SCIENCE OF ETHICS

Copyright 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011, 2013

By Arthur M. Jackson

The material on this web site comes out of a life-time quest for wisdom which I take as being a spiritual journey. Spiritual -- not in the sense of the mystical or the supernatural -- but looking beneath that to understand the yearning that our life have meaning. The first stage of this goal has been achieved by developing the framework of a science of ethics and wisdom groups based on it.

The material presented here should be seen as working assumptions or hypotheses capable of being disproven by empirical evidence.

Your response to these efforts will be warmly appreciated.

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A New Foundation for Civilization: Humanism?

Benefit Corporations: Could They Save the World?

What is a science of ethics?

How can you have a science of ethics?

Why would you want one?

How does a science of ethics differ from folk religions' ethics?

What is the meaning of human life?

How do folk religions deal with "meaning of human life"?

What do you mean by "tribal" propensities and "wisdom" potential?

Does a science of ethics have anything to say about free will/determinism?

How does a science of ethics interpret "Good" and "Evil"?

What does faith/belief mean in a science of ethics?

Why discuss Post-Modernism?

Isn't science actually a folk religion?

Wouldn't it be more accurate to call this a Religion of Science?

Where do all these ideas come from?[First Door]

Who is Arthur Jackson?

Other frequently asked questions:


For further questions, or suggestions, etc. contact: Arthur Jackson


1. What is a science of ethics?

Science of ethics is proposed as a way to base ethical decisions on an empirical, experiment-based science. It takes the position that all choices and all behavior have an ethical dimension. An ethical choice is taken to be one that helps the individual to achieve a sustainable belief that their life has meaning. Any behavior or choice that makes achieving a sustainable belief that one's life has meaning more difficult, or impossible for self or others is taken to be unethical.

A science of ethics is based on the organizing principle, "meaning of human life," defined in such a way as to utilize the empirical, predictive aspects of science. This also provides a foundation upon which to build an enlightened community made up of enlightened persons.

I have used "meaning of human life" -- in spite of its negative associations among students of philosophy -- because it focuses on the right issue even though up to this time it has not been done in a way such that science could test it. For more on this see making "meaning of human life" meaningful.

To examine the introductory proposal and overview click here


How can you have a science of ethics?


2. How can you have a science of ethics? Science is about "is," and ethics is about "ought." G.E. Moore made it clear that we can't derive an "ought" from an "is."

Moore's "naturalistic fallacy" is based on Platonic thinking about ideal images. Since science of ethics is not about ideal behavior, but about behavior in the world of matter and energy his analysis is irrelevant.

We can never know what all the effects of any choice or any behavior will be. But through empirical study and experience we can have varying degrees of certainty about the effects of our behavior. The job of a science of ethics is to organize data to help persons to choose between better and worse, to make choices that will help them to develop their full positive potential. It collects data and performs experiments to provide the best guidance possible.

If you are interested in learning more about Moore and the "naturalistic fallacy," I suggest visiting MOORE, SPENCER, AND THE NATURALISTIC FALLACY


What good is a science of ethics?


3. What good is a science of ethics?

The goal of science of ethics is to help individuals make the best choices possible. Currently most persons base their ethical choices on the teachings provided by their religion. However, the area of folk religion (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) up to this point has resisted adopting the methods of science, therefore, their ethical guidance often causes more harm than good.

Because the underlying assumptions of folk religions do not lead to testable hypotheses they cannot be disproved, even in principle. Because of this there is no reliable way to discover and/or correct errors. In the final analysis folk religions usually depend on the supernatural. They claim to have Truth not to be looking for it. As a result they have no reliable self corrective mechanism. Their position at any given time depends on their history and those in power. If the leadership gets too bad there may be a schism (e.g., Protestantism), or the old religion may be replaced by a new one (e.g., Roman religion by Christianity). However, these changes can be regressive as well as progressive since the new religion also lacks a reliable self corrective mechanism.

Folk religions fail humanity because they utilize the "tribal" propensities, primarily the propensity to believe in magic and the power of wishing. "Tribal" propensities lead to hostility between groups and failure to make choices that develop the full positive potential of individuals.

Science of ethics would encourage individuals to make choices based on their "wisdom," or "symbolic species" potential. In addition it would continue to accumulate more and more data to help individuals continue to improve their ability to make choices leading them to achieve a sustainable feeling that their life has meaning.

