That’s right – people are good! You might think that the world is a dangerous place or what have you, but, when you get down to it people just hate violence. Indeed, we as a species are measurably opposed and troubled by violence against other people.
The implications of this seemingly obvious result are really interesting. The idea of physically harming someone right in front of you is considered to be the most potent moral circumstance. Sarah McLaughlin talking about dog adoption behind sappy music might make you change the channel, but kicking a stray dog in the face will seriously mess with your conscience. How about a better example. Take the following moral dilemma:
A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people, but a bystander who is standing on a footbridge can shove a man in front of the train, saving the five people but killing the man. Is it permissible to shove the man?
Across cultures, genders, ages, and races, the result is essentially the same and has been replicated countless times: over 90% of respondents consider this act impermissible. People just don’t want to have to do the pushing themselves. When a “lever” is added to the problem, and the person questioned can now drop the bystander onto the tracks without physically touching him, the result is flipped and 95% of people find it permissible.