•    On Moral Questions – Science is Clueless   

    Scales of Balanced Justice

             On May 7, 2010 Sam Harris posted a blog at the Huffington Post blog site entitled “Toward a Science of Morality.” It was a follow-up article that was addressing an enormous amount of feedback he’d received subsequent to his TED Talk entitled “Science Can Answer Moral Questions.” This article will squarely address Sam’s Huffington Post blog and TED Talk general notion that “Science Can Answer Moral Questions” — where Sam questioned religions’ moral authority, while touting the moral aptitude of science.

    Side-Note: Extremely relevant to this article is a related tandem article entitled “Morality Has No Conscience” — where the critical point is made as to why morality today should never even be considered a significant guide for human behavior or a meaningful influence in American life — and why it certainly should not be considered the “First Line of Defense” in regulating, tempering, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior or values. Morality has no conscience. That’s the problem with morality. Morality is strictly an opinion-poll-based weather vane that keeps looking to see which way the wind is blowing in public sentiments. So morality is an unanchored, shiftless chameleon that is swept along in the current generated by the faithless whims and vagaries and vicissitudes of public opinion. Anchoring society values around something as fickle, often truant, capricious, faithless and volatile as morality, with its opinion-poll referendums, is nothing short of insanity. For this reason, morality is fully capable of being completely silent, non-judgmental and callously complacent while unfathomably horrific atrocities are being openly and routinely committed — as happened during the Holocaust. When one considers WHO was swept into the White House by one of the last opinion poll referendums it becomes obvious how whimsical, truant, imprudent and frightening public opinion can be. For morality — clearly virtue and Compassion no longer matter. The article — “Morality Has No Conscience” — is an absolutely crucial addendum to this current article on morality.

    I share Sam’s belief that much of organized mainstream religion today is little more than sanctimonious dogma rants of a largely political nature. And I strongly agree with Sam’s assertion that mainstream religion, as commonly practiced and understood today, has no special moral authority and that mainstream religion is NOT preeminently capable of addressing the ethical \ moral issues society faces today.

    The disagreement I have with Sam’s view that “Science Can Answer Moral Questions” ironically lies at the very center of his premise. And what is even more ironic — I disagree for many of the same reasons that I reject the notion that “Religion Can Answer Moral Questions.” I still maintain a tremendous amount of respect for Sam’s clear insights and his unique ability to articulate ‘the problems’ habitually embedded in the typical mainstream human approach to religion. So as I posit my disagreements, keep in mind that, I do NOT denigrate Sam or his positions nor do I discount his views in their entirety. Even imperfect viewpoints can be vitally important in helping to pinpoint, isolate and articulate the core problems we all recognize and seek to redress.

    Before delving into the specifics, I can summarize the problems with several of Sam’s errant premises about science fairly quickly and succinctly. Sam too often uses sweeping generalizations utilizing overly broad brush strokes that make his premises inaccurate. Sam appears to make no distinction between “mainstream” dogmatized religion — religious “fundamentalism” (extremists, black-letter literalists, evangelicals, fanatics) versus the compassion-focused “spiritual” segment of religion (St. Francis, Albert Schweitzer, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufiism, Huston Smith, Shunryu Suzuki, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, etc). The result is that Sam tosses the baby with the bath water, as is evident in his “Does God Have a Future?” debate. And this error can be translated as an epistemological error in failing to recognize the fact that there are two totally different epistemological ‘branches’ operating within his broad target category called “religion.” Sam’s error is that he has assumed that all religions have been dogmatized.

    Had Sam made this critical distinction, he would have realized that his arguments were consistently accurate and well-placed with respect to the “dogmatic mainstream religions” — the fundamentalist dogmatized branch of religion, while being consistently inaccurate and unwarranted with respect to the empathy and compassion-driven “Religion as Spirituality” epistemological branch (see our article on this blog site entitled “Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?“). Once again, the nature and character of these errors and their consequences become most obvious and indisputably apparent in the ABC News Nightline Face-Off program entitled “Does God Have a Future?” — where Sam is caught red-handed by the moderator (Dan Harris) and called to task on it, on two occasions, for being overly broad in his sweeping generalizations about and attributions to ‘religion’ as a whole, without making these crucial distinctions.

    In summarizing Sam’s errors in this regard, his mistake is compounded by another ‘over inclusive’ generalization, which is his failure to make a critical distinction between “Applied Science” and “Pure Science” when he makes the blanket statement “Science Can Answer Moral Questions.” Pure Science has no “skin” in the game — it has no stake in the outcome. It seeks answers to the mysteries of Life – simply for the sake of knowledge itself. It has no “vested interest” in one answer versus another. Applied Science is just the opposite – by definition. It walks in the door with its prejudices. It comes to the table with a vested interest in the outcome and a heavily biased preference for one answer over another. It is strictly cash-driven and profit-motivated and routinely turns a blind-eye to inconvenient, credible scientific truths that cut against investors’ interests. This crucial distinction between Pure Science and Applied Science is absolutely essential for many reasons, and if Sam had made this distinction he would have realized that his arguments had only a marginal, tenuous application with respect to “Pure Science”, while being utterly inaccurate and unwarranted — and even preposterous — with respect to “Applied Science.”

    There are many respected analysts and scholars who would compellingly argue that the notion of “Pure Science” has no actual reality in the world today, and it stands solely as an historical theoretical abstraction, a kind of purist’s theoretical for something that is currently non-existent in reality (like the Wooly Mammoth). Most all scientific research today is either conducted in the private sector or it is conducted at academic institutions via private sector funding and grants in which private sector corporate titans ‘own’ the research effort and dictate what is researched, the scope of the research, and dictate what can be disclosed to the public, and in what direction the research may go. A critical, honest examination would disclose that virtually all of science today is “Applied Science” — a severely denigrated, tainted, manipulative, biased, defective, close-minded pretense — a forgery of the pristine original, otherwise known as “Pure Science” (astronomy, astrophysics and ‘some’ physics may stand as the sole exceptions). This distinction is crucial because “Applied Science” is invariably funded, motivated and driven by the greed-mentality of the for-profit corporate mentality that walks in the door with iron-clad conclusions and prejudices, complete with an acute tunnel vision that is directed solely at profit margins, patent-ownership, damage-control, investor demands and corporate image business issues which utterly eclipse any residual delusional notion of an objective open-minded quest for knowledge.

