relativism

Morality – The Real Target of Relativity

If the basic entities of the cosmos are persons, not things, not atoms, quarks, or some other latest smallest being, not electromagnetism or gravity, not cosmological constants, then the investigation of how persons, not things, begin will yield more information on the meaning of life, and put scientific re-search into the beginnings of nature in its proper and most fruitful perspective. We will occasionally be looking at how immature persons develop into mature persons to make a point about logic, meaning, and how we know what we know.

We are not taught any more in most schools, though we ought to be, how humble grammar-school grammar is the way any language formulates logic and meaning. The lesson was implicit in the “trivium” which we inherited from that benighted Middle Ages. To learn grammar is to learn logic. As my (public) high school English teacher in 1952 strictly informed us, “If you cannot say it in good English (or whatever your language), you don’t know it yet.”

Today in some schools, she would be fired for saying such a thing. Competent science will not long survive that kind of treatment. The real target of our cultural “relativity” has not been truth. Everyone needs some bits and pieces of truth just to survive. The target has been moral truth, a casualty of our drive for moral autonomy, our drive to be independent, autonomous decision-makers, to be “as God”, as the serpent in the Garden of Eden promised Eve. Even the teenage street urchins understood the 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision to be the end of moral responsibility. They understood the power of the big “SEZ WHO???” If there is no God, or if He can be successfully dismissed by the Supreme Court, then (as Ivan responds to Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov) nothing can be forbidden.

We now have, for surely the first time in human history, school children taking deadly weapons to each other — for fun! That alone should scare the reader into asking how we got to this state of affairs. This book is part of my answer to the big “SEZ WHO???”, which is part of my answer to the science-vs.-religion “problem”. Science itself does not require morality. Any adequately trained criminal can follow scientific procedure, just as any criminal can train a football team by the rules of football.

But the scientific community and its place in society does require moral responsibility for its declarations and predictions to be believable — a passionate moral commitment for getting at the truth of a matter. That is so, just as a sports league requires morally responsible trainers, players, and referees for the results of contests to be believable. The enormous intellectual authority accorded by the public to the scientific community rests (or should rest) solidly on an earned (as in healthy track-record) reputation for honesty.

In other words, truth and morality each depend on the other. Neither will long survive without the other. And the authority which science bears in society depends fully on the commitment of the scientific community to being truth-seekers, to protecting and defending the common public ground of truth-seeking — at any cost to themselves.

If that is the case, it is worth noting that both the ontological and the moral foundations of Western science are the result largely of the Biblical worldview, and will not survive without it.

Just for good measure, I will venture another prediction, that, again, as we begin to see the essential unity of science and Biblical religion, we will discover with it the essential naturalness of what we commonly call miracles, that miracles appear “miraculous” (strange, astonishing, foreign) only from the fallen world’s point of view. If the Biblical worldview, along with the extraordinary gracefulness of the Biblical God, is true, then one might not be surprised to find that the closer one moves toward a relationship with this gracious God, sovereign over all, that the forces of nature might well obey the commands of those who have this kind of close relationship with this Creator of all things.

And in all of that, science, truth-seeking, will be fulfilled, not compromised. So, my answer to the title question of this section is that science and Biblical religion both logically and practically require each other, and that neither will survive in any very helpful manner without the other.

Dr. Earle FoxDr. Earle Fox is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Philosophy of Science and the Worldview of Ethical Monotheism.

This article was originally published at TheRoadtoEmmaus.org. See also Dr. Fox’s new Book Abortion, the Bible and America.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

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