Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

In secular morality, the majority rules

Science | Experiment shows people accept as right that which is common
by Julie Borg
Posted 10/26/17, 01:00 pm

Parents of teens commonly hear, “Everybody else is doing it!” But adolescents are not the only ones who judge right or wrong by others’ actions. Two recent studies on morality showed the choices of the majority often dictate society’s moral standards.

In one study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers gave people money and asked them to play a game in which they could either invest the money for the benefit of all players or keep it for themselves. After each round, another group of participants judged whether the players made morally correct choices and recommended penalties for players who made selfish choices. The observers proposed less severe penalties if most of the players made selfish decisions.

The study showed social conformity strongly influences beliefs about right and wrong, meaning changes in the social environment can quickly alter people’s moral compasses, the researchers said.

But, lead researcher Andreas Olsson said in a statement, “The fact that a behavior is common doesn’t automatically mean that it’s right—this idea is based on flawed logic that confuses facts with moral values.”

In a similar study published in the journal Management Science, researchers showed 273 study participants a video of a single die roll and asked them to report what number they saw. The researchers paid the participants according to whatever number they reported—the higher the number, the higher the pay. Those who participated as individuals responded much more honestly than those in a group. Even people who responded honestly as individuals lied later when they were part of a group.

Group decision-making discussions cause people to doubt the honesty of others, which in turn helps people justify their own dishonest behavior, Lisa Spantig, one of the student researchers, said in a statement.

The studies show the idea that the majority determines right and wrong runs rampant in our society, Avery Foley wrote on the Answers in Genesis blog. But Christians derive their ideas of morality from the Bible.

“When we start with God’s Word, we aren’t prisoners to the changing tide of public opinion,” Foley wrote “The principles in God’s Word are timeless and apply to all Christians, in all times, and can be used in all situations.”

Gene mutation found for vampire-like illness

It’s the time of year when vampires appear to lurk everywhere, from childrens’ costumes to greeting cards to haunted houses. Some scientists believe vampire myths originated from stories about real people suffering from a blood disease known as erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP).

EPP, one of a group of blood disorders known as porphyrias, affects the body’s ability to make heme, the hemoglobin component that gives blood its red color. Researchers recently reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the discovery of a genetic mutation that triggers EPP. People born with the disorder suffer chronic anemia that makes them exhausted and causes pale skin and extreme sensitivity to light.

“Even on a cloudy day, there’s enough ultraviolet light to cause blistering and disfigurement of the exposed body parts, ears, and nose,” Barry Paw, a physician with the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said in a statement. Even trace amounts of sunlight passing through window glass can cause swelling, burning and inflammation of exposed skin.

The researchers said people in ancient times with the disorder possibly emerged only at night and drank animal blood to help alleviate some of the symptoms, contributing to myths about vampires.

Paw said he hoped the study would assist medical researchers in developing methods that correct the faulty genes. “Although vampires aren’t real, there is a real need for innovative therapies to improve the lives of people with porphyrias,” he said. —J.B.

Associated Press/Photo by Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap Associated Press/Photo by Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap A Sept. 2016 report on South Korean TV about a possible North Korean nuclear test

North Korea’s nuclear test mountain could collapse

Scientists warn that the 7,200-foot mountain under which North Korea detonated six nuclear test bombs since 2006 could collapse. North Korea has conducted its tests so far at Punggye-ri, a system of tunnels dug under mountains. Experts say Mount Mantap, the highest point in the test site, shows signs of “tired mountain syndrome.”

The last massive detonation on Sept. 3 caused the mountain to shift and triggered landslides, upheaval of ground areas, and a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that even reached across the border into China, the BBC reported. The region does not generally experience naturally occurring earthquakes. The analysis group 38 North published satellite pictures that showed increased geological activity and landslides.

Experts warned any more detonations could cause an environmental disaster. “Another test might cause the whole mountain to cave in on itself, leaving only a hole from which radiation could escape and drift across the region, including China,” Wang Naiyan, former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and senior researcher on China’s nuclear weapons program, told the South China Morning Post.

The risk that North Korea will conduct any future tests under the same mountain seems high because only a mountain with a high peak but relatively flat slopes is suitable for nuclear bomb testing. North Korea occupies limited land area and likely lacks many suitable peaks from which to choose, Wang said. —J.B.

Flowers’ blue halo attracts bees

Scientists now know why some flowers radiate blue halos of light. In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers used artificial flowers and discovered that blue light attracts bees, necessary for pollination.

Most flowers can’t produce the color blue. But the scientists discovered that a few flowers possess a series of small ridges in the thin, waxy, pigmented surface their petals. When sunlight strikes the ridges, they reflect back blue spectrum light waves, creating a halo of blue light around the flower.

People can see the halos if they look from certain angles over the dark colored areas of the petals. The halo trick is uncommon, but many species of tulips and some kinds of daisies and peonies can do it, Edwige Moyroud of Cambridge University said in a statement. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 10/26/2017 10:03 pm

    Majority morality is not just a secular trait.  I learned in 2016 that Christians can be quite good at punishing those who resist the majority view.

  • KeithT
    Posted: Fri, 10/27/2017 02:58 am

    Brendan, I hear ya.

    Posted: Fri, 10/27/2017 10:39 am

    Could it be that most people care more about being accepted by the group than being moral or right?

  • socialworker
    Posted: Mon, 10/30/2017 09:14 am

    Yes, and that would be the sin of NOT loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength.  And we are all guilty of that at times.