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Science and spirituality:

Some people say science is against spirituality and scientists can’t understand the “inner worlds” of human beings and so they cannot have harmony between inner and outer worlds. Far from it! I feel these words are said by people who don’t have first hand experience in science and even if they have, they don't know how to walk on the spiritual path science lays before them. I want to remove this false perception about science with regard to spiritualism and show how science can fulfill ones' spiritual quests.

What is spirituality? You can sum up spirituality in this way:
Spiritual journey is actually an inquiry into one's own existence. It is an inquiry into existence and non-existence and the relationship between these two. It is realizing true existence. An inquiry has to be open without any fear in mind about the ability or outcome. So being fearless is the first step in the path of realization. We are always under the influence of some or other fear. The fear is an outcome of either illusion or weakness to understand and tackle the situation. Illusion can be overcome by acquiring knowledge while weakness can be overcome by acquiring strength. Fearlessness is prerequisite as well as an outcome of spiritual quest. For this to happen, you have to be emotionally neutral. First you should not get associated with anything mentally and should be able to analyze everything rationally. That is what science tells us to do!
There are two types of reasoning:
(1) the one that is attached to emotions and beliefs
(2) the one that is detached and neutral
An example: You have a very young daughter whom you love more than your life. If one day she behaves very badly during a party, you try to understand with your loving mind and think that as she is still a child she doesn’t know how to behave properly and she would definitely learn things when she grows up and excuse her! Here your love for her shaped up your behaviour! As an unemotional person I would say that even if the child is young, she has to be taught how to behave in a public place with a mild warning after understanding her innocence so that she doesn’t repeat it and help her correct herself.

There is another aspect to this type of reasoning: Motivation. You want to forget your ex-girlfriend. So you try to reason that you would be better off without her by recollecting all her negative qualities!

This biased analysis of anything is due to the now well-known psychological phenomenon of motivated reasoning. Research suggests that all people tend to seek out information that confirms (or at least does not challenge) the conclusions they want to draw on a given topic. In other words, we will work to discredit or avoid information that might require us to reconsider our pre-existing beliefs. Motivated reasoning is particularly likely when taking the other side might create conflict within our social circle—like religious or political groups.

Likewise if you are attached to a belief (or emotion or group), it fogs your reasoning power out of fear, hope, love or respect and affects your behaviour. A mind that is agitated by belief can never be free and therefore never know truth.

The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear - Jiddu Krishnamurthy

You shouldn't reason backward from belief to evidence because that will subject you to numerous cognitive biases and you risk fooling yourself about the nature of reality.

During the earlier times people saw lives with pains, tragedies, sorrows  and several things around them. They wanted some kind of theory which could explain all this. Therefore, they thought about explanations and theories which gradually led into beliefs. These beliefs, which were influenced by the times they lived in i.e., non-scientific reasoning, were products of constant fear of the unknown. Instead of taking on the fear head on and finding permanent solutions, they just escaped into the world of false beliefs that gave them temporary relief. In a world where people clutch at all kinds of straws to make some sense of the madness around them, truth can never be found. Instead of analyzing, examining and understanding why something happens and how it should be handled realisitically, they tried shortcuts by bringing unknown and untested factors to interpret things! These beliefs divided people because each person had a different set of experiences and those in turn influenced their explanations and the resultant beliefs based on their mental makeup and situations and not on one truth. That's how different  beliefs - both religious and non-religious - originated.

""Faith is, `To believe what you do not see', the reward of which is, `you see what you believed'''!

Faith means not wanting to know what is true - Friedrich Nietzsche

To avoid such pitfalls science asks us not to get attached to emotions and beliefs. It tells us to have an unattached reasoning power so that your mind can seek truth in a neutral manner.
For instance, if scientists say all properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe, that again becomes a belief. As an example consider this: we know life here on our planet. We know the needs and necessities for the life to originate and sustain on Earth. But in some other galaxy, there is every chance of life originating in different conditions and therefore has different set of needs to come into existence and continue (Ref 1)! Therefore science asks us to be open to such uncertainties and prepare and correct ourselves to face them as and when new data and information arrives.
Contrary to the popular prejudice that science has an answer for everything, science has built into its process that no answer should be considered certain and final -- that we must rely on the best knowledge of the moment but also embrace the uncertainty that it may be provisional. Scientists always think that theirs’ is a work in progress!


Science doesn't actually claim to know all the truth. It works hard by getting closer and closer to the truth, but of course science learns by its mistakes and advances by disproving hypotheses and getting things wrong. One of the virtues of science is that it is prepared to change its mind as and when the evidence warrants it. Science is not religion and therefore need not be afraid to say 'we do not know ... yet'. Scientists know that all scientific knowledge is conditional, dependent on repeated questioning, testing and confirmation.