    In terms of objectivity, “Applied Science” can only be described as a barren moonscape that is utterly devoid of open-mindedness and is therefore completely unworthy of the trust and faith Sam invests in it for making important moral decisions. If anything, history has shown that applied science tends to be morally destitute, and in fact, it is often a disingenuous sociopathic instrumentality that frequently goes to great lengths to distort, falsify, doctor and conceal the truth from the public — to prioritize and advance investor interests. Those who fully understand this fatal flaw in science, see Sam’s suggestion as tantamount to “jumping from the frying pan into an arc welder” (from religious fraud to science fraud).

    Special Note: On Friday, August 3, 2018 Washington Post Columnist George Will wrote a compelling editorial entitled “America is Sacrificing the Future” — in which he eloquently decried the commandeered takeover of Pure Science by the Applied Science faction. In this article, Will graphically and convincingly portrays the dire consequences that lie ahead if this high-powered goose-step trend continues. Will explains, with his patented clarity, WHY this is such a monumentally important issue. I strongly recommend that everyone read this Will editorial: “America is Sacrificing the Future”. Keep in mind — this blog article you are now reading was posted 8 years before this Will editorial.

    While Will staunchly opposes the abandonment of Pure Science in favor of Applied Science and sounds the alarm about the rapidly diminishing landscape of Pure Science — it is important to understand the underlying mechanism that is causing this to happen. The survival of any body of science depends on funding and grants received from any source. Most funding and grant applications require a showing as to WHY a particular area of research is important and what BENEFITS can potentially be derived from that research.

    This highly utilitarian criteria injects a ‘profitability’ objective (agenda) and this is precisely what converts Pure Science into Applied Science. So research that could potentially lead to corn growing twice as large, twice as fast — WILL get funding. And research seeking to understand the origins of the universe will NOT. And worse yet — research to understand the potential environmental hazards of designing corn that grows twice as large, twice as fast will NOT receive funding either — precisely because of its potential to ‘kill’ what has already been deemed a highly profitable research endeavor. As Will aptly explains — it is entirely possible that a better understanding of the origins of the universe could very well, inadvertantly, lead to one of the most useful, beneficial scientific discoveries in history. Will correctly points out that very often this is exactly how many of the greatest scientific breakthroughs were made — by accident — through the curiosity of Pure Science.

    On another related front — the errors in Sam’s assessment of religion culminates with yet another oversight, namely, the failure to realize that the sum and substance of all his complaints about ALL “religions” — actually translate, ultimately and entirely, into a complaint against “dogmatism” NOT religion per se. Religions that have NOT been dogmatized simply do not exhibit the abominable, undesirable traits Sam ascribes to ALL religions. Had Sam grasped this fascinating and crucial fact, he would have realized that it is the inherent danger and unreliability wrought by “dogmatism” that gave the dogmatic religions their dispicable traits — and that inherent danger and unreliability which is wrought by “dogmatism actually apply to ALL academic, scientific, political, governmental and investigative disciplines across the board, and are NOT uniquely the Achilles Heel of mainstream religion alone. When, for example, you ‘monetize’ religion or science you bastardize it by dogmatizing it with all the prejudices embedded in the greed mentality and its for-profit incentives and motives. This is not rocket science. This is the indisputable path, genesis, trajectory and mentality of Applied Science today — which constitutes most all of science in the new millenium.

    As much as I respect leading skeptics like Sam, I do see, with alarming frequency, that same human tendency for scientists and skeptics to become ‘invested’ in their ‘beliefs’ and to become mired in the sticky cobweb of dogmatism, as they often become very rigid, hard-headed, un-objective, petrified, close-minded, defensive and reactionary in their zeal to defend their egos, their prefab structures, their pet projects, their integrity, their stature, and their belief systems — which they have heavily invested in over an entire lifetime. This is a very real and common danger even for a ‘true’ scientist and skeptic like Sam, who prides himself in recognizing ‘objectivity’ as the indispensable bedrock cornerstone on which all ‘true’ science MUST stand.

    What a very different assessment Sam might have had, if he had not made these fatal errors in his assessments of both religion and science.

    This leads us to the ultimate epistemological dilemma. Sam’s viewpoints manifest through the epistemological prism of “Rationalism,” as I described that term in the Parent Article which this article is nested in. Reason, aka, rationalism is the bedrock foundation of all science. It seems apparent that Sam believes the epistemology of “Reason,” i.e., the epistemology of “Rationalism” and the discursive intellect is the only epistemological faculty humans have, other than the Empirical apparatus of the five senses. As a result, in all likelihood, Sam probably felt compelled to make the case that all of the moral and ethical ‘judgements’ that humans must make, can be competently and completely handled by ‘science’ — which depends upon the faculty of Rationality (Reason) — the cornerstone of all science — otherwise, he would have been left ‘twisting on the vine’ — imprisoned within the untenable position of having to admit the only epistemological apparatus he recognizes, rationalism, is incapable of resolving moral and ethical questions. I suggest that the terms “science” and “rationalism” are interchangeable in this narrowly specific context, and they are both utterly incapable of standing-in as humans’ moral and ethical compass. In fact, I suggest that the horrendous, monumental moral ethical malaise we are all looking at right now around the World is the direct result of three utterly inept instrumentalities, Dogmatic Religion, Applied Science and Rationalism being assigned the task of standing-in as a human moral-ethical ‘compass’ — a task for which they are all utterly unsuited and ill-equipped. Furthermore — both religion and science are becoming more corrupted every day as each becomes more and more monetized, dogmatized and politicized — as the corporate\rationalistic python strangle-hold grips tighter and tighter around these manipulable dogmatic institutions.

