•    On Moral Questions – Science is Clueless   

    Scales of a Balanced Justice

             Recently (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 address Sam’s Huffington Post blog article and his TED Talk presentation, however this article really needs to be read in the context of and in conjunction with the parent article that precedes this article (“Rationalism Religion & Dogma – The Three Wicked Sisters“).

    I first discovered Sam Harris on an ABC News Nightline Face-Off program entitled “Does God Have a Future?” which featured a debate\discussion between two secular humanist skeptics (Sam Harris and Michael Shermer) and two so-called ‘God-defenders’ (Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston). Although it was one of Chopra’s worst-ever performances, this debate was one of the best “Skeptics vs. Religion” debates I have ever witnessed. The entire 1.5 hour debate is available online at YouTube and I highly recommend watching all of it, as it constitutes entertainment and education at its very best (“ABC News Nightline Face-Off: “Does God Have a Future?”“).

    From this Face-off debate I developed a tremendous amount of respect for both Sam Harris and Michael Shermer, whose works I had enjoyed for many years previously. The articles, arguments, videos and books they have produced, which track the skeptic’s and secular humanist’s problems with religion, have added tremendously to our understanding of all three points of view. I find it very difficult to disagree with Sam and Michael because so much of what they have said rings true. I totally share Sam’s concerns about the radical, fundamentalist Christian right-wing elements in this country threatening to seize control and turn America in the direction of a theocracy. I share his fear and his pain in this regard, and on many other fronts. 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 agree with Sam’s assertion that much of organized mainstream religion, as commonly practiced and understood today, has no special moral voice and that mainstream religion is NOT exclusively or uniquely capable of addressing ethical \ moral issues. I also share Sam’s deep concern that mainstream religion, as it has historically been practiced and interpreted by mainstream mentalities, has proven to be a very dangerous and close-minded institution.

    The disagreement I have with Sam’s views, ironically, lies at the very core of his bedrock premises. So it turns out that I agree with a tremendous amount of things Sam says, but often for very different reasons, and those core ‘reasons’ . . . those core differences are, I believe, vitally important. So these are NOT trifling, trivial differences at all. But as I proceed to delineate the bedrock flaws I see in some of Sam’s analytical premises and conclusions, I urge readers to keep in mind that, even with these important pivotal differences, 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. This is a profound respect that I also have for two other leading skeptic \ secular humanist giants, Michael Shermer and Paul Kurtz. So as I posit my disagreements keep in mind that, I do NOT denigrate these skeptics or their positions nor do I discount their views in their entirety. Even erroneous viewpoints can be vitally important in helping to pinpoint, isolate and articulate the core problems we all recognize and seek to redress.

    Prior to delving into the specifics, I can summarize the problems with Sam’s errant premises fairly quickly and succinctly. Sam has used sweeping generalizations utilizing overly broad brush strokes that are far too broad to be completely accurate. Sam appears to make no distinction between religious “fundamentalism” (extremist, black-letter literalists, fanatics) versus the “spiritual” segment of religion (St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Albert Schweitzer, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddhism, Taoism, Huston Smith, Shunryu Suzuki, etc). The result is that Sam tosses out the baby with the bath water, as is most glaringly 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’ (modus operandi) operating within his broad target category called “religion.”

    Had Sam made this critical distinction, he would have noticed (realized) that his arguments were consistently accurate and well-placed with respect to the “Rationalistic mainstream Religion” epistemological branch, while being consistently inaccurate and unwarranted with respect to the “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 and called on it, on numerous occasions, for being overly broad in his sweeping generalizations about and attributions to ‘religion’ as a whole, without making these crucial distinctions.

    And in summarizing Sam’s errors in this regard, the mistake described above is compounded ten-fold by another ‘over inclusive’ mistake, 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.” This crucial distinction is absolutely essential for several reasons, and if Sam had made this distinction he would have noticed (realized) that his arguments may have had some loose, tenuous application with respect to “Pure Science”, while being consistently inaccurate and unwarranted with respect to “Applied Science.”

