivist’ (group-based) morality is sensitive to environmental cues that historically indicated out-group threat. When this is not present, we are inclusivist. They conclude that moral bioenhancement is unnecessary or less effective than socio-cultural interventions. We argue that Powell and Buchanan underestimate the hard-wiring features of moral psychology; their appeal to adaptively plastic, conditionally expressed responses accounts for only a fragment of our moral psychology. In addition to restrictions on our altruistic concern that their account addresses - such as racism and sexism - there are ones it is ill-suited to address: that our concern is stronger for kin and friends and for concrete individuals rather than for statistical lives; also our bias towards the near future. Hard-wired features of our moral psychology that are not clearly restrictions in altruistic concern also include reciprocity, tit-for-tat, and others. Biomedical means are not the only, and maybe not the most important, means of moral enhancement. Socio-cultural means are of great importance and there are currently no biomedical interventions for many hard-wired features. Nevertheless research is desirable because the influence of these features is greater than our critics think.