Is it not so that all acts are followed by a consequence? Even if causation is but a product of the rational mind the world nevertheless appears to follow this law and I have yet to see an exception to it, thus the notion of cause and effect is a part of the way in which we view the world, its objective truth does not matter when we are considering morality.
It must also be so that no act could ever possibly be moral unless it was followed by either a good or bad consequence, and by good in this context I refer to it in the sense of progression and the pleasures. Repeat an act often enough and it will be remembered, the same goes to the consequence that follows. If the act of shooting citizens is repeated often enough the consequence that follows (the death of citizens) will become remembered as being directly associated with the act of shooting. Now I ask, does a child who has never fired a gun before, nor has been told of the implications, know that the act of firing will be directly followed by death? He will not (for the sake of the example we shall say that the child also has no foreknowledge of the affect that sharp moving objects have on people). It must be the case then that the child learns to associate act with consequence. The approach is inductive and such a relationship cannot be known a priori.
We can apply this approach to the whole of ethics, indeed it soon becomes clear (under this idea) that the raw act in itself is nothing to do with morality, it is the association of the act with a good or bad consequence. Of course there are cases where acts are difficult to distinguish from consequences. Murder is now called an act, one commits the act of murder, but the ‘act’ of murder can, as we have seen, be separated into the act of shooting (or whatever method is used) and the resulting consequence of the victim dying. It is the same with all ethical dilemmas.
This relationship between act and consequence I have called Moral Induction and leads to the formulation of a moral act (that which is a synthesis between act and consequence).
Moral Induction leads to the formation of universal maxims that are regarded as unchanging and objective. Over the course of a finite number of examples the act of murder is created, due to the negative consequence of the act there becomes something inherently wrong with murder, it is seen as a bad thing. However, this law is formed by an inductive method and hence it can never be proved beyond a doubt that it is objective. To do this we would need to see if the act of shooting was always associated with the consequence of death (or something equally bad), but this is impractical not to mention wrong. There is a much easier method to test the objectivity of such a moral law. We need only ask: are there ever any examples where the act of shooting (or something equally violent) do not lead to a bad consequence? Indeed it is possible to think of some, and from a utilitarian perspective pleasure need only outweigh pain for it to be so. If there are examples that disprove the objective law that a moral act is good or bad then the moral act is not objective and must be inductive. This is the case with all ethical dilemmas and hence morality is based on a finite number of observations and outcomes. Even though some circumstances disprove the law we will begin to associate act and consequence (and hence the goodness of the consequence with the act) if it happens enough times and is overall seen as good or bad.
It must be so then that things are only good or bad in relation to their effect on sentient beings. There is no moral worth in doing an act if it does not relate to the pain or pleasure of sentient beings. In saying this it appears that morality is a flexible thing, dependant on personal experience and circumstances. The innate sense of morality we feel when considering or doing a moral act arises from Moral Induction and is simply related to pain and pleasure – there is nothing objective in such morality. This being the case, might it not be possible to create a perfect society through tools such as education and psychology? Ethics does not have to be about the way the world ought to be, it could equally be about the way we want the world to be.
I have on occasions, and no doubt have done so alongside many others who are skeptical of religion, criticised the believe in metaphysical concepts, such as God, due to their heavy association with and dependence on faith. Although there exist many arguments which set out to prove the existence of such metaphysical phenomena, the truth of these matters usually comes down to a personal belief for most people; the truth no longer becomes what is important where religion is concerned, more what we would prefer to be true. Christianity claims to offer salvation through Christ, and Buddhism reincarnation. Religions are often criticised for being based on human inclinations and desires, the easy way out of the quest for knowledge and an appeal to the common man. And in many ways this criticism casts a black shadow upon belief in transcendent entities and afterlives, what we desire does not necessarily correlate with what is objective and knowable about the world. But what seems absolutely unacceptable is the arrogant assumption that the disciplines such as the sciences and philosophy are not open to this same criticism.
Consider the sciences, they are empirical by their very nature since they use the senses to make observations about the world. But their method depends upon the assumption that our senses are in fact correct and that the information we receive from them is true and objective. Given the variety of criticisms that can be thrown at this assumption by the skeptic, we must accept that what we really do, when we carry out the scientific method and make statements about the world, is take the fact that our senses give us reliable, truthful knowledge on faith. The very thing we might criticise a follower of Christianity for doing.
Similarly in philosophy we make the assumption that our conceptual scheme (the elementary principles including the basic building blocks logic and grammar which our mind possesses) is true and objective. If our own conceptual scheme is simply a product of evolution then we cannot say with certainty that it allows us to know anything meaningful about the world around us. Following this idea even tautologies could be doubtful since their truth might only be specific to our own conceptual scheme. When we formulate a theory in philosophy we must have faith that our conceptual scheme is more than simply a subjective byproduct of evolution.
