A spring evening program co-sponsored by The Hastings Center

The Origins of Morality: How Biology and Culture Shape Us


Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Registration: 5:30 p.m.
Program: 6:00 p.m.
Reception to follow

Caspary Auditorium
The Rockefeller University
66th Street at York Avenue

Is a sense of right and wrong learned or inborn? In recent years, psychologists have discovered intriguing clues about a variety of inborn traits through studies of infant behavior that measure non-verbal responses. Babies understand that there’s something unnatural about an object that levitates in defiance of gravity, for example. They can also tell the difference between groups of two and three objects, even though they don’t know numbers.

Paul Bloom/ photo: Greg MartinSensitivity to moral choices—a much more complicated human quality—has long fascinated Paul Bloom, Ph.D., distinguished cognitive scientist, psychology professor, award-winning author, and parent. His groundbreaking studies have demonstrated that infants can distinguish between “good” and “bad” behavior in a wordless puppet performance. Some babies are even inclined to dispense justice through punishment and reward, and to favor others who do the same.

In his most recent book, Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, Dr. Bloom explores the surprising moral proclivities with which we are born, as well as the critical importance of socialization and reason in the development of a mature sense of morality. Dr. Bloom’s findings have provided a nuanced understanding of human beings’ innate sense of justice and the role that learning plays in shaping moral behavior and personality as children grow up.

Parents & Science is delighted to feature Paul Bloom as the speaker for this intriguing evening event that will be co-sponsored by The Hastings Center, one of the nation’s leading bioethics research institutes. Dr. Bloom is the renowned Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University, in addition to being a published author of over 100 scientific articles and in popular publications including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Seed, Natural History, and The Guardian. Following his presentation, the program will include a discussion with two additional experts whose work is highly relevant to the development of an individual’s moral code.

Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D., Alfred E. Mirsky Professor at The Rockefeller University and Faculty Advisor for the P&S Initiative, has elucidated the brain’s interactions with sex hormones and with corticosteroids—the so-called “stress hormones.” He has made critical findings about the effects of stress on the developing brain.

Mildred Z. Solomon, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of The Hastings Center is a social scientist and educator who explores questions of ethics in health, healthcare, and public health.

Rockefeller University Vice President for Academic Affairs and Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor Michael W. Young, Ph.D. will host the program.


For more information, please contact Ainslie Durnin at (212) 327-8698 or adurnin@rockefeller.edu.

Richard Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University

Parents & Science
Faculty Advisor

Bruce S. McEwen, Ph.D.
Alfred E. Mirsky Professor
Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch
Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology

Parents & Science Leadership


Daniella Lipper Coules
Talbott Simonds

Steering Committee

Rebecca Anikstein
John Bernstein
Charles W. Caulkins
Karen de Saint Phalle
Blair Pillsbury Enders
Wendy Ettinger
Kathy Heinzelman
Tania Neild, Ph.D.
Ilona Nemeth
Marean Pompidou
Courtney Smith Rae
Loli Echavarria Roosevelt
Kimberly Kravis Schulhof
Roxy Zajac

Scientific Advisory Council

Evelyn Attia, M.D.
BJ Casey, Ph.D.
Myron Hofer, M.D.
Ilene Sackler Lefcourt
Margaret McCarthy, Ph.D.
Richard Nisbett, Ph.D.
Michael Thompson, Ph.D.

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