Jon Bloom presents us an interesting question. “How can we best understand our moral natures?” Surely he points out that theology may be best suited to answer that question, or perhaps Philosophy has the best thinkers on the subject. He goes beyond both of those as the authority on the subject and as can be expected, points to science as the best method for figuring out and piecing together our moral lives. Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil is a out working of the mind of Bloom, a distinguished developmental psychologist, in the ways that morality comes naturally to us.
I was engaged as I read through this volume, though not convinced. Blooms arguments sounds like much of what Albrecht Ritschl was trying to do in his theological formulations. He was, to the extent that I understand it, trying to create a blank-slate world that was neither good nor evil. Placing the human in the midst of this neutral society he makes the point that we are not born with a propensity towards good or evil but because this world is evil and we are ignorant of the good, our bad or sinful side takes over. The only difference I see here is that Bloom gets rid of God.
Instead of placing the center of the discussion on God he substitutes science and development psychology at the forefront of the means for observing these moral capabilities in children. The whole matter is a little overwhelming and complex but Bloom does an excellent job of clarifying his points and sounds rather convincing for much of this book.
This book will help to fortify the position of some secular humanists, even some Christians who stand by evolution. I thought Bloom drew well on his sources but left out some important theologians and philosophers who were arguing against the points he is making. Though Bloom doesn’t make it a point to bring those two diverse groupings into his writings, he does wrestle with those in his own field and comes out the victor in most places.
This book is intense and a little too deep for beginners, like myself. Some of the arguments allowed me to think differently about what position those outside of Christianity hold to, which we all need lest we enjoy setting up straw arguments. As a beginner to the apologetic enterprise I think this volume was very helpful in seeing where the popular opinions lie and where academia is headed. Not that I’m new to secular humanism, but this volume did present some new arguments that I had not yet come across. Good stuff for those on both sides of the fence on this topic.