Words and Morals: An Open Inquiry

words and morals granddebateScholars often create their own vocabularies by giving special meanings to ordinary terms and phrases.

For example, when logical positivists use the word “nonsense” they do not imply the ordinary sense of “without meaning”, rather they refer to a statement that cannot be independently verified.

Giving specialized meaning to old terms allows scholars to say things what might otherwise be difficult to say in layman terms. Of course this may sometimes create havoc for us, the readers. Not that they care.

The heart of this presentation is that language enables, extends, and maintains human value systems. Even though the relation between language and morality can be examined from many perspectives, this presentation adopts a philosophical -linguistic perspective that is informed by evolutionary theory.

Philosophy of Language

One of the most important works in the philosophy of language is ‘Philosophical Investigations’ published by Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1953.

The main conception in this foundational work is that words cannot exist without meaning. Human beings create words to represent a meaning. Usually the meaning is correlated with the word used, but do precede words.

However, meaning is use. The meaning of words can only be known by how they are used in communication.

Since meaning is use, man has developed a moral vocabulary, or rather language that is deemed sensitive to relations that are lived and experienced.

For lack of time, I will avoid a comprehensive discussion of the general evolutionary theories explaining the origin of language. In brief, language evolved because human beings are social animals. Language is an attempt to develop generalized codes that make it easy for members of a society to communicate. The diversity of language as a result of cultural evolution tells us that language developed to satisfy specific needs. Every society had its own specific needs, therefore every society developed its own language. That explains why there are thousands of languages.

The specific needs that every society possesses are the foundations of morality. A baby is not born with the capacity to learn a specific language. They are born with the capacity to learn any language, and consequently the capacity to learn morality.

De Waal in the book ‘Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved’ tells us that there are three levels of morality. The first is the Building Blocks or Moral sentiments. Here language gives meaning to building blocks such as capacity for empathy, tendency for reciprocity, sense of fairness, and ability to harmonize relationships. The second level is peer pressure, where there is an insistence that everyone behaves in a way that favours a cooperative group life. The third level is judgment and reasoning, where we internalize the needs for a specific type of behaviour and rely on self-reflection and logical reasoning to make moral judgements.

I’m more interested in discussing the third level, that of judgment and reasoning. Here, we are always trying to pass judgment over our own actions and the actions of others. We rationalize what we do, trying to understand the meanings of our actions; why we do the things we do, and the way we do them. The way we can achieve this level of morality is by language. We need rationality to pass judgment over actions, but to let the other know how we feel or what we think, language is needed. High social interactions are needed to achieve this level.

One of the roots of morality is social interaction and language is at the roots of social interaction. If we pass language to other generations, we also pass morality through our judgments, and we teach them about morality through language.

From this argument, I think the debate about moral absolutism and relativism are important examples. While we may not consciously recognize it, we are passing over the same arguments that were developed by philosophers centuries ago to judge actions and determine whether they are moral or not. Now that is the beauty of language, it allows us to maintain valid arguments however old, and it also gives us the capacity to access and hopefully incorporate novel conceptualizations of morality in our lives.

Changes in Meanings, Changes in Language

Now because the meanings precede words, changes in meanings also mean changes in words. These changes are often a reflection of our understanding of moral values in the society.

Recently in a study published in Psychological Science, psychologist Patricia Greenfield from the University of California, examined changes in word use and its association with moral values in United States and Britain. The main argument in the study was to test whether the moral values of humans adapt to their social environments.

To discover the changes in values, the researcher analyzed more than 1.1 million books published in the United States and 350,000 books published in the U.K between 1800-2000.

I think it’s important to say that books rather than being mere objects on the shelf have actually grown to become participants in every conversation. Books may announce their presence or may not but they remain the greatest influence of how generations have discussed moral concepts, and how moral values have been spread to other societies.

Back to the study, Greenfield searched for tell-tale words such as “obliged” (a key concept in interdependent societies – collectivism) and “choose” (the power to make personal choices – individualism). She also searched for the synonyms of these words.

The findings show that the use of the word “obliged” (moral obligations) steadily declined from 1800 to 2000, as use of the word “choose” (moral choices) gradually increased. (“Choose” passed “obliged” in the early 1920s.)

Similar findings were reported for the words “give” and “get.” While “give” began the 19th century with a huge head start, “get” caught up around World War II, and the two were neck and neck until the 1970s, when “get” forged ahead, never to look back. In short people don’t wait patiently to be given, but strive to get what they want. It seems like patience, as a virtue, is dying.

Use of the words “individual,” “self,” and “unique” all steadily rose over the course of the two centuries, while “obedience,” “authority,” “belong,” and “pray” all gradually declined. The use of the words “feel” and “emotion” also increased, reflecting “the growing importance of psychological expression.”

These findings confirm that words change as the environment changes. Meanings attached to moral values change in response to social changes. While people living before the 19th century were obliged to act according to specific moral codes, the 21st century seems to support the argument that every person is a ‘unique, individual self’ hence moral choices define decisions over moral values rather than blind obedience to an absolute moral standard.

The Universalization of moral codes

How are these moral codes universalized?

In introducing the theory of Evolution, Darwin, in Chapter Four of ‘The Origin of Species’, noted that the human moral sense is the most important difference between humanity and the lower animals. There is consensus from multiple disciplines of study that language stands out boldly as a uniquely human characteristic.

It is therefore safe to admit that human morality requires language. Linguistically based moral codes often oblige people towards morality. Language helps us to access moral thinking and enforce moral codes at low cost.

Language also supplies us with a shared representation system that supports our pursuit of moral actions. When people share a language, they are able to cooperate and foster morality.

However, it is important to reiterate that cooperation always requires groupings. Within these groups, symbolic language can be used to facilitate group cohesion and cooperation hence fostering group-oriented morality.

From history, it is possible to see how cooperative moral values have been expressed and spread through language. For instance, all the organized religions in the world are word-centred. This means that they strongly emphasize that followers must memorize cooperation-oriented moral concepts presented in their books.

From the Bible, we learn that Deuteronomy teaches that followers were to learn the religious commandments in their hearts and verbally pass them on to their children. The Quran calls on all Muslims to memorize the holy text. The similarity between these religious traditions is that they want their followers to internalize a normative code that promotes cooperation. This cannot be possible without language.

However, we have also known that morality, descriptively speaking can function for the benefit of the in-group at the expense of the out-group. This is because of the prescription of what a group considers moral or prescriptive, what they think they ought to do, what they think is right and wrong. Such in-group moralities can brutally disadvantage or even terminate an out-group, or they can work in a way that benignly protects the in-group from out-group influences, with little or no detriment to the out-group.

Note that even though we might consider such a “moral system” as ethically corrupt, it would still act as a normative and moral system within a group in a functional sense. These in-group moral codes stated in language illuminate inter-group conflict and the differential fitness of human groups in history.

To summarize this argument, we can say that it is hard to assess moral norms without language. For example, language makes it easier to assess the moral behaviour of people considered to be deviants. This can be done through gossiping.

Secondly, language provides a low cost means to enforce social control. For example, since punishment endangers the person who metes it out, it is much less costly to mark a deviant individual with a word than to punish him.

Third, the whole process of assessing, marking, and tracking behaviour becomes more efficient through the shared representation system of abstract and symbolic language. Allow me to give a lengthy example of what a shared representation system means in the world today.

For some time now I have been interested in the language of human rights. We have a political system, such as the United Nations, that have been given the responsibility to pursue and actualize collective moral values on behalf of the countries of the world. Now this supra-political unit has been developing certain moral codes presented as ‘Conventions of human rights’. The phrase ‘human rights’ comes with specific descriptions of what that entails.

Now if you have also been watching You Tube videos – especially those involving Sam Harris or Dawkins, you’ll have noticed that there are certain cultural practices such as FGM and child sacrifice that have featured prominently as examples of why morality is absolute. What we don’t always realize is that before the establishment of the human rights conventions, FGM was never cited generously an absolutely immoral act, but rather as a culturally retrogressive practice. Without direct intervention, it was assumed that as the society progresses, FGM will die a natural death.

Another example is terrorism. Even though we know that the branding of these violent acts as ‘terrorist activities’ helps the United States to pursue a political agenda, we should not forget the Judeo-Christian conservatist agenda that supports that branding. Thus, the US and allies can simply forget the atrocities they are committing in the Arab world and send drones to kill innocent Pakistani children under the guise of ‘anti-terrorism’. Note that if someone says that terrorism is an absolutely immoral act, it follows that ‘anti-terrorism’ is a moral response. This is what we call in international relations studies as a “humanitarian intervention”. But is in actually one? That is a discussion for another day.

While this does not in any way support the heinous acts and crimes, it tells you how meanings are structured when you have an existing moral code to guide interpretation. The human rights conventions are moral codes and adoption by member countries is a way of universalizing these codes past linguistic boundaries. The human rights and all the UN conventions are moral value systems.

