Friday, August 19, 2011

Science Qua Science Cannot Give Us Morality

Sam Harris's new book to the contrary, Alister McGrath here expresses the general view among scientists that "science" qua "science" cannot give us value. McGrath writes:

"Is science able to determine what is right and what is wrong? Most scientists would affi rm that their discipline is fundamentally amoral – that is, that the scientifi c method does not extend to moral questions. For example, Richard Dawkins succinctly confi rmed that “ science has no methods for deciding what is ethical ” ( Dawkins, 2003, p. 34). Stephen Jay Gould made a similar point in his important essay “ Nonmoral Nature ”:

"Our failure to discern a universal good does not record any lack of insight or ingenu-ity, but merely demonstrates that nature contains no moral messages framed in human terms. Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people. The answers will not be read passively from nature; they do not, and cannot, arise from the data of science. The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner. ( Gould, 1994, p. 42)" (McGrath, 3)