Public sharing is an important part of science. No scientist will ever say - 'Oh, it's true for me, it may not be true for you' or 'Because I believe in this, this is the truth" or "Everyone believes it.  It must be true". Whether someone's belief is true is not a prerequisite for (its) belief. On the other hand, if something is actually known as proven a fact, then it categorically cannot be false. There will be only one fact given that the conditions in which it is searched, observed and perceived are the same. But again a fact here need not be a fact somewhere else in the universe. Science is in pursuit of  these facts and the conditions in which  these facts evolve so that we can give  a meaningful definition to our existence.
The fundamental principles of science say we need to understand the world in all its complexities. Observing, experimenting and interpreting real phenomena are essential steps towards comprehending the world around us.

Any rational approach requires some distance between science and ideology. Belief is what happens when your mind thinks you need some sort of external emotional support to balance itself. Then your motivational reasoning shapes up your perception of the world.
Humans have to see their lives in some sort of importance, and it is this that provides shape and meaning, whether acknowledged or not and in the absence of a dependable narrative, scientists try to fill the space with science, which they think is closer to truth than any other belief.

All of us are subject to the psychological forces at play when it comes to choosing between facts and beliefs when they do not mesh. In the long run, it is better to understand the way the world really is rather than how we would like it to be.
The path of evolutionary enlightenment is one of ego-transcendence that is a means to a higher end, to open up some space within the self – space for evolution to occur. Being inspired by the idea of conscious evolution is one thing, while actually engaging in the process of evolution is something else altogether. But within themselves people are not free. They are trapped in psychological hang-ups and attachments, with little or no space for that which is new. Their souls are not liberated, and their choices and actions are still being shaped by unconscious adherence to values and perspectives that have nothing to do with being a liberated vessel for the evolution of consciousness and culture. Merely being inspired by the potential for conscious revolution does not automatically give us access to the fearless inner freedom to actualize that potential. In order to find that freedom, to open up that space for new, it is essential that you liberate yourself to a significant degree from your personal fears and desires and your culturally conditioned values. This inner freedom is not different from the goal of traditional enlightenment where freedom is an end itself. Ideally, freedom becomes the foundation from which to engage in conscious evolution. You must disentangle yourself, free yourself from your deeds, your history, culture that is entangled in beliefs and personal ego.
That empty space or a clean slate will become the ultimate source and wellspring of new awakening thoughts, their evolution which finally leads to enlightenment.

It is with this clean state of mind most of the scientists pursue the path of spiritualism and try to seek truth about our very existence and also tread on the path of self-realization.  All most all the scientists think about God and religion at some time or the other in their lives. Great scientists like Einstein and Hawking mentioned several times about God and Universe in their talks. One scientist even said, our creator, if there is really one, is the greatest scientist in this universe because he created it in a very scientific manner! (Please see the art work I created on this very theme here: http://www.kkartfromscience.com/popup/kk3.html ). Some scientists even say light-heartedly, that God is their colleague! Carl Sagan said: Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is profound source of spirituality. When we recognise our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.

However, most of the scientists feel that instead of chasing things that cannot be proved or disproved immediately, it would be better if we concentrate on things that can help living beings and the world. They know if there is really a creator, he will not get influenced by our offerings of bribe for giving us things that might make us happy temporarily or don't get influenced by our emotional blackmail! He will be happy if we help other living beings with the intelligence and courage he gave us!

Theists, Scientific laws that run this universe themselves are part of what 's created. Or, atheists, the universe came into existence on its own based on scientific laws. Even if both views are taken into account, we have to use only scientific methods to unravel those mysteries. There is no other way!

Like one of my scientist friends says...even to prove god real requires science!

Scientists have in their mind a project of being able to definitively answer the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.  That's not a project to approach lightly.  It involves a lot of very careful distinction between truth and falsehood, between reality and perception, between logic and epistemology and ontology.

So, scientists don’t follow religious dogmas blindly but try to understand the world around us in a rational and systematic way. They try to help the world with the knowledge gained in the process. They feel this path started with a clean mind free of all beliefs,  an unbiased mind in search of truth and work that can help the world can lead to spiritual fulfillment in the true sense.
Anyone who knows how a nervous system works during pain processing can do no physical harm to any living being. And anyone who knows how the brain really works at the emotional level will never try to harass another living being. Any person who has seen how the scientific rules are followed universally in a given set of conditions, and understood its beauty can never think in local terms and can never come under the influence of artificially created races, castes, groups, communities or citizenships. He sees all the living beings as his own images - following universal rules of life and as citizens of this universe.