A science of ethics claims that the goal of humanity is to perpetuate our species in such a way that every person can achieve a sustainable feeling that their life has meaning. Within this context, science becomes the search for congruency and its goal is to learn everything possible in order to improve the quality of human life.


How does a science of ethics differ from folk religions' ethics?


4. How does a science of ethics differ from folk religions' ethics?

Folk religions teach that they are the source of Truth. However, since Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711 - 1776) we have known that human beings cannot achieve Truth (certain knowledge). This is because Truth either depends on a definition and therefore is an idea not a proven attribute of reality, or a hypothesis which can only be proven wrong, but cannot be proven right. Post-modernists provide a real service by reminding us of the nature of Truth. However, none of them -- to my knowledge -- take the next logical step: If truth is not a sensible goal, what is?

A science of ethics is based not on Truth, but on an organizing principle that can be tested by empirical study utilizing falsifiable ideas. Its goal is to use all available knowledge to help as many persons as possible to achieve a sustainable belief that their life has meaning. This feeling state comes out of the individual's beliefs which are the source of their feelings. By studying individuals and societies we can learn which beliefs support a sustainable belief that one's life has meaning and which do not.

A science of ethics proposes that social organizations are necessary to help individuals become their best self and achieve maximum personal power and congruency with their "wisdom" potential. It encourages setting up wisdom groups to begin this effort.

To join a science of ethics discussion group click the following:

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5. What is the "meaning of human life"?


How do folk religions deal with the "meaning of human life"?


6. How do folk religions deal with "the meaning of human life"?

For folk religions the usual answer to the question, what is the meaning of life, has a mystical or obscurantist focus which has only been satisfactory because it taps into the genetic propensity to believe in magic and in the power of wishing. Normally it involves non-falsifiable ideas like God, nirvana, souls, etc. These concepts do not provide answers from a scientific perspective. But they satisfy many people emotionally. It is important to recognize that from the species' standpoint emotional sustenance is what people need most. This is what keeps them alive long enough to reproduce and then to nurture and protect their offspring.

Because of the foregoing a science of ethics must initially be rejected by all who truly accept any folk religion (Taoism, Christianity, Scientology, Judaism, Confucianism, etc.) This is true because every folk religion that has accumulated followers embodies important elements that attract and give sustenance to those followers and rejects alternative ideas. Each folk religion acts like a "crab trap." It's easy to get into, but almost impossible to get out of without help. Nevertheless, there is hope for humanity and for each person since these adherents have to deal with the fact that their religion is based on magic/wishing rather than falsifiable concepts. Many persons attempt to ignore the foolish and/or erroneous part of their religion, often with great difficulty. Most "believers" do not take their religion's theology very seriously. They don't study it. They don't understand it. They assume it's something that it is not. They take what they need from the social structures and utilize whatever practical lessons the group teaches. But those who have an inner need to understand, and who require congruency cannot take this approach.

My goal is to produce a world view that fulfills human emotional needs at the deepest level while at the same time being congruent with our best knowledge. When this is done the individual is flooded with energy, excitement, love, and a focus for their life. This state would move humanity toward its highest level, total fulfillment. The foregoing would result because the individual would achieve the potential provided by our language ability. A science of ethics would be directed toward the fulfillment of both the emotional and intellectual parts of any person -- left brain and right brain.


What do you mean by "tribal, or small group" propensities and "wisdom" potential?


Does a science of ethics have anything to say about free will/determinism?


How is "Good" and "Evil" interpreted by a science of ethics?


What does faith/belief mean in a science of ethics?


What are other frequently asked questions?


11. What are other frequently asked questions?

a. What is an enlightened person? What is an enlightened community? "Enlightened" here means achieving what is most desirable. It includes what early philosophers were seeking to understand when they discussed the Good Society and Good Person. For me an enlightened community is one that believes and implements the idea that human beings are the source of meaning and value and that assisting each member to become an enlightened person must be the focus for society's ultimate concern. An enlightened person is one who has achieved a sustainable feeling that their life has meaning.