The bridging of the gap between legal codes and moral codes is important because law and morality are both means of social control. Their language is descriptive and directive. Descriptive language gives information, directive language guides conduct.

Fourth, language significantly extends social control mechanisms and helps “allow groups to evolve into adaptive units” and this advances cooperation.

Finally, linguistically based social controls also help facilitate group fitness in relation to conflict problems with other groups and environmental pressures.

Conclusion

In closing, it is to be understood that the human person is the basis of realizing moral values. There is none, under and above, that is needed to guide humans to act morally. The human person is the sole guarantee for social stability, harmony, peace and authentic development and progress, and language and communication function as special cultural tools for the attainment of this social objective. Language can therefore, be a positive instrument for the humanization of the social order. In an era of moral choices, we should all be vigilant of not only the description of moral codes but also its effect on our moral conduct, at all times.

THANK YOU

Download PDF here: Words and Morals FIKA

Richard Oduor

Prepared for the Freethinkers Initiative Kenya (FIKA) Debate on ‘Morality and Religion’ on August 17th, 2013

The Clash between Darwinism and Creationism: 1859 to present

In this posting, I’ll talk about the American response to Darwinism and the continuing clash between Darwinism and Creationism in North American schools; 1859-1900 and later developments. Such an examination will show how the same arguments have been adopted by scholars, theologians, and churches the world over.

Fundamentalist religious groups have never accepted the uneasy relationship that exists between religious institutions and the theories of evolution and natural selection in the Western world. In America, those who believe in the Judeo-Christian accounts of the creation of the world as outlined in the book of Genesis have for centuries acted as political pressure groups to eliminate the teaching of Darwinism in schools by imposing their beliefs on public education (Strickberger 2005).

Origin of Species.Because Charles Darwin published “The Origin of the Species” in 1859 when America was on the eve of the civil war, serious opposition to the work began in the 1870s in the post war period. Initial rumblings began to emanate that science was becoming a threat to religion. However, due to the presence of an imminent threat of biblical criticism, the Protestants failed to perceive the details of Charles Darwin’s study hence causing delay in their response. In 1873, during the international meeting of the Evangelical Alliance, the question of evolution was finally voiced. Charles Hodge; a Presbyterian theologian from Princeton took the challenge and allayed fears of the impact of evolution and natural selection by saying that these were not new concepts, the only new concept was Darwin’s own version of the two concepts.

By proposing a design that nature was controlled by chance, he concluded that Darwinism was atheism. After this initial declaration by Hodge, Borden P Browne who was a professor of philosophy in Boston University characteristically interpreted Darwinism as being expressive of; “Life without meaning; death without meaning; and the universe without meaning. A race tortured to no purpose, and no hope but annihilation. The dead only blesses; living standing like beasts at bay, and shrieking half in defiance and half in fright” (Pyne 1996, p.12)

For Americans, the Origin of Species and the Descent of Man only intensified the allegation that science continued to attack faith. By disregarding the underlying belief that humanity was a semi divine creation and that the universe was expressly designed for the benefit of mankind, the evolution theory and the schemes of natural selection posited that just like all the other animals, man too was involved in the struggle of existence. Theologians and religious institutions were expressly against the fact that the natural selection debased man to the level of other animals by denying human beings the unique qualities of the mind, intelligence and the soul.

Darwinism created doubts on three fundamental components that had maintained belief in religion for centuries. It shattered the belief in the presence of any design and purpose, the belief that there existed a Creator or a Designer of the universe, and lastly in the belief on the presence of the human soul. The shaking of the later belief consequently created pertinent questions on the existence of life after death-a belief that had been held belief in religion for centuries.

Not even the educated public could afford to be less attuned to the ramifications of the evolutionary theory and natural selection that had created confusion and controversy among philosophers, theologians and scientists. Some were driven to suicidal thoughts. A case in point is the wife of Historian Henry Adams; Marion Hooper Adams who after the loss of her father was engulfed in depression leading to her committing suicide due to depression and doubts on the existence of immortality after death (Pyne1996. p. 13). Her death was attributed to the controversy of the evolution theory as her husband; Henry Adams had uncannily predicted her religious crisis. Marion could not succeed in reconciling her beliefs in religion and the scientific evidences of natural selection.

The 19th century also saw the rise of American geology but its development was affected by serious controversies that were both theological and scientific. Just towards the end of the 18th century clashes over the origins of the earth had began to be felt in the intellectual circles. Catastrophists perceived Creationism as outlined in the book of Genesis as the only logical explanation to the perfection of nature. The “uniformitarians” were against this explanation as literally presented in the Bible. Instead they postulated that the formation of the earth resulted from uniform and continuous courses working over long periods of time. These debates were transported to the periods after the beginning of Darwinism in the 19th century (Mandelker 1984).

When the ramifications of the Darwinian Theory eventually reached the majority of Americans, their reactions reached dimensions of hysteria. Everybody sensed that with his study, Darwin had deliberately and effectively destroyed the fundamentals of religion. Earlier on through the works of Paley and other historians of his kind, the world had been made to believe that though miraculous and mysterious natural processes, God had directly created new species. From the geological records, these geologists and naturalists had almost completely convinced humanity that the earth as it existed was the product of a grand cosmic design implying that nature was reflective of the Divine Mind and Purpose (Pyne1996).

However, as the years trudged on to the lure of positivist science, new converts were being acquired to be practitioners of this novel empiricism. In essence, a new divide of belief was created. People had to either choose the orthodox view of creationism if it suited their understanding of existence or alternatively chose the novel scientific positivism as expressed in Darwinism. The overlap between these two facets characterized the notable hostility of Darwinism in America.

While creationism was held foundationally on the presence of a purpose of nature that satisfied the belief that the world and humanity moved towards a predetermined end, the theories of evolution and natural selection described the movement of nature to be marked with random and purposeless variations. Even though Darwin himself was persuaded that nature was governed by natural law as opposed to miracle, catastrophe, or the caprice of a Creator, he maintained that through these chance variations and adaptations in nature evolution proceeded along a probable evolutionary chain. In his journey to study the species in South America (1831-1836) on the Beagle, he had observed and recorded several mismatches between species and the environments they inhabited. This led to the postulation that as opposed to the creationist theory, to exist in the changing environments organisms had to espouse a wide range of adaptive mechanisms to ensure their survival.

The liberal Protestants in America were especially more loathsome of Darwinism, as Darwin insisted on delineating the evolutionary process which implied that nature and the existence of humanity was laid waste in the brutal struggle for existence. They could not fathom that the postulations of the superfecundity and plenitude of nature, miscegenation, mutation, ugliness and randomness were the basis upon which natural laws operated. The mere fact that natural selection as Darwin had explained led to the extinctions of some species created a religious and philosophical ferment of great magnitude.

Ten years after the publication of the “Origin of Species,” and the rise of the anti-Darwinism movement which is attributed to Protestantism, Herbert Spencer developed a philosophy of science with the intention of allaying the controversies between religion and science that Darwinism had created. In his publication, the “System of Synthetic Philosophy”, Spencer expounded on the theories of evolution which had specifically been limited to biology, linguistics, fossil life, education, political history, architecture, psychological phenomena, child rearing, and rights of women, manners, morals, fine arts and in any other discipline in which the theory of evolution could be applied. Even though Charles Darwin publicly praised Spencer as “the great expounder of the principle of Evolution”, the two works not only differed in methodology but were also derived from different schools of thought (Pyne 1996; Numbers & Stenhouse 2001).

The “System of Synthetic Philosophy” was especially instrumental in accommodating Darwinism in religion because he attempted to explain that religious coherence as it existed in those ages was buttressed by the authority of truth derived from science. His intention can be said to have been the creation of a new form of science that incorporated both the scientific truths and religious beliefs into a form of natural religion that would replace the orthodox Christianity. If such an intention is understood to be one driven by arrogance, then it best describes the evangelical zeal he set in the interpretation of the evolutionary theory and its subsequent incorporation into the perfectibility of human life in his book, the “System of Synthetic Philosophy”. However, even though his work was instrumental it never vanquished the hostilities between science and religion.

As the ramifications of Darwinism continued to create an upheaval in religious circles, the Old Protestantism order which had its basis on the interrelationship of science, faith, the Bible, civilization and morality began to crumble. In 1869, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. offered a prediction of the catastrophe that was impending. He predicted that the collapse of the interrelationship would not be dramatic. He also intoned that the many vested interests of churches were rooted in evangelical idolatry and bibliolatry. For these reasons churches could not be expected to accept the implications of the novel views and explanations of the existence of man and the universe as the Bible could not challenge the scientific standards (Marsden 2006). The truth of the matter was that the creation evidence as detailed in the Hebrew books could not just be taken at face value as factual evidence of the creation of the world by a Supernatural deity.

