Science and Ethics

According to a New York Times article (November 12, 2007), DNA research will eventually come to the conclusion that all races are NOT created equal. 

It is important to distinguish between biological inequality and social equality.Without any knowledge of DNA and on the basis of the most superficial observations one can conclude that not all human beings are created equal – either within or among races. Individuals are born with different traits and capacities, nations and groups have attained different levels of competence and achieved different levels at creativity at different periods of history. These biological and historical differences have little to do with the ethical principle that all human beings within a society must be treated with equal dignity and respect, and that all nations in the world must be protected from exploitation and domination from more powerful ones.

G. K. Chesterton was quite right when he said that the notion of all men being created equal is derived from a religious source, in that it follows from a vision of humanity that views all humans as deserving of equal rights. The Upanishadic aphorism tat tvam asi has no DNA backing, but it is an enlightened vision of the universality of human consciousness as linked to a common source.

Within a family not all children may be endowed with the same levels of intelligence, competence, or even character. One may choose to treat them differently on this basis, or one may not. This is a value decision that the parents make.So it is with casteism, racism, gender inequality, and all the rest of the oppressive, exclusivist, denigrating-the-other mindset and behavior that has characterized much of human history, and which have their roots in primal self-preserving group-affirming instinctive urges, and should not be justified by enlightened people on the basis of the latest scientific views on the non-uniformity of chromosomes or brain-size.

Even if we are all genetically the same, the only justification for not treating the weaker members of society as inferior is moral. We should be against caste oppression, racial prejudice and gender exploitation, and for human rights, social justice, and international respect for sovereign nations, not because these have support from genetic theory, but because they are ethical stands that are appropriate for culturally evolved peoples.   


About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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