All disciplines require a certain degree of faith in order for anything of use to be acquired and for any matters of truth to be discerned. It would, then, be wrong (and not to mention ignorant) to criticise religion for having elements of faith to it since all our endeavours inevitably do the same. So long, of course, that the faith is not of the blind and irrational sense (that is, refusing to even listen to propositions which suggest the opposite of personal belief). So long as one is not utterly consumed by faith to the disregard of all else, we cannot, intelligently, criticise religion for such an attribute. Perhaps instead of doing so we should concentrate more on making the certainty of our own endeavours and disciplines more concrete and less dependant on that which we condemn others for wielding.
In 1530 a revolution occurred, a great spark ignited a rebellion against fundamentalist Christianity and the Catholic Church, it came in the form of a manuscript containing a theory. The first of many that would shine the light of truth through religious doctrine to reveal it for the manipulative and obfuscating dictatorship that it truly was. That manuscript was Nicholas Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium*, within its awe inspiring pages and boldly written words was the theory of a heliocentric universe in which the earth no longer took the centre stage in the grand ‘design’ of the cosmos and instead the sun was suggested as the centre point of gravitation around which all other celestial bodies orbited. Now, it is important to note here that, although this theory was not the absolute truth and that science has come a long way since the 1500’s, the basic proposition was ground breaking as it took a stand against the long unopposed teachings of the Church. This may not seem of particular relevance if the theory is inaccurate, but I urge the reader to think on this: if Christianity’s tyrannical reign had not been opposed by a logical, deductive approach to understanding the world which suggested that we humans are not the centre of reality itself, the what, I ask you, would have become of our civilisation? Nothing, that is the answer, we would have made next to no progress in the advancement of technology since any theory proposed to the Catholic Church for approval would be condemned if it violated the creation myths or challenged God’s omnipotence (why do you think the Catholic Church was so afraid of the mathematical concept of 0?).
Our society has a whole has benefited in ways which are almost incomprehensible as a result of one man’s brave, admirable decision to speak out against a horrific form of totalitarianism. From that point more theories were proposed by other such great minds which allowed humans the freedom to think for themselves. Before, peopled lived in fear of a God who had the power to reduce princes to nothing and was the ultimate decider of each and every man’s fate, and who could blame their terror? For it was all that they ever knew. Science did not aim to destroy religion or for that matter convert people to an equally blind faith, it allowed us to be free and rational and to decide what we want to believe based on the evidence that it set before them with nothing being concealed for fear of change. If, with this newly found knowledge a person then wished to follow a faith such as Christianity, then it is their own choice and they are able to do so with all of the facts, not just those that the corrupt ‘elect’ wanted them to know.
In our modern day society we seem to take for granted our ability of choice in what we believe, it is an undeniable human right and, in this current age, almost impossible to repress. The wellbeing of our society, therefore, has been drastically influenced by the work of Nicholas Copernicus without whom, we might be no better off than those living in the Dark Ages.
A final note, whilst science has indeed revolutionised our world and given us the ability to think rationally and independently, Copernicus’ work raises the interesting question of what the next discovery of the sort will be in years to come. Perhaps our knowledge and understanding of the universe shall be dropped abruptly on its head in light of a new ground breaking theory that will change our lives and thought patterns as we know them…
*On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres
Many would use the process of evolution by natural selection as evidence against the existence of some grand designer of the universe. However, the mistake very commonly made by such people is that they assume this process to be, without a doubt, true and supported by hard science. But this is not the case and, although the evidence at this current stage in our history does indeed suggest that evolution is not something to be simply dismissed, it is most certainly not the entire story of how we came to ponder the possibilities of such things.
Allow me to propose an example, the human eye is often marvelled for its powers of sight and many theists would argue that this is undoubtable evidence of God’s creative genius in the world around us, yet evolution would suggest that can be explained purely by the mechanical processes of natural selection. Can this be so? Well, reader, it most certainly can. At least, if we follow the sequence of evolution in the reverse order to how it occurred. That is, watch as the eye becomes less and less sophisticated until it is nothing but a jumbled ball of photosensitive cells and then as it is reduced to only a minute cluster of these and then to nothing at all.