    I suggest that this science-morality task assignment is as erroneous as mainstream religion’s false claims to ‘sole stewardship’ in the morality–ethics domain, and it is just as undesirable and dangerous, because any time a charlatan claims to be a brain surgeon, great dangers are presented. Most importantly, I submit that the decrepit conditions in the World and in mainstream religion today, which both Sam and I lament, is the direct result of mainstream religion abandoning ‘spirituality’ in favor of Rationalism and its offspring – dogmatism. It is readily apparent that the dogma-laden atrophied condition of mainstream religion is the direct result of the “rationalization” and consequent dogmatization of religion, in conjunction with its utter abandonment of its inherent spiritual core (see prior blog, “Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?“). Mainstream religions’ flight away from spirituality and into the arms of rationalism has been largely for the purpose of increasing its “devotee count” and thereby, bolstering its visibility, authority, audience market-share and its bank balance.

    I noted, with great dismay, that one of the very first things the new Pope Benedict proclaimed was a reaffirmation of the Aristotelian and the Aquinas peace-maker apologetic pronouncement that the epistemology of reason \ rationality is fully capable of delivering devotees to moral and ethical rectitude and the Promised Land. And now I hear Sam making essentially the same proclamation. Maybe Sam and the Pope have much more in common than Sam realizes.

    For both religion and global society, substituting the epistemology of Rationalism for the epistemology of Insight and Compassion has proven to be a catastrophic mistake. This is, at its core, an epistemological problem.

    Whereas Sam believes that Rationality is the only epistemological option that humans have available for such a moral task, many enlightened observers on the other hand, hold the view that rationality is only one of the available epistemological options. As the Parent Article in this blog makes clear, there is the epistemological faculty of “Insight,” i.e., the faculty of the “intuitive” which manifests most commonly for most of us as “Compassion.” This is a distinctly different epistemology altogether, and it alone, has the capacity, the natural ability to serve as a reliable moral compass, to reconcile what we commonly refer to as “ethical” and “moral” issues of empathy.

    Critically important here is the fact that Compassion is NOT an emotion. Many simply assume that it is and they never understand the significance of this fact that it is NOT. When you track the circuitry of emotions, it always traces back to “Me, My and Mine” origins — relating to something that has or will happen to me or for me (fear, hate, anger, jealousy). Compassion — True Compassion — always traces back to concern for ‘others’ — which is to say that its true nature is selfless. This is so because Compassion flows from an entirely different epistemological operation than the rationalistic one that spawned the Ego. And ironically, emotions, like ego, are a manifestation and construct of the rational epistemology of Reason — the discursive intellect. As with ego and dogma, the emotions are a construct of the rational mind. There are many who do not fully realize this — and they conjure-up the false dichotomy of “reason versus the emotions” — which is, in reality, “reason versus reason.” And for them, they want to bridle Compassion as though it was an incontinent, irresponsible emotion threatening to wreak havoc on a rationally ordered World.

    Calling upon the rationality of science to handle such moral matters is like calling a plumber to fix an electrical short.

    When you look at the state of affairs in the World today, man’s inhumanity to man and animals, the immense amount of violence, greed — the acute sociopathic mindsets manifesting on an epidemic scale — the moral decrepitude and bankruptcy that plagues governments, corporations, Wall Street, mainstream religions and politics — what you are actually witnessing is the horrific consequence of calling a plumber to fix an electrical short in the household wiring. And it doesn’t require a Harvard Ph.D. to figure out that, although the plumber may be an expert in plumbing, if he tinkers with the wiring in your house, at your insistence, he is likely to burn the house down. The “rationalization” of empathy, Compassion and the moral \ ethical ‘conscience’ of humanity is the single-most colossal, horrific mistake in all of human history. The alarming extent of moral and ethical decay and depravity that is evident globally stands as proof-positive that “rationalism” in the name of Science, or Religion, or morality, or under any other grandiose banner, are utterly clueless and inept substitutes for Compassion and its conscience. Rationalism, with its penchant for dogmatizing all that it touches, has been an abysmal failure at resolving precisely those moral \ ethical problems Sam would assign to it. Sam staunchly repudiates the manner in which it has operated within Religion, which he denigrates as a dangerous petrified dogmatic shyster, without realizing that — ‘dogma’ per se — produces the same toxic rubbish when it manifests in “Science.” He fails to realize that dogma is the by-product of Rationalism — just as greenhouse gases are the by-product of petroleum combustion.

    There was blistering irony in Sam’s Huffington Post blog (“Toward a Science of Morality“), where he described the disapproving feedback he received from academic rationalists who insisted that, from rationalism’s point of view, issues of morality are “indeterminate.” It was a one-punch KO — an inside upper-cut punch from the ranks of his rationalist constituancy. And this rationalist was dead right. History is on his side. It was kind of odd seeing rationalists cannibalizing each other, devouring their own kind, utilizing the same limited disfunctional instrumentality that makes ‘rationalism’ so utterly incompetent and ill-equipped to handle matters of empathy, conscience and Compassion. And make no mistake about it, their rationalized concepts of ‘morality’ and ‘ethics’ were designed to supplant the epistemological function of “Empathy” and “Compassion” and “Conscience” because social engineers always desire, always seek a socially uniform cookie-cutter, rubber-stamp result that will be more amenable to “consistent mass production” industrialization, manipulation and control by social engineers and government leaders devoted to the belief society must be kept under tight reigns because it is always pulling on the leash in the direction of cerebral and spiritual independence (what they consider to be “anarchy”). To read Sam’s articulate account of those academic rationalist objections, is to see first hand, precisely why rationalism is and always will be utterly clueless and inept at performing the task Sam has assigned to it. I strongly encourage anyone who reads this blog to take the time to read Sam’s Huffington Post blog “Toward a Science of Morality.”

