Ethics in Crisis. Tutor. Howard Taylor. Tutor : Howard Taylor. Chaplain - Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Also at Heriot-Watt lectures in : ` Moral & Social Philosophy’ `Philosophy of Science and Religion’ .
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Chaplain - Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.
Also at Heriot-Watt lectures in:
`Moral & Social Philosophy’
`Philosophy of Science and Religion’.
Visiting lecturer `International Christian College’. (Two modules - alternate years).
Former convenor: Church of Scotland Apologetics Committee.
Church of Scotland Parish Minister:
St. David’s Knightswood Glasgow - 12 years.
Innellan, Toward, and Inverchaolain Churches - 5 years.
Worked in Malawi, Africa - 16 years.
Degrees from: Nottingham, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Author of several small books/booklets.
Married with three grown up sons and two grandsons and two granddaughters.
All definite knowledge belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, .. this No Man's Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem convincing.…(The questions are:) Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so what is mind and what is matter?Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers?Has the universe any unity or purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal?Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because of our innate love of order?Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is he perhaps both at once?Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile?If there is a way of living that is noble. In what does it consist, and how shall we achieve it?Must the good be eternal in order to deserve to be valued, or is it worth seeking even if the universe is inexorably moving towards death? …To such questions no answer can be found in the laboratory. …. The studying of these questions, if not the answering of them, is the business of philosophy.
A further look at Bertrand Russell’s questions that he says cannot be answered from science. (1) Questions in blue raise fundamental mysteries.
But why are there ‘laws of nature’ in the first place?)
Francis Crick: “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more that the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”(The Astonishing Hypothesis page 3)
2. Deism:God is entirely transcendent - out there, not in here.
3. Pantheism `God’ is immanent - in here, not out there.
4. Theism - God is both transcendent and immanent
5. Christian Theism. As well as the theism already outlined:
A major problem for Subjectivist Ethics:
(Notes on Philosophy, January 1960, Philosophy, 35, 146-147.)
This problem is more graphically illustrated in the hypothetical example given in the next slide.
Or is there some objective goodness - independent of a person or society’s beliefs and feelings - that says it is wrong even if every person believes it to be right?
Are certain actions intrinsically right or wrong or are right and wrong merely matters of culture and public opinion?
1. How do you find out where that true goodness is?
2. Even if we think God has given us commandments, how do we rank competing obligations? (Matthew Parris)
Has it come from social conventions we have learnt?
Can one derive an `ought' from an `is'?
This is the basis of C. S. Lewis’s argument.
His belief is that we must turn to science to find moral values.
‘Michael Ruse and reductionary illusions.’ by John Byle.
John Byle argues that this theory refutes itself and therefore cannot be true.
If we think of our essence as mere accidental descent from bacteria, we can
H.G.Wells, however, revelled in the ruthlessness of nature: And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with the black? . . . the yellow man? . . . the Jew? . . . those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency? Well, the world is a world, and not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. . . . And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity—beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds. . . . And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness . . . is death. . . . The men of the New Republic . . . will have an ideal that will make the killing worth the while.
"Man is the measure of all things"
Said Protagoras the ancient Greek Philosopher.
However that was not always so.
Even in its modern atheist form it is only a special (optimistic) form of atheism.
In its modern form it believes that we know nothing greater than ‘humans’ and therefore we should place our faith in humanity above all else.
As we shall see later, other forms of atheism say that there are no grounds for putting our faith in anything at all - not even ourselves.
Growth of a humanism without belief in God.
Nevertheless humanism maintains its optimistic belief in the goodness of humanity.
Goodness is the character of God shown, not primarily in a list of rules, but in His deeply personal dealings with us.
In our yet imperfect world God knows we still need laws so, byHis grace, He gives them to us. (10 Commandments etc).
Laws of the State as far as possible are in harmony with that goodness and Law of God
State legislation gives certain rights in certain contexts.
E.g. the ‘right’ of way at a crossroads.
But such a ‘right’ is not a fundamental human right.
The Concept of Human Rights replaces God.
As in a religion people are reluctant to challenge this new ‘god’.
Government legislation is always subject to ‘Human Rights’.
Where there is conflict between the Court of Human Rights and Government legislation - Human Rights has the final say.The Source of Goodness - Old and New.
Background to the modern revival of the concept of Human Rights.
(Taken from an Encyclopaedia Britannica article)
Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of USA) asserted that his countrymen were a:
"free people claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature and not as the gift of their Chief Magistrate,”
This gave poetic eloquence to the plain prose of the 17th century in the Declaration of Independence proclaimed by the 13 American Colonies on July 4, 1776:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
Because they were conceived in essentially absolutist--"inalienable," "unalterable," "eternal"--terms, natural rights were found increasingly to come into conflict with one another.
(what if my supposed ‘right’ to do something impinges on your ‘rights’?)