However, what if we follow the process in the logic order in which it came? If we do this we find that we cannot get past the very first roadblock, the introduction of photosensitive cells. In a moment I shall give an analogy which may clarify this but first, I hear several voices protest to the above the statement in outrage: “Of course you can clear this first hurdle, all that needs occur is a mutation in a pre-existing cell which will allow it to become photosensitive and the matter is resolved.” This sadly is not the case, firstly I might remind the reader that there are, as of yet, no known mutations beneficial to living organisms, the only ones we know of will damage us in some way or another. To refer to such a mutation requires, in my opinion at least, almost as much faith as the opposing theist might place in God. Secondly, the mere idea of a mutation occurring on one single cell, on one specific gene which affected the entire cell in such a dramatic way as to give it photosensitive properties is utterly absurd. Whilst there may indeed be such a process that we are ignorant of, there has been no such thing discovered yet, and I do not believe it likely that there ever will.
Now, as promised, on to the analogy. Let us take the problem ’10 – 4=?’, the answer, of course it ‘6’. Working with the left hand side of the equation it is possible to see that this is obviously the case. However, can we arrive so confidently at ’10 – 6’ by simply examining the number ‘6’. No, of course we cannot, for no detailed analysis, no matter how great will reveal the reverse of the problem by examining our starting point. It is the same with natural selection. There must, therefore be a system of nature which either works alongside natural selection or encompasses it into something greater. Call it what you like, God, a will or a mechanical process, but know that it must exist if we are to ever make sense of our origins.
Can we really derive all knowledge that possibly exists from the study of this world through the scientific method, in particular the uncovering of the laws of physics? Many would claim that this is indeed possible and that the first steps in this long and laborious endeavour are already underway. An area that I myself am uncomfortable with concerning this theory is the reason of why things happen in themselves. It might be said that there is no reason for anything and that humans have simply invented terms such a reason and purpose and that they are meaningless. But is this really an acceptable answer? One reason for why something moves is because something else has caused it to. But what in turn caused that to cause that thing to move? Something else, and before that something else. Everything that happens in the universe happens because it must due to some force acting upon some previous matter for example (with the possible exception of consciousness, but that is beyond my intended scope for this article). If something only happens because it has to then we must ask ourselves why does anything need to happen at all. If things happen because the laws of physics cause them to happen, what causes the laws of physics to happen in themselves? The very first thing that came into existence (maybe even before the Big Bang) did not need to come into existence since there would be nothing there to force it to exist. This suggest that, whilst something could quite easily originate from nothing, it would be impossible (as far as our human minds allow us to see at least) of that something coming into existence on its own unless an intelligent being, which did not exist in the way that we deem things to exist, willed that first thing into existence.
This, however, does not mean to say that this intelligence required by reality is in fact God (in any sense of the word). It simply means that an intelligence of some sort possibly exists or did exist before anything else. This is of course as long as human logic is valid, this in have covered in another article. Whilst this intelligence may not still exist and hence an afterlife is not proven by this (it may not even be a good being), it does give us a small glimmer of hope that maybe some kind of extended experience lies beyond the death of the physical body.
Evidence for this creator can be found in many mathematical concepts whose continual occurrence in unrelated places and patterns cannot be coincidental. A particular favourite of mine is the golden ratio. A geometric constant and a solution to the quadratic equation x^(2)-x-1. This ratio appear in an astounding number of places, from the wings and sight patterns of certain animals to relationships between certain subatomic elements. A strong suggestion that the universe is in fact a product of an intelligent force or being which created the universe. Almost like a signature intentionally or unintentionally left by it.
Whilst it is important to consider this designer as intelligent, it is also important to remember that it is unlikely to think in the same way as we mortals do hence opening the gate for new branches of science and mathematics to be developed in order to understand the nature of this being.
First proposed by Epicurus the problem of evil is now one of the main arguments used by nonbelievers in response to the belief in God. The Judaeo-Christian concept of the Divine Father being omnibenevolent and omnipotent at the same time leads to a paradox: If God is all good and all powerful then how is it that evil exists in the world? Surely such a deity would put an end to all suffering once and for all? This is the problem of evil and one which theologians have argued about endlessly.
However, we are forgetting one thing about this inconstant triangle of ominbenevolence, omnipotence and evil. Does evil exist at all. ‘Well of course it does!’ I hear you say. ‘How on earth could it be otherwise?’ Well dear Reader allow me to elaborate. If God really was to exist and possessed the attributes many believe him to, then it is also likely that he does not think like a human being. His thought processes would be completely alien to us to the extent that we may not be able to decipher them at all. This kind of God, who thinks and hence acts differently to the common human is a plausible solution to the problem of evil. To me, actions such as theft (in most cases) and murder (in virtually all situations) are wrong. They are wrong because I believe, for example, that the ending of another rational beings conscious experience is cruel, unnecessary and quite frankly unfair. However, does God think in the same way? The characteristic given to God is omnibenevolence, he is all good, not simply good. I am not all good and therefore we might decide that my judgment upon many (perhaps even all matters) is incorrect. So what can we say about my views on murder? Perhaps I am wrong on that as well, perhaps God sees the end as always justifying the means due to some extraordinary and incomprehensible method of thought. Therefore any action is potentially justifiable if God deems it to be necessary in achieving some great plan and order in our reality.