    Huston Smith thoroughly understood the limits of Reason when he astutely pointed out that “Reason makes a good servant and a lousy master.” So Reason isn’t useless, expendable or irrelevant — nor is it a villain — WHEN it ‘serves’ rather than trying to lead the way. The villainy of Reason is in its usurpation of authority in a power-hungry land-grab — in a dishonest attempt to claim ownership of and control over the province and domain of Compassion. And then — its villainous sin is one of “utter incompetence” — it is grotesquely incapable of delivering on it dishonest charlatan promises.

    While Sam deduced that the rationalist discord was the result of confusion about the importance of having a “consensus” on such matters, he seemed oblivious of the fact that the ‘consensus’ explanation effectively pollutes and perverts the faculty of empathy and Compassion, converting it to nothing more than a mathematical “poll-taking” popularity referendum, which historically is precisely what rationalism has always done when it over-reaches in a territorial ‘land grab’ attempt to invade the province of another epistemological domain that is uniquely suited to handle such matters. It is that errant frolic through a surrogate wasteland that has cursed us with the self-righteous, sanctimonious “tyranny of the majority” lynch mob mentality that has plagued most of human history (moralistic majority hysteria). That is precisely what rationalism has historically produced when it lies about its abilities, namely, it produces a watered-down, plasticized, mutilated ‘semblance’ of the pristine original that it is trying to pirate, and that disfigured, atrophied, contorted, pirated ‘knock-off’ end-product forgery ends up being a nutrient-poor surrogate for “the real thing” — but it invariably gets accepted, because most people are looking for a simple, easy, nano-second “silver bullet” formulaic, spoon-fed, pill-popping silver-spoon opiate solution that doesn’t require them to get a lot of dirt under their fingernails.

    As stated in the Parent Article here, the problem with the “Rationalism is King” notion that rationalism (the intellect) is an all-around handyman who can fix everything, is that it isn’t true, it isn’t accurate. At best, it gives you a “Jack of all Trades — Master of None” charlatan snake oil salesman who is scavenging the countryside extolling his brain surgery expertise, to the detriment of those who believe him. At worst, it results in the wretched condition that is epidemic throughout the World today, namely, a rudderless morally destitute, spiritually impoverished culture that has abandoned “the Real thing” (Empathy & Compassion — the Spiritual) in deference to a fraudulent surrogate that has dumped its passengers in the middle of a barren wasteland without a map or a canteen.

    It is bone-chilling to contemplate the repercussions of Sam’s notion that Science is capable of resolving moral, ethical questions. Apparently, by Sam’s reckoning, we need not worry about genetic engineers ‘crossing the line’ and engaging in unethical, unscrupulous and environmentally dangerous behavior because science is fully capable of resolving moral & ethical issues. So by Sam’s reckoning, science can just “self-regulate” itself by virtue of this astute moral aptitude it possesses. And we all know how effective self-regulation has been in the field of science . . . right? I’m sure BP (Gulf Oil Spill) would just love to slot Sam’s edict into their PR propaganda. Truth told, what makes the sciences, like genetic engineering, so horrifyingly dangerous is their profound moral reluctance, ineptitude and outright refusal to draw prudent, honest moral and ethical lines and limits for itself and resolve not to cross them. Probably because it deems morality to be “indeterminate.” That is science’s historical legacy.

    I first discovered rationlity’s moral ineptitude for myself after a peculiar college incident.

    I had an Animal Rights article published in the school newspaper. In essence, I was appealing to human’s “true nature” — their compassion – with its ability to see other suffering creatures as equal to themselves. A day or two later, I found a copy of my article stuffed in my department mailbox from a Philosophy Ph.D. student, with all sorts of comments scrawled in red in the margins. The gist of what he said was that “there is nothing in the realm of reason or rationality that informs me that I must or should perceive another’s life as being as important as my own. Everything that reason tells me is that ‘my life’ is of paramount importance, and that all other lives are quite secondary.”

    After reading it several times, I was absolutely convinced I could blast his position to smithereens, in such a conclusive and obvious way, that he would be forced to outright concede the point — like a chess player tipping over his king in acknowledgement of an impending inevitable checkmate many moves down the road. But every argument against this ‘selfish nature’ claim ended up only producing selfish reasons why such a selfish person might compromise his selfishness merely for the selfish gains to be realized from it. My effort was futile. All plausible roads led to selfishness. And after a 15-20 hour effort without success, I finally gave up. And at that very moment, the light went on and it dawned on me. The graduate student was right. He was absolutely right. Reason, aka, Rationality, the Discursive Intellect, will never, ever tell you the truth, that another’s life is as important as your own, because it is incapable of discerning that truth. That realization comes from a different epistemological faculty altogether — the conscience of Compassion.

    Compassion is NOT a product or construct of Reason. In fact, Rationality hasn’t a clue what the hell Compassion is, so it tries to “reverse engineer” the thing and simply comes up with the simple-minded “Golden Rule” Quid Pro Quo, something-for-something, barter & exchange, “being kind to each other” reciprocity paradigm as the next closest thing it can think of that is loosely ‘similar to’ but most certainly not really close to the original. Because rationalism is utterly clueless as to what Compassion is, and because it can only represent it mathematically, so to speak, as some vague, over-generalized over-simplified flattened-out plastic semblance, it ends up concluding that Compassion manifests as the body chemical Oxytocin, because Oxytocin levels in the body increase during friendly interaction between people and when you give people Oxytocin they are more considerate to others — therefore Compassion is Oxytocin or some facsimile thereof. That is precisely what Sam Harris and Michael Shermer insinuated during a ABC News Nightline Discussion \ Debate Forum entitled “Does God Have a Future?.” That is precisely the kind of ludicrous false lead misdirected misinformation rationalism intractibly and routinely spits-out because it is ‘stuck’ in its own limited operation which is inherently incapable of performing the tasks which the epistemology of Insight and Compassion perform quite easily and naturally, just as the ear is inherently incapable of experiencing or apprehending a beautiful sunset, something which the eye does quite easily and naturally.

