May 5, 2010
No, maintains cosmologist Sean Carroll, who first responded to Sam Harris’ TED talk on the subject a couple of months back. (Harris’ main point is that science can help us get at what we ought to do to live the best life possible). Now, Carroll explains his objections in more detail.
In essence, he argues that in the real world, people don’t agree on what constitutes “well-being,” and it’s not clear that maximizing well-being is the proper goal of morality. And there are no experiments we can do to determine what well-being really is or how we should balance an individual’s well-being against the community’s. In other words, there is no scientific way to answer moral questions. We can use science to help us understand morality, he says, but we can’t use it to justify our moral values.
As he explains:
The whole debate is somewhat distressing, as we could be engaged in an interesting and fruitful discussion about how scientific methods could help us with our moral judgments, if we hadn’t been distracted by the misguided attempt to found moral judgments on science. It’s a subtle distinction, but this is a subtle game.