Science guides my pursuit of spirituality. I learned all about human existence, morality, humane nature, universal brotherhood, secularism, tolerance, inner strength and everything a human being should be from science! It gave me answers to several of my questions - including the most testing ones like  - how to be calm in the most trying circumstances, how to have peace of mind when everything around you is falling apart ( Please read my poem based on this here:  http://kkartlab.in/group/theartofwritingpoems/forum/topics/staying-... ). I have faith in science  - not a blind one though as science warns us against any such traps - and my approach is scientific in everything I do { "Believe" is a word that, as a person of science, I use rarely and only with great care. To believe something is to accept it on faith without evidence or logical explanation. This is completely contrary to the scientific method and fundamental principals of science.  I think I trust (the most appropriate word than faith and belief) science more than anything else during the times of stress because it  gave solutions to several of  my problems )}. If you know what science is really about and how to go about in this world scientifically, you really can be a great human being. And that is my experience!


If a scientist still acts in a biased manner despite his scientific background, I feel the person didn’t understand science properly and that he couldn’t overcome his cultural conditioning of mind with his scientific temper!
'Science, far from destroying the beauty and romance of the world as seen by artists, musicians and writers, enhances it by revealing the underlying reasons and purposes' – McConnell .

When it comes to questions of morality and meaning, the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false or facts. Some emotions like kindness and empathy will be involved. Controlling them is highly important to arrive at a good decision. Just because a criminal cries and acts funnily, you cannot support him. Oh yes, his brain could be differently wired! You try to analyze what could make any person behave so differently from others. On the other hand you can empathize with a poor thief  when he steals food. But if you are a logical thinker you will try to understand what circumstances made him stole the food and try to correct them. Critical thinking helps here.

Unlike what several people think, science deals with moral ( derived from reasoning related to...empirical evidence) issues too and can be a good guide to life's journey through the  checkerboard of blacks and whites!- Krishna Kumari Challa

''Science enhances the moral value of life, because it furthers a love of truth and reverence'' - Max Plank

All genuine scientists think the real facts about this universe can be unraveled only through scientific method. If you are really interested in finding truth, the right one, science is the only way!

There might be other ways, but they are not as accurate as science is!

Science in itself is a spiritual journey. Unraveling the mysteries of the universe and trying to know the truth and meaning of our existence.. 

If people of various faiths try to understand why science says what it says and that it is on the pursuit of truth without any fear, illusions, preconceived notions and beliefs I think there can be harmony between science and religion.
Yes, science tries to provide all dimensional full pictures of everything in terms of space, time, balance, rhythm and  unity in this universe and their relevance to both inner and outer worlds. It provides true meaning to our very existence.   And the pictures brought forth by science are  very beautiful and total than the partial ones others see in all aspects of life and  spirituality is no exception!

Questions people asked me based on this article... and my replies...

Q: Dr. Krishna, I have seen some scientists and professors explaining science in terms of religion. Like some physicists explaining consciousness and meditation in terms of quantum mechanics. I wondered how  such learned people can get so ridiculous. After reading this article of yours I got the answer. 

Do you think these scientists justify what they are doing? Aren't they creating pseudo-science with their strange interpretations?

Krishna: All sorts of people exist in this world. 

The training these learned people got in science is substandard. Or they must have forgotten what true science is as they are in search of personal glory.

That is why I strongly stress, 'Being a scientist is a state of mind, not a profession'.

Just ignore them. Science is greater than any person. Give importance to it and the scientific method.  Everything else is immaterial.

 Q: Dr. Krishna, I am a spiritual guru. Your article science and spirituality is really engaging. But have you ever achieved a state of higher consciousness while dealing with science? Is it even possible?

Krishna: Hah! A spiritual guru's visit to this network and his getting engaged with its content is really heart-warming. Welcome to the world of Science, Sir!

 Some spiritual gurus told me a higher state of consciousness will lead you to a more Self-Empowered state of being. It will let more love flow easier to your Heart. It will get you in motion to a journey where you won’t play the victim anymore. It will lead you to listen to your Higher Self. It will give you infinite energy.

If that is what you achieve with higher state of mind, my answer is an emphatic "YES, I HAVE"!

I am highly empowered, I don't depend on anybody or anything for mental support.  "Critical thinking, thorough and fact dependent analysis of everything" brings peace and stability to my mind. Scientific investigation of everything brings satisfactory and the right answers to all my questions and problems. Problems don't seem problems anymore. I truly feel I am not a victim of circumstances but a higher self that is made to test and emerge victorious all the time. My love for all living entities is universal and doesn't stop at the boundaries of my home, city, region, state or country and is universal in nature. I am not afraid of anything anymore! I conquer fear with my rational thinking.

