Skip to comments.A Recent Study Affirms that Conscience is innate and present even in the youngest children.
Posted on 03/31/2014 1:17:59 AM PDT by markomalley
I have written before on the blog that I think that our fundamental conscience, a sense of basic right and wrong, is infused. That is to say it is something with which we come equipped, rather than something we learn from social convention. As a believer, I would argue that this basic moral sense, our conscience is explained by the fact that God has written his Law upon our hearts.
It is my experience that deep down inside, most people know exactly what they are doing. It is true that the voice of ones conscience can either be intentionally suppressed or that competing voices can vie for our attention. But, still, under all the layers of denial, suppression, and contrary voices that may occur, we know well the basics of right and wrong. Some examples from pastoral experience:
And thus, while some people attempt to surround themselves with teachers and experts who will tickle their ears with false teaching and unsound doctrine, deep down inside, they know better. They know.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms the following about our conscience:
For Man has in his heart a law inscribed by God, This is his conscience, there he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths. It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self examination or introspection. (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1776, 1779)
Notice therefore that conscience is the innate sense of the law of God in each one of us. The conscience exists because God has written his law in everyones heart. His voice echoes in our soul and we must learn to listen to it and reflectively ponder its voice. It is there and we cannot ultimately deny it or silence it, though many do try.
Scripture too affirms the fundamental presence of conscience and the Law of God within every individual. For example:
When the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, or at times even defending them (Romans 2:14-15).
By the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every ones conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor 4:2)
That Conscience is infused or innately present in the human person seems affirmed by recent studies which show that even the youngest children have a basic sense of right and wrong. I have already observed that this is my experience. Even two year-olds seem to know when they have done wrong and also when something done to them or others is wrong.
The video at the bottom of the page is CNN coverage of the study. Here too are a few excerpts from the accompanying article By Paul Bloom of Yale University. The Full Article is here: Do Babies Know Right from Wrong?
Most adults have a sense of right and wrong. With the intriguing exception of some psychopaths, people are appalled by acts of cruelty, such as the rape of a child, and uplifted by acts of kindness, such as those heroes who jump onto subways tracks to rescue fallen strangers from oncoming trains.
There is a universal urge to help those in need and to punish wrongdoers and there are universal emotional responses that revolve around moralityanger when we are wronged, pride when we do the right thing and guilt when we transgress.
In Just Babies, I argue that much of this is the product of biological evolution. Humans are born with a hard-wired morality, a sense of good and evil is bred in the bone. I know this claim might sound outlandish, but its supported now by research in several laboratories. Babies and toddlers can judge the goodness and badness of others actions; they want to reward the good and punish the bad; they act to help those in distress; they feel compassion, guilt and righteous anger.
Many people believe we are born selfish and amoralthat we start off as pint-sized psychopaths .[this is ] mistaken.
We are naturally moral beings, but our environments can enhanceor, sadly, degradethis innate moral sense.
I would differ with Professor Bloom that our moral sense if the mere result of biological evolution. As I have stated I think our conscience is bestowed by God who writes his name on our hearts. It surely has biological components, since our brain is involved. But science can only note the evidence of the existence of the conscience, not really assert its origin. Thus I think Bloom oversteps what science can show. But otherwise he presents valuable confirmation of the Christian and biblical teaching on Conscience. Take time to watch the video below.
We who teach and try hand on the faith need to rediscover the fact of the conscience and never loose heart when we teach and appeal. We are ultimately appealing to things people already know. This is so at least in terms of basic and fundamental morality. There may be certain advanced topics that require informed discourse, but as to the basics, they are written in their hearts. All the protesting and anger are not necessarily signs that we have failed at all. It may be just the opposite. We may have struck more than a nerve, we may have touched the conscience. Dont lose heart.
It remains true that Conscience must be formed and reinforced- While we have a basic and innate sense of right and wrong and that God has written his law in our hearts, the Catechism also reminds us that, due to sin, we must also be open to having our conscience formed and its judgments refined:
Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator; yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and fruitful use of this inborn faculty The human mind is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the consequences of original sin. So it happens that men in such matters easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is false or at least doubtful. That is why man stands in need of being enlightened by Gods revelation about religious and moral truths so that they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error (CCC #s 37-38).
Notice that the catechism does not speak of the conscience as being removed but rather that the intellect, influenced by sin and disordered appetites, tries to persuade us of other ways of thinking. Hence we attempt either to suppress the truth, or at least consider it doubtful and open to alternative interpretation. This is why we stand in need of the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church to help us overcome our tendency to suppress and confuse the truth.
Thus, be encouraged! We who would speak, preach and teach the world are not talking into a vacuum. Deep down inside, people know moral truth, whatever their protests to the contrary. We do not work alone. The voice of God echoes in everyones heart. And thus as St. Paul says, By the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to every ones conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor 4:2)
Msgr Pope ping
I believe God would have to be in our conscience since that is where we came from.
I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
Until they become Democrats.
...and that is precisely why the vast majority of homosexuals are so unhappy.
"18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."
Romans 1: 18-23
Jesus here is acting as defense attorney for his own murderers while they are in the very process of murdering him, and his plea for them is, "They don't know..."
What's up with that?
of course they will try to say consciousness is ‘matter’, and ‘part of evolution’, these goof balls need a way out of the obvious consequences of how this points to a creator, a living loving creator...
I may be theologically off-base, but man did not know good and evil until he eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge as recorded in Genesis. Since then he has known good and evil and was cast out of the garden into the world. Could this be the conscience you allude to?
If so, then we have a conscience (foreknowledge of good and evil) given to us by GOD. And against our better judgement we are persuaded (tempted or corrupted or deceived) by the world (Satan) to do evil. It is our conscience that guides us toward GOD and away from evil.
As little children we are conceived with this knowledge, which is why the abortionist cannot wait for them to be born. How many saints has Satan aborted in the womb? How many of GOD’s little children has he deceived after they are born? Jesus warned us, the world is evil and we have all sinned.
2. Yes, indeed.
3. Satan is doing HIS job, isn't he? Jesus DID warn us. Our best course of action is to stay VERY close to Jesus.
Thank you. Every morning when I arise, I ask Jesus, what are we going to do this day? At the end of the day, I thank him for his blessings and what was accomplished. I also confess my sins and weaknesses and ask his forgiveness of them. But whatever my ultimate destiny may be, my hope is in Jesus Christ.
Yes, stay close.
Thank you for your post. It’s worth reading over again.
People who attempt to suppress their consciences make me think of a couple of quotes:
“Right is right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is doing it.” - G.K. Chesterton
Mankind cannot stand too much reality.” -T.S. Eliot
Thanks. Got my new tagline!