Until recently, accepted thinking was that infants and children are an entirely blank slate that must be carefully shaped in order to behave in a moral fashion. It was also not that long ago people believed infants did not feel pain.
We know that infants feel pain. We’ve also learned that they are not without something akin to recognition of moral judgement. They recognize cooperative behavior. And they also know and disapprove of injustice. They know it when they see it. This was confirmed by the responses of nearly every infant and toddler that was tested in cognitive experiments done at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale University.
One toddler even went so far as to dispense his own brand of justice to a puppet that was behaving badly. In the experiment one puppet interacted with two other puppets. The center puppet would slide a ball to the puppet on the right. That puppet would pass it back, but when the center puppet passed the ball to the puppet on the left, that puppet ran away with the ball. The puppets from the right and left were then brought out front and set down beside a pile of treats. The toddler was then asked to take a treat from one of the puppets. The nearly universal response was to take a treat from the pile of the left puppet. One little boy not only took the treat, but gave the puppet a smack on the head. Justice served.
So why would babies already have some rudimentary brain programming for cooperation? What could in some sense be almost termed moral judgement. Studies of artificial intelligence gave us the understanding that the empty “brain” cannot learn anything. There must be some rudimentary programming already in place for learning to take place. And in the sense of evolution of the human species, recognition of cooperative expression makes sense. It is not so much a moral judgement, but one of survival. We cooperate to join resources and we shun those who refuse to play fairly.
So what can we do to enhance the innate nature of the child? A new time is coming so how can we help in the process of our own evolution?
First, I believe we must decide that we want to evolve. Why evolve? And can we evolve with intention? Can we move through this time and evolve consciously?
Scientists have determined the planet is in the middle of its sixth mass extinction. The previous five were caused by enormous environmental upheavals of one sort or another. Based on what they found in fossil records, paleontologists Gould and Eldridge put forward the theory that relatively rapid evolutionary jumps have come about after long stretches of environmental stability interrupted by periods of catastrophic upheaval. Long, slow evolution over great periods of time was not the norm. Although he was on the trail, Darwin was not entirely correct and now we’re realizing a different picture of species evolution.
Others have proposed, a new picture of human evolution is forming. Either we work together or we’ll die out together. My bet is that we’ll come through shining. Humans can be brilliant and will take the jump in realizing that we are all one and extinguish the behavior that separates us. Some behaviors are disadvantageous and dangerous to our species future.
Perhaps that’s what the new earth prophesies have been talking about all along. A new time is coming. The ripple of new thought is already moving through humanity. When cooperative thought and action reaches critical mass in the population, to borrow a phrase from Torchwood, “that’s when it all changes.”