Understanding the scientific principles this universe is based on made me realize I am one with the universe and is not a separate entity from it and that there is no difference between me and the other forms - either living or non living - in this universe!

My expansive scientific knowledge brought me keen perception that combines innumerable perspectives at one instance. I can also sense how others are interpreting the world, how others feel based on their view points. Their judgments become very clear to me. And that doesn't bother me much if it involves me. 

I feel I have infinite energy in my body which makes me do things both mental and physical and multi task. I can feel and reach my higher potential. This energy made me a polymath too.

I always have new insights into things and thoughts and see things completely different from those aspects of others and in several different ways. 

Strangely sometimes I feel I am 'others' I am watching and what they are undergoing is actually me undergoing it! I feel one with others around and that we are not separate! I am both the beings who is enjoying life and who is suffering. And that I am everything and everybody in this universe! I am one with the universe. I deeply empathize with other living beings around.

Whenever I am out in the Nature's lap, watching mountains, streams, or stars in the night sky an overwhelming feeling engulfs me filling me with unexplainable experience. I feel a vast presence of energy and knowledge which is just infinite and pretty mind-blowing and surprisingly it completely fills me too.  My mind and  body become different and new entities then! 

I no longer fear death because I feel I cannot die - I can still live other lives, take other forms ( the atoms and energy in my body can get recycled ), and I can live others' - who are actually me too - lives!

I am totally free, highly independent, completely satisfied, very empowered and truly peaceful. If that is what spirituality brings, to my surprise, science too brought all these things into my life!

This is really enchanting and interesting. 

But my scientist friends told me they don't feel the same way as I do. Maybe their approach to scientific way of life is different from that of mine. And I am glad to say I stepped on the right path! That is why I succeeded in reaching these heights.

Q: This is spiritual guru again. There are several ways to follow to reach a higher state of consciousness. Yours is really interesting. I heard it for the first time - reaching it through a scientific way. Can you explain it in a more detailed way? 

Krishna: Why do you want to remain anonymous, sir? Why don't you come and meet me in person so that we can discuss it in detail?

Anyway, I deal with reality and facts. I explained above what a scientific way is.  I strictly apply scientific facts to my thought process and follow them when I act. That led to my higher awareness. That's all. I don't claim any miracles or super-natural powers. I don't have any of them.

Q: Madam, looks like your Kundalini has awakened.

I want to ask you  a Q - what is the difference between spiritual awakening and scientific awakening?

Krishna: Kundalini? I don't know anything about it. When I googled it I found some strange explanations. I have never undergone those. Feelings like serpent going up your spine and all. Never saw any lights or anything like that. No supernatural things occurred to me. Never saw any supernatural beings too.

My approach is completely scientific and not religious. I never even tried religious way of doing things. So I don't know anything about them. 

On the other hand science deals with reality and facts. I strictly apply them to my thought process and follow them when I act. That led to my higher awareness. That's all. I don't claim any miracles or super-natural powers. I don't have any of them.

Science and Spirituality

Q: How can you explain kundalini in terms of science and logic?

If that is what you achieve with higher state of mind, my answer is an emphatic "YES, I HAVE"! You can call it with any name you want.

I am highly empowered, I don't depend on anybody or anything for mental support. "Critical thinking, thorough and fact dependent analysis of everything" brings peace and stability to my mind. Scientific investigation of everything brings satisfactory and the right answers to all my questions and problems. Problems don't seem problems anymore. I truly feel I am not a victim of circumstances but a higher self that is made to test and emerge victorious all the time. My love for all living entities is universal and doesn't stop at the boundaries of my home, city, region, state or country and is universal in nature. I am not afraid of anything anymore! I conquer fear with my rational thinking.

Understanding the scientific principles this universe is based on made me realize I am one with the universe and is not a separate entity from it and that there is no difference between me and the other forms - either living or non living - in this universe!

My expansive scientific knowledge brought me keen perception that combines innumerable perspectives at one instance. I can also sense how others are interpreting the world, how others feel based on their view points. Their judgments become very clear to me. And that doesn't bother me much if it involves me.

I feel I have infinite energy in my body which makes me do things both mental and physical and multi task. I can feel and reach my higher potential. This energy made me a polymath too.

I always have new insights into things and thoughts and see things completely different from those aspects of others and in several different ways.

Strangely sometimes I feel I am 'others' I am watching and what they are undergoing is actually me undergoing it! I feel one with others around and that we are not separate! I am both the beings who is enjoying life and who is suffering. And that I am everything and everybody in this universe! I am one with the universe. I deeply empathize with other living beings around.

