Far from being divinely inspired and objective, a recent study shows that morality can be skewed by applying magnetic pulses to a region of the brain behind the right ear.
The study has wide ranging implications that show that, not only is morality subjective, it is mechanical and malleable.
"We judge people not just for what they do, but what they're thinking at the time of their action, what they're intending," Young says. But, she says, a brief magnetic pulse was able to change that.
The fact that scientists can adjust morality with a magnet may be disconcerting to people who view morality as a lofty and immutable human trait, says Joshua Greene, psychologist at Harvard University. But that view isn't accurate, he says.
"Moral judgment is just a brain process," he says. "That's precisely why it's possible for these researchers to influence it using electromagnetic pulses on the surface of the brain."
The new study is really part of a much larger effort by scientists to explain how the brain creates moral judgments, Greene says. The scientists are trying to take concepts such as morality, which philosophers once attributed to the human soul, and "break it down in mechanical terms."
If something as complex as morality has a mechanical explanation, Green says, it will be hard to argue that people have, or need, a soul.Indeed.
In the last year, we have had evidence now to show that morality is subject to influence by magnetism, and that free will is an illusion. Those gaps God has to hide in are slowly getting filled.