Philosophy, Religion, and the Laws of Nature
by David Sims
WHY IS IT THAT nearly every question of this kind — i.e., on the nature of morality — quickly accrues more than 100 answers on online forums? Are these questions so easy that anyone at all can answer them? But, okay, I’ll give it a try too.
I think that philosophers know as little about ethics, in the absence of science, than they do about anything else. Rather, the reason philosophers make free, at present, with their ethical pronouncements is the same as the reason the Church made free with its astrodynamical pronouncements in the 17th century. The reason is that science has not yet investigated the subject with rigor.
Philosophy doesn’t gather facts about reality within itself, whether we are speaking about physics or about ethics. It is as blind for one as it is for the other. Nobody is privileged to choose what is moral. Nature has its own standard for morality, and that standard is survival. What does not exist is worthless. An improper moral system that causes its own destruction via the deaths of its practitioners is worse than worthless; like a disease, it has a net cost, a negative worth.
What philosophy does is concoct logically self-consistent narratives, which might or might not be the truth. Philosophy and science inform each other: Philosophy informs science about correct procedure, and science tells philosophy what the discovered facts are and which of its narratives has been disqualified from being truth.
A philosopher who does not engage with science is blind to reality. He forever spins conjectures that he has no way of checking. He gets into arguments with other similarly blind philosophers who insist that their conjectures are superior to his, and none of them really know what the truth is because none of them has indulged in experimental verification. Their arguments are so much hot air.
You know the old saying among atheists: “As science advances, God retreats,” meaning that once experiment has revealed the true nature of a part of existence, the older theological explanations quickly seem obsolete — if not outright ridiculous. After three or four hundred years of trying to refute a scientific explanation that is informed by empirical testing, while at the same time having their increasingly contrived alternatives either disproved or shown to be rather suspiciously untestable, the theologians adopt the scientific explanation, grudgingly at first, but after a generation they are pretending that they had never thought differently.
Ethics is like that. Philosophers may claim to have knowledge about ethics because they believe it to be subject to their choices. Some philosophers may believe that they can create ethics by simply making their preferences known. On the contrary, I say. Those philosophers are wrong. Nature constrains the truth about ethics to the same degree that it constrains the truth about gravity. This truth is something to discover. It isn’t something to be decided.
When you discover the truth about ethics, you might not like it. You might wish that it were something else. But it will be the truth, nevertheless. The approval of the philosophers isn’t required.
On an online forum, someone asked me, “If I’m not for freedom, it means I’m for non-freedom. Is this possible? Wouldn’t it violate some basic principle like the survival instinct?”
To that, I replied in a comment:
You can hold freedom as a good thing, without holding it to be the best thing. As a value, freedom is positive and has its place in a hierarchy of values. But it probably isn’t the highest value in a proper moral system. There are values higher than freedom. There might come a time when you will have to choose between values, such that you must let freedom go, in order to keep what is better.
That answer is, of course, incomplete. But I had to think on it a while, and now I’m ready to answer at more length. Some of what I’m about to present I’ve said before. But I said it fairly well before, and it is relevant now, so here and there I’ll be repeating myself.
The idea that truth is like the rain — carving many channels in the mud, such that there’s “my truth” and “your truth” and “their truth” — is wrong. There is only the truth, and any opinion in conflict with it is simply false. Truth is discovered; it is not decided. It doesn’t matter how many people hold a false opinion, nor what their cultural norms are: It remains a false opinion.
Consider the difference in how mankind answers two questions:
(1) What is the nature of the god(s)?
(2) What is the nature of the electromagnetic field?
The first question is a religious question, and, since mankind does not really have any knowledge about gods, the answers that men have come up with — and have enshrined as “scripture” — are many and varied. When men try to answer this question, they proceed as if the truth were something to be decided. And they’re wrong.
The second question is a scientific question, and, since mankind can, by observation and by experiment, appeal to Nature itself for an answer, the answer that all men come up with, no matter their culture, is the same. When men try to answer this question, they proceed as if the truth were something to be discovered. And they’re right.
But the most important question in this regard is: How do you know when you are using a method for seeking the truth that actually does succeed in finding it?
To which the correct answer is: You know that your method for seeking truth really works when it has a historical track record of giving to people powers that they did not have before.
Valid methods for seeking truth do that because useful truths are a subset of all truths, and it is a subset in which humans have a particular interest and to which they devote a considerable amount of their time. Any method for seeking truth that really works will discover useful truths often.
Science does that. Religion does not do that.
If you were to try to prove the validity of logic with logic, then you would be relying upon a well-understood fallacy called circular reasoning. Accordingly, the efficacy of logic — and, by extension, of science — manifests in a different way. An inferential way. We ask ourselves what the hallmarks of a successful truth-finding method of thought might be: how it would affect us. We predict that useful truths would occur among all of the truths that the method would discover, and that, as a result, mankind would grow in power, would become able to do things that were never possible in earlier times. And, by that metric, science has emerged the champion with no close rivals.
Science has a historical track record for discovering ways to make a light spring forth and banish darkness, of healing the sick, of observing what would otherwise have gone unnoticed because of distance or because of smallness or for some other reason, of enabling people to communicate rapidly across thousands of miles, of empowering men to fly when men had never flown before, of sending probes to other planets in order to see what had never been seen before.
Religion has no similar record. It only makes claims that it never proves and spins engaging fantasies that comfort some people as they are dying.
Furthermore, the religions of historically separated peoples differ widely in what they call “truth,” while science done by historically separated peoples tend to converge to the same basic truths.
