Are Science and Religion Enemies of Morality?


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Are Science and Religion Enemies of Morality?

The Scientific Method seeks to bracket [fence out] meaningfulness. The scientific method hates bias and bias is one form of meaning. Bias causes the individual to often distort “truth”. In the lab bias is the enemy, i.e. meaning is the enemy.

Religion seeks to bracket the “word”, i.e. to create a fence protecting the “word” from outside influence. Religion seeks to bracket human critical thought. I was raised as a Catholic and went to Catholic schools and was taught by nuns. I learned quickly that to “entertain” impure thoughts (thoughts about sex) or questions about my religion were sinful and had to be confessed to a priest in the confessional.

What is meaning?

Meaning is not a thing: meaning is a creatures’ association with an object.

Meaning and epistemology (what can we know and how can we know it) go together like a “horse and carriage”. Epistemology is about comprehension.

Comprehension can be usefully thought of as being hierarchical and formed like a pyramid. At the base is awareness followed by consciousness. Awareness is the beginning of comprehension; it begins with preconceptual and unconscious happenings in our brain. Consciousness adds to awareness the focus of our attention on this object that results from awareness. We are aware of much and we are conscious of little. When I walk in the woods I am aware of much and become quickly terrified by the consciousness of a shape that makes me think bear.

Knowing follows consciousness on this pyramid. Knowing is followed by understanding. Understanding is at the pinnacle of the pyramid of comprehension.

Meaning follows comprehension side by side. Meaning begins with awareness and grows with consciousness and knowing. At the pinnacle of the pyramid is the creation of new meaning through the process of our understanding, which organizes into a gestalt that which is known. The understanding at the pinnacle of comprehension is that rare moment of eureka when all becomes clear after a great struggle to understand a complex matter. Understanding is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle where our knowledge are the pieces of the puzzle.

Understanding is a far step beyond knowing and is significantly different from knowing. Knowledge seeks truth whereas understanding seeks meaning. The following analogy signifies the stages of comprehension as well as the stages of meaningfulness:

Awareness--faces in a crowd.

Consciousness—smile, a handshake, and curiosity.

Knowledge—long talks sharing desires and ambitions.

Understanding—a best friend bringing constant April.

The instinctive force that provides us with the momentum to survive has driven us to seek out a niche for humanity that rests between the gods and the animals. We need a supreme being to provide a means for immortality and we cannot but recognize our animal nature. Our problem has been to create a place for the human species that rests between heaven and earth, between the gods and the animals.

In the process of creating this in-between resting place we have overemphasized our “cool reason” and underestimated our “imagination and heated passions”. We have placed cool reason; devoid of imagination and animal passion, on a pedestal and in so doing we have tried to disassociate our imagination from our reason. We have failed to recognize the essential role of imagination plays in all aspects of thinking and “reasoning”.

In this process we have forced our self to deny that reason has a central role in morality. We deny reason as being a gestalt with feeling, imagination, and passion, i.e. our embodied rationality, a fundamental role in learning how to “get-along and reason together”.

Empathy is at the core of morality and imaginative rationality is at the core of empathy.

“Robert Unger describes as passionate “the whole range of interpersonal encounters in which people do not treat one another as means to one another’s ends.” Passion is the basis of our noninstrumental relations to others, and it takes us beyond fixed character, social roles, and institutional arrangements.”

Quotes from Moral Imagination by Mark Johnson