Scientism and Morality

When ther famed utilitarian Jeremy Bentham wrote, “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure,” I suspect he knew what he was unleashing. When human life is limited to the corporeal, there isn’t much room for moral philosophy. That goes twice for religion. Bentham was an avid opponent of spirituality, writing a number of texts on the uselessness of the divine.

It’s no surprise Bentham’s fascination with carnal pleasure led straight to religious denial. In philosophy, there is a straight line between materialism and empirics. And in between, an obsession with science -- labeled “scientism” -- reigns supreme. In our increasingly secular age, with its intense focus on enlightened liberal thinking, the validity of the observable now commands the throne of truth.

The cult of scientism has had its sights set on religion since the very beginning. From Rousseau to Bacon to Keynes, the positivists, atheists, materialists, and Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world want nothing more than to vanquish the troglodyte belief of a Creator. Proving the utter worthlessness of dogma is one step in the right direction. If religion no longer provides any utilitarian purpose, it will slowly fade within pleasure-seeking culture.

In a new study conducted by Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California and Daniel Wisneski of St. Peter’s University, it appears the science-obsessed have finally achieved their goal: proving religion is not needed to establish a firm moral grounding. The study uses what’s called “ecological momentary assessment” to judge how participants feel about certain moral quandaries. Elizabeth Picciuto of the Daily Beast reports:

“In this study, over 1,200 people were texted five times a day over the course of three days. The texts asked if they’d committed, experienced, or heard moral or immoral acts in the previous hour. If a participant answered yes, there were follow-up questions that prompted him or her to describe the event and some of his or her reactions to it.”

The findings purport to show that religious and non-religious people have the same moral considerations to given situations. When confronted with instances of theft or someone needing assistance, both types of respondents chose the path of good. As Picciuto puts it, the study confirms that “religious people are no more moral -- or immoral -- than non-religious people.”

So the belief that God was made flesh and came down to Earth to die for man’s sins (to choose just one creed) means nothing when it comes to acting moral, right? Not so fast. Per usual, the fervent embrace of scientism has gotten ahead of itself in describing the world accurately.

In science, methodology is everything. And the Graham/Wisneski study ultimately fails to justify its conclusion. Scientific studies that rely purely on personal responses are never conclusive, as they are based on how people see themselves, rather than how they act. No man wants to own up to his faults. We are quick to judge others for bad behavior, and slow to judge ourselves. That some participants said stealing a co-worker’s lunch from the company fridge was wrong doesn’t give weight to the study’s hypothesis. It’s a straightforward, sterile question that doesn’t account for the complexities of human morality. And it certainly doesn’t predict behavior.

The hazards of quantifying moral reactions doesn’t stop Picuitto from declaring, “It’s Official: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Moral.” But here’s the thing about believers: immorality is an expected part of the human life. A lack of outrage doesn’t mean someone eschews a religious code. For followers of the Judeo-Christian tradition, fallible behavior is a part of life -- a product of original sin. Christianity isn’t a call to condemn any and all infractions of God’s Law. It’s a call to forgive others. As Paul wrote in Colossians, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Compare the call for forgiveness with the militant homogeneity of atheist progressives. If you don’t totally agree with the socially libertine views of the Left, you are made into an enemy of society. If you express scepticism over the idea the planet is warming and humans are to blame, then it’s the gulag for you. For leftists, there is no greyness and ambiguity. You are either right or wrong. Like the French Revolution, apostasy will not be tolerated. The choices are conform or off with your head.

Religion, at least in the Christian sense, offers the hope of redemption. Christianity is a mirror; it tells believers that no matter how sinful other people are, there are deep inadequacies in all of our hearts. No scientific study can measure mercy or grace. No survey can quantify agape love.

Bentham looked disapprovingly upon religion because his utilitarian outlook could not comprehend its merits. His modern-day acolytes are just as clueless. Their ignorance of religion and all its faculties is often to blame for humiliating factual errors. The heathens at the New York Times recently ran a story on Israeli tourism and how the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a hot spot for vacationers because it’s the “site where many Christians believe Jesus is buried…” The very doctrine of Christianity is based on Jesus’ rise from grave and conquering of death. No Christian -- by definition -- believes Christ is buried somewhere on Earth. The big government apparatchiks at the Grey Lady are smart enough to know Washington should control health care, but they can’t take the time to learn one of the bases for Western civilization.

For the utilitarian, science-loving liberal, there is no point to religion because, in the end, life comes down to lust. It’s a sad existence, devoid of higher meaning or purpose. Science leaves humanity with one final destination: eaten by worms. Followers of scientism can expound all they want on immorality; it all amounts to dust when there’s nothing waiting on the other side of death. They are left with blackness, in life the same as in death.

