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The Morality Pill

While there is no pharmaceutical product today which is marketed specifically as a morality enhancing drug,  the reality of it is not too far away. 

Empathy. Self control. Increased trust. Even a diminishing of subconscious racial bias. These are some of the known side effects of medications that millions of people take for depression, Parkinsons, and other mental health issues and diseases.

The CBC did a segment on this so-called morality pill and it's potential implications. There are so many questions that arise-- the first of which, for me, is 'whose morals?' Also, would being more 'moral' -- however you define it-- ultimately be good for every individual?

I guess there is some irony, or at least a seeming contradiction, when I say that I don't necessarily endorse the chemical enhancement of empathy, trust, and even self-control. Even the curtailing of subconscious bias (though racial bias, is a different beast altogether whether subconscious or overt) may not be a step forward in every case.  I have met may people who struggle with the burden of being overly empathetic. Consider that, from birth, we teach our kids to trust some people to the implied exclusion of everyone else. Even bias, to some degree, is something we cultivate in order to protect ourselves. Escalating our natural or learned tendencies in any of these areas could actually prove harmful. 

If we drop the canopy name of 'morality' and focus on the individual traits that are affected, we need to ask if there is, ultimately, some benefit to being self-centered.  In fact the very basis of one of our three pillars: Care, is that empathy starts at home.  We need to have a stable but not over-inflated sense of self so that we can meaningfully and safely engage with other people.  Empathy, trust, bias, leadership-- these are all aspects of ourselves that we should continuously be fine-tuning and readjusting.   

Of course, I would not throw out the baby with the bath water. Certain people who deal with ADHD, anxiety, and depression rely on medication to add function to their lives, and I believe that we are blessed to have these options available to us.  However, I would hope that a morality pill, if the idea ever comes to fruition, would be administered with as least as much care as any other psychiatric drug.  

The availability of such a pill can spawn a library full of fantasy novel scenarios. What do you think the effects of a morality pill might be? What questions would it raise?

I would love to hear your opinion. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section!

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