    The latin root for the term “rationalism” is “ratio” – meaning “to cut up.” And that is the primary function of rationalism, cutting things up into categories and compartmentalizing things, differentiating things, labeling them, alpabetizing them, dating them, genus – species, directory–subdirectory. It’s the basic function of an office clerk, organizing and maintaining the files in the file cabinet, labeling each folder, and so on. And we all know how angry office managers get when a clerk says they “can’t find a file” or when they say they’ve “never heard of or seen the file” the manager is looking for. For rationality, everything has to have a place and a name and a label and a definition. And once rationality labels something, no matter how inaccurately, the label sticks and rationality can’t ever seem to let go of it. And that is the rigidity and the dogma of rationalism — every bit as petrified, arbitrary and capricious as the religious dogma rationalists so militantly ridicule and repudiate.

    And when rationalism runs up against a completely “foreign” object — something it cannot trace to any of its preordained labels or categories, it gets frustrated and militant, and it will mutilate, butcher and bastardize the alien object in order to force a fit into the next closest thing it can associate with the unknown entity. That is precisely what it has done to the epistemology of Insight, Intuition and Compassion. These “alien objects” are as alien as alien gets, because they come from a totally different epistemology. But rationality is treating them as though they are just some kind of an unwieldy, quirky, anomalous hybrid spinoff from a sub- subdirectory within the rationalist epistemic filing cabinets. And although this represents a totally mistaken understanding and a patent misconception of this ‘alien object,’ it will remain misfiled in that misnomer compartment indefinitely, to become petrified and institutionalized there as another brick in the wall of rationalism’s dogma palace.

    I cited the philosophy department story, not as “proof” for these arguments, but simply to share this experience of the futile effort that I exerted in trying to slot the Compassion animal (Equanimity of Life) into the Rationalistic epistemic register, WITHOUT SUCCESS. And if there is a message here (and there is), the message is this. In this ‘other’ epistemology of “Insight” – “Intuition,” no one can spoon-feed you the answer. You have to find it out for yourself, through your own self-inquiry. It doesn’t function like rationalism. Only then can you take ownership of it and make it your own. Compassion can’t be transmitted from one person to another, because it simply does not operate like the rationalistic epistemology operates. It’s like the Socratic Method, which abandons the notion of spoon-fed, ‘person-to-person’ transmission of Insight, and instead, extracts the wisdom and the answers from within the student, the listener, thereby demonstrating to him that “You know more than you know.” That is how this ‘other’ epistemology operates. It is the only way in which it can operate. Buddhists and Taoists, from time immemorial, have always understood this.

    It is like the Buddhist axiom which states: “You can’t teach a hunter that it’s wrong to kill.” You have to come upon that understanding through your own life experiences of pain and suffering, of death, a near-death experience or loss of a loved one. There is no cookie-cutter formulaic rubber-stamp ‘silver bullet’ argument (or pill) you can ‘pop’ that’s going to deliver you to the ‘Promised Land” eureka of realization. And yes, you’ll have to get some dirt under your fingernails. Because we have spent our entire lives in the epistemic world of the rational, we have come to expect, even demand, crisp, precise, succinct, unequivocal, articulate spoon-fed answers, although it is unclear why, since there are so many deep and vital questions rationality has been utterly incapable of metabolizing.

    As stated in the parent article, Rationalism is what you think & say; Compassion what you “are” manifesting as what you “do.” Equilibrium is having resilient, fluid open access to all epistemologies and all ways of Knowing & Being.”   ~~The epistemology of `rationalism’ will never connect you to the epistemology of `Compassion,’ just as the ear will never connect you to a beautiful sunset. ~~   So many today are lost and adrift on rationalism’s barren moonscape and enduring acute starvation from a lack of Compassion. If they continue to use only one of the two chopsticks Life has given us, they will miss another dinner and ultimately they will shrivel-up to the size of parched pea from malnourishment.

    Poets, philosophers and song writers, from time immemorial, have written about Compassion without ever claiming to have “bottled it” or conclusively “defined it” for all of posterity. And it is quite apparent that this article has attained no right to level such a claim either. In the book “The Prophet,” Kahlil Gibran demonstrated that he understood the predicament precisely. In acknowledging the human tendency to expect and demand clear, explicit articulation in the answer, Gibran wrote, “and who knows, but what a crystal is a mist in decay.” Whenever I reflect on that passage, it conjures up the many, many Zen and Taoist sketches and paintings which virtually always emphasize the peace, tranquillity and beauty of shrouded, misty mountain tops and secluded misty sunken valleys, just as their writings emphasize the serenity and imperturbable composure that lies within “The Great Mystery” of Life. Like a transient flim-flam huckster, Rationality lies to us and lures us into believing that it has a crystal clear answer for everything, then it silently disappears when the defects, bounced checks and the legal-tender problems start surfacing.

    We have erroneously come to believe that fulfillment and satisfaction can be attained by finding the precise answer to our questions about life. And never does it occur to us that, perhaps, understanding, serenity and fulfillment eludes us, not because we lack the right articulate answers, but because we are not posing the right questions — questions which often contain their own answer. And if we stubbornly demand that the answer have the clarity of a glittering crystal, how shall we ever find it in the beauty and wonder of the mysteries of life or the misty mountain top? What Compassion lacks in linguistic clarity it makes up for in panoramic insight.

    This “other” very different epistemological faculty has integrity and legitimacy in its own right, in its own sphere of influence and it is imprudent and premature to discount it or dismiss it merely because a different epistemology, of a different and inferior scope, cannot metabolize its contents. By that kind of reckoning, we must reject the entire torrent of new discoveries made by the radio telescope — merely because the findings cannot be confirmed by the optical telescope. Einstein often said, “I did not arrive at my fundamental understanding of the Universe through my rational mind.” He insisted that a new type of thinking is essential if humanity is to transcend to higher levels of understanding. Einstein was well-connected to this Intuitive faculty of Insight and knew how to actualize both the rational and the intuitive in his pursuit of a higher understanding.