    There are many who would persuasively argue that the notion of “Pure Science” has no actual reality in the world today, and it stands solely as a theoretical abstraction, a kind of theoretical ‘hypothesis’ for something that is currently non-existent in reality (a kind of “purist’s hypothetical”). I submit that a critical examination would disclose that all of science today is “Applied Science” — a severely denigrated, polluted, defective semblance of the pristine original, otherwise defined as the purely theoretical abstraction known as “Pure Science.” 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 profitability, patent-ownership 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 conclusively proven that this science is utterly incapable of helping us make moral or ethical decisions, and in fact, it is a terribly dangerous sociopathic instrumentality when misapplied in this manner. Those who empathize with this view, see Sam’s suggestion as tantamount to “jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”

    These errors in Sam’s examination of science and religion culminate with one enormous consequential oversight, namely, the failure to realize that the sum and substance of all Sam’s complaints about his over-generalized image of “religion” translate, ultimately, into a complaint against “dogmatism” NOT religion. Had Sam grasped this fascinating and crucial fact, he would have noticed (realized) that the inherent danger and unreliability wrought by “dogmatism” actually apply to ALL academic, epistemological and investigative disciples across the board, and are NOT uniquely the Achilles heel of mainstream religion alone. As much as I respect leading skeptics like Sam and Michael Shermer, I do see, from time to time, that human tendency for skeptics to become mired in the sticky cobweb of dogmatism, as they occasionally become very rigid, hard-headed, un-objective, petrified, close-minded and reactionary in their zeal to defend their egos, their prefab structures, their integrity (ego), 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 the ‘true’ skeptic who prides himself in recognizing ‘objectivity’ as the indispensable bedrock pillar on which his science stands.

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

    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. That is to say, Sam believes that the epistemology of “Reason,” i.e., the epistemology of “Rationalism” and the discursive intellect is the only epistemological faculty humans have, other than Empiricism. As a result, by my reckoning, Sam probably felt compelled to make the case that all of the moral and ethical ‘judgements’ that humans must make in the World and in their personal lives, can be fully and completely handled by the epistemological faculty of Rationality (Reason). 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 resolving moral and ethical questions. I suggest that the terms “science” and “rationalism” are interchangeable in this context, and they are utterly incapable of standing as humans’ moral and ethical compass. In fact, I suggest that the horrendous, monumental moral ethical disaster we are all looking at right now around the World is the direct result of two utterly inept instrumentalities, “Dogmatic Religion” and “Applied Science,” being assigned the task of standing-in as a human moral-ethical ‘compass’ — a task for which they are both utterly unsuited and ill-equipped.

    I contend that this task assignment is as erroneous as mainstream religion’s false claims to ‘sole proprietorship’ in the morality–ethics domain, and it is just as dangerous, because any time a charlatan claims to be a brain surgeon, great dangers are presented. Most importantly, I submit that the decrepit condition 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. I submit that the dogma-laden atrophied condition of mainstream religion is the direct result of the “rationalization” of religion, in conjunction with its utter abandonment of its inherent spiritual core (see prior blog, “Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?“). This flight away from spirituality and into the arms of rationalism has been largely for the purpose of increasing its “audience & market share” and thereby, bolstering its ‘authority’ and its bank balance.

    I noted, with great dismay, that one of the very first things the new Pope 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, I on the hand, hold the view that “Rationality is not nearly all of my eye,” in the sense of 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 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 the house to fix a backed-up toilet. You call an electrician to resolve electrical problems, and you call a “plumber” to repair plumbing problems. That is the fundamental error in Sam’s arguments. And when you call the plumber to fix a backed-up toilet, you do not demand that he present you with his “electrician” credentials, and you don’t demand that he use “electrician” tools, and you don’t insist that he lay electrical wiring in the toilet. Electricians handle what they are best equipped to handle, electrical issues. And plumbers handle what they are best equipped to handle, namely, household plumbing issues.

    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 rampant, acute sociopathic mental disorders on an epidemic scale — the moral decrepitude and bankruptcy that plagues governments, corporations, mainstream religions and politics — 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. 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 under any other banner, is utterly clueless and inept in the moral and ethical domain. Rationalism has been an abysmal failure at resolving precisely those moral \ ethical problems Sam would assign to it. Sam bitterly repudiates the manner in which it has operated within Religion as a useless, dangerous petrified dogmatic shyster, without realizing that it produces the same toxic rubbish when it manifests in “Applied Science.”

