Steven Pinker, professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard. (Excerpt of "The Blank Slate")

pinkerquote When Galileo attracted the unwanted attention of the Inquisition in 1633, more was at stake than issues in astronomy. By stating that the Earth revolved around the sun rather than vice versa, Galileo was contradicting the literal truth of the Bible. Worse, he was challenging a theory of the moral order of the universe.
Today we see things in the Galileo's way. It's hard for us to imagine why the three-dimensional arrangement of rock and gas in space should have anything to do with right and wrong or with the meaning and purpose of our lives. The moral sensibilities of Galileo's time eventually adjusted to the astronomical facts, not just because they had to give a nod to reality but because the very idea that morality has something to do with a Great Chain of Being was daffy to begin with.
We are now living, I think, through a similar transition. The Blank Slate is today's Great Chain of Being: a doctrine that is widely embraced as a rationale for meaning and morality and that is under assault from the sciences of the day. As in the century following Galileo, our moral sensibilities will adjust to the biological facts, not only because facts are facts but because the moral credentials of the Blank Slate are just as spurious.
The refusal to acknowledge human nature is like the Victorians’ embarrassment about sex, only worse: it distorts our science and scholarship, our public discourse, and our day-to-day lives

 

Frans de Waalprimatologist 

dewaalquoteTo endow animals with human emotions has long been a scientific taboo. But if we do not, we risk missing something fundamental, about both animals and us. I've argued that many of what philosophers call moral sentiments can be seen in other species. In chimpanzees and other animals, you see examples of sympathy, empathy, reciprocity, a willingness to follow social rules.

 

 

Daniel Kahneman, psychologist

kahnemanquoteOur intuition is really fooling us in repeatable, predictable, consistent way. And there is nothing we can do about it. And if we have these predictable, repeatable mistakes in vision, in which we are so good at, what's the chance that we don't make even more mistakes in something we are not as good at. For example financial decision making, something we don't have an evolutionary reason to do, we don't have a specialized part of the brain for and we don't do that many hours during the day? In those cases, the argument might be that we actually make many more mistakes, and worse, we do not have an easy way to see them. When decision making are too complex, we just pick whatever option was chosen for us. Because we don't know our preferences that well, we are susceptible to all these influences from the external forces. When we come to the physical word we kind of understand our limitations, but when we come to the mental word we forget our limitations.