Scientific understanding of ethics and experiences


People have traditionally attributed love of children to non-natural causes, which is fine.

However, suppose that science/empiricism  is able to establish  that through our efforts to understand fully how all these wondrous dimensions of being fully human (as also the not-so wondrous aspects) happen to arise?

Wouldn’t that understanding make us a little richer, without undermining in any way the glory of love and reverence?

That is certainly one function of science: Not to devalue the human person by unraveling our physical and evolutionary essence, but to enhance our appreciation of it all  by serious and systematic exploration of what we and the Universe are all about.

The majesty and the beauty of the rainbow are a sheer joy to behold.

But is it wrong to uncover beneath it Snell’s law of refraction?

But as to the benefits of a scientific understanding of certain dimensions of being human, I am not convinced such  understanding at the theoretical level would have any impact on our ethical behavior any more than that an understanding of the Fourier components of an aria magnificently belted out by a diva should necessarily enhance our reason for delighting in it. Fostering love and caring through Sunday-school instruction or dominical sermon or a swami-talk can be no less valuable than telling us it is all through the Vivekananda-gene or the Theresa neurons in our brains that we become the good guys/gals.

Scientific understanding of anything invariably deepens our appreciation of it, but it need not – as is sometimes feared – rob us of its experiential aspect: In other words, whether it is in knowing the molecular structure of a chocolate bar that titillates our taste buds, or that of the aroma from a rose that gives a kick to our olfactory system, nor indeed knowing what causes the love we experience for God or mortal: None of these need be diminished by a scientific understanding of how it all comes about.

Our experiences are rich as their are. But (metaphorically speaking) the angel  is in the details. Often, the quest for the angels is mistaken for enticement by the devil.

March 10, 2011

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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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