    And while this “other” very different epistemological faculty may not be amenable to microscope identification and test-tube corroboration, it is nevertheless discernable. It manifests as “Compassion” and those who do NOT discern it are all the more impoverished in its absence. The Compassion of St. Francis and Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer can be discerned without the intervention of the discursive intellect. But rationalism has trained us to mistrust it. It is entirely probable, realistically and credibly plausible, that this is an epistemology that exists beyond the faculty of the rational and beyond the faculty of language. There is absolutely no tenable, coherent logical basis for discrediting its integrity for this reason . . . just as it would make no sense for a plumber to pass judgement on the electrical integrity of your household wiring.

    With this open-ended understanding it is easy to ‘see’ that — Reason is not nearly all of my eye.


    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog


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    Rationalism Religion & Dogma – The Three Wicked Sisters

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    Science Can Answer Moral Questions.”

    Does God Have a Future?


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  •    Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?   

    Scales of Balanced Justice

              There are many who would say that religion manifesting as iron-fisted, petrified dogma is not religion at all. Enter the notion of “spirituality” and an examination of what is meant by that term, and for that matter, what is meant by the term “dogma,” such that it would be considered “not religion at all.”

    These are the bedrock cornerstone issues that inspired this topic category.

    Websters defines “dogma” as: “something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet – a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds.” Within the ‘religious’ context it means that religious dogma sees religion as a body of black letter rules and edicts that must be blindly obeyed and followed, much like the hierarchy of military command, where the soldier’s ethos and thought processes are subordinate to the high command. Those who do strictly obey and follow the tenets, the edicts, the religious laws, are deemed to be holy and religious (good soldiers).

    Central to religious dogma is the belief that one need not ‘understand’ or ‘grasp’ the meaning or import or purpose of the edict or rule. To the contrary, such an effort “to understand the meaning and import” is considered an act of blasphemy, an act of heresy by religious dogmatists and zealots, because it is deemed tantamount to ‘questioning’ or ‘second-guessing’ the inspired imperial word, order, edict, rule, law that God promulgated. This belief is often expressed as the fierce military command “Yours not to reason why, but to do or die.” Blind, unquestioning acceptance and obedience is expected and demanded, as an article of ‘faith.’ The hallmark of religious dogma is apparent as a cardinal trait in all mainstream and “Fundamentalist” religions throughout the World.

    Spirituality is the antithesis of religious dogma and the Fundamentalist movement. Spirituality holds that true religiousness lies in an ‘awakened’ understanding of the ‘spirit’ — the ‘heart’ of the religious rule or precept. Where religious dogma pontificates direct orders saying “You must do this – you must not do that” — spirituality emphasizes “being” over ‘doing.’ Thus, religious dogma says “you must do this” while spirituality says “if you will ‘BE’ this, you will always do the right thing.”

    Spirituality rigorously contends that Christ was a fierce anti-dogma Enlightened One. In fact, they would argue that anti-dogma stood as the very heart and soul of his teachings. Spirituality holds that Christ was saying “It’s not enough to follow the strict black-letter law not to kill. Instead, one must cultivate a heart of such Compassion that the impetus to kill cannot arise in the first place.”

    Christ WAS a devout anti-dogmatist. The teaching of Christ was of Compassion. There is no other teaching but Compassion. There is no other ‘way’ – no other salvation – no other ‘awakening’ – no other born-again eureka or ‘enlightenment’ – no other ‘understanding’ but Compassion. That was the teaching. That is what Spirituality embraces and what the rationalistic meatgrinder despises and avoids like the plague.

    Several recent Vatican ‘decrees’ help to illustrate this point and help to differentiate ‘dogma’ from Compassion. Recently, Pope Francis issued a decree holding firm on the long-standing ‘policy’ that NO Catholic church shall offer a guten-free wafer in place of the standard gluten-filled communion wafer. This is a perfect example of the Vatican’s long, long history of choosing Dogma over Compassion. Contrast this sociopathic model with Christ’s teachings of Compassion. In his day, Christ was castigated by the religious authorities for working on the Sabbath — something that was deemed forbidden by religious doctrine. Christ’s response? He said, “You enjoy adhering rigidly to the letter of the law, while you violate the heart of the law.” Translation: “It’s about Compassion, idiots, NOT the ‘dogma’ or the doctrines.”

    What would Christ have said about the communion wafer? “Why of course — go ahead and substitute the gluten-free wafer, so it does not harm or kill anyone. Communion is just a symbolic exercise and it symbolizes each person taking unto themselves the Compassion of Christ. It represents the consumption of Christ’s Compassion — and therefore — if it is not admistered in a spirit of Compassion, it defiles and bastardizes its own intention — to perpetuate and instill ‘The Spirit of Compassion’ in every human Heart.”

    About a year or so earlier, Pope Francis issued a heartless pronouncement to Brittany Maynard’s grieving parents, decreeing that their beloved daughter Brittany Maynard would go to hell because, in an act of Euthanasia, she ended her life a few months before her brain cancer would have, with certainty, killed her in a most cruel and inhumane and long-suffering manner. As has been evident in the entire history of this sociopathic, callous institution known as the “Catholic Church” — Pope Francis and ‘The Church’ once again patently reject Compassion in favor of the dogma and its mindless, heartless doctrines. Only a certified demented sociopath could have issued such a cruel, heartless comment to the profoundly grieving parents of a recently deceased child.