Although in the early days of philosophy ideas like this were widely discussed, since Christianity achieved supremacy in Western culture this approach has not generated much enthusiasm. In spite of its current bad press, I believe this approach focuses on an essential element of human development. As a result I make this approach an essential part of the science of ethics.

b. What do you mean by sustainable? It means based on science, knowledge, and wisdom; consistent with the best knowledge available. Open-ended, can be changed with new information. Universal in outlook, doesn't supress, but promotes growth -- emotionally and intellectually. Healthy mind in a healthy body. Opposite of blind faith, which is based primarily on authority, and can't be changed regardless of the opposing evidence. It does not mean being sustained because an individual is in a protected environment -- such as a "crab trap" -- where they are kept from looking at the best knowledge available, or where one maintains a state of mind that keeps them from understanding how the world works instead of how they would like it to work, or how they were taught that it works.

c. What is a "feeling that one's life has meaning" (FLIHM) /"sustainable belief that one's life has meaning" (SBLIHM)? First and foremost in importance a FLIHM is defined empirically. A person has it if they are physically able to end their life, but fail to do so. This means ending their own life (for the wrong reasons); i.e., as a result of feelings of boredom, despair, hopelessness, depression, or related feelings. At its best this is a positive, excited, energized, forward looking, constructive feeling state. A sustainable belief that one's life has meaning incorporates "b" above. This is the feeling state possessed by a wise person.

d. What does it mean to improve the quality of human life? This means to work to ensure that more and more persons achieve their full positive potential.

e. What is a wisdom group? These are groups set up by persons who desire to explore in more depth the ideas presented by a science of ethics. Initially, they might consist of persons who want to meet with others, or set up chat groups on the internet.

To join a science of ethics discussion group click the following:

Subscribe to science_of_ethics
Powered by www.egroups.com

Wisdom groups would function as autonomous groups. If their study justified further interest and involvement they might formalize their structures. At some point they might want to interact with others and possibly work together in alliances and confederations to support a science of ethics. This is proposed as the best way to tap the necessary creativity to develop successful groups. Also, this would avoid producing structures too complex to function properly, and, also, to limit the effects of mis-oriented individuals.

It seems to me that there must be many individuals and groups who want to put their life energies into helping to build something positive and of value to all of humankind. A Wisdom Network might be developed as these persons and groups find each other and want to support each other in working to achieve these goals.

f. Why use a meaningless term like "meaning of human life"? Many persons are bothered by my use of the term "meaning of human life" because they know that this term as it has traditionally been used is meaningless. I am redefining the term to give it an empirical meaning. I have done this because the issue that "meaning of life" was attempting to deal with is the same issue I'm trying to deal with. The difference is that I'm approaching this from a scientific perspective.

The most useful mind-set to use in understanding this issue involves discarding, in so far as possible, everything you currently understand about "meaning of life." Then, think of it as you would the word "work." When early physicists were beginning to understand mechanical energy, the word "work" was used by the general public in a vague and broad way meaning "to labor." Physicists gave this word a scientific definition when they said, "work = force x distance." Although my scientific definition of "meaning of human life" is not as simple as the definition of work, it is just as scientifically valid.

g. Why do you describe Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Scientology, Confucianism, etc. as "folk religions"? This points out that these religions are not based on science -- on falsifiable hypotheses -- but like folk medicine incorporate the wisdom of the culture. They have no mechanism to test that wisdom, and correct any errors or deficiencies except as the life of the group unfolds.

h. Where do all these ideas come from? I have recently published a book titled "How to Live the Good Life: A User's Guide for Modern Humans." This site provides much of the prelimary material for that book. To look more closely at this material go to SCIENCE OF ETHICS: A Users' Guide for Modern Humans [Second Door].

i. Do you consider yourself to be an atheist, or an agnostic?

Yes!

I define atheism to mean: "Based on my current knowledge and understanding I do not believe in the existence -- outside of human mental processes -- of any God or god that I've heard of so far."

I define agnosticism to mean: "Based on my current knowledge I can't decide whether or not God exists."

Using the above definitions I consider myself to be an atheist. But for me all this is irrelevent. I desire to define myself by what I do believe rather than by what I don't believe, or am doubtful about.

Humanism best represents my world view/belief system/religion.

For another view of agnosticism, check out the ideas of Bill Schultz.

j. Aren't science and religion totally different?

k. What are you trying to do?

l. How do your ideas on science of religion compare with Brother Anandamoy's, "Yoga: Science of Religion," and sociologist's writings?

m. Who is Arthur Jackson?


To raise additional questions, give suggestions, etc. contact: Arthur Jackson

Copyright 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2011, 2013 by Arthur M. Jackson

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Last change: 3/11/13 -- An active site since 1/1/98