It is important to understand moral functioning broadly, considering both historical and cultural contexts.
Consider, for example, theories of altruism. Scientists point out the role and relative value of kin selection or multi-level selection is fostering cooperation, and the relative value of each for the survival of the species.
Edward O. Wilson points out that humans demonstrate an “intense, obsessive interest of people in other people, which begins in the first days of life as infants learn particular scents and sounds of the adults around them. Research psychologists have found that all normal humans are geniuses at reading the intentions of others, whereby they evaluate, gossip, proselytize, bond, cooperate and control. Each person, working his way back and forth through his social network, almost continuously reviews past experiences while imagining the consequences of future scenarios.”
For resources on the Science of Compassion, see
Science of Compassion Conference 2012
Article by James Doty, Standford University