    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 invariably insisted that, from rationalism’s point of view, issues of morality are “indeterminate.” It was fascinating seeing rationalists cannibalizing each other, devouring their own kind, utilizing the same limited disfunctional instrumentality that makes ‘rationalism’ utterly incompetent and ill-equipped to handle matters of empathy, conscience and Compassion. And make no mistake about it, the 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,” 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. 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.”

    While Sam deduced that the discord was the result of confusion about the importance of having a “consensus” on such matters, he seemed oblivious of the significant fact that “rationalism” and its “rationalist” constituency had just effectively diluted and polluted 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 the desert that has cursed us with the “tyranny of the majority” lynch mob that has plagued most of human history. 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 ends up being a nutrient-poor surrogate for “the real thing” but invariably gets accepted, because most people are looking for a simple, easy “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 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 or a canteen.

    It is bone-chilling to contemplate the repercussions of Sam’s notion that Science is capable of resolving moral, ethical questions (something his own Rationalist brethren say is not possible because morality & ethics are “indeterminate”). 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 would just love to slot Sam into their PR department. Truth told, what makes such sciences, like genetic engineering, so horrifyingly dangerous is their profound ineptitude at drawing prudent, honest moral and ethical lines and limits for itself and resolving not to cross them.

    As Sam’s rationalist critics made clear, rationalism is utterly incapable of responsibly and competently performing the tasks Sam would assign to it. I first discovered this for myself in a simple twist of fate, and this brief story is most instructive here, so I will swiftly recount it.

    I was an avid undergrad philosophy student when I had an Animal Rights article published in the school newspaper. In essence, I was berating the prevailing social norm in which individuals do not include animals in their circle of compassion. 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 time I set my pen to the paper, my argument vanished. I started to make the point that an altruistic “equanimity of life” position would be the only way to create a society with any quality of life in it (a life worth living). But that argument evaporated in an instant once I realized that, if someone sees his own life as infinitely more important than other lives, he would merely be following that same self-interest objective by acquiescing to a “Quid Pro Quo” barter agreement which says “I’ll help you if you help me.” It would NOT serve to make the case that Rationality urges us to see another’s life as being equally important to our own.

    I intensely and tenaciously wrestled with that response argument for many weeks, until I finally gave up and conceded the futility of the effort. 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 message comes from a different epistemological faculty altogether, the faculty of “Insight” — “Intuition” which commonly manifests for most of us in the form of Compassion. Compassion is NOT a product 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 “being kind to each other” reciprocity paradigm as the next closest thing it can think of that is ‘similar to’ but most certainly not identical 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 must be in the 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 facsililie thereof. That is precisely what Sam Harris and Michael Shermer argued recently 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 they so militantly ridicule and repudiate.

    And when rationalism runs up against a completely “foreign” body — 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 epistemology 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 to try and 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. It 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, 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 drowning in rationalism and suffering acute starvation from 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 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 definitively “defined it” for all of posterity. And it is quite apparent that this article has attained no claim-holder’s 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 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 Tao drawings and paintings which virtually always emphasize the peace, tranquillity and beauty of misty mountain tops and misty shrouded 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 artist, 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, serenity and fulfillment eludes us, not because we lack the right articulate answers, but because we are not posing the right questions — questions which 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 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 perhaps an inferior scope, cannot metabolize its contents. By that kind of reckoning, String Theory, Parallel Universe Theories, Einstein’s Theories and a host of other prevalent astrophysics theories should be abandoned, simply because the answers they are likely to provide may well exceed the grasp of the rational intellect. 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 corroboration, it is nevertheless discernable. It manifests as: “I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I know it when I see it.” Hence, the Compassion of St. Francis and Mother Theresa 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 to malign the integrity of the Radio Telescope’s findings, utilizing the limited results detected by the stunted reach of the Optical Telescope.

          (See also, “Rationalism Religion & Dogma – The Three Wicked Sisters” and “Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?“).

     

    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog


     

  •    Rationalism Religion & Dogma
                  Three Wicked Sisters
       

    By-Line: Rationalism, mainstream Religion & Dogma – The Three Wicked Sisters: Not because of their inherent nature, but because they falsify the scope of their abilities and their fields of expertise and thereby steal that which rightfully belongs to another.