When ther famed utilitarian Jeremy Bentham wrote, “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure,” I suspect he knew what he was unleashing. When human life is limited to the corporeal, there isn’t much room for moral philosophy. That goes twice for religion. Bentham was an avid opponent of spirituality, writing a number of texts on the uselessness of the divine.

It’s no surprise Bentham’s fascination with carnal pleasure led straight to religious denial. In philosophy, there is a straight line between materialism and empirics. And in between, an obsession with science -- labeled “scientism” -- reigns supreme. In our increasingly secular age, with its intense focus on enlightened liberal thinking, the validity of the observable now commands the throne of truth.

The cult of scientism has had its sights set on religion since the very beginning. From Rousseau to Bacon to Keynes, the positivists, atheists, materialists, and Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world want nothing more than to vanquish the troglodyte belief of a Creator. Proving the utter worthlessness of dogma is one step in the right direction. If religion no longer provides any utilitarian purpose, it will slowly fade within pleasure-seeking culture.

In a new study conducted by Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California and Daniel Wisneski of St. Peter’s University, it appears the science-obsessed have finally achieved their goal: proving religion is not needed to establish a firm moral grounding. The study uses what’s called “ecological momentary assessment” to judge how participants feel about certain moral quandaries. Elizabeth Picciuto of the Daily Beast reports:

“In this study, over 1,200 people were texted five times a day over the course of three days. The texts asked if they’d committed, experienced, or heard moral or immoral acts in the previous hour. If a participant answered yes, there were follow-up questions that prompted him or her to describe the event and some of his or her reactions to it.”

The findings purport to show that religious and non-religious people have the same moral considerations to given situations. When confronted with instances of theft or someone needing assistance, both types of respondents chose the path of good. As Picciuto puts it, the study confirms that “religious people are no more moral -- or immoral -- than non-religious people.”

So the belief that God was made flesh and came down to Earth to die for man’s sins (to choose just one creed) means nothing when it comes to acting moral, right? Not so fast. Per usual, the fervent embrace of scientism has gotten ahead of itself in describing the world accurately.

In science, methodology is everything. And the Graham/Wisneski study ultimately fails to justify its conclusion. Scientific studies that rely purely on personal responses are never conclusive, as they are based on how people see themselves, rather than how they act. No man wants to own up to his faults. We are quick to judge others for bad behavior, and slow to judge ourselves. That some participants said stealing a co-worker’s lunch from the company fridge was wrong doesn’t give weight to the study’s hypothesis. It’s a straightforward, sterile question that doesn’t account for the complexities of human morality. And it certainly doesn’t predict behavior.

The hazards of quantifying moral reactions doesn’t stop Picuitto from declaring, “It’s Official: Religion Doesn’t Make You More Moral.” But here’s the thing about believers: immorality is an expected part of the human life. A lack of outrage doesn’t mean someone eschews a religious code. For followers of the Judeo-Christian tradition, fallible behavior is a part of life -- a product of original sin. Christianity isn’t a call to condemn any and all infractions of God’s Law. It’s a call to forgive others. As Paul wrote in Colossians, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Compare the call for forgiveness with the militant homogeneity of atheist progressives. If you don’t totally agree with the socially libertine views of the Left, you are made into an enemy of society. If you express scepticism over the idea the planet is warming and humans are to blame, then it’s the gulag for you. For leftists, there is no greyness and ambiguity. You are either right or wrong. Like the French Revolution, apostasy will not be tolerated. The choices are conform or off with your head.

Religion, at least in the Christian sense, offers the hope of redemption. Christianity is a mirror; it tells believers that no matter how sinful other people are, there are deep inadequacies in all of our hearts. No scientific study can measure mercy or grace. No survey can quantify agape love.

Bentham looked disapprovingly upon religion because his utilitarian outlook could not comprehend its merits. His modern-day acolytes are just as clueless. Their ignorance of religion and all its faculties is often to blame for humiliating factual errors. The heathens at the New York Times recently ran a story on Israeli tourism and how the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a hot spot for vacationers because it’s the “site where many Christians believe Jesus is buried…” The very doctrine of Christianity is based on Jesus’ rise from grave and conquering of death. No Christian -- by definition -- believes Christ is buried somewhere on Earth. The big government apparatchiks at the Grey Lady are smart enough to know Washington should control health care, but they can’t take the time to learn one of the bases for Western civilization.

For the utilitarian, science-loving liberal, there is no point to religion because, in the end, life comes down to lust. It’s a sad existence, devoid of higher meaning or purpose. Science leaves humanity with one final destination: eaten by worms. Followers of scientism can expound all they want on immorality; it all amounts to dust when there’s nothing waiting on the other side of death. They are left with blackness, in life the same as in death.