Whenever I am out in the Nature's lap, watching mountains, streams, or stars in the night sky an overwhelming feeling engulfs me filling me with unexplainable experience. I feel a vast presence of energy and knowledge which is just infinite and pretty mind-blowing and surprisingly it completely fills me too. My mind and body become different and new entities then!

I no longer fear death because I feel I cannot die - I can still live other lives, take other forms ( the atoms and energy in my body can get recycled ), and I can live others' - who are actually me too - lives!

I am totally free, highly independent, completely satisfied, very empowered and truly peaceful. If that is what spirituality brings, to my surprise, science too brought all these things into my life!

This is really enchanting and interesting.

But my scientist friends told me they don't feel the same way as I do. Maybe their approach to scientific way of life is different from that of mine. And I am glad to say I stepped on the right path! That is why I succeeded in reaching these heights.

This is what I know, not about real kundalini, because I don’t have any magical powers, nor do I know about it in the way real spiritual journey takes you, it just is a scientific approach to spirituality.

Science and Spirituality

Q: (Based on the above reply of mine): 

How true indeed the path you have been on is the non dual eternal one for sure. Only sad part is when your colleagues need an answer the scientific way, there is non. Science stops and spiritual means take over. Where do you feel all the experience you spoke about? Within you, so know thy self to make it a wholesome and shareable one to one and all. Having seen or savioured take others there.

Q: Doesn't 'enlightenment' means attaining supernatural powers? How can you say you reached a higher state of mind without getting these powers?

Krishna: The power is in seeing more clearly and deeply rather than acquiring anything supernatural. People who say they attained super natural powers are not telling the truth. 

Nobody can attain powers that can't be explained by science. 

Q: Q: Are People with psychic abilities spiritually advanced?
Krishna : After two decades of research in the US, scientists reviewed the results and concluded that the psychics did no better than chance, and that the psychic information was neither validated nor useful.

Again countless programs have been funded in the field in the US despite never having been proven valid or effective but all went futile!

Extra sensory perception (ESP) never fared well under scientific conditions, whether in the private or public sector trials. Most tests failed to replicate the results. Some that showed results had been shown to have several errors in statistics and methodology. Most psychics were caught cheating on hidden cameras, physically bending spoons with their hands — not their minds — when they thought no one was watching.

If psychics can really have good abilities, their predictions and work should be much more accurate and valid than chance or an informed guess and they should really be able to do things without cheating.

So there aren’t any people with psychic abilities in the first place!

Q: What is left behind the purpose of life after someone has awakened his kundalini?

Science and Spirituality

Q: If enlightenment is all about the realization of truth, why is it that the truth as expounded by the enlightened people varies from each other? 

the circumstances it is found are constant.

Imagine this situation...

A huge asteroid colloids with the Earth in the future. Everything here gets destroyed. All living beings. All religions. All the scientific knowledge written in the books.

Then life originates here again and evolves into intelligent beings. Then in the initial stages of its civilization when it tries, it comes up with new religious stories with different Gods because it doesn't have any knowledge about the present ones!

But in the later stages, if it tries to gain scientific knowledge, surprisingly it finds that the Earth revolves around the Sun, Earth is round - not flat, realizes gravity and space-time in the same way as we did! It also finds millions of stars, galaxies and black holes like we did!

It sees atoms and molecules and chemical reactions exactly in the same way as we do!

Their 'medical field' evolves similar to ours! Their technology would be similar to the present one. In fact all their scientific knowledge will be similar to ours!

Even if this happens a hundred times the results would be the same each time!

If intelligent life evolves in different parts of this universe, and if it has to have 'religions' in each part, they would all be different to each other - like the different religious stories and beliefs we have in different parts of Earth. But their scientific knowledge would be exactly the same in all the given situations! Because scientific awareness cannot be different in various parts of our planet or universe.

Why does scientific knowledge remain constant while religion keeps changing?

Can you realize why? If you can, you will understand which one is telling the truth and which one you can trust ... Science or Religion?

The answer is obvious for a mind that can reason well.

You can have higher form of awareness with science too. And that awareness will always be constant! Read this article that tells more about it.

Science and Spirituality

References:

1. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=bacteria-discovere...
© 2012 , Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa

Copyright 2012 Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa.

