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Pinker, On Morality

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

In "The Moral Instinct," Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, describes a new sixth sense. "The moral sense," he calls it. It's the way we, as human beings, determine what issues are moral or amoral. Take smoking, for instance. Years ago, it was widely considered to be a health issue. Many non-smokers didn't smoke because they worried about how cigarettes could affect their lungs and heart. When scientists determined that second-hand smoke was unhealthy too, smoking became a moral issue.

By Pinker's estimation, there is a new science of morality. Scientists study how we decide what we think is moral, and why and how our interpretation of morality changes. In our second hour, Pinker will join us to talk about our moral instinct. How have you decided what is right and wrong? Has your sense of what is right and wrong changed?

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David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.