Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Science Cannot Bridge the Gulf Between 'Is' and 'Ought'

                                                        (Monroe County Fairgrounds)

I'm enjoying reading The Morality Wars: The Ongoing Debate Over Human Goodness . It's a collection of metaethical essays by atheists, ambivalents, and theists.

I just read Stephen Weinberg's contribution. He's an atheist, and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. I found it interesting that he holds to a variation of Stephen Jay Gould's "NOMA"; viz., that science and religion are "Non-Overrlapping Majisteria." I used to teach Gould's theory in my philosophy of religion classes.  (See here.)

I'm with Weinberg's thesis that science tells us nothing about morality. Weinberg accepts (contrary to Sam Harris) Hume's famous fact/value distinction, and that to think one can derive 'ought' (morality) from 'is' (science) is to commit the naturalistic fallacy. Weinberg writes:

"Science cannot give us any help in discovering the principles on which we ought to base our actions. It seems to me, as it did to David Hume, that there is an unbridgeable gulf between the “is” and the “ought.” Science does have a morality of its own—a commitment to honesty, an aversion to wishful thinking—but it cannot without circularity justify itself." (The Morality Wars (p. 74). Fortress Academic. Kindle Edition. )