    The eye ‘sees’ but cannot hear a Mozart Piano Concerto. The ear ‘hears’ but cannot smell the roses. The nose ‘smells’ but cannot see a beautiful sunset. Yet each of these faculties does what it does very effectively and none of them ever exhibits jealousy toward the other or seeks to steal some of the land belonging to the other faculties. The total organism that is blessed with these faculties is able to benefit from the expertise of each ONLY because they work in harmony and there is no dissention in the land.

    Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the myriad epistemological faculties of the human organism, and this disharmony and dissention among the epistemological faculties has made this species very dangerous and misanthropic. This is an attempt to examine the territorial nature of one particular epistemological faculty that is invariably responsible for the incessant “land grab” mentality in an effort to understand why it has such a hard time ‘sharing’ the honors and working in harmony with the other epistemological faculties at the disposal of this human organism.

    Substituting the epistemology of Rationalism for the epistemology of Compassion has proven to be a catastrophic mistake. This is, at its core, an epistemological problem.

    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.

    If you take a philosophy course anywhere in the World, it is likely you will be given the impression that the ‘REAL’ skirmish, the “Main Event” dogfight in epistemology is between the Rationalists and the Empiricists. The Rationalists would sardonically point out that “you can only believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” in conveying the superiority of ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’ while conveying the unreliability of the empirical epistemology. The Empiricists, on the other hand, would point out that Rationalism is prone to spitting-out false abstractions which are quite often conclusively disproved by empirical research. And so the student is led to believe that this skirmish between the Rationalists and the Empiricists is the main historical flash-point in Epistemology.

    The truth is that the Rationalists and the Empiricists are actually very intimate, accommodating, friendly and compatible bedfellows who work very well together in the fields of science and technology. The truth is that this isn’t the real ground-zero “Main Event” skirmish at all. 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.” But you won’t hear about this from any academic philosophy department because they take the position that if you want to explore this third epistemological faculty you need to enroll in the Theology department, not the philosophy department.

    So the internally contradictory position of most academic philosophy departments is that, if you come here to study epistemology, the operating assumption from the outset is that the sole legitimate epistemological faculty to be used in that investigation is the epistemology of Rationalism and all findings, conclusions and hypotheses flowing from that investigation must pass Rationalism’s litmus test and must conform to the rules and standards and protocols of Rationalism in order to be deemed valid. This is like a blind person denying the existence of a beautiful sunset because he cannot hear it and then stubbornly insisting that in order for it to have validity it must be conclusively verifiable as a detectable audio signal. In fact, it is like a blind man who completely and absolutely denies the existence and validity of the visual, optical “seeing” process solely because he cannot verify and confirm its existence through his auditory faculties.

    This circular, self-predicating rationalism rationale is like demanding that only hammers may be used to build a house, because saws are, ipso facto, deemed to be illegitimate and unrecognized, or because they are deemed to be an inferior and unreliable instrument for house building. Why? Because “Hammers” set the standard and saws can’t do what hammers do and therefore cannot meet the “Hammer Standard.” One might rightly conclude that the “Hammer Industry” is behind this tyrannical, arbitrary and capricious operating presumption and that the “Saw Industry” simply does not have as strong a lobby in Washington. And that’s just about what has happened. It illustrates the axiom, “To a Hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That is because everything it perceives in reality passes through the “hammer filter.” It’s a stunted, distorted, biased view of reality.

    That is the epistemological predicament in the World today and it is producing some ridiculous, absurd results that are every bit as ludicrous as the edict in the ‘hammer and nail’ metaphor. Consider the Radio Telescope. It can see many times further out into space than an Optical Telescope. It can see at such great distances that it can nearly look back to the birth of the Universe (to the Big Bang). The Optical Telescope has nowhere near that kind of power, because it operates only in the visible spectrum and the Radio Telescope operates in the invisible wave length spectrum. They are entirely different instruments operating under completely different scientific principles. But try to imagine what would happen if astronomers took the position that the Radio Telescope MUST operate precisely like optical telescopes, under the same scientific optical principles, in order to be deemed valid. It would eradicate one of the biggest breakthroughs in astronomy’s entire history.

