Moral dilemma? Brain tells right from wrong

It’s wartime, and an enemy doctor is conducting painful and inevitably fatal experiments on children. You have two kids, ages 8 and 5. You can surrender one of them within 24 hours or the doctor will kill both. What is the right thing to do?

For most people, this scenario based on one in William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice is almost an impossible dilemma.

But for a group of people with damage in a part of the brain’s frontal lobe that helps govern emotions, the decision is far clearer. They would allow one child to die.

Scientists say a study involving these people has produced unique insights into the brain mechanics of moral decision making and shows that in some key situations emotions play a fundamental role in moral judgements.

Full Story: ABC (Australia).

(Thanks Ulysses Lazarus!)

(see also: Re-Thinking Disorders).


  1. I’d watch em closely, and whichever one seems most likely to express my fucked up genes would go.

    Or whichever one gave the best back rubs could stay.

    Or whichever one was pissing me off the most would go.

    I don’t fucking know. I don’t have kids, don’t want them for that very reason.

  2. Extreme or rare situations are poor deliniators for determining morality. This is because morals are not standards. Standards are binary: you did eat the pork, you did not eat the pork. Standards will always break under extreme or rare situations, and thus say nothing much about whether the standard was moral.

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