[T]he biology of consciousness offers a sounder basis for morality than the unprovable dogma of an immortal soul. It’s not just that an understanding of the physiology of consciousness will reduce human suffering through new treatments for pain and depression. That understanding can also force us to recognize the interests of other beings–the core of morality.
[…] Th[e] power to deny that other people have feelings is not just an academic exercise but an all-to-common vice, as we see in the long history of human cruelty. Yet once we realize that our own consciousness is a product of our brains and that other people have brains like ours, a denial of other people’s sentience becomes ludicrous. “Hath not a Jew eyes?” asked Shylock. Today the question is more pointed: Hath nor a Jew–or an Arab, or an African, or a baby, or a god–a cerebral cortex and a thalamus? The undeniable fact that we are ll made of the same neural flesh makes it impossible to deny our common capacity to suffer.
Steven Pinker, ‘The Mystery of Consciousness’, Time, January 19, 2007