By the 1970s so many evangelicals believed in the seriousness of the threat of Darwinism to religion but they did not share the analytic conclusions that Holmes had so aptly predicted. W.A Stearns attributed the current threats to Christianity as being no more than a continuation of the assaults that Christianity has been enduring (Mardsen 2006, 17). Other leaders reiterated that just as the skepticism, deism and atheism had been defeated in the Enlightenment, Christianity will be victorious again. While positing that never since Christianity has been strong as it was then, Stearns added that they will work together under the Evangelical Alliance to lift all people to achieve victory with the afflictions of modern rationalism, skepticism, the Papacy or any other false system.

These were the opinions that characterized fundamentalism. As an organized movement, it had two major forms. One front operated within the denominations where seminarians and ministers purged modernists and liberals with the sole intention of saving the orthodoxy. This form of fundamentalism cantered mainly in North America. The second form of fundamentalism was more of a popular crusade that was directed not only towards modernist and liberal heresies but also against Darwinism and the deteriorating moral trends in the society. While former mainly involved seminarians and conservative ministers, the latter was advanced by less scholarly or less academic preachers. These two forms of fundamentalism were joined into a form of loose coalition as they were working against a common enemy: Darwinism.

At the end of the 19th century it seemed that religious leaders had started becoming in terms with the evolutionary theories, but still approximately half of the population in the United States still denied the scientific truths postulated by the Darwin theories. This proportion which rejects Darwinism in its entirety believes that human beings are a product of a Supernatural creation that happened at some time in the history of the universe.

With regard to the uniqueness of the political and constitutional history of the United States, and the long history of a religious culture the creationism movement became more popular hence characterizing the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It should be understood that the majority of the European settlers who came to North America during the 17th and the 18th centuries were settlers who were fleeing from religious prosecution from their mother countries (Dixon 2009).

Many of these settlers were non conformist Protestants who had adopted the belief in a personal relationship with God and the study of the Bible. They were Puritans, Quakers, Congregationalists, Baptists and Methodists. Since the settlers constituted a majority of the United States population at that time, these distinct religious groupings became the characteristics of the religious culture in the United States of America. Thus, due to the multiplicity of churches, there arose a need to separate the church from the state so as to prevent any favouritism of the any of the church groupings by the state. This spirit was aptly expressed when the First Amendment explicitly prevented the Congress from ever establishing any form of national religion. Despite this constitutional provision, other states still maintained contact with established churches but these were to soon die off leading to the full separation of the church and the state (Dixon 2009).

To exercise the same spirit of the separation of the church and the state, statutes were enacted to prevent other established religions from imposing their own version of Christianity on others. This led to the abolition of religious instruction in public schools. The passing of religious beliefs onto the younger generation was left to be done at home or in the Sunday school. This provision that completely eliminated religion in schools was what ushered in the clash between Creationism and Darwinism as the 20th century drew to a close.

The first instance of the clash with regard to the education occurred in 1925, when Dayton; a small town in Tennessee banned the teaching of Darwin’s evolution theories in public schools within their locality (Dixon 2009). The end of the sensational debates led to the elimination of the evolution theories from the science curriculum of most schools throughout the United States and for the duration between 1925 to the 1960s, the clash between Darwinism and Creationism subsided as they had both been eliminated from instruction curricula of public schools.

The elimination of such important scientific principles in the education curricula did not present any serious threats to the scientific development of the United States until the surprise success of Sputnik mission; a Russian space program which was launched in 1957. For fear that America was lagging behind in scientific development, a national panic arose that the scientific standards in American schools were low. The abolition of Darwinism in schools could no longer be tolerated. Acting against the wishes of many American parents who viewed Darwinism as the causative agent for the social ills in the society, the courts re-introduced the learning of the evolutionary theories in American public schools.

The 1960s to the 1970s led to the rise of the theories of the Intelligent Design. However, the religious fundamentalists especially those in North America were also determined to establish a way by which they could also be enshrined in the curricula. These developments led to the concepts of Intelligent Design and Scientific Creationism. There were those who advocated for the teaching of both evolution science, the creation science in addition to another alternative such as catastrophism so as to create a balance between the violently conflicting theories of Creationism and Darwinism.

Through the idea of an Intelligent Design, postulated by a biochemist Michael Behe and a lawyer Phillip Johnson, a new way through which the concept of God could be taken back to the classrooms. However, the teaching of the Intelligent Design in American classrooms did not see the day as judges ruled that it had been religiously motivated and therefore a breach of the First Amendment in 2005(Dixon 2009; Numbers 2006).

The clash between Darwinism and Creationism in America was watched with amused detachment or in some instances notions of superiority by the British as they could not understand that there still existed some culturally backward communities in America that prevented children from garnering knowledge on the theories of Darwinism. Given that their era of controversy had long ended, they could not understand that unlike in Britain, the United States had far different historical differences among its population. The presence of interdenominational rivalry that existed in the United States did not exist in England during the time of the evolutionary controversy. The supremacy of the Church of England and the existence of a Parliament with a long tradition helped settle down the controversies that raged after the publication of the “Origin of the Species” and the “Descent of Man”. Moreover the Fundamentalist Christian movement that took off in the United States in the World War I period did not take off in Britain (Dixon 2009).

In his analysis of the developments of the clash between Darwinism and Creationism or rather the Intelligent Design, Yeats observes that just like any other American he does not understand why naturalism should exercise monopoly in North American classrooms. He reiterates that individuals who espouse Darwinism are using the courts to sustain the principles of evolution and natural selection in public schools. He could not understand why an issue about the origin of existence could only be explained by Darwinism when there were a multitude of other options that could be taught in the public schools. However, given the motivations behind the intelligent design, a bad case was presented to the judicial system and from that bad case emanated a bad decision. By trying to use scientific data to prove that the theory of Intelligent Design was at par with Darwinism hence losing the case before a court under modern jurisprudence with judges who underwent secular training.

Therefore, while religious fundamentalists may attempt to negotiate for a dualistic approach in the education system, they have to understand that the attorneys as well as the system of training existing in North America is steeped in Naturalistic philosophy. Thus, unless the religious fundamentalists propagate the understanding that Darwinism is a religious tenet as in secular naturalism and that the education system as well as the public school’s science educators is nothing but the missionaries of the religion, any attempt to introduce any other theoretical understanding of the origin of man and the universe will be viewed as being religiously motivated. However, some argue that much as Darwinism can escape the reference of being classified as a religion, what matters is the element of faith. So long as students are taught to have faith in Darwinism as being the conclusive explanation of the origin of man, then it is religion and it should not be taught in public schools in North America.

In North America, the continuing conflicts between supporters of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection on one hand and the supporters of the creationist theories on the other are just the 21st century’s skirmishes that have characterized the struggles between science and religion. Creationism as a theory and its pseudo-scientific offspring; the theory of Intelligent Design are products of the historical, cultural and religious characteristics of the population in North America.

So long as these underlying characteristics of the population persist, there is limited evidence that a time may come in the near future where the supremacy of Darwinism in the public school system will be challenged with creationist theories like the Intelligent design or any other theory, so long as such a theory is deemed to have originated from religious motivation. Currently, with the observable lack of interest in the theories of Creationism by current President of the United States of America; President Barack Obama coupled to the support of Darwinism in schools by the Supreme Court as well as the overriding interpretation of the First Amendment, it is no surprise that religiously motivated anti-Darwinism in North America will continue to be kept out of American classrooms.

There is very little, when one judges the history of these developments, to suggest that Darwinism will not continue to be part of the science syllabus in countries with secular systems of governance. Creationism, held afloat by nothing but belief, will also be taught in many countries but it will never strangle Darwinism as far as understanding natural biological phenomena is concerned. There are mountains of evidence to that end, mountains that cannot simply be washed away.

COMMENTS AND OPINIONS ARE HIGHLY WELCOMED.

Richard M. Oduor/Richie Maccs, Nairobi

Mr. Oduor is a writer, poet and critic. He did Biomedical Science and Technology (Bsc. Hons) and in line to pursue a Masters in Strategic Management. He is a founding Partner of a young company; Expert Research & Management Consultants and Founding Member at the Center for Intervention Against Alcohol (CIAADA). His prose and poetry have appeared in print and online journals and anthologies and the first poetry collection is due for publication. He has freelanced and copywrited for various local and international private research entities.

 

References

 

Darwinism, Religion and the Idea of God

The Greatest of all naturalists

Charles Darwin: The Greatest of all naturalists

When the “Origin of Species” appeared on November 24, 1859, a new intellectual impulse was generated and just as a novel generative idea defines a philosophical epoch, an intellectual movement that would define and engulf a whole generation began. While it can be generally posited that Darwinism in itself was but a terminus of the linkages in intellectual development in that century, it is much more preferable if we posit that Darwin inaugurated the reflex of the universal spirit of natural science.

