It’s easy to think that today’s world is an awful place full of murderers, theives, rapists, and other degenerates. When you turn on the news, it’s certainly easy to think the worst. The truth is, however, that we are living in the most peaceful age thus far for humanity. Jorge Moll, a neuroscientist at D’Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR) in Brazil, has conducted experiments that may build more faith in humanity.
Moll, a PhD and founding member of IDOR, was recently featured in the Washington Post in the article, “If it Feels Good to be Good, it Might Be Only Batural.” The Post summarizes the work of Moll and his contemporaries in neuroscience as they explore the origin of empathy and altruism. Studies of animals have previously shown a natural instinct to avoid earning pleasure by causing pain to others. In humans, the experiments are more cerebral; participants struggle with scenarios that ask them to sacrifice one for the many, while they undergo brain scans.
Other studies have looked at the brain’s response to helping someone near or far in proximity. Jorge Moll has found that moral emotions are rooted in the physical brain, not in the intangible soul or free will (https://crunchbase.com/person/jorge-moll). Psychopaths have brains that are predictably ‘dead’ in the areas flagged as empathy zones. These findings open up the possibility of treating the brain like it’s injured and trying to repair it.
Jorge Moll’s vision for the future is to combine technology with brain science to improve life for all people. One application of this morality study may be to help people understand that people who seem far away need help as much, maybe more, than people in close proximity to us. Convincing the brain to offer the same reward for helping people you cannot see would greatly improve life around the globe. The applications for Moll’s research are still being explored, but will certainly have far-reaching impacts.