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Replies to This Discussion

Rationality or acceptability in the realm of common sense and to the framework of what is acceptable as perceptions of cause and effect, is not unique to science. In some sense what Bertrand Russel says is acceptable: 'what has or seem to have definite answers belong to science and the rest is open for philosophy(religion including)' Religion deals with the unknown and the trans-sensual or transcendental--this latter cannot be said to be non-existent; love, hate, anger, contentment, respect etc. do not lend themselves to obvious tests of existence and quantification. And therefore generally out of bounds for science. Those who swear by science in a narrow sense at best ignore these non-quantifiable entities and ignore them. To expect and have meaning to life and human endeavours and anxieties, we have to admit these intangible and non-quantifiable things. Human rationality demands causes and explanations for happenings; when it is baffling to the pet proclivities of science, they are at best ignored and resort is made to chance or dubbed as mere chance happening. But everything has a cause, possibly unknown, but never causeless. Resort to or being content with chance is repugnant to the spirit of rationality. In Indian philosophy, we have karma theory as quite a plausible hypothesis though it is not comparable to a proof in mathematics or in a familiar scientific-deterministic framework. But this theory explains things generally satisfactorily and without this theory everything that is manifest in human life remains unexplained (differences, agony, undeserved distress, windfall good fortune, untimely death and destruction etc.) Karma theory entails the rebirth hypothesis also. These are the necessary cementing elements in the Indian religious tradition and any scientific or rational instinct need these explanations proffered by these theories, karma and rebirth. Questioning these is ever happening and will continue as long as man is concerned with the intangible and the trans-sensual.

Science is like buying shares in stock market. Religion is like buying lottery ticket.

Source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-09-15/edit-page/33...

Science should be able to overcome the cultural conditioning of the minds in our societies to get accepted by a large majority of people. Earlier people from the scientific community used to think the truth in the form of proof on which science is based is enough for science to move forward. But this has been proved to be a misconception. Now science is taking the help of art to overcome this difficulty. Can art help people in accepting science is a million dollar question the future will answer.

nice

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/23/does_studying_science_make_you_a_be...
Does studying science make you a better person?
A new study suggests that scientists are more likely to have a strong moral compass than those outside the field
This piece originally appeared on Pacific Standard.

Want to be a better person? Spend more time thinking about science.
Pacific Standard

That’s the implication of newly published research, which finds people who study science — or who are even momentarily exposed to the idea of scientific research — are more likely to condemn unethical behavior and more inclined to help others.

“Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms,” report psychologists Christine Ma-Kellams of Harvard University and Jim Blascovich of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Their research is published in the online journal PLOS One.

The researchers describe four experiments, all conducted at UCSB, that back up their surprising conclusion.

The first featured 48 undergraduates who read a vignette describing a date rape. (In the story, John engages in “nonconsensual sex” with Sally.) They were then asked to judge John’s behavior on a scale from 1 (completely justified) to 100 (totally wrong).

After revealing some personal information, including their major, each participant finished the experiment by responding to the question, “How much do you believe in science?” on a one-to-seven scale.

The researchers found no relationship between the participants’ religiosity or ethnicity and their judgment of John’s actions. But science majors (including those studying biology, chemistry and psychology) judged him more harshly than non-science majors.

In addition, “those who reported greater belief in science rated the date rape as more wrong,” the researchers write.

Three additional experiments involved putting the idea of science into people’s minds via a priming device. Participants were given 10 sets featuring five words apiece; they were instructed to throw one word out and arrange the other four to form a proper sentence. Half of them were given unscrambled sets of words that included such science-oriented terms as “logical,” “hypothesis,” “laboratory,” “scientists” and “theory.”

One such group, consisting of 33 undergraduates, read the aforementioned date-rape vignette and expressed their judgment of John. Those who had the science-related words on their mind “condemned the act as more wrong” than those who had unscrambled the neutral words, the researchers report.

Another group, featuring 32 students and community members, were asked how likely they were to take part in a list of community-minded activities over the next month. Those who had been exposed to the science-related words expressed a greater likelihood to give blood, do volunteer work and donate to charity.

A final group of 43 students and community members played an “economics dictator game” in which they were given $5 and told they could keep it all or give some of it to a stranger. Those exposed to the scientific terms allocated less money to themselves and more to the other person.

On the surface, these results seems counterintuitive; science, after all, is — in the strictest sense — amoral. But Ma-Kellams and Blascovich argue that, in the popular imagination, it has a different connotation.

“We contend there is a lay image or notion of ‘science’ that is associated with concepts of rationality, impartiality, fairness, technological progress,” they write. “The notion of science contains in it the broader moral vision of a society in which rationality is used for the mutual benefit of all.”

In other words, science puts us in a frame of mind where we’re thinking in terms of the common good.

The researchers note that specific scientific findings (such as those questioning the concept of free will) can, and sometimes do, produce different outcomes. And they caution that their measures of morality are limited to issues of harm/care and fairness, as opposed to the other points on Jonathan Haidt’s compass (such as respect for authority and in-group loyalty).

