Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge - Ethics and Religion Summary & Analysis

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Ethics and Religion Summary and Analysis

Ethics has been constructed around the notion that justice is independent of human existence or that it has been invented by humans. These choices unveil the way we view ourselves although it cannot be determined by pure logic. Moral reasoning, however, is connected with the natural sciences. Natural law inspired natural rights. The power of these transcendental statements is used by Thomas Jefferson who, following John Locke, uses secular and religious presumptions in his Declaration of Independence. Transcendentalism is used to validate ethics, as theologians ascribd natural law to God's will. Natural law theory is compelling, although transcendentalism is used to fight wars, where each side regards their causes as sacred.

Ethics can be viewed as a code of principles. Their grounds are established by philosophers but they determine cultures that flourish. Effective ethical codes are based on objective knowledge. Consequences of actions render them ethical or unethical. Moral reasoning can be based on the current transcendental view, i.e. theological or philosophical or an empirical view. According to Wilson and his empirical principles, ethics are inspired by evolution and material origin. He considers such a view as more stable. Two viewpoints, transcendentalist and empirical, will be argued.

The transcendental view has its origins in the long history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Its strength is apparent in statistics showing that nine in ten American believe in God. As scientists deal only with partial reality, they are unable to research our mental experiences. Religion can explain everything, including measurable and unmeasurable phenomena. God opens our mind to what lies outside of our world. According to Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor, if the ruling hand of God is not present all things are permitted, where freedom becomes misery. All thinkers of the Enlightenment believe in God. The reduction of creation to the product of evolution seems appalling to authors such as George Bernard Shaw, who regards such view as leading to the annihilation of honor, aspiration, and beauty. In the end, human mind and immortal soul are notions that science is unable to explain. Whether science has been pushed too far can be debatable, but a quarter of Americans reject evolution.

Empiricist views are not as attractive as religious views that incorporate notions of love, human spirit, and most of all hope. Religious doctrine of sacrifice is inspiring despite the destructive potential of religions to cause wars. All three major religions are expanded via territorial conquests. Great civilizations rose through conquest while their religions condoned and validated it. Exclusion, however, is part of tribalism, where belief in superiority inspires totalitarian thoughts. Religious beliefs lead to sacrifice in the name of the needs of the group that is to be rewarded in the afterlife, hence sacrifices can be made even environmental. There is no scientific proof that prayer cures or after life exists. Faith may be insufficient to assure character that arises from within. Statistics prove that work and ethics can exist without religious doctrines. Integrity can be attained through decisions that are internally good and true. Science benefits humanity and eventually may be able to explain the mind. Empirical evidence is objective, bloodless and lacks poetry. Hence sacral traditions should remain but humility should be shown to other living creatures rather than condoning their destruction in the name of false ideals.

Philosophers that express influential views on ethics, such as Kant or Rawls make their statements without the knowledge of science and deal with ideals rather than reality. The consilient perspective regards principles as behavioral codes that society wishes to follow to attain common good. Some religious ethical principles can be controversial. The empiricist view searches for the origins of ethical reasoning, viewing an individual as prone to various choices.

Ethics deals with principles as part of biology, culture, and instincts. Certain behaviors such as cooperation that is always rewarded or xenophobia that is to protect from strangers evolve as part of survival. The rules made later evolve to protect the ruling class. Later, rules are made into laws to protect the ruling class. There has been very little objective analysis in the subject of ethics, hence little progress has been made in this area. Religions are instinctive but are well suited to the inborn subordination in humans. They also suit human mind that evolve in need of god and belief. Hence both transcendental and empiricist views continue to be important, although blind faith is no longer accepted.

This section contains 747 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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