•    Morality Has No Conscience   

    Scales of Balanced Justice

    Abstract: Morality should NOT be thought of as society’s “Preeminent Guiding Light” in tempering, regulating, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. At best — it is a fickle, often truant, secondary stop-gap safety-net measure — in case something harmful sneaks past the real “Preeminent Guiding Light.”

    And what is the ‘real’ Preeminent Guiding Light?        COMPASSION.

    As noted in the Topic introduction entitled “Compassionate Truths” — Compassion is not widely revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and ‘groomed’ at home, in schools or at the workplace. But the Ego is. And so is the Intellect — the neglectful designer and CEO of Morality. And that is precisely the problem. Ego, by its own reckoning, sees itself as the nemesis and arch-rival of Compassion. Ego is exclusively self-inflected and self-directed to the “I – Me – Mine” obsessive concerns — making it, by its very nature, a ‘selfish’ preoccupation. Compassion, on the other hand, is always traceable to a concern for ‘others’ — making it, by its very nature, a ‘selfless’ exercise.

    As tendencies go, those who extol Compassion as the supreme virtue are often labeled “socialists” – “Marxists” – “commies” or “bleeding-heart liberals” (and anti-American). And those who tout Ego as the supreme virtue are typically labeled “capitalists” – “industrialists” – “patriots” and pro-American (and Ayn Rand devotees).

    In the developed countries of the World, societies first and foremost, widely revere, cultivate, respect, encourage and groom the individual Ego — while extolling its virtues as a hyper-motivator and a rocket propellant “call to action.” One could reasonably describe it this way: “The Ego has been ‘weaponized’ in order to cultivate a highly industrious, productive hive of worker bees.”

    The United States stands as the supreme example of its enormous success in this regard. The foundation of the ultimate American Constitutional ideal — the supremacy of the “individual” and the ‘rights’ of individuals — has evolved (or devolved) into the worship, adoration, exaltation and deification of the individual Ego. A gargantuan Ego today, in America, is considered a badge-of-honor and is deemed to constitute conclusive evidence that an individual is highly motivated — what’s considered an ideal healthy trait in a competitive acquisitive capitalistic society that loathes its perceived opposite — the complacent, lazy, uninspired, deadbeat, freeloader mentality. An Oxford degree is not required in order to ascertain how Ego and Compassion are antithetical to each other. Nor is a degree required in order to ascertian that Compassion is neither complacent, nor lazy, nor uninspired, nor is it a deadbeat freeloader.

    Fundamental human perceptions, understandings and World views are all filtered through and fashioned by one of these two basic building block operations — Ego versus Compassion.

    In some religions, especially Buddhism, Sufiism and Taoism (and Christ’s teachings), Compassion is what is revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and groomed as the highest good. But statistically these religious factions are a small minority of all religious adherents. Most mainstream religions stand as extreme examples of acute Ego obsession — as in mammoth “Messianic Ego Trips” and “Delusions of Grandeur” that highly motivate adherents to “spread the gospel” and “convert the heathens” to their ideology. This has often perverted their original core teaching’s emphasis on Compassion. This perversion of religion was made possible when religion became rationalized, dogmatized, politicized and monetized (weaponized) by utilitarian manipulators with other agendas wholly unrelated to the religious teachings.

    The “Killer Bees” are bees that were weaponized in a laboratory, who then escaped and are now rapidly spreading across North and South America. What a brutal irony — because un-weaponized bees are man’s best friend. Without them we could not grow, en mass, all the food that feeds the World. The genesis of this colossal debacle? The greed of monumental Egos on “Messianic Ego Trips” blinded by “Delusions of Grandeur” who wanted bees that would produce more honey — for higher profits.

    This illustrates — surprisingly — that this is NOT actually an “Ego versus Compassion” warfront. The Ego, before it was weaponized like the Killer Bees, was not an irresponsible, dishonest, dangerous, malevolent instrumentality. It served a basic, important biological function — allowing humans to realize that the foot I see is attached to “MY” body and that “MY” foot and “MY” body are different from “YOUR” foot and “YOUR” body. This is a good thing to know — so we don’t amputate the wrong foot from the wrong body when such a medical procedure becomes necessary.

