Friday, February 28, 2014

Part 2: What's the Matter?

Heard of the 2 brilliant cosmologists, a husband and wife, arguing?

Bothered by all the dissonance in their life, he asked, “What’s the Matter?”

She responded, rolling her eyes, “Nothing!”

Angrily, he answered, “Don't start at the beginning again! It's observable to me! You don’t seem to have any Energy anymore.”

She said, “On the contrary! Energy never goes away; it’s all that Matters!”;-)

In Part 1 of The Coral Reef of the Moral Code (January 5th), I spoke of how “In many ways waking to moral consciousness is like a tiny new coral life at the top of the great barrier reef off the coast of Australia. Each tiny new human being lives atop all the ethical realizations and accomplishments of millions of humans who’ve lived before he/she came into being.”

So then why do so many humans—especially the well-educated, the brilliant, the scientific--think that ethics are subjective, relative, even illusionary, based only on a “misfiring” of natural selection, that no human being has free will/alternative choice, that we can’t choose rightly or wrongly?

For most scientists, it comes down to their convincement that only Matter and Energy are eternal or that Matter/Energy popped into existence from Nothing, a vacuum-state via a “Singularity”.

In my opinion this wrong understanding of ethics comes about because of a category error. To use a simplistic analogy, the brilliant individuals are treating science like it's the only true method, the only hammer, and everything else is a nail;-(). But science isn’t all of life; rather the marvelous, successful procedure of the scientific method only deals with life at one level and from one perception—the observable, measurable, and testable. For example, it's true that technologists, no matter their worldview can create using atomic energy.

BUT what they create is based on their differing ethics! One scientific group creates atomic weapons which slaughter thousands of civilians in horrific death, another scientific group creates an atomic power plant that gives light to millions of people.

Which will it be? Darkness and destruction or light and creativity?

This is where the areas "outside" of science come into play.

Ethics, truth, beauty, conscious awareness are beyond science's limited expertise. They are the foundation upon which science "sits." As the skeptic Hume intoned, a person can’t get “ought” from “is”, and science is the study of what IS, not the study of what Ought to Be.

When scientific thinkers try and reduce all human consciousness to brain synapse, and ethics to “misfirings” or instinctive adaptions, we are left with a materialistic determinism that those very same individuals don’t live out in their personal lives, never could, nor would want to. If they did it would take away their ability to choose, would destroy their marriages, mal-form their children, and end human society as we know it. And they would lose all sense of beauty and goodness and justice and truth.

Heck, there wouldn't even be any basis to trust the scientific method, if ethics are actually subjective, because science itself is based on the ethical code of honesty and that it's possible to find what is true.

Yet the famous scientist Francis Crick did write, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” (The Astonishing Hypothesis, 1994)

That’s like saying all great literature is only squiggles on paper! To reduce ethics to nerve cells and associated molecules is like reducing printed language to only visible markings, or claiming that a Van Gogh painting is only mixed chemicals on fabric!

Of course, language is encased in squiggles, and painting in chemical markings—but the wonderful literature and art of the ages, and all the brilliant discoveries of technology, etc. aren’t only squiggles and markings!

Neither are all the ethical truths of the moral code only firings or mis-firings of brain synapses because of undirected, purposeless, meaningless natural processes.

A brain surgeon/researcher may be able to locate the part of the brain where the ethic "empathy" is physically observable, but that doesn’t mean those cells are all there is to the truth of unselfish caring. The cells only encase a sense of Goodness, Beauty, and Justice for we primates so we can comprehend and seek the Transcendent.

In the end, it’s not Matter and Energy that matter, but the Divine Transcendence from whom existence has been created—in whom we live and move and have our being/becoming.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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