Also the doctrine of natural rights came under powerful philosophical attack.
For example, David Hume (18th C sceptical philosopher) said the concept belonged to metaphysics - ie could not be verified by science and therefore was invalid.
(Taken from an Encyclopaedia Britannica article)
(Taken from an Encyclopaedia Britannica article)
Criticism of the concept of Human Rights by Leslie Newbigin in his : ‘Foolishness to the Greeks’ especially:The Right to … the pursuit of happiness.
Is the word `rights' the right word? If `yes' address the problems and answer them. If `no' provide another way of expressing the belief in correct treatment of one-another.
Phil 2:3-11 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name …
How do I balance the ‘rights’ of the individual with the interests of society as a whole?
This corresponds to what I have called external relations. Imagine pebbles on a beach. They do not belong together except by accident. Each pebble remains a pebble whether or not it is with other pebbles. Touching another pebble does not make it more or less a pebble. The one pebble is not necessarily affected by what happens to many pebbles. It can exist by itself. In this analogy relations are external and incidental.
Human Rights tend to separate us into self-contained individuals each demanding his/her own rights, without a corresponding concern for the general good.
The Judge was Jeremy Cooke at the Sept 2002 Oxford Conference on Human Rights.
Summary of a Christian Judge’s view*:
John Witte Jnr is Director, Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion at Emory University (2000- )
The modern cultivation of human rights ... began in earnest in the 1940's when both Christianity and the Enlightenment seemed incapable of delivering on their promises. ... there was no second coming of Christ promised by Christians, no heavenly city of reason promised by enlightened libertarians, no withering away of the state promised by enlightened socialists. Instead, there was world war, gulags, and the Holocaust - a vile and evil fascism and irrationalism to which Christianity and the Enlightenment seemed to have no cogent response or effective deterrent.
Oliver O'Donovan is Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, Oxford
'What effect does this … have upon the conception of justice? It dissolves its unity and coherence by replacing it with a plurality of 'rights'. The language of subjective rights (i.e. rights which adhere to a particular subject) has, of course, a perfectly appropriate and necessary place within a discourse founded on law… What is distinctive about the modern conception of rights, however, is that subjective rights are taken to be original, not derived. The fundamental reality is a plurality of competing, unreconciled rights, and the task of law is to harmonise them… The right is a primitive endowment of power with which the subject first engages in society, not an enhancement which accrues to the subject from an ordered and politically formed society.'
…the culture of bureaucratic individualism results in ... political debates being between individualism which makes its claims in terms of rights and forms of bureaucratic organisation which make their claims in terms of utility. But if the concept of rights and that of utility are a matching pair of incommensurable fictions, it will be the case that the moral idiom employed can at best provide a semblance of rationality for the modern political process, but not its reality. The mock rationality of the debate conceals the arbitrariness of the will and power at work in its resolution.
Alister MacIntyre, After Virtue
Is this kind of consensus possible? Perhaps because of my optimistic nature, I believe that it is. But we have to confess at the outset that it is not entirely clear around what the consensus would form, and we are only beginning to discern the obstacles we would have to overcome on the way there.
Charles Taylor, Conditions of an Unforced Consensus on Human Rights
Relevant to this discussion is the nature of the ‘soul’ or ‘self’.
I discuss the self or soul’s nature and mystery in other modules - also in Power Point format.
Briefly, those who favour giving science freedom to advance in genetic technology emphasise the potential huge medical benefits, and those opposed emphasise the sanctity of life at its earliest stage and fear the ‘slippery slope’ into eugenics (attempts to produce the perfect ‘race’ with the danger of discrimination against the ‘imperfect’.) practised by the Nazis.
Abortion is not used to obtain these embryos.
Only ‘no-use’ In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) embryos are used for research. (They would otherwise be discarded.)
What is IVF?
Use of artificial techniques to join an ovum with sperm outside (in vitro) a woman's body to help infertile couples to have children of their own. The basic technique of IVF involves removing ova from a woman's ovaries, fertilising them in the laboratory, and then inserting them into her uterus.
The first ‘test-tube baby’, Mary Louise Brown, was born in England in 1978.
Many ova are removed from the womb and fertilised. Only one or two are returned to the womb.
The remainder are either discarded or available for experiments.
A cell is removed from the skin (say) of a mature person and its DNA is put in the nucleus of a new cell (the cell’s own nucleus having been removed.)
An electric current or chemical is used to fuse the new nucleus with the egg which is ‘tricked’ into accepting it.
This mature differentiated skin DNA then undifferentiates (how this happens is a mystery). New egg is put in the womb.
So now we have an egg with a DNA derived not from a loving relation between male and female but from one person’s skin (say).This is theethical problem of reproductive cloning.
Baby will be a clone or twin of the life that gave cells of skin.