But whereas science is infinitely superior to religion in finding truth, religion does have a place among men nevertheless. Why? Because our species, Homo sapiens, is, despite its Latin binomial, not entirely sapient. Rather, it straddles the boundary of what we are pleased to call humanity, with some of its members above the line, and some below.
Where is that line drawn? It certainly exists, such that our species can be sorted into human and sub-human categories, but where it is exactly is a judgment call. The definition for that line that I prefer is the ability to understand the exponential function, to appreciate the importance of the exponential function in natural processes, such as the growth of populations up to the limitation of the food supply, or economic processes, such as compound interest. But I’ve heard alternative definitions. One of them holds that what makes someone human, rather than merely sub-human, is his ability to appreciate the wisdom of moral circumspection, even when the fear of punishment, divine or otherwise, does not weigh in his judgment.
To the wise, the reward of moral action is getting a better world to live in. No further inducement is needed. But many people aren’t wise, even though they are included among H. sapiens as a courtesy.
As long as we believe that we must carry along the sub-human part of our species, we must have some means by which to keep them out of trouble, and we must have a way to prevent them from making too much trouble. Religion is what usually plays that role; hence, religion has value. The value of religion is in this social utility. Christianity can function well for that purpose.
The globalists are right when they aver that truth is universal, independent of the observer or of the observer’s culture. But that does not mean that the globalists are also correct about what the truth is, specifically. It is possible, and perhaps commonplace, for an ideologue to state the universality of truth, and be right as far as that goes, but afterward proceed to lie about what the universal truth is. Globalism is a vile ideology because it is a form of indirect enslavement and because it is a destroyer of cultures. But its handmaiden, modernity, contains the meta-truth that science is the best method for seeking truths.
However, religion isn’t the source of morality. It is, at most, an unreliable interpreter.
Morality developed among men for evolutionary reasons, as one of many natural adaptations to assist in the survival of human groups. As science fiction author Robert Heinlein once said, through his protagonist in Starship Troopers: “Morality is survival behavior above the individual level.”
I’ll define a word here: “proper.” In the present context, proper refers to moral systems that do what a moral system should do, which is help its practitioners survive. The survival of the practitioner group is the highest value in any proper moral system. Again, some of this I’ve said before — skip ahead to the last seven paragraphs if you’ve already read me on the proper hierarchy of values.
Why survival? Because nothing matters to the dead. Because neither truth, nor justice, nor freedom, nor wealth have any value at all to extinct peoples. Because only to something alive may anything else be good. A rock doesn’t care whether you hit it with a hammer, but a mouse does.
Why the group, and not the individual member of the group? Well, for one thing, what does not exist is without worth, and what can’t exist for long probably isn’t worth much.
If you had to choose between throwing away a perfectly edible apple or chopping down the tree on which the apple grew, then you would have no difficulty understanding that you will cause the lesser loss by throwing away the apple. In that case, you merely lose a bit of food. If, however, you chop down the tree while preserving the last of its apples in your refrigerator, presumably until they rot, because they are so very unique and special, then you would lose the source of food. To choose the latter, you’d have to be mentally retarded, mentally ill, or under the influence of malicious propaganda. At the least, there would be something very wrong with the way you think.
Individual men are ephemeral. We can by no means endure for long. But our race is potentially immortal. It can die, if its members are stupid enough to permit its death. But it need never die, provided that its members are sufficiently wise; i.e. wise enough to adhere to a proper moral system.
If a group puts the highest value on anything other than its own survival, then sooner or later it will encounter circumstances in which its survival is in conflict with whatever that other thing is. When that happens, the group will either abandon its improper moral system in favor of a proper one, or else it will die off, and its improper moral system will vanish along with it.
And, as I said, what can’t exist for long probably isn’t worth much.
It is moral for an individual to die to preserve the existence of his group. That is why a warrior, when he behaves as a warrior should, is a moral being. But it is immoral for an individual to keep his life, or his job, if the cost is the extinction of the group that made his own existence possible.
Race treason is never a moral act. It does, unfortunately, occur in abundance. And, in some countries, it can be bought cheaply. Most of the treason in the West today is motivated by nothing more than the traitor’s desire to keep his regular paycheck. The fear of reduced circumstances can induce many to live falsely. A threat to the paycheck is sufficient to make most people pretend to believe every lie they ever heard.
After survival, the next value is truth. And, just as survival is alone on the first tier of values, so is truth alone on the second. It is on the third tier that we first encounter a plurality of values: justice, freedom, and the like. That doesn’t mean that justice and freedom are bad things. They are good things. But truth is a higher value than either of them. And survival is higher than truth.
I’ve explained why survival is a higher value than truth. (Nothing matters to the dead.) But why is truth a higher value than, say, justice? Because you must first know what the truth is before you can see what justice is. You must first correctly understand the circumstances before you can rightly decide what you should do.
Also, unless you know the truth, you cannot know whether you really are free.
I hope I’ve shown that reason and knowledge are sufficient to provide morality. You don’t need dicta from scriptures. Indeed, you will have no more success in relying upon Authority for correct information about morality than you’d have in relying upon Authority for correct information about anything else.
There is a “higher power” that men must answer to, but that power isn’t a god. Rather, it is the sum effect of the laws of Nature as they apply to living things, and it has the whole weight of the Universe behind it. The power isn’t conscious, but it is consistent. The laws of Nature impose certain limits on human action. You can’t travel faster than the speed of light, for example, no matter how much you might want to. Ignorance of the laws of Nature imposes additional limits on human action. Knowledge of the laws of Nature removes the limits of ignorance, but knowledge does not remove the limits of Nature itself.
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