Monday, February 05, 2007

Natural Consequences of Naturalistic Thinking VS and/or In Concert With Spiritual Thinking

The Naturalist declares: "Everything that is came into being by chance. To some extent, at least, there is cause and effect, though the amazing natural physical universe and the living creatures on earth, have come about by some combination of random occurrences within a system that has rule sets that never, or at least have never, changed. Most importantly, whether or not this is true, we will pursue knowledge assuming it is correct. This will keep us from being sidetracked by God-in-the-gap type of approaches that might hinder the determination of how things really came to be the way they are."

The Spiritualist declares: "God did it, and you can try to prove natural processes until the end of time, but it won't change the fact that God spoke the universe into existence, and he can just as easily speak it out of existence. However, he has provided us with a text that tells us His plan, and that He is worthy of our trust that He will not deviate from that Text. Since, up until today, the rules of existence are seemingly unchanged, He has been worthy of that trust. Case closed."

These two positions are commonly being seen as VS. Why couldn't they be combined? This post will argue that the vast majority of Christians see these two as potentially in combination. And it would seem that the consequences of either of the first two standing alone are not what either side would want.

I think it is reasonable to say that a purely naturalist view leaves open the potential for everyone to have their own moral code, and for this moral code to be changing as quickly as science comes up with new ideas. That has been the experience of my lifetime, and seemingly the experience of history.

I could so easily go to the eugenics issue which was born straight from Darwin and survival of the fittest. We could talk about the dictatorship of the proletariat, a result of economic and social sciences. Maybe we should look at the morality that grew out of some of the best known scientists of the 50's. Kinsey or Dr. Spock come to mind.

In the 60's science told us that we had the cures to STD's and we engineered a method for birth control. Combine these with the God is Dead thinking and you get "make love, not war," and "everything is OK if it doesn't hurt somebody else."

Christians have done some pretty sad things over the years using or misusing the Bible to back them up. However, that same book seems to constantly work as a corrective for evil. (Slavery) And, if there was not a Divine author, it just becomes one more book to choose among for a moral system.

If we take spirituality out of the "marketplace of ideas," even the ideas in pure science, we lose the balance. Science may seem pure at its root, but he who is believed to hold the "truth" will not only be held up as an idol, he will believe himself to be one. Thus, the holder of the truth will feel compelled to make recommendations for how that truth should play out in the future. I love engineering almost more than I love science, but engineers have created some of the most horrible disasters ever. (Like global warming, if you believe it is man-made.)

If we all become naturalists, will the art and literature and science and music be anything close to as powerful as it is now? Where does passion come from? Where do we derive our desire to leave a legacy? Would you die for Darwin? For Ayn Rand?

So, like the USA, where we have balance between the branches of government, and then more balance between federalism and the states, and then leaving the power in the hands of the folks, our system of finding truth is divided between the pure scientists, the philosophers, and those who offer a spiritual dimension. I have a hard time imagining the system with one of the three taken out. And it was Christianity that created scientific inquiry, so I have a hard time imagining our system functioning without that leg either.

In a system where only the theologians hold sway, they now hold "truth" in their pocket. They become the idols and believe themselves to be little gods. Folks follow them mindlessly, and no one who has that kind of following can easily keep their humility. Even if the first generation is benevolent in either a pure theolically driven or pure naturalism driven system, the second generation will assuredly use whatever means necessary to hold onto the power. I think this is what you are seeing in the new Dawkin's approach. He is turning vile in an effort to hold onto the small amount of power that he thinks science has amassed.

This is a theory in development, first draft. Take your shots.

1 comment:

bernardo said...

"These two positions are commonly being seen as VS. Why couldn't they be combined?"

There's no reason why they shouldn't.

"I think it is reasonable to say that a purely naturalist view leaves open the potential for everyone to have their own moral code..."

Yes. But so does Christianity. Christians interpret the Bible in many different ways. Some follow it to the letter, some almost ignore it, and this leads to a big diversity in moral values among Christians. You can believe whatever you want (morality-wise) and find something in the Bible to justify it. I'll leave it to Cordin to list all the un-Christ-like atrocities, massacres, slavery, and cruel punishments found all over the Bible, even in the New Testament.