    In repudiating Compassion, Pope Francis and ‘The Church’ have, once again, patently rejected Christ, his teachings — and the teachings of the pope’s name-sake, Saint Francis — all of whom advocated, with every fiber of their being, the patent rejection of the ‘dogma’ and the unconditional embrace of Compassion in its place. The very same stunted papal mentality that militantly repudiated Saint Francis’ teaching — before, during and after his death — is precisely the same ruthless, sociopathic, decrepit Dark Ages mentality that terrorized Brittany Maynard’s grieving parents — and it is the same demented mentality that throws its own Communion participants under the bus — all in the name of a mindless, heartless dogma, which it deifies, while demonizing Compassion as a heretical threat to the dogma it worships and idolizes.

    What would Christ have said about all of this? Well — let’s look at what he actually did say about it. Christ was criticized by the religious elders — the religious ‘authorities’ and ‘experts’ of his time — for socializing with a prostitute — which was forbidden by religious doctrine. Christ’s response was essentially identical to his response to his Sabbath Day critics. He said, “This woman washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Which of YOU have treated me with such Compassion when I came to your city?” Translation: “It’s about Compassion, idiots, NOT the ‘dogma’ or the doctrines.”

    For Spirituality, ‘compassion’ cannot be translated as an edict, or a law, or a rule to be blindly and obediently followed. It must be understood, ‘realized,’ actualized, manifested in the heart, soul and spirit of each individual. St. Francis is often cited as the premier example of this understanding within the Christian religion. Mother Theresa stands as a giant contemporary example in Christianity.

    Spirituality illustrates this principle by pointing to one of the Ten Commandments, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” as an example. Under the blind obedience tenets of religious dogma, if asked why he does not kill, the dogmatist would answer: “Because the Holy word of God tells us not to kill.” Conversely, Spirituality would answer, “Because the idea of ‘killing’ cannot manifest in the heart of compassion which is the heart of God.”

    One might ask, just how comfortable would I feel being around someone who does not kill, merely because a rule tells him it is not allowed. Now compare that comfort level with one surrounding a spiritual person who states, as St. Francis did, that in the heart of compassion which was in Christ and is in me, no impetus to kill can arise. I, personally, would feel infinitely more comfortable around the spiritual person. It’s a no-brainer.

    When the notion of religious dogma is fully understood, it becomes apparent that organized mainstream religion today has become dogmatic. And it comes as no surprise that this dogmatized mainstream religion has become acutely politicized, something which the biblical records state its namesake, Christ, staunchly and adamantly repudiated.

    Now let’s look at the term “Spirituality” so it is clear exactly what we mean by that term.

    The term ‘epistemology’ sounds like a high-flying word only a Ph.D. academic would know. But it is really a simple term with enormous significance. Epistemology is simply the study of “the means available to humans for apprehending reality.” We have our five senses for detecting or apprehending reality. This is often called the epistemology of “Empiricism” and one who believes this is the superior, most reliable epistemological faculty is referred to as an Empiricist. Rationality is another epistemological faculty for apprehending reality and one who believes that Rationalism is the superior, most reliable epistemological faculty is referred to as a Rationalist.

    The truth is that the Rationalists and the Empiricists are actually very intimate, accommodating, friendly and compatible bedfellows who are joined at the hip and who work very well together in the fields of science and technology. The real dogfight is between the epistemology of Rationalism and the third epistemological faculty known as “Insight” or the “Intuitive,” which most commonly manifests itself as the faculty of “Compassion.” This ‘other’ epistemological faculty once was the special province of Religion, until mainstream Religion abandoned it in favor of Rationalism (Thank St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas for that treason).

    I noted, with great sadness, that one of the very first things the newly enthroned Pope Benedict proclaimed, was a reaffirmation of the Aquinas peace-maker treasonous pronouncement that the epistemology of reason \ rationality is fully capable of delivering devotees to moral and ethical rectitude and the Promised Land. Until that time, for Religion, it was the epistemological faculty of Insight, Intuition and Revelation, manifesting as Compassion, that delivered devotees to moral and ethical rectitude and the Promised Land. But mainstream Religion long-ago renounced and abandoned that precept, and as a result became a Rationalistic institution. Dogma is a common manifestation and unique fingerprint of rationalism.

    This is what the predicament now is between the epistemology of Rationalism and the epistemology of Insight, Intuition manifesting as Compassion. Rationalism is insisting that Insight \ Intuition \ Revelation meet the standards of Rationalism, that Insight & Compassion’s “sightings” be discernable by the faculty of Rationalism, and that is an impossibility precisely because they are two totally different epistemologies. In fact, that is precisely what makes them two completely different epistemologies. Rationalism can never detect and observe what is discernable to Insight, just as the Optical Telescope, by its very nature and limitations, can never detect the invisible radio waves perceived by the Radio Telescope — because it only operates on the visible spectrum. Now, we need to consider the single-most damaging, negative consequence that has flowed from Rationalism’s victory over Insight and Compassion.

    For both religion and global society, substituting the epistemology of Rationalism for the epistemology of Insight and Compassion has proven to be a catastrophic mistake. This is, at its core, an epistemological problem.

    The epistemological faculty of “Insight \ Revelation,” i.e., the faculty of the “intuitive,” manifests most commonly for most of us in the form of “Compassion.” This is a distinctly different epistemology altogether, and it alone, has the capacity, the ability to serve as a reliable moral compass, to reconcile what we commonly refer to as “ethical” and “moral” issues of empathy. Calling upon Rationality to handle such matters is like calling an electrician to fix a backed-up toilet. You call an electrician to resolve electrical problems, and you call a “plumber” to repair plumbing problems.

    The problem with the “Rationalism is King” notion that rationalism (the intellect) is an all-around handyman who can fix everything, is that it isn’t true, it isn’t accurate. At best, it gives you a “Jack of all Trades — Master of None” charlatan snake oil salesman who is scavenging the countryside extolling his brain surgery expertise, to the detriment of those who believe him. At worst, it results in the wretched condition that is epidemic throughout the World today, namely, a rudderless morally destitute, spiritually malnourished culture that has abandoned “the Real thing” (Empathy & Compassion) in deference to a fraudulent surrogate that has dumped its passengers in the middle of a barren wasteland without a map, a compass or a canteen.