Yet this is potentially dangerous, although (if a God did exist) we could never hope to know his mind, I do believe that any world in which genocide is actively permitted in the name of some divine dictator is utterly wrong. In my opinion at least we are better off without such as self interested despot such as God even if he does exist.
So what could be done about the matter at hand? A start, we could become our own masters of morality and decide what is right or wrong as a collective, global community and put to one side all thoughts on right and wrong which stem from faith (of course if such truths are then rediscovered simply by what humans believe to be the correct moral action then these too will again become acceptable). This will bring us a step closer to abolishing all traces of evil from the world. I believe that this would be a far greater investment of our time than belief in and worship of a self-centred God whose literal following could result in great catastrophe due to its deontological approach to decision making. In the end we would forsake the progression of the human civilisation for the possibility of an eternal afterlife which may or may not exist. If such a God really did exist I very much doubt that if he were truly concerned with our wellbeing he would ask us to place blind faith in his existence at the expense of abandoning our future as a species.
We should, instead, place our faith in something visible and much more grounded in reality: mankind.
The matter concerning the existence of the soul has perplexed mankind for centuries. To believe in the reality of such a concept provides a certain sense of joy and security for theistic and atheistic groups alike. Indeed mans potential immortality is a most bewildering and extensively enlightening matter, and would prove most desirable if true. In this article I do not wish to do away with the notion of everlasting life, such a claim would be impossible to make in this current age (if it were to have any credibility to it at least). The matter that concerns me now is that of the metaphysical claims of religion upon the existence of a soul and how they are most likely to be fallacious. For the sake of space we shall confine ourselves merely to the texts of Christianity in this argument.
It is a commonly known and well regarded fact that there have been uncountable opportunities (many of which have been taken) when the texts in the Bible have been either tampered with, to serve a corrupt individuals own purposes, or removed all together from the sacred book to leave nonconflicting doctrine which suits the needs of the church in an economical and political sense, not a spiritual one. One of the most famous cases of this was at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D when many texts where rejected from what would become the Bible and a vote was taken upon the nature of Christ’s divinity (not, as Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code, upon his divinity). Texts rejected from these councils and other such gatherings include anything that claimed Jesus was more man than deity, such as the Gospel of Phillip which rejected Christ’s divine conception and other miracles such as the resurrection which are essential to the Christian faith. The fact that there was contradiction among the gospels, with only four qualifying for publication in the book of books, suggests that something strange is afoot. The Vatican secret archives are a modern day example of Biblical inaccuracy, no doubt containing thousands of documents which contradict the Canon, the archives are one of the main reasons the Vatican became its own independant state.
Many more examples of corruption in the Church could be given but so extensive is the list that we would be here for years upon end. It is clear that the religion we know today as Christianity is completely artificial and manmade and hence, although it’s teachings of agape can help society to function, it’s metaphysical claims are almost entirely based on manipulated scripture selectively chosen from a vast and extensive array of documents. Would we base a scientific theory on such evidence? Of course not, such theories would be regarded as preposterous and those who suggested otherwise would be ridiculed. The matters concerning the soul, as far as Christianity goes, are based purely on inaccuracy, superstition and rumour.
Let us imagine a scenario: a Christian theologian opens up a human skull and looks in upon the brain, a biological computer and arguably the most complex structure known to mankind. Whilst staring at this awe inspiring wonder the theologian thinks to himself: “I wonder what is responsible for such mysteries as conciseness and freewill?” He eventually puts it down to a metaphysical entity which no one has ever seen or that has ever been scientifically (or mathematically) documented in a reliable manner. Why? Because that’s what scripture tells him. I have no doubt that that same man, if he had not been exposed to Christianity, would not have reached that same conclusion without the influence of his corrupted documents. It is clear that the only conclusion that could possibly be arrived at with any certainty is that the brain is responsible for such mysteries, not an invisible and immortal soul.
I wish to make it clear to the reader however that, although I hope they see the illogical nature of the soul when based upon Christian metaphysics, I do not believe that the possibility of existence after biological death is ruled out in any way whatsoever; simply because one theory is inaccurate it does not mean that all theories concerning the proof of a soul are and will be so. It is possible that an intelligence not dissimilar to God exists with the power to reconstruct our minds or even with the power to give us immortal souls. However, such a claim must be based upon reliable proofs, reason combined with logic and scientific evidence, not ancient texts whose truths have been entirely distorted over the centuries.