"... and for this moral code to be changing as quickly as science comes up with new ideas... I could so easily go to the eugenics issue which was born straight from Darwin and survival of the fittest. We could talk about the dictatorship of the proletariat, a result of economic and social sciences. Maybe we should look at the morality that grew out of some of the best known scientists of the 50's. Kinsey or Dr. Spock come to mind".

Remember, all that science does is to provide models about how the world works. Some of those models may guess at the factors that lead to human happiness (parenting, sex) or to a society's prosperity (economic and (maybe, who knows) racial makeup). Are you saying that scientists should never study those areas? That psychology is forbidden? Those models are the best that those people could come up with as far as how people should behave and how a society should function. Should we ignore all psychologists and social scientists because some of them have made mistakes, and following them in their mistakes is too costly? What is NOT following them is more costly? Again, we depend on a marketplace of ideas (which should include religious morality, if nothing else so as to give its opponents some competition and a baseline) to ensure that, when we make a mistake, we have an alternative. Besides, you have to accept that the more power we have, the more costly our mistakes will be. But, despite this, I'm sure you agree that we need to keep trying to understand the universe and ourselves (whatever "understand" means to you).

"If we take spirituality out of the "marketplace of ideas," even the ideas in pure science, we lose the balance."

I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that spirituality should be removed from the marketplace of ideas. I think it gets in the way of science (because so many people have trouble with where one ends and the other begins), but despite this, I think the world benefits from it, and I think too many people need it, so I can't imagine a reasonable person saying "let's take spirituality away from everyone and this will make everything better". I do hope that more people come to be dissatisfied with some aspects of Christianity and Islam and become more deist-like, and I do hope that more people will come to see their need to ask "Why" as the psychological phenomenon and evolutionary by-product that I think it is, but until this happens, the vast majority of people will need to believe in God. Taking that away would probably be about as successful as Prohibition was.

"If we all become naturalists, will the art and literature and science and music be anything close to as powerful as it is now?"

Sure. Why not? An atheist is still a person, whose brain is still capable of resonating with the strong feelings expressed in art and music and literature. Sure, some feelings - like religious faith - we won't empathize with so readily, but we can still imagine it and appreciate its power to some extent. And I'm sure that music and art and literature are full of feelings you would not be too happy to embrace yourself. Have you listened to the radio lately? ;]

"Where does passion come from?"

We are animals with desires. We are also intelligent beings with a vision of how things could be. Both of these aspects of who we are can be the source of powerful drives and powerful satisfaction, as well as powerful frustration, and all the other emotions we're all familiar with. I don't see why everyone has to need spirituality in order to be passionate.

"Where do we derive our desire to leave a legacy?"

Again, I still have a great desire to leave something behind, and I don't see what this has to do with God. You may want to leave something behind because you like to be helpful, or you may want to leave something behind because you want to be remembered for it. In either case, I don't see why the supernatural (i.e. non-naturalism) is necessary to explain this.

"Would you die for Darwin?"

Remember what I said: All that science does is allow us to come up with models for how the universe works. You don't die for people or for models. If you sacrifice yourself for a cause, then you sacrifice yourself because your model of the universe says that this sacrifice will further this cause, and that this cause is important. If you are a reasonable person, you probably can think of a few things that, if changed in the world, would make the world more just. Do you need spirituality in order for your compassion to drive you to act against that injustice? I don't think so.

And like we learned in September of 2001, maybe killing yourself while motivated by religious faith isn't so great for everyone. Their cause was apparently worth dying for, but that does not mean it was a good cause.

I think I see what you're getting at. I wish you had said it more explicitly. I think what you're getting at is

- What sources of morality do we have, other than religion?

and

- Except for God's plan and Jesus' example, what reason do we have to want to be compassionate/unselfish?

Those are good questions. Now that I have addressed the specific points in your post (the ones I didn't entirely agree with, anyways), I can try and answer those two questions. Give me a little while, though... =]