    So Ego, per se, is NOT the enemy. It is only the ‘weaponized’ Ego that is an irresponsible, dishonest, dangerous, malevolent instrumentality. So the task, as most Buddhists well-know — is how to tame and de-weaponize the Ego so it is not a mortal threat to humanity’s well-being. Let’s now look closely at how morality has and has NOT been operating in society — as a means of countering this mortal threat.

    One of the problems is this. Morality is erroneously understood to be the preeminent moral compass and guiding light in tempering, regulating, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. And as many historians have pointed out, “Social morality is immoral because it compromises with society.” Morality is context sensitive — relative to the widely accepted ‘norms’ of a particular time and place and culture. It’s a chameleon. And that is its hypocrisy — which makes it unreliable and unworthy of its “Preeminent Guiding Light” status. It also tends to be a gutless coward. Albert Schweitzer once lamented the fact that physical courage is so revered, rewarded, respected and commonplace, while moral courage is so ridiculed, reviled, despised and so very rare (think demonized ‘whistle-blower’ snitch).

    But by far, the most alarming misconception about morality is that it is perceived as being a kind of Jiminy Cricket inner “conscience” for each individual to listen to for guidance (as in the Pinocchio story). This is a patently false, erroneous depiction of how morality operates. Morality is strictly a ‘shaming’ device and nothing more. It works by instilling guilt for one’s moral offenses — and then subjecting the offender to public ridicule. Most importantly — morality is NOT an “inner voice” of conscience. Morality exclusively references an “external” value (public opinion) and it is context sensitive — relative to the widely accepted ‘norms’ of a particular time and place. It’s a chameleon. The only Jiminy Cricket inner-voice “conscience” there is comes by way of Compassion.

    In the Pinocchio story, Jiminy Cricket is the inner voice “conscience” of Compassion — NOT morality. Stated more succinctly — conscience is synonymous with Compassion, not morality. To be even more succinct — 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. When the social majority deems slavery to be a useful, productive, profitable, acceptable social practice — its morality does not condemn or shame that conduct as immoral. And when the social majority deems slavery to be an inherently unfair, unjust and unacceptable social practice — its morality condemns and shames that conduct. The conduct is exactly the same in both instances. 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. Hence morality can only be described as “having no conscience.” For this reason, morality is fully capable of being completely silent, non-judgmental and utterly complacent while unfathomably horrific atrocities are being openly and routinely committed — as happened during the Holocaust. One of morality’s chief crimes is cowardly habitual “Dereliction of Duty.”

    And when the foundation of a society is built around something as shiftless, derelict, fickle, capricious, faithless and volatile as morality — that society will, in turn, be deemed unstable. And that society will correctly be characterized as “having no conscience.” Thus it quickly becomes inescapably clear how vitally important it is that Compassion, not morality, be deemed the “primary function” Preeminent Guiding Light compass and guide for tempering, regulating, molding, influencing human behavior and values. Then Compassion will be readily available to all via the inner voice of conscience and empathy — a far deeper, more constructive, more enduring insight than morality’s shallow, ever-shifting “guilt” mechanism. Morality (manifesting as ‘Guilt’) should only be considered a secondary line of defense — a desperate last-ditch effort to regulate a sociopath who’s been hopelessly alienated from Compassion.

    At this important juncture the critical point has to be stressed as to WHY morality today should never even be considered a significant guide for human behavior or a meaningful influence in American life. If the Trump era has taught us anything at all — it is that there are few moral consequences for even the most egregious, reprehensible conduct by public officials. Morality has little influence because there are such meager discernable consequences for immoral conduct. And morality keeps habitually falling asleep at the wheel. Morality has proven to be a cowardly shrinking violet — time and time again — failing to assert itself to temper even the most bone-chilling abusive human behavior. Without question, we have invisibly passed into a parallel universe where morality has largely vanished from our borders. But lets be honest — it had been in notable decline for a long time and it always was grossly inferior to Compassion as a compass and guide for human behavior and values.

