A lot of people [theists in particular] argue that people are basically good. That when given the choice to do the right thing, they will. In 1962 - 1963 Stanley Milgram ran an experiment where random laypeople were place in positions where they could choose to harm or not to harm people. But there was a catch... they were being told to continue no matter what under the direction of an authority. Delivering painful electric shocks to another "subject" on the other end [actually an actor PRETENDING to recieve shocks, as none were actually being delivered] when the subject answered a question wrong. With each wrong answer the power of the shock went up, until it went into a range that was potentially lethal. The experiment's results shocked the scientific community. As it turned out, over TWO THIRDS of the subjects would go ALL THE WAY TO THE LETHAL END!! - Without knowing that they werent actually delivering shocks! Replicating this experiment [while controlling ethical guidelines] in the 21st century, the results are striking. Once again, the vast majority of people from all backrounds and personalities will deliver the shocks until the end despite the screams of the other subject. And this... is a powerful set of evidence that theists are very wrong when they say that "People Can CHOOSE to be Moral." - Perhaps... it is the opposite? It seems that in certain situations, the vast majority of people are willing to commit attrocities if they are being assured by authority [such in the real world could be the church? or The Nazis?] that they take no responsibility for the outcome!

Comment by Allen Sneed on February 23, 2010 at 9:24pm
It is very interesting. I remember reading about the Milgram experiment in college. I also read about a similar study done on monkeys. I lazily looked it up online and found the following reference to the experiment from Carl Sagan's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. I am sure a more thorough search would reveal the actual study.

"In a laboratory setting, macaques were fed if they were willing to pull a chain and electrically shock an unrelated macaque whose agony was in plain view through a one-way mirror. Otherwise, they starved. After learning the ropes, the monkeys frequently refused to pull the chain; in one experiment only 13% would do so – 87% preferred to go hungry. One macaque went without food for nearly two weeks rather than hurt its fellow. Macaques who had themselves been shocked in previous experiments were even less willing to pull the chain."
Comment by Mario Rodgers on February 23, 2010 at 9:34pm
So irreligious macaques have more morality than religious human beings?
Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on February 23, 2010 at 10:48pm
Apparently.
Comment by Michel-san on February 23, 2010 at 11:05pm
Wow! When the guy said he had a heart condition that should have made people think. Everyone has a moral obligation to act responsibly and make rational judgements in a potentially dangerous situation - in that situation it would mean stopping.

Morality aside, a test subject should have some thought to the law. If the experiment was real, and the person being shocked died - particularly toward the latter end of the experiment - it could be classed as criminal negligence. Faced with a potential jail sentence or at the very least criminal proceedings any rational person would stop at the first sign of health risk.

I think this demonstrates not only a lack of morality amongst people, but also a lack of rationality in judging their responsibilities within the law.

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