While the “Descent of Man” included the species Homo sapiens as a natural consequence of the evolution theory, thus explaining its existence as nothing but a natural development from lower animal life forms; which was a rather natural progression of Darwin’s doctrines of the origins of species, the turbulence that the sole assertion would create was beyond his comprehension at the release of these works. Far beyond the bounds of natural philosophy, scientific theorism, religious and ethical depths, the reactions ranged from acknowledgement and admiration, from aversion and repugnance while a select minority maintained a sober and unprejudiced judgement.

To some, Darwinism represented the flambeau that would light mankind to perceive and discover new paths of truth and attain moral and spiritual perfection. On the side, Darwinism was also viewed as an unproven hypothesis that threatened to radically transform the noblest and grandest achievements of the past centuries and thrust them into a heap of ashes. Alternatively, Darwinism was also representative of the highest level of scientific, moral and religious height that humanity had ever ascended (Schmid 2008). Thus, under these overriding circumstances it was virtually impossible for guardians of religion and moral interest as well as those respectable individuals with sacred acquisitions that man had ever been endowed with, to assume the roles of idle spectators.

It would have been better if these groups of people delayed their onslaught on Darwinism until they had attained a significant level of evidence to judge or at least waited until the controversies subsided to levels that could warrant an unprejudiced analysis. However since, Darwinism was seen as being hostile to Christianity as well as the theistic view of the universe, these agents voiced their controversy. On the other hand, extreme materialists and the sublime monists, who are nonetheless hostile to Christianity, decided to use Darwinism as a reference point for shattering all belief of the existence of a Creator and Master of the world (Schmid 2008).

Cumulatively, taken as threats to God and religion, individuals with ethical and religious acquisitions could not afford to accept a reserved position on the matter. In essence, silence would have been understood to be an inglorious retreat. Therefore, it is important to understand the position that religion took with regard to the Darwinian theories.

Charles Darwin, Darwinism and Religion: 1859-1900

To pose a highly reliable discourse on the interactions of Darwinism and religion, it is only prudent that we take a look at the scientific problem in itself before digressing to the views of Darwinism as propagated by religion. At basic, this attempt desires that we first and foremost discuss the purely scientific theories that Darwin postulated. Generally, these theories attempt to give an answer to the question: “How did the different species of organic beings on the earth originate”(Schmid 2008).

Living in the midst of an endless variety of plants, animals and human beings, man has continually striven to understand the nature of all these by observation and design of laws that are in congruence to the natural world as it existed in a given century. With the facts of reproduction partially understood and after designing explanations for the existence of the species in immeasurable epochs of the history of the earth, we are finally faced with the task of developing a believable explanation of the origin of the first species, be it a plant, an organic being or an animal.

Since no man ever had the opportunity of witnessing the origination of other species as there are enough evidential proofs asserting that when Homo sapiens finally appeared, all other organisms were in existence. In the natural history of the progression of science, there reached a time when scientists desisted from attempting to solve the question as it was deemed unprofitable and utterly insolvable. Any attempt in solving it would require the use of unjustifiable hypotheses which in themselves could not provide an appropriate answer to the whole phenomena. Having faith in religion simply rendered these investigations useless because the question had aptly and fully resolved in religion.

In religion, all species had their origins from the creative act of God. This solution for the question of the origin in species sufficed for religion because as a believer, all things including the universe itself, was the work of God. Since religion is grounded on belief and as such cannot be taken as being indifferent or antagonistic to the scientific impulse behind investigations into the origin of the species, Darwinian evolution theories had a profound impact on religious belief. Traditionally, religion was grounded on the belief that both social and biological systems were designed by an intelligent supernatural deity.

Evolutionary theories denied that there existed a god who with a supreme purpose designed biological creatures. Since religion lies in human driven attempts to appeal to or control natural forces, which had long been incomprehensible to man but thought to be humanlike but supernatural, the concepts of God and soul arose. Both these concepts are supposedly eternal in nature and immaterial. Owing to the general insecurity of humanity and the instability of nature, religion provided the understanding that there had to be in existence a supernatural being who had the capacity to manage and control these components of the universe. It is such a propitiation that maintained deep beliefs in religions and cults. Through offerings and sacrifices, human beings sought to restore order, ameliorate guilt and provide benefits by appealing to the divine creator (Strickberger 2005).

Before Darwin, Galileo and Copernicus had challenged the notion of a powerful deity as the controlling force behind the whole universe. In their view, the idea of God only served as an explanation of the initial creation but not of the incessant manipulation of the solar system. However, their explanations could not cause such religious turbulence as Darwinism would cause. Darwinism posed that biological relationships; inclusive of the origin of man as well as that of all other species in the universe could only be explained through natural selection in the complete absence of a controlling or managing God.

At the onset of Darwinism a majority felt that the randomness and uncertainty of the evolutionary theories had almost completely replaced the existence of a deity with conscious, purposeful and human like characteristics. The postulation that evolution was a historical process and that species were not created spontaneously but rather formed via a succession of selective events in the past was a direct contradiction to the religious beliefs which maintained the understanding that there could not exist any form of biological design or otherwise without the existence of  Grand Designer.

With regard to evolution, interactions between different species and their environment results in the selection of successful traits that are further enhanced by selective events. Therefore, environmental adaptation has the capacity to continuously modify structures and organs over long periods of time, and complexities that had initially been unlikely singular spontaneous events progress to become evolutionary probable events. Even though the variability on which selection is dependent on may at times be random, adaptations are not because natural selection only chooses and perfects that which is adaptive (Strickberger 2005). With natural selection, the designs and purpose of a supernatural deity are not necessary.

Everybody who is acquainted with the hostility of the reviews, treatises and sermons just after the works, “The Origin of the Species” and the “Descent of Man” were released will understand that at the time Charles Darwin was perceived as a wicked infidel who had completely abandoned God as the Creator of the universe, a man who had completely undermined the authority of the Scriptures, a man who degraded human beings to the same levels as beasts and lastly as a man who had abandoned the universe under the control of chance. For centuries and centuries men had comfortably adopted the belief that God was the creator and that Nature as it existed was but an evidence of God’s purpose and design.

These men could not understand nor even tolerate that things could just grow without being products of the divine craftsman nor that the exquisite adaptations of organs to the environment was not a divine design but due to natural selection of variabilities that simply chanced to be favourable to the organism at a specific time. More serious was the disbelief that man, animals, vegetable or any form of inorganic nature had the same pithecoid ancestry.

Darwin’s Reaction to the Upheaval

These upheavals were strange to Darwin who could not simply understand what the fuss was all about. In fact, he regarded these hostilities with mild irritation and innocent surprise. In response Darwin wrote to Asa Gray in May 22, 1860 that, “With respect to the theological view of the question, this is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically” (Banton 11). To a Dutch correspondent, Darwin wrote in 1873, that since it is the impossibility of conceiving the universe with the help of our conscious selves that drives man to believe in the existence of God, he concludes that it is safe to surmise that the whole subject of the existence is beyond the scope of the intellect of man, but man has to do his duty. All through these attacks Charles Darwin maintained that he had a belief in a God.

While answering an earnest student who sought to know his opinions on religion, Darwin reiterated that he considered the theory of Evolution to be in compatibility with the belief in a God. In the same note to the German student, Darwin added that it should always be understood that different individuals had different opinions on what is generally referred to as God. On the insistence of the student who was like many other not convinced with his answers, he wrote that Science had nothing, absolutely to do with Christ (in reference to attacks from Christianity)(p, 12). In the same year while writing to J. Fordyce, he exhibited the typical Victorian individualism by saying that, “What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to anyone but myself”.

Such was the passion of Darwin for natural history that he could not fully understand that he had shattered the simple faith of belief in a Creator; a belief that had been held by thousands and thousands over the centuries. Having grown old and not the best of health, and at the same time possessed by his own pursuits he could not spare time for irresolvable questions. To shatter accusations that he was an atheist, he said that even in the most extreme circumstances he had never been an atheist as to deny the existence of God. In fact what could appropriately describe his state of mind was being as agnostic.

To get a more in depth understanding on what drove Darwin’s views on religion, lets take a look at Christianity as and its influence on his growth and development an a very tender age. Religion, science and Charles Darwin interacted strongly during the early years of the naturalist’s life. Before, Darwin released his works, science and religion, especially Christianity had maintained a form of a harmonious relationship. During the early 19th century and even before that, many naturalists of repute were clergymen who studied nature as an exposition and appreciation of the designs of the Creator. Students of the day depended on theological works by William Paley (1743-1806) that attributed the natural exquisite designs to the existence of the Grand Designer: God.