    NASA’s shuttle had a fail-safe system with multi-layered alternate back-up options that relied on the many redundancies built into the shuttle. There was the “primary” function — which everyone hoped would work properly, so that no fail-safe alternate operation would be necessary. If the primary function failed, they had contingency plans in their “fail-safe” protocols that would actuate a totally separate back-up instrument, entirely different from the primary instrument — and if that also failed, most often they had a third back-up alternative. With some of the most critical shuttle functions they had as many as 7 or 8 distinctly separate alternative options they could fall back on as a safety net. That was the concept of “fail-safe” — i.e., if it’s going to fail — make sure it fails safely.”

    Similarly — Compassion must be deemed the “primary function” Guiding Light compass — which everyone hopes will work properly, so that no fail-safe alternate operation would be necessary. But today, society has relegated that assignment to morality. It’s a misguided assignment. Compassion must be deemed the preeminent guidepost and the supreme guiding light relied upon in tempering, regulating, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. Ask yourself this — Just how comfortable would you feel being around someone where the only reason he doesn’t shoot you through the head and take your money is because such conduct is not currently morally acceptable — according to the majority in the latest opinion poll of the general population? Somehow, for me anyway, I would find it profoundly unnerving to think that the only thing saving me from a bullet to the head is the outcome of a fickle, often truant, transitory opinion poll referendum. And it gets even more frightening when you consider WHO was swept into the White House via one of the last opinion poll referendums.

    Compassion is the only appropriate, worthy candidate as the primary-function “Preeminent Guiding Light” compass for tempering, molding, influencing or guiding human behavior and values. Now we can probably hear the roar of hysterical laughter from the skeptic who shouts “What an incredibly naive suggestion this is.” But that cynicism is also context sensitive. And the context right now is that Compassion is not and has not been widely revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and `groomed’ at home, in schools or at the workplace. At the same time — Ego has been. So the root cause of the problem — Ego (me is superior to us) — ends up at the top of the hierarchy as “Commander in Chief” — in the driver’s seat — while Compassion gets booted into the back seat and told to shut-up (more accurately — tied-up, gagged and thrown into the trunk as a hostage).

    Compassion is how we de-weaponize the Ego. If Compassion had been widely revered, cultivated, respected, encouraged and `groomed’ at home, in schools and at the workplace, as Ego has been, it would not sound like such a ludicrous idea — making Compassion the “Preeminent Guiding Light.” If Compassion had gotten all the kudos, the ad spots, promotions, advancements, bonuses & incentives, tax-breaks and welfare hand-outs that Ego has gotten, Compassion would now be an enduring monolithic guardian and protector for us all right now. And that is the paramount point of this entire article!

    The bottom line is that WE created this monster — this perverted inverted value system and we did it at the grass-roots level, in the home, in schools, at work and in the gangs and groups we identify with.

    WE did this. WE can change it. And the motivation for change is “dire necessity.” The machinery for change is as grass-roots as it can get — start revering, cultivating, respecting, encouraging and `grooming’ Compassion at home — then take it to school with you. That alone is a sufficient start.

    Be a cynic at your own peril. It’s YOUR future. And your children’s children’s future.
    Compassion isn’t dead. It’s just sleeping beneath a long, hard Winter snow.


    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog


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    On Moral Questions – Science is Clueless


    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog

  •    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.

    Special Note: After receiving a torrent of push-back on his numerous “Science Can Answer Moral Questions” talks — Sam Harris has since modified his position so that he now substitutes the term “reason” for the term “science” — so it now reads: “Reason Can Answer Moral Questions.” As you will soon see, this article had already targeted the epistemological faculty of ‘reason’ as being just as unequipped and incompetent as “science” in its ability to “answer moral questions.” Despite Sam’s significant position change — we have left our ‘science is incompetent’ arguments as they were originally written — so the reader can see WHY Sam was inspired to revise his position as he did.

    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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    Science Can Answer Moral Questions.”

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    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog