Science, Morality, Magic

Morality lies at the heart of the current struggle between science and religion. Scientists become scientists because they believe that truth matters, and that science is the best means to approach an accurate, empirical, rational, logical accounting of the physical world.

Areas which are experimentally inaccessible to science fall under the aegis of the humanities – including philosophy and the creative arts.

On the other hand, religions have made unjustified claims of insider knowledge concerning Truth. In the absence of any incontrovertible evidence to support religious claims, religion has been forced back onto psychologically-coercive demands for faith. By psychologically coercive, I indicate suggestions that those who lack strong faith are somehow lacking or doomed.

The rise of vocal atheism is most evidently a reaction to the egregious nature of fundamentalist politicizing. However, I think, that vocal atheism also results from moral outrage at religionist promotion of bigoted moralistics and of irrationality – unfair harm to the rights of others, supported by harmful attacks on truth.

In Beyond Belief 1, physicist Lawrence Krauss depicts religion’s fear of science partly as resulting from the fact that scientific explanations displace God. He goes on to say that religionists mistakenly interpret the omission of specific reference to God within science as indicating that science is immoral.

Krauss says essentially this:

“Science is not a threat to a moral world. Science has a good ethos, which is based on honesty, open-mindedness, creativity, egalitarianism, and full disclosure. Science also offers the best opportunity to comprehend our moral nature.”
In, The Moral Instinct in today's NYT, evolutionary psychologist, Steven Pinker explains some of the recent research and thinking concerning the underpinnings of our moral instincts and behaviors. He clarifies that religionists fear that science, in providing explanations, will strip our moral feelings of . . . feeling. Pinker makes a good case for something that many theists seem unable to understand – stripping away supernaturalistic trappings and providing scientific insights does not diminish moral instincts or displace moral social contracts. If anything, science emphasizes that we are moral animals who can mostly be trusted to act in a socially responsible manner.

Science has clarified that a rise in oxytocin levels is associated with the emotion of love. This is fascinating, but it happily does not make a dent in the magic of loving someone.

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atheism, moral philosophy, moral psychology, psychology, religion, science, society, Steven Pinker

Pot Kettle Black

In the Pot-Kettle-Black incident in question, blogger 1 used a term and blogger 2 said that blogger 1 had expanded the term's meaning so much as to render it meaningless.

This amused me because I have seen blogger 2 repeatedly weasel, "Oh, but there are many different understandings of whatever term." I suspect that blogger 2 had picked up these tricks when studying philosophy.

If two individuals are chatting about ideas with the intention of understanding one another or of reaching a consensus, then both individuals will probably attempt to ensure that their word definitions coincide.

On the other hand, when two individuals are competing about ideas in hope of winning the argument for themselves or their side, then equivocation and other fallacies of logic are seductive rhetorical tools, as are false accusations of equivocation along with other red herrings.

On the other hand, I think that part of rational debate can legitimately include the pointing out of actual fallacies of logic. It saves time and typing.

It is not that one demonstrates the truth of one's argument by pointing out the fallacies in an opponent's argument – you could both be wrong, or she could be correct yet arguing very inefficiently. However, not being aware of the fallacies in a prolix-pufferied opposing argument could result in your being deluded by rhetoric and flunking Critical Thinking 101.

Ideally, one would expect that the study of philosophy should focus on logic and on clear use of language within valid arguments. (By the way, my use of the word 'should' is equivalent in meaning to 'ought', which, in this context, signifies 'ideally'. This is not an ethical statement unless you wish to expand 'ethics' to inhere any comment concerning the choice that is to be logically preferred – which seems, to me, to be expanding 'ethics' beyond the meaningful.)

In practice, the study of philosophy seems to provide some with rhetorical devices for promoting their emotional values rather than for truth seeking. That is, arguments are often not fact-finding missions, rather they are competitions to promote emotionally-favored belief systems. This may reflect the fact that philosophers cannot even agree on what constitutes truth.

I guess this problem with the misapplication of rhetoric partly explains Sir Francis Bacon's early 17th century suggestion for inductive methodology in scientific inquiry.

Theology, employing techniques from philosophy, is employed to generate apologetic excuses for supernaturalist beliefs. So, when faced with facts, theology must inflate itself with fancier apologetics and dig itself deeper into dogma. Philosophy at least aspires to truth seeking, but it often has trouble making up its collective mind as to which explanation to prefer. Science scraps the discredited, reworks explanations, and tests again, and again, and again.

It seems to me that we have Philosophy, Science (hard and soft), and Philosophy of Science, but that we need the equivalent of Science of Philosophy – some way of ensuring that the refuted elements are scrapped, rather than being taught as though philosophical dogma.


apologetics, fallacies of logic, logic, philosophy, religion, science