These naturalists also explained the perfect adaptation to the environment to the same grand designing. Based on these early exhibitions of intellectual development, it was therefore not a surprise that Dr Robert Waring Darwin(1766-1848) contemplated the clergy as being the most appropriate career for his son even though the young Charles Darwin had found medicine while at the University of Edinburgh to be distinctly uncongenial (Dupree 1986). During Charles years on the Beagle, he shared a cabin with Captain Robert Fitzroy; an intensely Orthodox man. Together they wrote an article defending the British missionaries in New Zealand and Tahiti (Dupree 1986).

Thus, Darwin as a person and Darwinism as a set of scientific theories both originated from the Christian culture. In fact the scientific community of that time profoundly depended on Christianity as a direct economic support and as a rationale for the social usefulness of science. It is also important to remind ourselves that when Charles Darwin went to Cambridge it was for the idea of being ordained as he had deeply studied and admired Paley. On board the Beagle, Darwin quoted the Bible as an authority on morality, a belief that was laughed by many officers on board the Beagle. In fact some German phrenologists once described him as possessing a “bump of reverence developed enough for ten priests” (Banton 13). On the basis of these facts it is impossible to accept the belief that his views expressed in the Origin of the Species had any intention of assaulting religion.

In the next posting I will talk about the American response to Darwinism and 1859-1900, and later developments in the 21st century, especially with regard to the war between Darwinism and Creationism in American Schools because these perspectives define strands of thought the world over.

COMMENTS AND OPINIONS ARE HIGHLY WELCOMED.

Richard M. Oduor/Richie Maccs, Nairobi

Mr. Oduor is a writer, poet and critic. He did Biomedical Science and Technology (Bsc. Hons) and in line to pursue a Masters in Strategic Management. He is a founding Partner of a young company; Expert Research & Management Consultants and Founding Member at the Center for Intervention Against Alcohol (CIAADA). His prose and poetry have appeared in print and online journals and anthologies and the first poetry collection is due for publication. He has freelanced and copywrited for various local and international private research entities.

References

Banton, M. Darwinism and the Study of Society: a centenary symposium. Routledge Press: New York.

Dixon, T. (2009). America’s Difficulty with Darwin. History Today. February 2009. Volume: 59 Issue: 2, p. 22-28.

Dupree, A. H. (1986). Christianity and the Scientific Community in the Age of the Darwin. In, God and nature: historical essays on the encounter between Christianity and science; David C. Lindberg, Ronald L. Numbers. University of California Press.

Mandelker, I. L (1984). Religion, Society, and Utopia in Nineteenth-century America.  University of Massachusetts Press, 90

Marsden, G. M. (2002). Fundamentalism and American culture. Oxford University Press US, 10-22

Numbers L. (2006). The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition. Harvard University Press.

Numbers, R. I., & Stenhouse, J. (2001). Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race,  Religion, and Gender. Cambridge University Press.

Pyne, K. (2006). “The American Response to Darwinism”. In, Art and the Higher Life: Painting and Evolutionary Thought in Late Nineteenth-Century America. University of Texas Press.

Schmid, R. (2008). The Theories of Darwin and Their Relation to Philosophy Religion and Morality. BiblioBazaar, LLC.

Strickberger, M. W. (2005).  Evolution. 3rd Edition. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, p.  63-71

Yeats, J. L. (Dec 22, 2005). First-Person: Call Darwinism What It Is-A Religion.   http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=22351

http://www.historytoday.com/MainArticle.aspx?m=33170&amid=30264952.

The Secret Black Hole of Religion

“How can you tell me Christianity is the one and true religion, when it is one of the religions with a dark past? Do not think I do not know what I’m talking about. I have done my homework by reading and studying much about what I’m talking about. If you doubt me, you can do your own research to confirm what I know already (well…that’s if you have the patience to read books. I know most people don’t read that is why they perish for lack of knowledge). The Christian religion is the most fragmented and divisive in the world. Christianity, compared to other religions in the world, has the bloodiest history in the history of mankind. It has destroyed so many lives and invaded so many lands in the name of Jesus. The name of the first slave ship that brought Africans from the Motherland to the Americas was called “Jesus.”

You tell me Christianity is the truest religion there is but let’s break things down here. How can you tell me the Christian faith is true when it has so many denominations, and these denominations can’t even agree with each other? This is just crazy. Under the Christian umbrella, you have the Catholic church, the Protestant church, the Anglican church, the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Lutheran church, the Mormon church, the Eastern Orthodoxy church, the Nestorian church, the Coptic Catholic church, the Apostolic church, the Presbyterian church, the Paulist church, the Episcopalian church, the Anabaptist church, and so on. Gosh…I can go on and on. It’s just crazy. Now, according to the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there exist roughly 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide in 2012. That is up from 500 in 1800 and 39,000 in 2008 and this number is expected to grow to 55,000 by 2025. Hmmn…this means Christianity will continue only continue to divide more and more.

Currently, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary estimates that a new Christian denomination is formed every 10.5 hours, or 2.3 denominations a day. God is not a God of division and confusion, but of unity and oneness. For a religion, which claims a divine origin, to have so many denominations or “duplicates” of itself does “not” stand on a solid rock. Something is definitely wrong wrong such religion. Just think about it. How can a religion which is true so many denominations like this? Trust me, the truth does not have duplicates to it. The truth is always one and original. Anything that is true cannot have carbon copies of it. The fact that the Christian faith has so many denominations like this means it CANNOT be a true religion. It is a false religion. Even Islam has divisions of its own too. There is Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Sufi Islam, Ahmadiyya Islam, Ibadi Islam, Qurani Islam, Yazdani Islam, and so on. Islam is not as divided as Christianity, but division, nonetheless, is division. Division is division, and there is nothing good about it. In Heaven, there is no such thing as division. What replaces division in Heaven is unity. It is only on Earth that such nonsense division exists.

Okay, back to Christianity now. Next, how can you tell me the Christian faith is true when its holy book, the Bible, has so many versions to it? I mean, how can a holy book, which is claimed to originate from God, have so many versions? Does that make sense? There are so many Biblical versions and they are all different and conflict with one another. When it comes to different Bibles, there is the King James Bible, Amplified Bible, Good News Bible, Coverdale Bible, Mormon Bible, International Standard Version Bible, Lamsa Bible, and the list goes on and on. Once again, this is just crazy. According to my research, which can be confirmed, there are hundreds of different translations of the Bible. Now, this is super crazy. Hundreds of translations of one holy book? Wow…it doesn’t make sense at all. All the Christian denominations have a particular Bible that they read. Catholics have their own Bible. Protestants have their own Bible. Mormons have their own Bible. It’s just crazy.

Other weird things about Christianity is the number of Christian churches worldwide, which to me, seems like money-making, private enterprises. What I mean is that the Catholic church – which is the first and oldest church – is the global headquarters of all churches, while other church denominations are like “subsidiaries” scattered across the planet to generate greater profit. Think about it. If a business/company wants to compete globally, reach out to the global target audience (customers), and market its product to generate greater profit, what do you think that company, which does not have foreign offices must do? Of course, it needs to open up foreign based offices, factories, and businesses to do that. This is what companies like Apple does in China. Apple and Nike products are made in China, rather than America.

What the church did many centuries ago is what big corporations are doing today. Apple success can be attributed to the church. When it comes to “expanding business interests” and winning souls or winning “customers,” the church is number one. Okay, the church, from the very beginning (just in case you didn’t know) is a business. I’ve done my research on this. Based on my research, I discovered there are more than 3.7 million Christian congregational churches (businesses/branches) in the world. WOW. We are talking about 3.7 million churches in the world. That’s huge. One has to wonder if these churches are “really” in the business of “winning souls for Christ,” or “accumulating more cash.” When you dig deep into the dark history of Christianity, you’ll figure out the answer in a flash. I mean people really need to start thinking outside the box.

The world is changing and most of the lies our religious and political leaders have been feeding us with are coming to light. Thinking outside the box will not kill you. Thinking outside the box is rational, logical, and sensible. If the Creator never wanted you to think, you wouldn’t have a mind to think and calculate things. The fact that the Creator gave you a mind to think with, means you are allowed to think for yourself and not let corrupt authority control your thinking for you. If you must know, “all” religions, not just Christianity alone, have dark histories to them. All religions are divisive. All religions wage wars and shed blood to grow and expand themselves, which is quite logical, considering the fact that no thinking human would embrace anything new outside of his or her conscious circumference. But does it really make sense to impose religion by force, which is what most of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – has done for millennia? These three religions have caused so much wars, death, and destruction on Earth beyond measure. The destruction caused by these religions continue up to this day. It has not stopped, and may never stop, until people wake the hell up. Hundreds of millions of lives have been wasted because of these three religions.

