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Thread: morality and science?

  1. #1
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    morality and science?

    So....

    We've all heard it - "There is no basis for morality without god(s)."

    Is this true?

    Is it possible to have a moral system based on something like, say, science?

    If so, what might such a morality look like?
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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    No, and no.

    I don't think that science is equipt to create a moral system. I think that it can be used to inform one, but I also think it can be misused to inform one with the same regularity of non-science.

    I think the only reliably moral moral system can be one based on a very broad humanism and deep ecology combined with a pragmatic sort of utilitarianism that still respects individuality. As to what that looks like...I'm still working on that.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

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  3. #3
    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    I would not relay on science,but on my personal idea. If it was me that needed help,or needed the kindness of strangers(Moral judgement) what would I want or need other people to do. Morals are more how much empathy you have for your fellow humans. Say a person who robs others,has only their personal self in their thoughts. I think "Morals" are ether a part of your nature,and a lot of times no amount of religious connection could give morals. I site the BTK killer,who as it turned out was a decon in a church he attended with his wife. He seemed religious,and by the idea that religion gives moral strength,he seems to have slipped through the spiritual cracks....
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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    ...I think the only reliably moral moral system can be one based on a very broad humanism and deep ecology combined with a pragmatic sort of utilitarianism that still respects individuality. As to what that looks like...I'm still working on that.
    To make this more interesting, may I suggest something?

    Humanism is based on psychology (a science - finally! In the past it wasn't...).

    Ecology is, obviously, based on science.

    "Pragmatic utilitarianism that respects individuality" is (IMHO - am I wrong?) a fancy way of saying "realistically useful without causing undue harm to individuals." "Realistically useful" = cause/effect relationships... the foundation on which all science exists, while "respects individuality" = (again) psychology.

    (I think we are close, though, to the place where "based on" (my phrasing) and "informed by" (your phrasing) start to mush together)
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

  5. #5
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    To make this more interesting, may I suggest something?

    Humanism is based on psychology (a science - finally! In the past it wasn't...).

    Ecology is, obviously, based on science.

    "Pragmatic utilitarianism that respects individuality" is (IMHO - am I wrong?) a fancy way of saying "realistically useful without causing undue harm to individuals." "Realistically useful" = cause/effect relationships... the foundation on which all science exists, while "respects individuality" = (again) psychology.

    (I think we are close, though, to the place where "based on" (my phrasing) and "informed by" (your phrasing) start to mush together)
    first, you ought to find out if I consider psychology a science....


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    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  6. #6
    Head Above Water habbalah's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    The idea of no morality without a higher power is total garbage. Just because you don't believe in higher powers doesn't mean you're going to go out and rape cows and raze villages. You might, but that doesn't make you an atheist. It just makes you someone with psychological issues.

    Even if you don't have a higher power you believe in, the society you're a part of has a moral code, and at the core, they're mostly the same. Don't take what doesn't belong to you. Don't damage things that don't belong to you. Don't harm other people. Be responsible with mind/mood altering substances (and by that I mean don't drink and drive, don't take LSD while babysitting, etc). I don't think it's a stretch to imagine that if you don't want bad stuff to happen to you, you should avoid doing bad stuff to other people, lest you invite revenge.

    As far as science being a guideline for morality, I'm very no on that. Some very immoral stuff has been done in the name of science, which may have produced results, but violated the free will and well-being of the test subjects involved.
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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    Quote Originally Posted by habbalah View Post
    As far as science being a guideline for morality, I'm very no on that. Some very immoral stuff has been done in the name of science, which may have produced results, but violated the free will and well-being of the test subjects involved.
    Well, anything CAN be abused by somebody who whats to abuse it - including science (and, I think, pretty much every other thingy that morality might be based on is subject to abuse).

    But - if one understands why, psychologically, it is wrong to violate another's "free will," and why, physically, it is wrong to violate another person's "well being," it seems to me that one will have a much better basis for making moral judgments than those which are normally used (i.e.: it's what god wants, or "it's just the way we do things in this culture...").
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

    I can't do everything, but I can do something.

  8. #8
    Head Above Water habbalah's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    Well, anything CAN be abused by somebody who whats to abuse it - including science (and, I think, pretty much every other thingy that morality might be based on is subject to abuse).

    But - if one understands why, psychologically, it is wrong to violate another's "free will," and why, physically, it is wrong to violate another person's "well being," it seems to me that one will have a much better basis for making moral judgments than those which are normally used (i.e.: it's what god wants, or "it's just the way we do things in this culture...").
    Both are very good points. I might need to think more on this.
    “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” -- Bruce Lee

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    Copper Member Aeran's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    What do you mean by "a moral system based on something like, say, science?" Are you asking whether it's possible to validate a moral system with the scientific method? Or are you asking whether it's possible to compose a valid moral system using solely our current scientific understanding (that is, excluding any field of knowledge not considered "scientific" - which of course brings up the debate of what is and isn't a scientific field)? I think it's important to distinguish between the two, one is a fairly constant method of inquiry into the nature of existence, the other is a constantly changing knowledge base attained by that method.

  10. #10
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: morality and science?

    So...I still don't think "science" can build/create a moral system (as opposed to being used to inform one).

    Morality is subjective. Its based in abstract ideas, both of which are then applied to concrete events. Its the very opposite of science, if you go by Steven Jay Gould's idea of non-overlapping magesteria (which I and many others disagree with either in total or in part). In the Thalassa graph of human stuff, its either firmly in the "religion" section or mostly in the "fuck" zone.



    And by "science", I mean the system of knowledge and techniques that we use to answer the "how" of how the universe works, how we came to be here on this mudball, how we can cure or prevent illnesses, etc. "Religion" on the other hand, is about "why"--why are are here (and is there a purpose to it)? why does my life have value (and is it equal in value to yours or his or hers)?

    The underlying basis of morality is this--what are we worth? What is the value of life?

    Science can't *really* answer that... How would you determine the value of a life empirically? I can think of thousands of ways...and all of them well and truly suck (and are wrong).

    Psychology (a very squishy science) can inform us of (and how to treat) different diseases and disorders of thought and emotional well being, it can inform us of more effective modes of teaching or parenting, it can offer insight into how crowds act in certain situations. Ecology can tell us how an ecosystem functions, and how economically we are interacting with our environment. I can use biochemistry and neurology to explain that love is a hormonal reaction and certain neurons firing and...but really? That's not what love is. I can use math to explain the proportions of symmetry and the golden ration to validate beauty....but that's not what beauty is either.

    Science (and I love it, but its not a panacea to all our ills) reduces things to a number. In transplants, its about who gets the organ....prospective recipients are judged based on a statistically derived value that predicts a good prognosis. A loving and awesome father doesn't get to spend another few years with his small children and pregnant wife because some jailed serial rapist has a better number. Even using a hypothetically different set of data--lets use someone's societal "worth"...the rich guy that beats his wife gets the kidney over the poor kid...


    (and on that incomplete thought, I gotta go to work!)
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

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