Does Faith or Science Best Explain Morality?

That question in the headline above captures at many levels the essential debate that defines the post-modern era, especially as it relates to a host of social and other issues that regularly confront congressional aides, their bosses and the journalists that cover them.

There is an incredible wealth of material available now on the Internet on both sides of the question, but a debate hosted at Stony Brooke University by New York Apologetics in 2015 may be the most enjoyable, intellectually engaging and comprehensive presentation yet.

It’s a long program, so be prepared to do a lot of listening, thinking and learning from both men at the podium, Dr. Frank Turek of Cross-examined.org and Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine. Would that all public policy debates were as civil, enlightening and educational as this one:


 

Author: Mark Tapscott

Follower of Christ, devoted husband of Claudia, doting father and grandfather, conservative lover of liberty, journalist and First Amendment fanatic, former Hill and Reagan aide, vintage Formula Ford racer, Okie by birth/Texan by blood/proud of both, resident of Maryland.

7 thoughts on “Does Faith or Science Best Explain Morality?”

  1. “Mores” are by definition mutable, transient, reflecting Robert Axelrod’s “Evolution of Cooperation” (1981). Faith without Science incorporates a spiritual dimension; but Science without Faith turns inward, shading into Churchill’s “new Dark Age”.

    If a Transcendent Immanence creates all things, and only those things, that do not create themselves, does this Transcendent Immanence create itself? If it does, it doesn’t; but if it doesn’t, then it does. This is Epimenides of Crete’s “paradox of contradictory self-reference”– a formally undecidable proposition, not amenable to rational examination or debate. Aquinas fails, Luther fails, secular comprehension fails– for what truly fails is human reason, in and of itself.

    As Creatures of Light, inexpugnable soul-sparks partake a Singularity of Being kindling a playful, wise-and-foolish nature. Though Kurt Gődel’s 1932 “Consistency Theorem” resolved Epimenides by turning paradoxical self-reference upon itself, his profoundly anti-deterministic, thereby liberating proof –that a complete set of axioms is inconsistent, a consistent set of axioms is incomplete– bears also on spiritual reality: Nothing is “given”; we are born to learn, and so to Love. For a self-respecting individual, to Love is to Give– bequeath posterity the hard-won lessons revered forebears have bestowed on us.

    Just so, Life’s existential key is not a matter of Aristotelian if-then “syllogistic reasoning” but of Memento Mori, the ultimate awareness that all things end. If to learn is to love, then Life invokes this Higher Wisdom’s sense of gain-and-loss, cherishing past, present, and future generations by beneficent devotion to orders yet unborn. Divinity is not an all-powerful old man with white whiskers, dwelling beyond Space and Time, stirring the quantum pot with a relativistic finger, but an ineffable tropism beyond both Faith and Reason. What then, when human intellect, nature, spirit fail? Beset by doubts, beatific Mother Teresa of Calcutta (d. 1997) counseled: Etsi Deus daretur, “act as if Divinity exists.” Embracing Life and Light, wise learning confounds seething Erebus, dim Tartarus, liliaceous Asphodel.

    In this regard, to Be enjoins a more-than-mortal Destiny encompassing oneself and others in ancestral line. Where growth-and-change prevails, intuition accords neither with crass materialism (“getting-and-spending”), indulgent mysticism (appeals to “things unseen”), nor wishful sentiment (“illusion vs. reality”), but with an ineluctably self-emergent Divine Rule: Being exists in essence as Potential; not in Being but Becoming lies The Way.

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    1. Pyrthroes, you are a profoundly educated individual. Your essay brings to mind Isaiah 55 at verses 8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

      It also reminds me of a brief history I first encountered many years ago during graduate work at the University of Dallas: Aristotle – To do is to be. Acquinas – To be is to do. Sinatra – Do be do be do.

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      1. There was an owl, lived in an oak.
        The more he heard, the less he spoke.
        The less he spoke, the more he heard.
        Why can’t we be like that old bird?

        Sinatra attunes to Siddhartha Gautama: There is only the dance, a-swirl to the Music of Time. The Dancer, or the Dance? … ah, but the Two are One.

        Some say that “words are all we have, so all we have are words.” Not so– words echo Spirits of the Dead, who inexpressibly live on in us. Kafka reports that spirits manifesting on Charles Bridge in Prague spoke but two words: “Remember me.”

        So we take more heed of poets than philosophers, for Rhapsodes declaim fateful songs. Of all the canon, our favorites are FitzGerald and Yeats, the latter’s one line in particular: “All things hang like a drop of dew, upon a blade of grass” (“The Winding Stair”, 1933).

        “(And though) we are not now that strength which in old days
        Moved Earth and Heaven, that which we are, we are–
        One equal temper of heroic hearts,
        Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
        To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

        — Tennyson, “Ulysses”, pub. 1842

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  2. I’ve been trying – without success – to find out why some – but not all – YouTube videos insist I log in with a Google Apps account. Google Apps wants a business name (don’t have one); I don’t have an iPhone; I already have Gmail; I don’t need Calendar or Docs (have those with Google Ordinary). What am I missing? And why does that show up only on some YouTube videos?

    Without having heard the debate: Perhaps the first question should be, “Can faith or science alone lead to morality?”. I think I’d have to say that science is involved with the physical world (or is that scientism?); anything apart from that does not fall in the purview of science (things like psychology and politics fall under probability and statistics, but that only measures, not explains).

    It would be interesting to have had a three-way debate, with a Randian Objectivist in the mix.

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    1. Can’t help you with Google, but I do know a few Randian Objectivist/Libertarians. Question: Isn’t objectivism a philosophy of existence rather than a proposed explanation for origins of matter, time and space?

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  3. Science is a tool invented by man to better understand the physical world around him. It was never meant to, nor can it ever explain morality. Can a screwdriver or hammer explain morality?

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