Some people are unable to feel empathy because they have the AA gene and not the GG gene. 

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Justice and empathy are linked. Truth does not seem to be informed by empathy, unless by the golden rule. Tell the truth to others because you want them to tell the truth to you. Then there are modesty, chastity, and obedience. I forgot those. I ALWAYS try to forget those!
Empathy does affect when you tell the truth or lie, though. You may lie to protect that person or be honest because you would feel bad lying. Without empathy, truth or lies are whichever benefit you more.
Linking empathy to morality is at best tenuous. Atypical empathy as usually linked to autism spectrum disorders, and implied by the article, is one thing. Linking it to immorality / amorality is another. ASD people very often exhibit scrupulous moral / ethical standards, live it in practice and expect the same in others. Nor is atypical empathy common to the great maniacs in history - they knew what they where doing, they related to their victims, they simply didn't consider them important in comparison to the quest for personal power or ambition.

This I suspect is just more junk journalism reading more into the story than the researchers would be comfortable with for the sake of capturing reader interest.
A highly intelligent fellow wrote the following:
"I don't care that much that animals are killed. This is not my problem. It is yours. I understand what you are saying... I just disagree with it. I have my reasons for disagreeing with it but you dismiss my reasons.... whatever... You are preaching, and it is all about humanising animals as far as I can tell.
Of course animals feel pain and have fear, but I am not a buddhist. Reducing animal suffering will not reward me in a future life or through some cosmic justice. I do not care that much."

felch, you wrote, about maniacs, did you mean famous murderers?:
"they knew what they where doing, they related to their victims, they simply didn't consider them important in comparison to the quest for personal power or ambition."

Neither of us knows for sure whether a murderer was capable of feeling empathy for, or to identify with, his victims. Murderers who stood trial were deemed to know that murder was against the law. No shrink pronounced them capable of empathy. Like the writer above, they intellectually knew the results of their behavior, they just didn't, "care that much."

I think that they are not capable of feeling empathy to some degree. Of course, I can't know for sure. I will continue to follow research in this most fascinating field.
The number of children born with Autism Spectrum Disorders has increased beyond explanation. My family, and perhaps yours, has a member struggling with autism. I did not mean to suggest that these people do not behave morally. I'm sorry. I am suggesting that people with no diagnosis of autism, have widely varying abilities to feel empathy.

When it comes to wanting to reduce the suffering of others, when we get no reward for it, some of us, " just don't care that much".
Well, I am clearly biased in favor of animals and totally agree with "The measure of a society is how well it treats it's animals" and/or children, the elderly, the weakest, the disabled etc. I suspect the "highly intelligent fellow" that wrote that may, indeed, be Hannibal Lecter!

My friend has a son in middle school who is on the spectrum you suggest and I always think of him as being very literal and "rational" about some things but unable to regulate his frustration levels.  He's getting better, however.

He is often very aware that he has done something 'wrong' and is very hard on himself about it.  Self destructive at times.  But he will also lie to his mother's face...when she knows the 'truth', he will continue to construct some very intricate stories about why he behaved the way he did.  Since he was a toddler, my friend has struggled with teaching him to be honest and 'tell the truth' continues to be a struggle since he doesn't appear to understand the concept!

I'm wondering how long until they're testing this theory on people diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy.
I think morals are only partially defined by genes, I think a lot of things are defined partially by genes and partially by environment. o and empathy isn't the only thing that defines morality.
It's a pro-society gene, not a morality gene, and it deals with a very specific type of social bond - mating. Individuals who have low levels of oxytocin tend not to bond to their mates, or a mother will not bond with her child.

But even that is a very monogamous, patriarchal view of what "society" should look like.

The Mosuo, a matriarchal society that resides in China, do not bond with mates. Girls choose to take guys home for the night, and if they get pregnant, the child is raised by her family, which includes her brothers, which is quite different than the patriarchal notion of a father looking after his "line".

Does that mean the Mosuo are lacking in the empathy department or that their societies are not as strong? The evidence suggests the opposite, by bonding to groups instead of individuals, their society is knit more tightly, and while an individual mother may not bond with her child do to hormonal factors, it doesn't matter as her family is their to pick up the slack.
All morals come down to fairness--no cheating. Nobody should get cuts in line. Nobody should get singled out for punishment or reward arbitrarily. You can get a bigger slice of pie, but you should have to work for it, no shortcuts. Empathy is just an emotional calculator that helps you decide whether something is fair by putting yourself in the shoes of the other guy. Questions of justice can be evaluated by empathy, because you can feel what it would be like to get shafted. Same for truth--you know what it's like to be lied to, and lying is a form of cheating, getting what you want by circumventing the rules.

But emotional reasoning is not the only way to come to this conclusion; you don't have to feel the other guy's pain in order to want to avoid loss, and reasonably intelligent people understand that a level playing field leads to the most positive outcomes for the most people, including themselves. If you lack empathy, you still have game theory at your disposal to evaluate potential outcomes. Monsters like Ted Bundy don't merely lack empathy. They don't regard their victims as having any value at all, except perhaps as prey. Of course, it's not just serial killers that practice dehumanization of victims. War criminals generally have to convince themselves that what they're doing is right and just. Whether they have no empathy from birth or they actively suppress it during war, dehumanizers also convince themselves that it's reasonable to put their interests ahead of their victims', either by thinking of them as objects or as evil.

Empathy is handy, but not required, to evaluate moral questions. In some cases, it can even cloud proper moral judgment, when criminals are viewed too sympathetically. I'm not sure empathy on its own can decide moral questions, actually, but it certainly helps glue society together.

Thanks for sharing that article...fascinating stuff to think about.  I find the autism link very interesting and wonder if a medical/chemical treatment could be developed someday to help people by balancing their oxytocin levels.  I really think it's important to study these kinds of 'chemical imbalances'.  So much has been studied about testosterone.  I'm glad oxytocin is getting some attention!  There is also interesting research being done about meditation and its effects on brain chemistry....mapping out happiness/contentment as a region of the brain.


The connection between ocytocin levels and stress levels is also a very interesting one...the fact that anxiety levels can be reduced.  Except, of course, for the people that are immune to the effects of oxytocin... who got the cute label of 'bastards'.  Those are the people that are always anxious and the type A personalities, I suppose. I think I know some of those people and will suggest they become test subjects (ha ha). 


To think that there are chemicals being excreted from my brain to modulate my moods and my social trusting I feel, how stressed I feel.  It is amazing to think about behavior in a biochemical part of the way the human brain processes information.  (Of course I realize environmental and cultural factors affect behavior, as well, but it is thought- provoking to think about our evolutionary past and how our 'social' traits have developed and helped us survive as a species.)

I know what you mean about the bible and its so-called moral guidance and self promotion of moral superiority. 


Morality pre-dates religion and most certainly the Judeo-Christian religions.  The argument has been made that our earliest human ancestors, primates, and even non-primate social animals like wolves/dogs have certain traits that can be defined as 'moral' traits.  In the extensive work of Frans de Waal, for example, there are interesting discussions about the punishment of 'cheaters' in chimp societies...about conflict management and resolution, peace-making efforts, elders as intermediaries in disputes, compassion toward the sick/dying, etc.  In the book, "The Ethical Dog", Bekoff and Pierce discuss behaviors that cultivate and regulate social interactions in canine groups: altruism, tolerance, forgiveness, reciprocity.  One of my favorite quotes from their book (which can certainly be applied to human behavior) is "Understanding and tolerance are abundant during play as well as in daily pack life".   It's the intolerance of the conservative Christian religions that conflicts with their attempts to be "Christ-like"... they're always willing to dismiss this as their 'human weakness' and 'sinning nature'....and, to make it even better, they're convinced they're forgiven and 'saved' anyhow!!  Which sort of defeats the purpose of even trying to be good...ha ha.




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