Is science ethically neutral, or can it supplant religion in providing a moral compass? On a series of studies finding that exposure to science (either in one’s personal background or merely by being asked to think about science momentarily) made college students more likely to divide up money fairly, more likely to express interest in positive behaviors such as volunteering and donating blood, and more likely to strongly condemn a date rapist in a hypothetical story:
No studies to date [had] directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors.
Across four studies, both naturalistic measures of science exposure and experimental primes of science led to increased adherence to moral norms and more morally normative behaviors across domains.
Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality.
We contend that there is a lay image or notion of “science” that is associated with concepts of rationality, impartiality, fairness, technological progress, and ultimately, the idea that we are to use these rational tools for the mutual benefit of all people in society.