If it is true that these religions are from God, would God really want to spread religions by force? Is it necessary? Wouldn’t God want people to accept a religion naturally, rather than forcefully? What happened to free will? How can God give man free will and at the same time act like a dictator by literally “forcing” a religion down our throats? I hope I’m making sense here. You cannot give people a choice and deny them that choice by imposing your “own” choice on them. It does mean any sense at all. God does not operate that way. Why aren’t people thinking? Like I said, there is nothing wrong with thinking outside the box. Religion does not permit free thinking. This is a FACT. But must a person live his or her entire life not thinking outside of the box for once? Most educated people cannot fight or free themselves from the mental chains of religion. It has a strong hold on them. As far as I’m concerned, any doctrine, or philosophy, or religion which prohibits free thinking cannot be from a pious God. It must be from the devil. Belief systems, centered around ignorant and blind obedience without questioning authority, is based on mental slavery.

Yes. That is what religion is all about. It was created by a few elite people to mentally enslave the minds of people. Physical slavery is bad, but mental slavery is much worse. When someone has control of your mind, you become a property, a slave of that person. The only way to free your mind from religion is to learn to think outside of the box. The best religion is not religion itself, but love. Loving one another like yourself is the best way to live. There is no contradiction about it. Love does not contradict itself. Love is what it is. God is not concerned about religion because God never gave religion to man. Instead, man gave religion to man. Evil men created it to control the sheep (the masses). After death, God will not be concerned about what religion someone practiced. A clean mind, clean heart, and clean hands is what God will look at. Religion is irrelevant to God because it is man made. Wake up, humanity. Free your mind. You are created to live free, not in chains. Wake up, people.

By Adebisi Atitebi

Adebisi Atitebi., based in the United States, is a writer, poet, philosopher, and historian. A ardent truth seeker, Adebisi studies and writes about global politics, esotericism, conspiracy theories, history, and religion.

The Soul as an Aesthetic Response, A Fantasy: A Review of Hillman’s ‘Re-visioning Psychology’

All influences or actions of individuals are psychological in nature. It is on this basis that Hillman solidifies his discourse of a poetic basis of mind and that psychology begins in the process of imagining. The mind and the workings therein define all experiences of an individual. In the same vein, all conceptual categories that can be developed are nothing but products of individual imagination which is driven by psychological, religious, scientific, mythical, and artistic factors. To fully develop a framework for understanding the poetics of imagination, Hillman avoids Freud’s dichotomy of the mind into conscious and unconscious. He posits that all psychological activities have their roots in fantasy; where fantasy encompasses imaginations, fancying, and daydreaming. Fantasy is presented as being an unconscious behavior uncontrolled by the real world. In other words, all psychology is of necessity based on fantasy (Hillman, 1976 p. 70).

One strength of deviating from Freud’s dichotomy is that it allowed Hillman to state that if psychology is a product of fantasy and psychology is the origin of all human activities, then it can only mean that human activity is based on fantasy or in other words, intrinsically imaginal. It follows that all ideologies, paradigms, philosophies, and belief systems among others are mere articulates of specific fantasies.  This is the framework on which Hillman’s archetypal psychology is based and used to refute assumptions on which the understanding of ego and self presented in the West as a substance that is monocentric, autonomous, and always in pursuit of perfection (73).

In archetypal psychology, this framework also lays the foundation for his discourse on the soul. The work concentrates on the soul because, Hillman believes that the soul should be the sole business of psychology whose definition literally translates into intelligent accounts of the soul or speech or reason (Hillman, 1983 p. 17). Contrastingly however, Hillman does not refer to the soul as a substance, rather a perspective. Again, the primary activity of the soul is imagination. The soul is constituted of images, but again, these images are generated by the soul (14). The poetic basis of the mind pictures all psychological activities as images.

Fantasy is images, products, and also raw materials of the psyche. They are the primary modes through which the soul can be accessed because the soul is an imagining entity and images are its constituents. In the same plane, myths are also representations of fact which are vital to understanding the soul (Hillman, 1976 p. xi). Within this framework, dreams are understood as being compensatory to the sufferings and struggles that individuals go through in life and are not mere random residues. This approach of dream analysis directly contrasts interpretive/hermeneutic approaches. In place of these accepted methods in psychology, archetypal psychology relies on phenomenology and avoids interpreting a dream; rather the contents of the dream are presented as they are (54).

Hillman’s drew his influences from a mixed group of people. The main influence on his archetypal psychology was Carl Jung, but the whole list includes Freud, Vico, Scheling, Coleridge, Plotinus, Plato, and Heraclitus as well as an assortment of poets, artists, alchemists and philosophers (Hillman, 1976). It can be surmised that their writings influenced archetypal psychology, psyche/soul, and associated analysis of dreams, with regard to the process of soul making (44-46).

Hillman’s work cites three aspects that define his psychology, that is, the soul or psyche, aesthetic response and what he calls polytheism. The definitions and interrelatedness of these three concepts form the foundation of his archetypal psychology. The definition and dimensions of the soul is important for understanding aesthetic response. The soul as presented in archetypal psychology functions through images, myths, feelings, and individual stories (Hillman, 1976, p. xi).  Apart from these, the soul can also operate via an aesthetic response of perception. In this regard, the aesthetic response is that of feelings. Through feelings the soul is able to appropriately respond to aspects that affect. Aesthetic response is that specific, distinct, and unique sensual sensory and embodied response of what the soul perceives. Aesthetic responses bestow value and meaning to all the things that the soul encounters. Broadly understood therefore, the soul is religious (Hillman, 1976).

It is on this basis that Hillman develops his notion of polytheism, which is nonetheless a religious term. In archetypal psychology, the word is borrowed from religion to help in re-visioning psychology and its understanding of the self. Rather than monotheism which is closed, the polytheistic reference justifies Hillman’s notion that the soul has the space and freedom to generate aesthetic responses. Again, it is on this basis of pluralism that he calls for an extensive re-examination of monotheistic psychology, especially its psychological paradigms, within the new framework of polytheistic psychology. This multidisciplinary alternative would open up psychology to new expressions and perceptions in a dynamic and multicultural world and also make psychology more relevant and meaningful (Hillman, 1976 p. 27).

In other words, the soul being constituted with both imagination and images thus project the subjective and the objective on one hand, and human and divine on the other. These projections cannot be understood through personalistic reductions or one-sided interpretations. For this reason, only a polytheistic approach can bring together all the experiences of human life to the imaginative perspective and thus exude an aesthetic response (18-19).

Hillman also tackled the centrality of beauty to psychology. Hillman criticizes psychology for completely neglecting beauty. He notes that no experimental, social, or therapeutic branches of psychology have found it within its desire to incorporate beauty into the life story. In place of the beautiful shades that can be found even the most twisted of fates, professional psychology is wreath with banal language, mountains of useless books, and pretensions of progress. The neglect of beauty means that psychology can no longer find the right answers to life stories and the reward for this is an increase in sexual harassment cases, problems in gender and sexual relations, and reduction of every inquiry to experimental designs. In essence, there’s no longer any fun or humor in such inquiries (Hillman, 1976 p. 56-57).

Hillman maintains that psychology is the cause of its own death and it may not heal its own affliction. Even evident is Hillman desertion of all the common contemporary language in psychological writings. Thus, he states that words like ‘performance’, ‘coping measures’, ‘development’, ‘identity’ , ‘response levels’, as well as ‘ego’, ‘experience’ ,‘consciousness’, a host of diagnostic tools among others. These terminologies erase beauty and so archetypal psychology is the only vehicle that can be used to join psychology with beauty (Hillman, 1976 p. 134).

Hillman’s work has had a huge impact. They have inspired a whole generation of thinkers and individuals who have adopted the soul-centered approach in teaching, research, scholarship, governance, interpersonal relations, ethical decision making, psychological training, and promoting diversity as a way of life. Individuals trained in archetypal psychology have the sole purpose of freeing the soul from the straps of individual, personal, and humanistic strings so that it can explore in fantasy inspired imagination and re-soul the world.

Richard M. Oduor

Books for Further Reading

Hillman, J. (1976). Re-Visioning Psychology, New York: Harper and Row

Hillman, J. (1983). Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account. Dallas: Spring Publications

Meditations on my life as they came to mind …

Who am I? Sometimes seated alone, calm and supposedly immune to the chaos around us, we draw into ourselves and examine who we really are. Such self-examinations are never comprehensive because our environments are not immune from interference. Distractions abound, not that they should not. Stimuli offer us one of the most portent mirrors of ourselves and of the world. I, just like any other mortal, loves the peace of silence, the freedom to have my time, my space. There are times where discursive topics such as politics, religion, social issues, economy, philosophy, literature … are shelved for a while. There are the times when we reflect on us and our relations with other humans. In most cases, these reflections don’t come in a neat analysis complete with footnotes. They are as jumbled and different as the species of life dotting the face of the earth. I’m having such a time now and I’ll write my reflections as they come to mind.