Nevertheless, this is the first research to show that, in Ma-Kellams and Blascovich’s words, “the act of thinking about science itself produces important psychological consequences.” Important, and arguably even uplifting. Who knew Bill Nye, the Science Guy might be a spiritual teacher?

http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=121217&type=mem...

Scientists can help the world be more moral than "religionists"?

Interesting research that being interested in science can influence you to be more ethical!

http://www.quora.com/Science/If-science-had-never-challenged-religi...

If science had never challenged religious belief what state might humanity be in now?

Sam Harris, who is both a philosopher an neurobiologist has developed the idea of science-based morality in his book "The moral landscape: how science can determine human values".

: http://www.samharris.org/the-moral-landscape

Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to non-believing scientists—agree on one point: Science has nothing to say on the subject of human values. Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to “respect” the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors. 

In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a “moral landscape.” Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of “morality”; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.

Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.

Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our “culture wars,” Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape
The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values is a book by Sam Harris. In it, he promotes a science of morality and argues that many thinkers have long confused the relationship between morality, facts, and science. He aims to carve a third path between secularists who say morality is subjective (e.g. moral relativists), and religionists who say that morality is given by God and scripture. Harris contends that the only moral framework worth talking about is one where "morally good" things pertain to increases in the "well-being of conscious creatures". He then argues that, problems with philosophy of science and reason in general notwithstanding, 'moral questions' will have objectively right and wrong answers which are grounded in empirical facts about what causes people to flourish.

Challenging the age-old philosophical notion that we can never get an 'ought' from an 'is', Harris argues that moral questions are best pursued using, not just philosophy, but the methods of science. Thus, "science can determine human values" translates to "science can tell us which values lead to human flourishing". It is in this sense that Harris advocates that scientists begin conversations about a normative science of "morality".

Sam Harris's case starts with two premises: "(1) some people have better lives than others, and (2) these differences are related, in some lawful and not entirely arbitrary way, to states of the human brain and to states of the world".[3] The idea is that a person is simply describing material facts (many about their brain) when they describe possible "better" and "worse" lives for themselves. Granting this, Harris says we must conclude that there are facts about which courses of action will allow one to pursue a better life.

Harris attests to the importance of admitting that such facts exist, because he says this logic applies to groups of individuals as well. He suggests that there are better and worse ways for whole societies to pursue better lives. Just like at the scale of the individual, there may be multiple different paths and "peaks" to flourishing for societies - and many more ways to fail.

Harris then makes a pragmatic case that science could usefully define "morality" according to such facts (about people's wellbeing). Often his arguments point out the way that problems with this scientific definition of morality seem to be problems shared by all science, or reason and words in general. Harris also spends some time describing how science might engage nuances and challenges of identifying the best ways for individuals, and groups of individuals, to improve their lives. Many of these issues are covered below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape part 2:
Although Harris's book discusses the challenges that a science of morality must face, he also mentions that his scientific argument is indeed philosophical. Furthermore, he says that this is the case for almost all scientific investigation. He mentions that modern science amounts to careful practice of accepted first philosophical principles like empiricism and physicalism.[4] He also suggests that science has already very much settled on values in answering the question "what should I believe, and why should I believe it?".[5] Harris says it should not be surprising that normative ethical sciences are, or would be, similarly founded on bedrock assumptions (Basic norms). Harris says:

...science is often a matter of philosophy in practice. It is probably worth recalling that the original name for the physical sciences was, in fact, 'natural philosophy'... One could call [his case in The Moral Landscape] a 'philosophical' position, but it is one that directly relates to the boundaries of science.[4]

The way he thinks science might engage moral issues draws on various philosophical positions like ethical realism (there are facts worth calling 'moral facts'), and ethical naturalism (these facts relate to the physical world). Harris says a science of morality may resemble Utilitarianism, but that the science is, importantly, more open-ended because it involves an evolving definition of well-being. Rather than committing to Reductive materialism, then, Harris recognizes the arguments of revisionists that psychological definitions themselves are contingent on research and discoveries. Harris adds that any science of morality must consider everything from emotions and thoughts to the actual actions and their consequences.[6]

To Harris, moral propositions, and explicit values in general, are concerned with the flourishing of conscious creatures in a society.[7] He argues that "Social morality exists to sustain cooperative social relationships, and morality can be objectively evaluated by that standard."[8] Harris sees some philosophers' talk of strictly private morality as akin to unproductive discussion of some private, personal physics.[8][9]

Harris also discusses how interchangeability of perspective might emerge as an important part of moral reasoning. He alludes to an 'unpleasant surprise principle', where someone realizes they have been supporting an ineffective moral norm (e.g. reported cases of Jew-hunting Nazis discovering that they themselves were of Jewish descent).[10]
Science and moral truths