    When you look at the state of affairs in the World today, man’s inhumanity to man and animals, the immense amount of violence and greed and rampant, acute sociopathic mental disorders on an epidemic scale, what you are actually witnessing is the horrific consequence of calling a plumber to correct an electrical short in the household wiring. And it doesn’t require a Harvard Ph.D. to figure out that, although the plumber may be an expert in plumbing, he is utterly incompetent at electrical work; he is profoundly inept at electrical repairs and if he tinkers with the wiring in your house, at your insistence, he is likely to burn the house down. The “rationalization” of empathy, Compassion and the moral \ ethical ‘conscience’ of humanity is the single-most colossal, horrific mistake in all of human history.

    In truth, Rationalism is utterly incapable of responsibly and competently performing the tasks we assign to it. Rationalism has reigned as king for centuries now, and when you look around at the decrepit conditions of corruption and inhumanity you are actually looking at proof positive that rationalism has absolutely no moral compass. And when you look at mainstream religion today you see a “political” institution that also lacks a moral compass. That is because the epistemology of Empathy and Compassion, the true moral compass, has been muzzled, maligned, subordinated, castrated, denigrated and forsaken, in large measure, by rationalism and by mainstream religion which renounced the epistemology of Empathy and Compassion in favor of rationalism and the heartless dogma and doctrines it mindlessly dispenses.

    This “other” very different epistemological faculty has integrity and legitimacy in its own right and in its own sphere of influence and it is unwise and premature to discount it or dismiss it merely because a different epistemology (rationalism), of an inferior scope, cannot metabolize its contents. And while this “other” very different epistemological faculty may not be amenable to microscope identification and test-tube corroboration, it is nevertheless discernable. In truth, it is entirely possible, realistically and credibly plausible, that this is an epistemology that exists beyond the faculty of the rational and beyond the faculty of language. There is absolutely no tenable, coherent logical basis for discrediting its integrity for this reason. It merely requires faith — faith in the belief that Compassion is the only True moral compass.

    But what we have today is the epistemology of “Rationality” reigning supreme, with absolute veto power over the epistemology of “Insight” and Compassion. Yet the historical record strongly favors the view that, reason (intellect), unbridled and uninformed by compassion, is meaningless, aimless and often dangerous. The typical western view today inverts this premise, holding that compassion, insight and intuition must be bridled by “reason” and the intellect.

    In trying to ferret out the truth of the matter, one might ask, “In all of human history, What great harm and evil has ever been wrought against the masses by COMPASSION when it has been ‘let loose’ and is off the leash and in command?” Then ask that same question of ‘rationality’ and the intellect. What Frankensteins of harm has unbridled rationality created in human history? The Holocaust? Hitler’s Ultimate Solution with his Grand Scientific Scheme for genetic perfection? The Crusades? The Stalin Holocaust? The Lenin Holocaust? The Mao Regime Genocides? The Pol Pot Regime Genocide? The Bosnian Ethnic Cleansing genocides? The Rwandan Genocide? The Darfur Genocide? Few would try to argue that these horrific rationalized ‘social engineering’ debacles were the product of ‘unbridled‘ COMPASSION. Indeed it is unmistakably clear that rationality, unbridled by Compassion, has proven to be a horrendously dangerous thing. Which means that for as long as anyone can remember, the fox has been guarding the henhouse and the hen mortality rate has been skyrocketing ever since.

    Respected philosopher Huston Smith graphically stated the problem when he wrote, “Reason makes a very good servant and a lousy master.” Given the spate of evidence throughout human history, it is fair to say Smith’s remark is a gross understatement. Reason unbridled by Compassion has proven to be the greatest, most disastrous “mistake” in all of human history.

    Because of the erroneous compartmentalization of the epistemology of Insight and Compassion as a trivial, inferior ’emotion,’ subordinated to Rationalism, mainstream Religion and the notion of ‘religiousness’ has been condemned to wallow in the mud as nothing more than rationalistic “Dogma,” the inevitable result whenever rationality attempts to muscle-in on another epistemology in order to handle something that is beyond its ken . . . beyond its capabilities, beyond its grasp and comprehension. Given this pathetic state of affairs, we are justified in stating that Rationalism, mainstream Religion & Dogma represent The Three Wicked Sisters in human history. When mainstream religion renounced, defected, betrayed, deserted the epistemology of Insight \ Intuition \ Revelation \ Compassion with a Judas kiss, it abdicated its throne in an act of treason that removed religion from its special place as the guardian of the Spiritual dimension of human consciousness.

    It is a bitter irony indeed, because the epistemology of Insight \ Intuition \ Revelation, manifesting as Compassion, had always been the hallmark and special province of Religion and it was this ‘Spirituality’ component in religion that brought many religions together under one roof, as one family, in the name and service of Compassion. And it is nauseating to have to contemplate that mainstream Religion traded away this precious jewel, for something as mundane and stunted as rationalistic ‘Dogma’ and the politicizing of the entire institution of religion by mainstream dogmatists and politicians. It is unmistakably obvious, that “Religious Fundamentalism” in every religion throughout the World today, has become nothing more than a ‘political clan’, a political tool, a political whorehouse, and it no longer has much of anything to do with true Religion, having renounced and abandoned Spirituality long, long ago. It was mainstream religion’s renunciation of the spiritual and its embrace of rationalism that has made it so amenable to the dogmatic political manipulations so commonplace today, something which, in bitter irony, the biblical records indicate, Christ repudiated with every fiber of his being.

    Revised: Tuesday, September 26, 2017

    This brief summary stands as the framework for this subject category entitled: “Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?” This is an open forum and participation by way of Comments on the posted articles is invited and encouraged. At this point in time, no membership, registration or log-in is required to post a Comment. (See also, “Rationalism Religion & Dogma – The Three Wicked Sisters” and “On Moral Questions – Science is Clueless“).


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