Only sociologists would find it astounding that babies make “moral” decisions. The author, Dr. Paul Bloom, a psychologist, says, “Why would anyone even entertain the thought of babies as moral beings? ” Apparently it’s all in the definition of “moral,” because any sociobiologist would assume as much without giving the matter a second thought.
From Sigmund Freud to Jean Piaget to Lawrence Kohlberg, psychologists have long argued that we begin life as amoral animals. One important task of society, particularly of parents, is to turn babies into civilized beings…
Perhaps psychologists have, but they are not actually equipped to make this argument. Any sociobiologist would argue in fact that babies are absolutely predisposed to morality.
Why this disparity? As suggested above, it probably has to do with the definition of “moral.” Psychologists and sociologists seem to have a very abstract concept of this term, which is probably why they don’t think babies should achieve morality – they presumably lack an ability to think in abstract terms.
Sociobiologists on the other hand, people like Frans de Waal, define morality as a set of rules that are necessary to follow in order be a successful member of society. As a corollary, morality exists in all social species, not just humans. Morality is the respect an individual shows to others of the group, so that the others will in turn respect that individual. When everyone plays fair, and by the same set of rules, all members of the society benefit. It is all about reciprocity, because if I cheat you to gain an advantage, you won’t want to deal with me in the future. It is a losing strategy in the long run, even if it gives me an advantage in the short term. Just think about the well known difference between the behavior of domestic dogs and cats: dogs, animals derived from social species, are very trainable because they care so much about what other members of their group (even the human members) think about them. Cats are relatively untrainable because they are derived from solitary species, and so they perceive no reciprocal benefit to pleasing another member of the group. In short, they don’t really care what you think of them.
The babies in Bloom’s article demonstrate that morality is nothing but a set of rules to live by. A baby as young as one year old believed in a study that someone who behaved in an antisocial, unfair way, should be punished. But how does such a young baby already understand these rules so well? Because a baby that is of a social species is designed to start learning the rules governing society from day one. That is the way they will develop into successful adults, and they learn the rules by observing the behavior of older members of their group. (This is why good role models are so important in preventing antisocial behavior in humans.)
Incidentally, this is also why studies searching for “genetic” differences between genders using babies and toddlers are completely idiotic, because they make the bizarre assumption that a three-year-old has not yet had the chance to absorb the rules for behavior that apply to its specific gender. Psychologists and sociologists fail to understand this simple truth, because they are not trained in sociobiology. Perhaps if they knew more evolutionary biology they would think more deeply about the broader context of human behavior. But what is baffling is that they think they can study the brain and human interactions without understanding the basic biology of social animals.