Harris identifies three projects for science as it relates to morality: (1) explaining why humans do what they do in the name of "morality" (e.g. traditional evolutionary psychology), (2) determining which patterns of thought and behaviour humans actually should follow (i.e. the science of morality), and (3) generally persuading humans to change their ways.[11] Harris says that the first project is focused only on describing what is, whereas projects (2) and (3) are focused on what should and could be, respectively. Harris's point is that this second, prescriptive project should be the focus of a science of morality.[12] He mentions, however, that we should not fear an "Orwellian future" with scientists at every door - vital progress in the science of morality could be shared in much the same way as advances in medicine.[13]

Harris says it is important to delineate project (1) from project (2), or else we risk committing a moralistic fallacy.[14] He also highlights the importance of distinguishing between project (2) (asking what is right) from project (3) (trying to change behaviour). He says we must realize that the nuances of human motivation is a challenge in itself; humans often fail to do what they "ought" to do to even be successfully selfish - there is every reason to believe that discovering what is best for society would not change every member's habits overnight.[15]

Harris does not imagine that people, even scientists, have always made the right moral decisions—indeed it is precisely his argument that many of them are wrong about moral facts.[16] This is due to the many real challenges of good science in general, including human cognitive limitations and biases (e.g. loss aversion can sway human decisions on important issues like medicine). He mentions the research of Paul Slovic and others to describe just a few of these established mental heuristics that might keep us from reasoning properly.[17] Although he mentions that training might temper the influence of these biases, Harris worries about research showing that incompetence and ignorance in a domain leads to confidence (the Dunning–Kruger effect).[18]

Harris explains that debates and disagreement is a part of the scientific method, and that one side can certainly be wrong.[19] He also explains that all the debates still available to science illustrates how much work could still be done, and how much conversation must continue.[20]

Harris's positive beliefs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Landscape part 3
Harris rejects the idea of free will

The book is full of issues that Harris thinks are far from being empirically, morally grey areas. That is, besides saying that 'reasonable' thinking about moral issues amounts to scientific thinking. For instance, he references one poll that found that 36 percent of British Muslims think apostates should be put to death for their unbelief,[21] and he says that these individuals are "morally confused".[22] He also suggests it is obvious that loneliness, helplessness, and poverty are "bad", but that these are by no means as far as positive psychology has taken, and will take us.[23]

In one section, called The illusion of free will, Harris argues that there is a wealth of evidence in psychology (e.g. the illusion of introspection) or specifically related to the neuroscience of free will that suggests that metaphysically free will does not exist. This, he thinks, is intuitive; "trains of thought...convey the apparent reality of choices, freely made. But from a deeper perspective...thoughts simply arise (what else could they do?)".[24] He adds "The illusion of free will is itself an illusion".[25] The implications of free will's non-existence may be a working determinism, and Harris warns us not to confuse this with fatalism.[24]

One implication of a determined will, Harris says, is that it becomes unreasonable to punish people out of retribution—only behaviour modification and the deterrence of others still seem to be potentially valid reasons to punish.[26] This, especially because behaviour modification is a sort of cure for the evil behaviours; Harris provides a thought experiment:

Consider what would happen if we discovered a cure for human evil. Imagine, for the sake of argument...the cure for psychopathy can be put directly into the food supply like vitamin D...consider, for instance, the prospect of withholding the cure for evil from a murderer as part of his punishment. Would this make any moral sense at all?[26]

Harris acknowledges a hierarchy of moral consideration (e.g. humans are more important than bacteria or mice). He says it follows that there could, in principle, be a species compared to which we are relatively unimportant (although he doubts such a species exists).[27]

Harris supports the development of lie-detection technology and believes it would be, on the whole, beneficial for humanity. He also supports the formation of an explicit global civilization because of the potential for stability under a world government.[13]

Religion: good or bad?

Consistent with Harris's definition of morality, he says we must ask whether religion increases human flourishing today (regardless of whether it increased it in the distant past).[28] He argues that religions may largely be practiced because they fit well with human cognitive tendencies (e.g. animism).[29] In Harris's view, religion and religious dogma is an impediment to reason, and he discusses the views of Francis Collins as one example.

Harris criticizes the tactics of secularists like Chris Mooney, who argue that science is not fundamentally (and certainly not superficially) in conflict with religion. Harris sees this as a very serious disagreement, that patronizingly attempts to pacify more devout theists.[30] Harris claims that societies can move away from deep dependence on religion just as it has witchcraft, which he says was once just as deeply ingrained.[13]

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