Sometimes I want to spin the wheel of fate and land in another cauldron of boiling mire. Maybe my treasure lies there, hidden from the cuddly warmth and peaceful mind that has become my trail. I scratch beneath my peace and lustfully gaze at the turbulence that blows threatening to erupt should the balance tip. It never does. I have disciplined the mind but left enough disorder so that my body may not shy from pursuing its selfish desires.  Sometimes I think this discipline is a lie, a suppression of willfulness, a torment of my true essence. But knowing whoever I can be without the discipline makes a humble creature out of me.

I gulp too many pills of humility, washing them down my throat with the thin fiery liquor of contemplation. The digging up of old trenches, replaying old thoughts, mulling over regrets, wishing I could simply say sorry, seeking the ideal, and wishing that love was not a flower that withers with time – are the dots scattered in my waking hours. When my eyelids bid bye, I drown once more in my fairy lands where I can practice full courses of love in exotic expanses, pure and unadulterated.

I shy from praise, repeated spills of appreciation makes me flinch like my knees have been stabbed by a pin. I wish to build a foundation strong enough to support heaps of praise, so that I’d be left alone to be the simple man I am.  Sometimes, I wish I could be generous to the point of being ludicrous but my willingness to share suffers derision from scarcity. Nonetheless, one day my palms will be heavy with bounties of blessings and I’ll give and give and give.

I recount past faults and take stock of my sins each Sunday morning and repent them within the confines of my roof. It’s over ten years since my feet touched the marble floors of the cathedral to join in the Holy Mass, but I cuddle my Bible just like a little baby and mine whatever wisdom Solomon generously shared. I love my Quran – a passionately errant book – a special and intimate gift and Gita pacifies my soul and injects me with heavy doses of inner peace. My religion is like medicine, and I strictly adhere to the prescriptions. There are times when you wish you could be part of the flock, even if to serve only the social functions, only to realize that you are not sheep and may not gulp lies from the preacher. Let none steal my soul, for in the end I still desire to own it fully.

Yet just like any other man, I realized how selfish I can become. Seeming only to mind my own and discard the thoughts of another from sprouting. Not helping when I should. I have my weaknesses, a fair share of weaknesses. Power, control, wildness, lies, mischief et al! I ran off-lane a couple of times and have, though mildly, been confronted by the laws of the land. But I hold my sword by my side and desist from shedding blood. Guns rest not under my pillow and I’m, to a large extent, a free law abiding citizen. Though, like any revolutionary, I have my little fantasies of shooting the government’s ass. But they are just that, ‘fantasies of shooting the government’s ass’, nothing more.

As we grow old you make many friends. Friends that make us whole. Friends that share some of our passions in life. Nature bonds two people to enable them discover the beauty of life. To know their weaknesses and build barricades against misfortune. Fate may make friends, fate may break them. Circumstances pull friends towards a centre of action, but the actions of individuals mark the path of friendship. Friendship oils the jutted wheels of humanity; smoothening the rugged plains of life. In friends we find ourselves, and in ourselves we find peace.

As you grow older you fall in and out of love. There are those you’ve never stopped loving even though they are now far from your grasp. There are those you love now. There are those you wish you’d loved. There are a few jewels that fall in our arms when our ropes are old and cannot contain any more. Each day we fall in love only to be held back by the bridle of commitment. It is man’s nature to love. But nature binds beings with strings and strives to hold them in a pit of harmony and responsibility. Sometimes nature gives you a glimpse into the pleasures that abound outside the self-imposed prison. Sometimes it allows you to chase these pleasures, however flimsy, and have your fill before tugging you to guilt’s wall and chastising you for your lack of restraint. Somebody said ‘love is all the world needs’. Sure, I guess it’s all we need.

The illusiveness of joy and the inconstancy of happiness are realities all beings face in each waking day. We battle indecision and nurse failures. We mourn our inadequacies and heap balls of wishes on the wiry frame of desire. Most fall off and scatter, released by life, to find homage elsewhere. We have our little lives to live in the vast universe. Our little parts to play. We are all like children out there in the field trying to discover new animals, insects, and plants – only to grow older and find volumes of books on the identities and nature of these entities. But that was us. Today’s kids discover their animals, insects, plants – and many more ranging from the holiest to the obscene, from their computer and television screens. Yet this does not stop newborns from re-discovering the world, on their own terms. In essence, growing older, in the search, gives you the ability to access the vast body of knowledge that has been recorded and stored since the beginning of time.

Some seek consolation in prayer; that divine link with the creative force. Some seek comfort in material possessions. Some live their lives not knowing much, not judging much. But for some, living is an opportunity to discover the secrets of existence. Good knowledge unites human beings, makes them friends who are tolerant and willing to engage each other, though their worldviews may differ.

After all, life is but a snapshot of the millions of phases that swim on the wavy energies of existence. There is more in the darkest regions of the universe that pleads for our peering telescopes. There are more voices that are yet to bless our ears. There is more to life than our little beliefs and religions. There is more in the mind of a man than the whole universe. In there, are energies that link us with all entities of existence. There is nothing in the farthest galaxy that does not exist in our minds. Let us discover the depth of our minds, shine light into the blurry scrolls of knowledge that lie unused before us. Let us seek that we may know ourselves better.

On the Philosophy of Nothingness

Under shades of mounting dialectic claims,

Irresolute pricks punch holes of absurdity,

And like tinctures on white planes,

Draw me hesitantly to Permenides study.

 

Instinctually, I watch sketches of illusions

And clouds of emptiness where ‘nothing’ inhabits.

Is my future nothing; mere delusions?

Is imbroglio the preserve of hermits?

 

Is it foolish that to the study of nothing, I endeavor?

I labor, for my past is a cemetery of experiences;

Mundane somethings that rob me of the fervor

Of pure thought and a discourse with virginal essences.

 

I think of nothing, but being conscious of something,

I refuse ‘nothingness’ a name and think not at all.

A prelude to fatuity maybe, or a trifling

That my experiences have been eaten by time’s fall.

 

But why should there be something rather than nothing?

Is nothing an object of thought or void’s wails?

Is nothing a figure of speech or existence’s clothing?

Is it a bong in silence’s backyard or Infinite’s trails?

 

I shed off the linguistic strings of ‘nothing’ being ‘lack’,

And bounce on philosophia’s springs and ask ‘not-being’

To light the blurring shades of history’s back,

While evading Monist’s distractions of probable beings.

 

Poor of a single plenum on which a cartographer’s skill

May be twisted to chart a map of knowledge on nothing,

I accept the multiplicity of plenums and shrill

As Leucippus postulates dangle on fraying strings.

 

Nature abhors a vacuum, we assume

And tire to mark motion and change in space:

A void is the twin sister of a vacuum

And all join hands peacefully in existence’s lace.

 

Casually, ‘nothing’ lolls in reality’s attic,

Existing as an independent plenum,

Weaved deftly in the intricate fabric

Of all that there is; change, motion, or datum.

 

Thence, God knowing all in advance,

Mould something from nothingness;

A circular argument in philosophia’s parlance,

But a logical absurdity that basks by the door of madness.

 

Richard Copyright 2012.

On Faith and Reason: Accordant or Discordant?

“I don’t want to believe, I want to know” – Carl Sagan

The search for truth is a noble adventure. To understand, to acquire wisdom, is the greatest gift that a man can ever earn. East and west; deep in the scrolls of history, great men have dedicated their lives to searching for truth within the expansive horizons of personal consciousness. The journey has been driven by the desire to understand the relationship between reality and nature, to find meaning and purpose in existence, and to understand our own uniqueness. The search for truth has been driven by the desire to know ourselves. History shows that in every culture, there have arisen specific fundamental questions that pervade human life.

Who is man? What is the nature of man? Where is the origin of man? What is the destiny of man? What is evil? Why does it exist?

Varied answers to these fundamental questions dot the sacred writings of Israel,the Vedas, the Avesta, Bible, Quran… we find these questions in the works of Confucius and Lao Tze, the preaching of Buddha!  They appear in the poetry of Homer, the ancient tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides, the deliberations of Pythagoras, the discourses of Socrates, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and in countless contemporary publications.

PHILOSOPHY AND THE SEARCH OF TRUTH

Throughout history, men and women have consulted the best that was at their disposal to generate knowledge and understand themselves. Of the many instruments, philosophy is the noblest of them all. Philosophy concerns itself with the core question of asking the meaning of life and striving to find the answer to it. The word ‘philosophy’ originates from the Greek word philosophia; which literally means the love of wisdom.