This process was used to produce ‘Dolly’ the sheep - which died early of old age related illnesses.
Reproductive cloning of humans is dangerous and illegal.
(28th April 2005 - Law Lord’s back couple’s plea to create designer baby to cure son.)
Parents have a sick or dying child. A tissue match from a compatible child might cure him/her.
Several eggs taken from mother’s womb (some may have been left over from previous IVF) and a match is sought and found.
The match must be compatible but not contain the defective gene of the sick child.The other eggs are discarded.
Will the new child feel it was chosen just for its ‘spare parts’?Will it be happy or unhappy that it was born to save another, rather than born only for the normal reasons?Is the new child there as a commodity?
Surely its own attitude of self-giving or resentment will determine the answer as to how it develops as a human being.
a. religion (we learn from God our true nature),
b. natural law (what we discern from nature),
c. positivism (customs and rules of society - made by us).
He dismisses positivism, skirts round religion and so chooses natural law.
From nature Fukuyama believes we can discern a ‘factor X’ that uniquely is the essence of humanity:
It consists of a combination of: language, emotions, and the ability for abstract reasoning.
He concludes that any biotechnology must not interfere with these characteristics of our species. If they do they will have produced a ‘non-human’ being.
Even if he is right that these qualities do constitute true humanity, he does not say why they should be valued.Why should humanity be valued?
As philosophers since Hume realised one cannot get an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ or ‘are’.
The statement: ‘This is what peopleoughtto be’ does not follow from the statement: ‘this is what peopleare’.
A few verses from Psalm 139.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance.
It is the exposition of these great facts of theology that should enable doctors and geneticists to have the perspective they need to make the ethical judgements they face.
Christian theology cannot determine all that is right and wrong in biotechnology but it can give the basis needed to make difficult decisions.
To try to preserve it without God is an ‘English’ fantasy.
Values cannot survive without belief in God.
There is no value to be discovered in the world.
He attacks the view that the preservation and advancement of humankind can be a motive for morality.
He is thus afraid of the ‘nihilism’ that will follow the death of God.
However he is also afraid we may cling to Christian morality (without reason) and deteriorate into the ‘slave’ morality described in the Sermon on the Mount.
No truth can serve as the basis of morality or immorality. (Although there are cases where ‘moral’ action should be pursued and ‘immoral’ be action avoided but not for any ultimate reason.)
Why should we be interested in truth? Maybe the pursuit of falsehood might serve us better.
Dissatisfaction is the germ of ethics.
Survival of the fittest belongs to what we actually are. Therefore our humanity must be affirmed by the pursuit of ‘Greatness’ rather than ‘Goodness’.
Greatness absorbs and uses pain.
Goodness tries to relieve pain - and is therefore to be despised.
We must assert the ‘will to power’ or the ‘master morality’ rather than the pathetic appeals to goodness by the ‘slaves’ who invoke Christian morality or ‘human rights’ to protect them from the masters.
As for the superstitions of the logicians, I shall never tire of underlining a concise little fact which these superstitious people are loath to admit - namely that a thought comes when it wants, not when `I' want; so that it is a falsification of the facts to say: the subject `I' is the condition of the predicate `think'
By ‘logicians’ Nietzsche means scientists and others who believe genuine thought is possible.
He is saying that `thinking’, as we normally consider it, is not possible.
"Who can attain to anything great if he does not feel in himself the force and will to inflict great pain ? The ability to suffer is a small matter: in that line, weak women and even slaves often maintain masterliness.
But not to perish from internal distress and doubt when one inflicts great suffering and hears the cry to it - that is great, that belongs to greatness.”
Friedrich Nietzche, 'The Joyful Wisdom', trans. by Thomas Common (New York: Russell and Russell, Inc., 1964), p.25.
Richard Rorty is Professor of Comparative Literature in USA and a well known supporter of Post-Modernism
Richard Rorty*, Human Rights, Rationality and Sentimentality:
We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA … Flowers are for the same thing as everything else in the living kingdoms, for spreading ‘copy me’ programmes about, written in DNA language.
This is EXACTLY what we are for. We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self sustaining process. It is every living objects’ sole reason for living.
(Richard Dawkins: ‘The Ultraviolet Garden’, Royal Institution Christmas Lecture No. 4, 1991)
The individual organism is only the vehicle (of genes), part of an elaborate device to preserve and spread them with the least possible biochemical perturbation .. The organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA.
E. O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Harvard University Press, 1975, p. 3.
(I owe these quotations to Denis Alexander’s ‘Rebuilding the Matrix’ p. 274)
What is meant by Modernism?
It had/has many differing forms mainly expressing beliefs about science and/or politics and the meaning of human history.
Post Modernism is a ‘care-free’ attitude to life coming from the conviction that there are no universal truths.
Structuralism reverses this by making the whole 'language' the source of the structure of the real 'me'.