The Right Relationship Between Science and Morality

See Professor Volokh, who has got it exactly right.


2 thoughts on “The Right Relationship Between Science and Morality

  1. Theoretical thought, inclusive of scientific thought,is abstract in nature. It abstracts from reality the various aspects, dimensions and elements of reality in order to come to a rational understanding of what they are and how they function. So it can tell us a lot about how the various elements of reality work, but virtually nothing as to what reality is at bottom. It can tell us how and when human consciousness develops and what it does, but nothing about the ultimate origin, nature and value of the humans themselves that actually possess consciousness.

    This means that these ultimate questions are a mystery to theoretical, rational thought. And Volokh is thus correct—if we are to have knowledge of these things, if we are to have knowledge of the value of the human fetus for example, it must come from a source other than science, theory and reason. If theory and science is to be properly oriented and directed with respect to the human fetus, or any other reality for that matter, it must receive guidance from something other than itself.

    Volokh believes that what is a mystery to rationality and science can be known through moral judgement. The problem with this answer is that moral judgement is in no better position to know the mystery than reason. Moral evaluation, like theory and science, is stuck within the realm of the directly observable and humanly accessible and has need of ultimate orientation and guidance itself. We need something more penetrating than moral judgement; we need actual access to the mystery that transcends, that lies behind and yet determines, our everyday world.

    What we need, in other words, is a revelation of the mystery. Such revelation, so I maintain, can only be known for what it is through faith, through trust. It is faith’s job to accept something as revelatory of the ultimate mystery; we place our faith in that which we trust to be revealing itself as the origin and determiner of all things.

    As a Christian, in faith I believe that God has revealed Himself and the nature and meaning of His creation. Non-Christians put their trust in something else. But it is faith alone that can know the mystery and we will either get it right through our faith or be deeply deceived through faith in a pseudo-revelation. Reasons that attempt to justify our trust come after, and within the context of, a trust that has previously been given. They can be helpful (or hurtful), they can form a basis for a shift in faith, but they are no substitute for faith.

  2. What Volokh gets wrong is is supposition that science is saying “If It Isn’t In [Science / The Bible / The Koran], It Doesn’t Matter.” It isn’t. What’s happening is that people have created arguments regarding human life and consciousness and science is supporting or undercutting those arguments with empirical data.

    The anti-abortion crowd is happy to rely on science that explains conception and implantation but less happy when other facts like the development of brain activity don’t jive with their chosen argument.

    There are people that try to use science to do things it can’t (prove/disprove God for example). This isn’t one of those cases. A blastocyst is not a human being and this is one more piece of data that shows it.

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