To discover the ultimate truth of existence, human beings have sought to acquire the core universal elements of knowledge to advance their own self realization. The ability to speculate; which is central to the development of human intelligence, and the ability to exercise rigorous thought through logical coherence of the affirmations and the unity of content, produces a systematic body of knowledge. This knowledge may be different from one cultural system to the other, but at the core of it all, every philosophical system respects primacy of philosophical inquiry. It is this primacy that supports us in inquiring the relationship between fides et ratio (faith and reason).

 

ON FAITH AND REASON

In an encyclical letter of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the relationship between faith and reason (fides et ratio), the Pope argues that “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves”. In other words, the Pontiff argued that there is no discordance between faith and reason and that both are necessary of searching for the ultimate truth. Let us attempt to invalidate or validate this position from the viewpoints of theism and atheism.

The exact relationship between faith and reason has been a battleground since the beginning of Christianity. It has always, and will most probably, remain a decisive battleground since by the defenses of theism always cite the inadequacy of reason. Typically these defenses will take the form of claiming that there are appropriate spheres for reason, and appropriate spheres for faith, and that belief in God comes from recognizing the appropriate role for faith and the associated “limitation” of reason. Some theists argue that one can believe in God using both faith and reason.

From the Bible, faith can be defined as; our confidence that we will receive the things we hoped for, where as our hope is our desired wish that we seek after.  If our confidence is evidently visible in the way we live, then our confidence is living faith.  If we voiced our confidence where as the evidence is not seen in our lives, then our confidence is dead faith.  If our hope is to inherit the kingdom of God, if the source of our confidence is God, and if we walk in the ways of God to achieve his kingdom, then we have Godly faith, which is the faith of the Bible.  All other faiths are worldly faiths and they have nothing to do with God. As Hebrew 11:1 states, “now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  This definition defines faith as both substance and evidence.

On the other hand, reason can be defined as the application of logical principles to the available evidence. While the principles of reason / logic are certain, the conclusions one obtains from them are only as certain as the underlying assumptions, which is why science is rarely, if ever, absolutely certain (though in many cases, its theories are certain to a very high degree of probability). In fact, scientific theories are rarely “deduced,” but are, instead, “inferred”; that is, they are based on inductive logic, or generalizing from specific examples. The “inferred” theory, if it is any good, will make independently testable predictions, and will explain a range of phenomena that had seemed unrelated before. When multiple, independent tests corroborate a theory, it can, just from a statistical standpoint, become virtually certain.

Theists point out what the Bible teaches on faith and that the biblical foundation is infallible. Thus, in Christianity the question is not about faith or reason, but rather faith and reason. They insist that faith and reason can be distinguished, but inseparable and that they are analogous to the mind and body. In other words, they are inseparably joined in the present mode of existence, even though they are distinct. Under such a view, faith is primarily an act of both the intellect and will, whereas reason is essentially an act of intellect.

There is an avalanche of biblical evidence on faith and its associations with all virtues. Biblically faith is portrayed as knowledge based upon testimony and the testimony herein comprises of revelation. It is on this basis that all the fundamental questions are answered. The bible serves as the evidence that faith is the cornerstone of rational belief and therefore belief in the Biblical God is not irrational.

On the contrary, atheists charge that, what difference does the Christian argument make? By holding that faith translates into rational belief simply means that the existence of God can be proved only on the basis of the Christian’s rationality of commitment to faith. In other words, the argument of faith rests on the believability and defensibility of the gospel and the Christian’s personal convictions. The atheist argument is asserts that “where there is knowledge, there is no longer any room for faith”.

In the preface of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, he states that “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith”. What this statement shows is that one has to abandon rationality to passionately commit to God through faith. When the limits of human reason are reached, what remains thereafter can be filled by a leap of faith. As the Danish philosopher and theologian adds, it is the Unknown that is called God and that since faith in God is grounded neither rationally or empirically; so the existence of God is neither rationally certain nor empirically evident.

Where then does belief come from? In his The Will to Believe (1903) book, William James notes that men must believe something out of psychological necessity and that the existence of God is just one of the hypotheses that a man can choose and hold as the truth. According to his prescriptions in The Moral Philosopher and Moral Life one can decide to live as if God exists because such a choice forces one to try to live a strenuous moral life. However, since no one knows that God exists, it follows that to live a moral life; one must live as though we do know that God exists. This premise holds faith as a human construction; a tool used to pursue morality. Christians decry this premise by arguing that the gospel; which is the foundation of belief, is a revelation from God.

When we go back to the definition of reason, we find that from logical conclusions, while almost nothing is certain, everything is equally uncertain. Thus, the admissibility of a theory depends to a large degree on the proportion of evidence. On the contrary, it is important to stress that the principles of logic are certain. This is important in our discussion of faith and reason because, if logic is uncertain, then it cannot be proven as truth – as such we are forced to have ‘faith’ in it and by extension faith in God without the burden of the proportion of evidence.  Unfortunately, in such a case not even the Christian argument can rely on logic to prove their case.

At what stage therefore do we stop asking why? Of course, this infinite regress of cause and effect cannot go on forever. To understand when to stop asking “why?” is to begin to understand the nature of concepts. Concepts do not exist in a vacuum. With one class of exceptions, concepts derive their meaning from some immediately ancestral set of concepts and can retain their meaning only within that context. You hit “bedrock” when you reach the so-called axiomatic concepts, which are irreducible, primary facts of reality—our “percepts.” These percepts form the foundation upon which we build our concepts. How do you know when you’ve finally hit these primary facts of reality in the long string of why’s? You know—and this is critically important—when there is no way to deny them, or even to question them, without presupposingthat they are, in fact, true. To deny them or to even question whether they are true is to literally utter a contradiction.

This foundation is very specific and impregnable. For instance suppose that, “logic is an arbitrary human invention and could be wrong.” Well, if it is wrong, then the Law of Contradiction (a thing cannot be itself and its negation at the same time and in the same respect) and the related Law of Identity (a thing is itself) are wrong; but then that means the very words that make up my original claim, such as, “Logic is arbitrary” could mean “Logic is not arbitrary” or it could mean both at the same time and in the same respect. In fact, it could mean “I like chunky peanut butter.”  If all that sounds crazy and unintelligible, that’s because it is, as are all utterances when the truth of logical principles cannot be assumed.  The point here is that without the assumed truth of logic, language itself becomes impossible. So the contradiction is this: For my original statement to have any meaning at all, logic has to be true, but the content of my original statement questions that truth: a self-contradiction. Logic, then, is not accepted on “faith” but as a necessary, self-evident truth, something that is required to speak or think at all. The same can be shown for the concepts of existence, consciousness, and the reliability of our senses. Again, there is no way to talk about any of these things being possibly untrue without first requiring them (implicitly) to be necessarily true.

To resolve the problem of concordance or discordance between faith and reason, an example is necessary.  If a member of Christian sect X believes that all other sects are damned, and she says that she knows this through faith. The person she is talking to is a member of sect Y that believes only sect Y is the one true faith, and that all others are damned, including members of sect X—and, of course, she knows this through faith.   Clearly they both cannot be right. The member of sect Y asks the member of sect X how she knows that she is not really just hearing the deceitful voice of Satan leading her down a false path. To that our sect X member confidently replies, “I know that through faith as well.” Not surprisingly, these are the same answers given by the member of sect Y to exactly the same questions regarding her confidence in the truth of her favorite sect.  There is no independently validated method to resolve this. If reason is not the standard, then there literally is no standard, and people who abandon it have simply written themselves a blank check to believe whatever they choose. Cloaking this irrationalism with comfortable terms like “faith” does not make it any less irrational.

And as a close, “the only alternatives to thinking with reason are thinking unreasonably and not thinking”. There’s no accord between faith and reason, they are discordant if analyzed with the principles of logic.

By Richard M. Oduor (Richie Maccs)

Also a Freelance Writer, Research Analyst, and Founding Member and Secretary General of the ‘Centre for Intervention Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse’ (CIA-ADA)

 

Selected Quotes

Faith or Reason / Faith and Reason

William K Clifford
“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

Richard Dawkins
“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

Benjamin Franklin
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

William James
“Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible.”

Søren Kierkegaard

“Certainty… lurks at the door of faith and threatens to devour it.”

Martin Luther
“Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding.”

Blaise Pascal
“Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.”

Bertrand Russell
“We may define ‘faith’ as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.”

Mark Twain
“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

Voltaire
“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero
A man of courage is also full of faith.

Martin Luther
All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.

Emmanuel Teney
As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.

Mother Teresa
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.

Khalil Gibran
Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Henry Ward Beecher
Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.

Lillian Smith
Faith and doubt both are needed – not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve.

Voltaire
Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.

Thomas Aquinas
Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.

Michelangelo

Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.

Blaise Pascal
Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them.

William Wordsworth

Faith is a passionate intuition.

D. Elton Trueblood
Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.

Mohandas Gandhi
Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.