    You’d have ‘optical telescope’ astronomers insisting that the objects allegedly seen by Radio Telescopes are illusions, phantasms, hallucinations, because the sightings cannot be verified by the “industry standard” — the “Optical Telescope,” which unlike its counterpart, operates only on the visible wave lengths. And ‘Optical Telescope’ astronomers would accuse Radio Telescope astronomers of engaging in “bad science” and of making irresponsible, baseless claims, while insisting that alleged Radio Telescope discoveries and observations must be seen and confirmed by ‘Optical Telescopes” before Radio Telescope discoveries and observations can be deemed ‘valid.’ And of course, because Radio Telescopes see so much further out into the far reaches of space, that ‘Optical Telescope” sighting and confirmation can never, ever occur.

    That is precisely what the predicament is between the epistemology of Rationalism and the epistemology of Insight, Intuition manifesting as Compassion. Rationalism is insisting that Insight 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 stunted, distorted, circular, self-predicating, dishonest approach to exploration in the field of epistemology.

    Plato’s notion about the three parts of the soul serves as an optimal illustration because it demonstrates how we have erroneously categorized, i.e., compartmentalized an extremely important human faculty, in such an arbitrary, capricious way that it has been rendered essentially useless and inconsequential. The diagram below illustrates Plato’s Model of the 3 Parts of the Soul.

    Plato 3 Parts of the Soul Graphic

    Plato 3 Parts of the Soul Text

    The problem (and the error) arises when we take the epistemology of Insight \ Compassion, categorize it as an “Emotion” and bridle it by and subordinate it to the epistemology of “Reason,” aka, Rationality. That is precisely what has happened. The epistemology of Reason has been deemed the superior epistemological faculty, and the epistemology of Insight \ Compassion has been deemed to be a highly inferior, unreliable, often truant and potentially dangerous faculty that must be bridled by Rationality as subordinate.

    The prevailing erroneous notion today is that “Compassion” is an emotion. In reality, Compassion is NOT an emotion, but emotions, ironically, ARE a product and construct of Rationality. We know that Compassion is NOT an emotion because emotions (anger, fear, jealousy, envy, anxiety, etc.) are always “me” inflected and directed. The focus of Emotions is always on what might happen to “me” — They are focused on “my” wants, “my” needs, “my” well-being, “my” safety, “my” security, “my” fears, “my” disappointments. Compassion, on the other hand is, by its very nature, “other” inflected and directed, and hence it is typically referred to as being “selfless” in nature.

    The science of psychology that delves into the web of both emotive-based and desire\appetite\addiction-based problems, does so via ‘rationalism’ as it untangles the intricate web (knot) of rationalizations created and accumulated, consciously and unconsciously, over a lifetime. So it is unmistakably clear that Plato’s model was intended to bridle errant malfunctioning ‘rationalistic’ operations that all lie within the same epistemological domain. It was never Plato’s intention that his model should be applied so the epistemology of rationalism would subordinate, mute, muzzle, castrate, debilitate, enfeeble, cripple or make impotent the entirely different epistemology of Insight and Compassion. Plato’s model was strictly addressing ‘in-house’ problems within the domain of rationalism.

    The bitter irony is that Plato’s use of the term “Logos” actually refers to a much larger category that embodies “Twin Rulers” because the term correlates with both Rationality and the epistemology of “Insight” and Compassion. Many Plato scholars agree that this interpretation is more consistent with the term “Logos” as it was understood in Plato’s time, around 500 B.C. Plato’s “Cave Shadow” allegory (“Plato’s Republic”) stands as compelling evidence that this was Plato’s understanding of the term “Logos.” But that fact has been lost over the centuries and the erroneous categorization of the epistemology of “Insight” and Compassion as a subordinate, inferior ’emotion’ persists to this day.

    So 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, while the typical western view today inverts this premise, holding that compassion, insight and intuition must be bridled by “reason” and the intellect, as a safety measure.

    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 ‘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.

    In short, Rationalism is what you think & say; Compassion what you are & do. Equilibrium is having resilient, fluid open access to 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 drowning in rationalism and suffering acute starvation from 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 shrivel up to the size of parched pea from malnourishment.~~

    Because of the erroneous compartmentalization of the epistemology of Insight and Compassion as a trivial, inferior ’emotion,’ mainstream Religion and the notion of ‘religiousness’ has been condemned to wallow in the mud as nothing more than hyperflexed “Dogma,” the inevitable result whenever rationality attempts to muscle-in on another epistemology and 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.

    (See also, “On Moral Questions – Science is Clueless” and “Has Religion Forsaken Spirituality?“).

     

    The Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog